How to open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident in 2023
If you’re a frequent traveler, love to shop online with your favorite European stores, or are planning a relocation you might be wondering how best to get a bank account to hold and spend in major European currencies like euros (EUR) and British pounds (GBP).
While it’s possible to get a non-resident bank account for Europe, which covers several common currencies, it can be expensive and complex with a bank. Typically you’ll be sent to a bank’s expat or international banking division, which means high minimum balances and costly fees.
This guide tells you all you need to know – and because banks aren’t always the best option we’ll also introduce some more flexible and online solutions, such as Wise or Revolut. Let’s dive right in.
What documents do I need?
When you open a non-resident account for Europe with a bank you’ll usually need to provide:
- Proof of identity
- Proof of address
- Proof of income (for some account types)
If you’re already based in Europe, you’ll have a broad range of banks and account options to pick from. However, if you’re looking for a non-resident account from a bank you may have a harder time.
Some banks – for example Barclays International – don’t offer expat bank accounts to US residents. Others have a very high minimum balance requirement or strict eligibility criteria. To open an HSBC international expat account, for example, you’ll need either an income of the equivalent of 100,000 GBP, or to hold at least the equivalent of 50,000 GBP in your HSBC account.
One alternative is to look at banks within the EU which offer non-resident account options to hold EUR balances. We’ll run through the details for one option later – the Santander Spain non-resident account.
In most cases, though, the easier option is to ditch banks entirely and look at specialist online services like Wise and Revolut which are often cheaper, easier and more flexible when it comes to non-resident accounts.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
If you want an account to hold and exchange European currencies like euros and British pounds, but you’re not a resident of a European country, you may be better off with a modern online alternative like Wise or Revolut.
Providers like these offer multi-currency accounts which can hold, send, spend and receive a range of European and world currencies, including EUR, GBP and USD.
You’ll be able to open your account with a US proof of identity and address, which means you can hold a balance in European currencies even as a non-resident. There’s also no restrictive eligibility requirements or minimum balance to worry about.
Set up your account online or via the provider’s app and complete the verification process digitally without even leaving your home.
How to open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident
If you want a flexible account you can use to hold European currencies, you’ll usually need to choose a modern online provider which offers multi-currency accounts, or turn to a global banking brand which has international and expat services for US residents.
If you’re using an online provider, getting your account set up is fairly straightforward and can be done online or in an app. However, if you’re looking for an account with an international banking organization like HSBC you’ll need to pull together a few more documents to support your application. You’ll usually still be able to open an account online – just be prepared to provide proof of income or funds to meet the eligibility rules.
What do I need to know before opening a bank account in Europe?
Europe has a broad and well established banking sector and there are lots of banks to choose from – but if you’re not a resident the options are likely to be more limited. You’ll need to provide a proof of local address in Europe for most standard accounts, and so as a non-resident you’ll likely find your choices boil down to accounts aimed at expats and high wealth individuals looking to invest in European currencies.
If you’re looking for an account for day to day use, which can handle European currencies, you’ll find one or two from banks – but the better option might be to find an alternative digital service like Wise or Revolut which could suit you better.
Can I open a bank account in Europe only with my passport?
Because of European and global banking regulations you can’t usually open an account in Europe with just a passport. Most services will require you to give your address, and in many cases you’ll also need to prove your address with a document like a utility bill in your name. It may be possible to register for a provider account with little more than a passport, but you’ll always need to complete a verification step – including proving your address – to get full feature access.
Which non-resident account is best in Europe?
Let’s take a look at a few examples, covering financial technology companies Wise and Revolut, Santander which has non-resident EUR options, and more global banks like HSBC:
|Currencies covered||40+ currencies including USD, GBP and EUR||25 currencies||EUR||Current accounts in GBP, USD and EUR|
Savings accounts in 19 currencies
|Open an account online||Yes||Yes||Non-residents usually need to visit a branch||Yes|
|Opening fee||No fee||No fee||No fee – but you’ll need to get a certificate of non-residence in Spain, which may involve a fee||Minimum balance: currency equivalent of 50,000 GBP (other eligibility criteria also apply)|
|Fall below fee||No fee||No fee||No fee||Equivalent of 35 GBP/month|
|Maintenance fee||No fee||Up to 16.99 USD/month||16 EUR/month||Waived if minimum balance is maintained|
|International transfers||Low fee, varies by currency||Up to 10 USD depending on value of payment||Standard online transfers are usually free|
In branch transfers cost up to 0.7%, with a minimum of 6 EUR – 20 EUR
Exchange rate markup applies
|Online transfers up to 4 GBP + third party charges + exchange rate markup|
As a non-resident you’ll probably have to pick between digital providers offering multi-currency functionality which have accounts that are flexible if you travel, send, spend or receive in a range of currencies, or expat banking services from a global banking brand.
Expat accounts tend to be aimed at high wealth individuals, and may appeal if you want a more personal service or need to access a fuller suite of options including overdrafts, investments and credit.
Wise multi-currency accounts can be opened online or in the Wise app, to manage your money across major European currencies like EUR and GBP, as well as 40+ other currencies. To learn more about Wise, click here to read our full Wise review.
You can top up your account in USD and switch to the currency you need instantly – or have people send you payments from Europe using local bank details for EUR and GBP payments.
Wise currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, which means you can save significantly compared to using your normal bank. You can also send payments to 70+ countries and spend using your Wise international debit card in 170+ countries.
Eligibility: Available to non-residents using a proof of identity and address from your home country. Not all services and features are available in all locations – full details by location available on the Wise website.
Is it safe? Yes, Wise is safe. Wise is a safe provider which is overseen by global bodies wherever it offers services around the world.
How to open an account with Wise
Here is how to open a Wise account:
- Download the Wise app or open the Wise desktop site
- Click Sign up and create an account with your email, Facebook, Google or Apple ID
- Follow the prompts to enter the details needed
- Upload a snap of your ID and address documents
- Once your account has been verified you’re good to go
After you’ve opened your account, you can click on the “+” sign on the Wise app, choose EUR or another European currency from the list and open your balance to hold and exchange money in your Wise account.
Open your Revolut account using your US identity documents, to get an account with multi-currency functionality, a linked debit card for spending and withdrawals, and extra perks like budgeting and saving tools.
Revolut has account plans with no monthly fees and an array of features including some no-fee currency exchange. Or you can upgrade to a different account tier, where you’ll pay a monthly fee to get higher levels of no-fee transactions and extra benefits. From the US, you’ll also be able to make no-fee in-network ATM withdrawals, and up to 400 USD/month in out of network withdrawals with no extra costs, based on a Standard account plan.
Eligibility: Available to residents with addresses in countries and regions including the EEA, UK, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.
Is it safe? Revolut is authorized to trade in all the countries it serves, including being covered by the FCA in the UK. It also holds a European banking license for the EU.
How to open an account with Revolut
To open an account with Revolut:
- Download the Revolut app
- Enter your phone number and set a PIN – you’ll get a verification message from Revolut
- Use the verification code to access the app and enter the details needed to create your account
- Upload the required documents for verification
- You can deposit funds and use your account once verified
After you’ve opened your account, you can create an EUR or another Europen currency balance to hold and exchange money in your Revolut account.
Santander is a global banking brand which originated in Spain. As Spain has a large expat population who are non-residents but have vacation homes there, the Spanish market is generally well set up to offer non-resident accounts to people who need a way to hold and send payments in EUR.
If that sounds like you, check out the Non-resident Mundo Account, which has a 16 EUR monthly maintenance fee, but gives you access to a debit card and the option to pay in cash, by bank transfer or check. The major drawback here is that you’ll usually need to provide proof you don’t live in Spain full time, and you’ll need to visit the country to get set up – great if you love a vacation there, but not so convenient if you don’t have travel plans at the moment.
Account types: Accounts available for non-residents, denominated in euros only.
Eligibility: Try the Non-resident Mundo Account for a euro account from a European bank
Is it safe? Yes. Santander is one of the biggest banks in the world and overseen by regulators in all the regions it trades in globally
How to open a non-resident account with Santander
- Check eligibility for the Mundo Account
- Assemble the required paperwork
- Visit a Santander Spain branch to open your account
HSBC Expat is the offshore, international division of global banking giant HSBC. HSBC has a long history of offering international banking services, with a focus on accounts for high wealth individuals.
You can open an HSBC Expat current account from the US which can be denominated in GBP, USD or EUR, with savings accounts available in 19 currencies. However, fairly high minimum balance requirements apply which can be a barrier. To qualify for an HSBC Expat account you’ll need to maintain a minimum balance of the equivalent of 50,000 GBP, or have an annual income of over 100,000 GBP or the equivalent.
Account types: Current accounts can hold GBP, EUR and USD, but savings accounts are available in 19 global currencies.
Eligibility: Accounts come with high income and minimum balance requirements.
Is it safe? HSBC is one of the largest banks globally, fully regulated in Europe and around the world.
How to open an account with HSBC Expat:
- Check you meet the eligibility criteria
- Assemble the required paperwork
- Find your preferred account and select Apply now on the HSBC Expat website
- Follow the prompts to enter your details and upload images of documents
- Your account will be opened once verified
What is a bank account in Europe needed for?
Having a European bank account can be helpful for lots of different people:
- If you’re planning to travel in Europe, or if you’re moving to any country in Europe to live or work
- If you like to shop online with retailers based in Europe
- If you want to convert funds to EUR, GBP or other major European currencies for investing or to diversify your savings
- If you need to send payments to individuals and businesses in Europe – such as paying for travel or an overseas mortgage
Related: Best travel cards for Europe
Benefits of opening a bank account in Europe
Not sure if getting a bank account in Europe will help you? Here are a few benefits you can expect:
- Cut down the costs of converting euros, pounds and other European currencies to dollars
- Avoid foreign transaction fees when spending in European currencies
- Receive payments in euros, pounds and other European currencies, and hold your funds in these currencies without needing to convert back to dollars
- Send money to others in Europe with lower overall costs
Can I open a European bank account online?
You’ll usually be able to open a European bank account online as a non resident, if you select a service from an expat or international banking brand. In this case, the application process is designed for people not able to visit a branch in person. However, for other bank accounts in Europe, you’ll usually need to prove your European address to apply online.
If you don’t live in Europe and don’t want an expat account with high fees and minimum balance requirements, an alternative provider like Wise or Revolut may be a better choice.
How long does it take to open a bank account in Europe
How long it takes to open your account in Europe will depend on the service you select. All banks need to verify the identity and address of their customers, which can sometimes be done quickly – or even instantly – but in other cases, can take some time.
What are the types of bank accounts in Europe
As we’ve seen, as a non-resident looking to open a bank account in Europe, you’ll usually have fairly limited choices as most European banks only offer standard accounts to residents.
The main type of non-resident account in Europe comes from the international and expat banking arms of major global banks, like HSBC. However, not all international banking services offer accounts to US citizens and residents, so you’ll need to double check your eligibility. If you’re struggling and want an easier solution, alternative digital providers like Wise and Revolut may be able to help with accounts you can use to hold and exchange major European currencies and USD side by side.
How much does it cost to open a bank account in Europe?
Generally there will not be a fee to open a bank account in Europe. However, with expat and international account services, it’s common to require a high minimum balance or salary to be eligible. If you don’t deposit and maintain this balance you’ll pay high fall below fees every month.
Is it possible to open a fee-free account in Europe?
European residents can easily open an account with no monthly fee – however, for non-residents this may be a little trickier. You’ll usually have to maintain a high minimum deposit amount to qualify for a fee waiver. Instead, check out digital services like Wise and Revolut. Both providers offer accounts which have no ongoing or maintenance costs, so you can choose to pay only for the services you need to use.
Related: Best fee free bank accounts
What are the additional costs?
As we’ve seen, specialist providers like Wise and Revolut may offer accounts with low costs and no minimum deposit requirements, but the expat options available from global banks usually need a hefty minimum deposit amount to get your account.
Depending on how you use your account you’ll also run into a range of transaction fees and monthly charges. Keep an eye out for the following costs when selecting the European non-resident account for you:
- Monthly maintenance fees – or fall below fees
- International payment fees
- Foreign transaction fees when spending or withdrawing with your card
- Overdraft fees
- Credit card costs including cash advances and interest
- Checkbook and check cashing fees
- Account dormancy or early closure fees
Tips for sending money between the US and Europe
Using your normal bank isn’t always the cheapest, fastest or most convenient option to send international payments. Instead, a specialist service may help you save money on both the fees and the exchange rate markups applied.
Here are some tips to avoid extra costs on international wire transfer fees:
- Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market exchange rate to see if a markup is being used
- Check the fees for different transfer types – arranging your transfer online is usually cheaper than doing so in a bank branch
- Ask about third party charges which can push up the overall costs significantly
Before you send money overseas, compare your own bank with a few specialist services to see if you can save.
Conclusion: EU bank account for non residents
European non-resident accounts with banks tend to be aimed at high income individuals who want a personal service and don’t mind tying up a high minimum balance in their accounts. They can also be tricky to open, expensive and inflexible.
A specialist online service like Wise or Revolut may well be a better bet. Specialist alternatives will usually offer a better overall deal, including a more straightforward verification process, lower fees and better exchange rates. You also won’t need to worry about restrictive minimum balance requirements or proving your income to get your account set up.
Opening European bank account FAQs
How do I open a European bank account?
If you’re a resident in Europe with a valid proof of address, opening a bank account is easy. If you’re non-resident you’ll usually need to choose between expat banking services from a large banking brand, or a specialist online alternative.
How can I open a bank account in Europe without proof of address?
Open an account to hold and exchange major European currencies, with a specialist online service. You’ll be able to use the proof of address you have from the US, and can get your account all set up online or via an app.
Can a non-resident open an account in Europe?
You can open a non-resident account in Europe with the expat division of a global banking branch. However, you may find it easier and cheaper to get an account with a specialist online provider instead.
How much do I need to open a bank account in Europe?
Non-resident accounts from expat banking services will often have a minimum deposit requirement and high fall below fees if you can’t maintain the balance all the time. Compare a few providers, including specialist services, which can be far cheaper, to get the best deal for your needs.
Can you open a bank account with a tourist visa in Europe?
In most cases you won’t be able to open a bank account with a regular bank in Europe with a tourist visa. You’ll need a local proof of address, plus a valid residence permit to show legal status. However, you can choose to open an online account with a specialist service instead, which can be much cheaper, easier and more convenient.
Can I open a European bank account online?
Open your European non-resident account on your laptop or mobile device, with an international proof of address, by choosing a specialist online service. You can also get your account set up online via an expat banking brand, but this is likely to come with higher overall fees.
How to apply for a bank account online in Europe?
If you want to apply for an account from a European bank you’ll usually need a local European address. Without this it’s usually only possible to open a more costly expat account online, by visiting your preferred provider’s website and uploading images of your paperwork for verification. Alternatively, check out providers like Wise and Revolut which offer flexible online account opening and onboarding, with no restrictive eligibility requirements.