Choosing the best bank account for trading internationally

A small business owner is preparing her overseas orders for dispatch

An international, multicurrency bank account makes doing business internationally both cheaper and easier. If your business trades internationally – for example, selling to customers overseas or importing from foreign suppliers – it’s worth finding out what is available.

Using an ordinary UK business bank account can be an expensive way to send or receive payments internationally, or to operate in multiple currencies. As well as reducing your costs, a specialist provider can offer services that make dealing with international finances much easier.

Your international banking needs

The right international account provider for you depends on what your business does. Typical requirements include:

  • making life easier for overseas customers by accepting payments in local currency, using local payment methods
  • improving relationships with suppliers by paying them in local currency, using local payment methods
  • being able to hold cash in non-sterling accounts
  • reducing the costs of buying and selling other currencies
  • physical or virtual cards that you can use for purchases (for example, when travelling or buying from overseas websites)

Your requirements will also depend on which countries and which currencies you want to be able to do business in. US dollar and Euro accounts and payments are the most widely offered. If you need to do business in other currencies, your choice of account will be more limited. Having a single account provider that can handle all your multicurrency requirements is the best option.

Comparing international business bank accounts

There are multicurrency accounts designed to be used by international travellers and people who work overseas, but these are unlikely to offer the features and services you need. So focus on accounts that are designed for business.

Costs are likely to be a key consideration. These can include:

  • Any initial account opening and set-up fees and costs.
  • Monthly fees – for example, a monthly account maintenance fee, and fees for corporate cards.
  • The costs of receiving and making payments. These can vary significantly depending on which payment methods are offered. Some providers can process payments through local payment systems, which is often cheaper and faster than international payments.
  • The costs of foreign exchange. As well as any fees, there can be the hidden cost of uncompetitive foreign exchange rates (the spread between the prices at which you can buy and sell foreign currency).

Other priorities that may affect your choice include:

  • How safe your money is. Authorised providers should confirm that they have proper technical systems for preventing unauthorised payments and protecting data. Money held in licensed banks benefits from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, while other authorised providers are required to ‘safeguard’ client money by holding it in separate client accounts.
  • How quickly you can make payments. If payments can be made using local payment systems they are often received almost instantly, whereas international payments can take several days.
  • Whether you can integrate your bank account with your other systems – for example, with links to your accounting software and payment processing systems.
  • How quick and easy it is to open the account. Specialist providers often have fast, fully online application processes, whereas more traditional banks can take longer and require an in-person visit.
  • What help and support is on offer. A dedicated account manager is ideal, particularly if you have a significant volume of international transactions.
Multipass business account

The best multicurrency banking providers

The best bet for most businesses that trade internationally is a specialist multicurrency account. Leading providers that are likely to offer all the services you need include:

It can be difficult to compare the total costs of different accounts, but MultiPass offers very low flat-rate local payment costs.

If you already bank with a digital challenger bank and have relatively limited multicurrency requirements, your existing account may be a simple option. Revolut, for example, offers a range of online only multi-currency solutions that have the potential to grow with your business. With low fees and competitive exchange rates (just 0.6% mark up outside your free monthly allowance), you can send and receive payments in more than 25 currencies with Revolut.

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