Embarking on a global business adventure or working with international clients? Or are you an expat or digital nomad looking for something flexible?
Having a business bank account tailored to handle international transactions is crucial in these scenarios. An international business bank account saves you from hefty transaction fees and shields you from unfavourable currency exchange rates when making cross-border payments.
In this regard, the challenger banks offer a notably cheaper solution than the high street banks, so there can be huge cost benefits even if you’re using it as a secondary account.
In this article, I’ll compare the best accounts on offer, looking at currency exchange rates, transaction fees, and account minimums.
I’ll also give you my verdict on the UK’s top international business bank account based on my research.
- What Makes a Good Online International Bank Account?
- The Top International Business Bank Accounts in the UK
- Best UK banks for international transfer fees and exchange rates
How did I research the top international bank accounts?
First, I started by identifying the most important criteria that any top-tier international bank account should meet. This included transaction fees, currency conversion rates, ease of access, and security measures.
Secondly, I gathered infomation from the banks themselves, including their terms and conditions, FAQ pages, and by reaching out to them if I had additional questions.
Third, to corroborate this data, I engaged directly with current users. This step added a layer of qualitative data to my research, capturing the nuances that numerical values can’t always reflect.
Finally, I evaluated customer service responsiveness and proficiency. To do this, I simulated a few common issues one might encounter while using an international bank account, and reached out to the customer service teams to assess their effectiveness.
What Makes a Good Online International Bank Account?
Based on my analysis, here at the most important features you should look for in a good online international bank account:
- Regulatory compliance: The bank should be regulated by a reputable financial institution, such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US. This ensures that your money is safe and protected.
- Low fees: International bank accounts often come with high fees for things like ATM withdrawals, foreign exchange transactions, and account maintenance. Look for an account with low or no fees to save money.
- Wide ATM network: You’ll want to be able to access your money easily when you’re traveling or living abroad. Choose an account with a wide ATM network so you can withdraw cash without paying high fees.
- Good customer support: If you have any problems with your account, you’ll need to be able to get in touch with customer support easily. Choose an account with a good reputation for customer service.
- Strong security features: Your online international bank account should have strong security features to protect your money from fraud and theft. Look for an account with features like two-factor authentication and encryption.
- Flexibility: Your international bank account should be flexible enough to meet your needs. Choose an account that offers features like multiple currency accounts, international money transfers, and mobile banking.
The 4 Best Features for any International Business Bank Account
Here are the 4 main things you’re going need:
- Accept payments in foreign currencies: This allows businesses to easily receive payments from international clients, eliminating the need for additional currency conversion steps.
- Access multi-currency accounts: These accounts enable businesses to hold and manage multiple currencies in a single account, simplifying the process of managing international finances.
- Send payments internationally to foreign suppliers: International business bank accounts streamline payments to suppliers and vendors in other countries.
- Use credit cards without international transaction fees: Businesses can make international purchases with credit cards that do not charge additional fees for cross-border transactions.
The Top International Business Bank Accounts in the UK
Here are five of the top international business bank accounts to consider:
Revolut: The Best Overall International Business Account
Revolut stands out as our top choice for businesses in need of an international bank account. It would be ideal for an expat, digital nomad, or someone who is doing business throughout the EEA.
Revolut offers a cost-effective solution for international transfers, working out significantly cheaper than traditional High Street banks like Barclays or Lloyds.
Here’s how Revolut can save you money:
Lower Transaction Fees: High street banks often charge between £8-15 per international transaction. In contrast, Revolut provides free international payments up to certain account limits. Once customers exceed their free allowance, Revolut charges a nominal fee of £3 per transaction, which is still significantly lower than the fees charged by traditional banks.
No Markup on Exchange Rates: Traditional banks usually add a markup of around 1.75% to the interbank exchange rate, which they include in the spread. Revolut, on the other hand, uses the real-time interbank exchange rate, without adding any markup.
In addition, Revolut has a range of other features that make it a useful and competitive account.
- Accept payments worldwide: Easily accept payments from around the world and get fast access to your funds.
- Smart cards for business: Empower your team with physical and virtual company debit cards.
- Team management: Control spending and permissions from one place.
- Automated Expenses: Streamline expenses management and save time.
- Accounting integrations: Integrate with software like Xero and Quickbooks for easier financial management.
- Access to Partner Apps and Integrations.
- Smart invoicing: Get paid faster with efficient invoicing.
- Customizable Business API: Seamlessly integrate your own tools and automate payments.
- Mobile app: Access your Revolut Business account securely from your phone.
- Advanced security features: High-quality tech security systems to protect your money.
- Card controls: Block or freeze cards and set limits with a tap.
- Freelance and Company Plans: Tailored plans to suit your business needs.
» MORE Read our full Revolut Business Review
Wise: ‘Runner-Up’ Best International Business Account: Great for Multicurrency
Wise (formerly TransferWise) offers a range of benefits for businesses operating internationally, focusing on cost savings and transparent pricing.
In terms of actually transferring money abroad, Wise may be marginally cheaper than Revolut. But that said, Wise’s banking services are far less comprehensive and robust, so for an actual business bank account, we would choose Revolut.
Here’s a summary of Wise’s business account advantages:
- Cost-effective international payments: Make international payments in 70+ countries and save up to 6x compared to leading UK banks with no hidden fees or exchange rate markups.
- Local account details: Set up local account details for your business in any of 10 currencies, allowing overseas customers to pay you easily and quickly.
- Business debit cards: Provide your team with business debit cards for overseas use without foreign currency transaction fees, set spending limits on each card, and get 0.5% cash back as you spend.
- Software integrations: Easily connect to popular accounting software like Xero, QuickBooks, and FreeAgent to save time on administrative tasks.
- Batch payments: Upload a spreadsheet for each transfer and make one payment for up to 1,000 people, reducing the need for manual data entry.
- Bespoke access for your team: Set permission levels and decide who in your team can view specific accounts.
- Multi-currency account: View and manage 50+ currencies in one account, and move money between them at the mid-market exchange rate.
- Robust security: Wise offers 2-factor authentication, dedicated fraud and security teams, and holds your money with established financial institutions for safety.
- Transparent pricing: No hidden fees or monthly subscriptions, only a one-time fee for opening a Wise Business account.
MORE Read our full Wise International Business Account Review
Starling: Best General Business Account for Occasional International Transfers
Starling is generally a superb business bank account, which we’ve reviewed in detail elsewhere on the site. It does allow international payments to 37 countries in 21 currencies through their app, but it is not a core USP of the account as with Revolut or Wise, and hence works out more expensive.
There are also certain countries and territories from which Starling cannot accept payments yet, including Afghanistan, Belarus, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gaza Strip, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Myanmar (Burma), Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, Venezuela, West Bank, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Two fees apply when making an international payment with Starling Business: a Starling transfer fee of 0.4% and a variable delivery fee, depending on the chosen delivery option. The SWIFT delivery option costs a flat £5.50 for all currencies. A low-cost delivery route is available for some currencies, with fees starting at £0.30 and varying based on the specific currency.
MORE Read our full Starling Business Review
ANNA Money has recently introduced an international payment feature for businesses; it’s currently in beta testing.
They use Currencycloud (the same as Revolut), making their offering competitive. However, it’s a significantly paired down offering to Revoluts, and you can’t receive international payments at all without connecting a Payoneer account, and then only in Euros or USD.
- International transfers in Euros, US Dollars, and GBP sterling.
- Support by Currencycloud provides fair and up-to-date exchange rates without additional fees.
- International transfer setup through the ANNA app chat.
- Ability to receive money, via Payoneer, in Euros or US dollars
ANNA Money vs Revolut for international payments:
- Currency support: Revolut supports over 150 currencies, while ANNA currently supports international transfers in Euros, US Dollars, and GBP sterling.
- Exchange rates: ANNA uses Currencycloud’s exchange rates with no added fees, while Revolut employs the interbank exchange rate, occasionally charging a weekend markup fee between 0.5% and 2.5%.
- Prepaid currency card: Revolut offers a prepaid currency card for fee-free payments abroad, while ANNA only provides a debit card for international transactions.
MORE Read our full Anna Money Account Review
Factors to Consider When Researching the Best International Bank Accounts
Understanding Currency Exchange Rates and Fees
When searching for the ideal international business bank account, currency exchange rates and fees are undoubtedly a top priority.
Currency exchange rates represent the value at which one currency can be traded for another. As you transfer funds between different currencies, banks convert the money using a specific exchange rate. However, these rates can vary considerably between banks, and some may even add extra fees for currency conversion.
To discover the most favourable currency exchange rates and fees, it’s vital to compare what different banks have to offer. Keep in mind that the rates displayed on a bank’s website may not necessarily be what you’ll get when making a transfer, as banks could impose additional fees and charges.
Another important aspect is the transparency of a bank’s fees. Be cautious of hidden fees and charges, such as markups on exchange rates, which can significantly inflate the overall cost of your international transactions. Make sure to thoroughly examine the bank’s fee schedule and carefully read the fine print to steer clear of any unexpected surprises.
Remember, the more you know about currency exchange rates and fees, the better equipped you’ll be to make a well-informed decision for your international business banking needs.
Navigating International Transaction Fees
Don’t forget to pay close attention to international transaction fees. These fees are levied by banks when funds are transferred across borders, and they can differ quite substantially from one bank to another.
International transaction fees can take the form of a fixed fee or a percentage of the transfer amount. Additionally, some banks may impose extra charges for services like SWIFT transfers or intermediary bank fees.
Customer support quality can vary significantly between different banks. Some banks may offer 24/7 support via phone, email, or chat, while others may have limited hours or only offer support during business hours in certain time zones.
To find the best customer support, you should consider your business’s needs and the level of support you require. If you make frequent international transactions or operate in multiple time zones, a bank with 24/7 support may be essential.
Best UK banks for international transfer fees and exchange rates
By my analysis, Revolut is the best bank for international transfer fees and exchange rates, although it is a challenger rather than a regulated bank. It is notably cheaper than high street banks for transfer fees and uses interbank exchange rates.
Wise is also a good option, although it is a less sophisticated account than Revoluts, lacking some of the banking functionality.
When a high street bank processes an international payment, it typically adds a per-transaction fee, a fixed cost that the bank charges to facilitate the transfer. This fee can vary depending on the bank, the amount being transferred, and the destination country. Additionally, the bank often applies a 1-2% markup on the exchange rate.
These extra costs can have a significant impact on international transactions. For businesses that deal with international payments, these costs can accumulate and negatively affect their profit margins, making it more difficult to compete in the global market.
|Provider||Fee||Exchange rate||Bank fees||Total cost|
|Revolut||Free for most plans||Interbank exchange rate||None||Free or low cost|
|Wise||£3.84||Interbank exchange rate||None||£3.84|
|Barclays||£0 (online)£25 (branch or phone)||Exchange rate + markup||Varies||£0-£25 + exchange rate markup + correspondent fees|
|Co-operative Bank||0.25% (min. £13 to max. £35)||Exchange rate + 4% markup||Varies||£13-£35 + 4% exchange rate markup + correspondent fees|
|Halifax||£9.50||Exchange rate + 3.55% markup||£12||£9.50 + 3.55% exchange rate markup + £12|
|HSBC UK||£4 (online) to £17 (postal)||Exchange rate + markup||Varies||£4-£17 + exchange rate markup + correspondent fees|
|Lloyds||£9.50||Exchange rate + 3.55% markup||£12||£9.50 + 3.55% exchange rate markup + £12|
|Metro Bank||£25||Exchange rate + markup||Varies||£25 + exchange rate markup + correspondent bank fees|
|Nationwide||£20||Exchange rate + markup||Varies||£20 + exchange rate mark-up + correspondent bank fees|
|RBS||£0 (standard) to £15 (urgent)||Exchange rate + markup||Varies||£0-£15 + exchange rate markup + correspondent bank fees|
|Santander UK||£25||Exchange rate + markup||Varies||£25 + exchange rate markup + correspondent bank fees|
|TSB||£10 (online) to £20 (branch or phone)||Exchange rate + markup||£6||£10-£20 + exchange rate markup + £6|
Which bank is best for international business?
According to my comprehensive review, Revolut is the best bank for international business. It offers free transfers, interbank exchange rates and a very low fee structure.
Which UK bank has no foreign transaction fee?
Revolut offers no foreign transaction fees within account limits.
Which bank is best for international transfers in the UK?
Revolut is probably the best bank for international transfers, especially within the EEA. It offers a number of free transfers per month, depending on which account plan you’re on. A £3 fee applies once you’ve exceeded the free allowance. If you’re needing to send outside the EEA, Wise may be cheaper but it’s less of a comprehensive bank account.
Which bank has the lowest international wire transfer fee?
Revolut has the lowest fee, which it’s accounts getting a number of completely free wire transfers per month, and £3 after this.
How do I avoid bank charges on international transfers?
By choosing Revolut, you can make a massive saving over using a high-street bank account for international transfers. It offers a number of free monthly transfers, then just £3.