Travelling is exciting – and when planning your next trip overseas, it can be all too easy to become caught up in the anticipation of it all. This can easily distract you from the finer points of planning; for example, what will you do if you need to withdraw cash?
Some people still convert all their travel money into the currency of their destination before they leave the country, carrying it around in cash form. However, this can be risky.
The alternative is to withdraw money while you’re there. However, if you haven’t made the proper arrangements, it’s possible that your account will be blocked by the bank due to “suspicious activity”.
Another issue is ATM withdrawals or paying by card, which can rack up significant foreign transaction fees for which you haven’t really budgeted.
The answer is to open an account that allows for straightforward currency conversion and the ability to make card purchases anywhere in the world without significant bank charges or a high-interest rate.
With that in mind, the team at MoneyBright have compared different options to help you find the best bank account for travelling abroad. Read on to see what we discovered.
So – which are our top bank accounts?
During our research, we looked into ease of use, special features, the typical cash withdrawal fee and whether or not a user would be charged interest when using their account. We decided that the following were the best bank accounts for travelling abroad:
- Starling Bank
- Atom Bank
Below, we’ll explain the main benefits of each – so you can weigh up your options and decide which is best for your needs.
Starling bank accounts are perfect for those who require the option of uncapped ATM withdrawals while overseas.
Starling offers the exciting opportunity to spend abroad without fees. It’s also possible to earn interest – you’ll be paid 0.5% if you have under £2,000 in your account and 0.25% on an amount over £2,000 up to £85,000.
They’re a mobile-only bank that taps into the internationally recognised Mastercard rates, with options for both personal and business banking.
Monzo is a highly popular travel card option for those seeking a low ATM fee and capped overdraft charges. Using Monzo, you can convert your money to your chosen currency and back with no foreign-sterling transaction fee.
Another user of Mastercard rates, Monzo includes no additional fees for the first £200 you withdraw per month. After that milestone, you’ll be charged just 3% per transaction.
Unlike Starling, it is possible to drop into your overdraft with Monzo. If you dip in by more than £20, you’ll face a 50p charge per day – but the maximum you’ll lose in this scenario is £15.50 per month.
Like Monzo, TransferWise offers £200 worth of free cash withdrawals per month before you are charged. It also uses Mastercard rates, plus you can use the app to find out currency exchange information in real-time.
TransferWise is capable of converting your cash to 40 different currencies – and you can hold multiple currencies at the same time.
A debit card-based account, TransferWise is powered by Mastercard and allows for free international transfers.
Atom Bank is an entirely app-based banking option that helps you to build up savings. It’s for UK residents only and there are no current accounts available, only “Fixed Savers” and mortgages.
If you’re planning on a big trip – spending months abroad – then Atom Bank provides a great way to save up.
You can choose how long you wish to save for, which means you can time things to coincide with the date you leave, plus Atom’s Annual Equivalent Rates are highly competitive.
You can earn 0.75% interest by using 3 or 6 month fixed savers, or 1.49%/0.5% for 1 year, 2 year, 3 year or 5 year fixed saver depending on whether you opt for monthly or annual interest.
Remember, Atom Bank accounts don’t tend to work abroad, so it’s usually best to withdraw the funds and place them into another account before you go.
This may be the ideal bank account for those travelling or working between the UK and Europe.
Monese is another “digital bank” and specialises in multi-currency accounts. It’s super easy to set up an account as no credit checks are required and you don’t need any proof of address.
As with other accounts on this list, there is a £200 per month withdrawal limit when you sign up to the Simple Monese plan, and you are charged interest at 2% on any withdrawals beyond this.
Transfers – whether in the same currency as your account or in foreign currencies – is free, and the cost of international transfers starts at a modern 2% of the transaction amount. Real-time transfers between Monese accounts are free.
While Simple Monese accounts are free, you can choose to pay for Premium accounts, which allow a higher limit per month before you are charged foreign transfer or cash withdrawal fees (the top tier enables you to make unlimited free withdrawals and foreign transfers).
So – we reckon that Starling Bank, Monzo, TransferWise or Monese offer the best bank accounts for travelling abroad, particularly when exchanging currency, withdrawing money or undertaking transactions. Atom Bank is a great option for saving before you go.
All of the above banks or financial specialists appear on the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) register, so you know they have full regulatory approval.
Of course, before you make your final decision, it’s important to check all of the terms and conditions of your chosen provider to ensure your account will work exactly as you need it to and to avoid any nasty surprises or extra charges.
For more financial advice and to ensure you’re well informed and prepared for your next trip, why not take a look at MoneyBright’s travel advice section?