This was a big question on our minds when we were planning our move abroad, and it was really difficult to get any kind of definitive answer from anywhere. I was afraid to ask the bank from fear of them pushing me to close my account once they realised my plan so I had to rely on searching the net. Although I can’t cover the rules for every bank in every country I think my experience is a pretty good baseline to go by regardless of where you’re moving from and too. As well as the question ‘can I keep my bank account when I move abroad?‘ you should also really be asking ‘should I keep my bank account when I move abroad?’, which I’ll cover in this post.
On the question of ‘can I’, the easiest and quickest way to keep hold of your bank account if you’re moving abroad is to register the account at an alternative address in the same country. That could be your parents, your brother/sister, your best friend or someone else you trust. I changed the registered address for my account to my parents in law (which I agreed with them first) and that was that.
This worked out OK and I carried on doing the same things I was doing before moving abroad. I never had any questions about the foreign currency coming into the account or the calls from Spanish numbers. Granted I was only in Spain for 6 months but I transferred a lot of money back and forth and phoned them a fair amount from overseas.
Having read a few forums and looked through other people’s experiences I’m sure that what you can and can’t do will be dependent on your bank and the country you live in, but I do think that my solution is likely to work for most people. Some banks are happy for you to have a foreign address and others are less keen.
I’ve added additional sources of information regrading keeping your bank account when you move abroad on my relocation resources section so take a look once you’ve had a read through this post.
It’s worth digging around your bank’s website to see if there’s any information relating to moving abroad before you make any decisions as if they’re happy for you to keep your account with a foreign address then that’s definitely the way to go. If they explicitly say you can’t have an account if you live abroad then you can either go with my option or you can hunt for another account that does allow it. I personally think it’s worth going with my option first and then sorting it later if you need to.
In terms of the ‘should I’ question my view is that you absolutely should hold onto your bank account when you move abroad. Even if you’re planning to never live in your country of origin ever again. Let me tell you why based on my research and experience.
Reasons to keep your bank account when you move abroad
It keeps the management of existing bills simple
We had a whole load of things we needed to continue paying for when we moved to Spain. Credit cards, a loan, mobile contracts and some other things. I personally think it would have been a nightmare having to sort all this out through a foreign bank account. I’m not even sure whether I could have paid some of them through a foreign bank account.
In the 3 months leading up to our relocation we did our best to find the easiest and fastest ways of doing things. Keeping our UK bank account and using it to manage all our bills was completely easy and hassle free.
It gives you an account to use for trips home
Our NatWest account came in extremely handy when we/my wife travelled back to the UK. Rather than having to exchange money and pay a fee I simply transferred cash from my Spanish account (Barclay’s) to my UK account (NatWest). When we arrived in the UK we could just pop to the cash machine and withdraw what we needed in pounds.
I made sure when I was starting out in Spain that I had an account that didn’t charge for international transfers, which worked out great on these occasions.
It helps maintain your credit history
I did a lot of research on this before we moved abroad and there were some stories of expats who had returned to their own countries only to find they couldn’t get a bank account and couldn’t get any credit.
I’m sure this will depend on how long you stay out of the country but I just didn’t want to risk getting into this situation.
By keeping your account open you maintain a ‘credit existence’ and therefore look less risky than someone who has just moved into the country and has had a foreign address for the last 2/3/4 years (or however long).
I had no problem with setting up mobile contracts and getting a new credit card fairly soon after we returned to the UK from Spain, and I think keeping my bank account helped.
It’s one less thing to think about if you need to move back
Speaking from experience, if you do need to move back for whatever reason or it’s just the right time you could do without having to sort out banking and getting an account sorted from scratch.
Based on the fact that my move back to the UK was highly pressurised I needed as little distraction as possible to get everything sorted. Having a bank account in place to use for credit purposes, moving money and paying for things based in the UK was a weight off my mind. If I’d have had to set this all up again it would have been another thing getting in the way of more important issues and challenges.
It gives you options for where you keep your money
One of the key things we’ve learnt over the last few years is that any economy can take a turn for the worse. Spain, Greece, Italy and even the UK and US. No country is immune to a downturn or serious issues with their finances.
My (humble) opinion is that it’s best to have options wherever possible. Whether that’s with bank accounts or exit strategies, having a choice makes things easier.
If you keep a bank account in the country you’re moving from you can use it as a bit of a safe house should you need to. You can also keep a back up in there that hopefully you’ll be able to access if needed.
Think of the situation in Greece where people couldn’t get access to the money in their accounts as the banks were afraid that there would be mass withdrawals. If you’ve got money sitting in another account then you can effectively hedge your bets or at least have the option to.
It’s probably clear that I’m all for keeping a bank account in your country of origin. I think it reduces risk and gives you options in different scenarios. It’s worth asking yourself the following two questions:
- What’s the worst that will happen if I keep my bank account?
- What’s the worst that will happen if I don’t keep my bank account?
I’m pretty sure there will be more negatives in the ‘not keeping your bank account’ option than there is in the ‘keeping your bank account’ option.
If you’re looking for other resources on keeping your bank account when you move abroad then you can check out my relocation resources section. It’s where I try to list as many links as I can to do with subjects like this. Check it out for extra links to other forums and resources sites.
I’d recommend you check out a couple of my other posts relating to this too:
- Can I move abroad with debt?
- Finding an income when you move abroad – what are your options?
- Resources I wish I’d known about before moving abroad
I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or leave a comment if you’ve got more to add to this that could help others.