British expats who bank with Barclays are facing the prospect of losing their accounts, potentially leaving some unable to access their savings and pensions.
British citizens residing abroad will no longer be eligible for Barclays UK current or savings accounts, the bank announced.
This move follows a review of the bank’s international services initiated in 2021, and customers are now receiving a six-month notice regarding the change.
For affluent expats, Barclays offers the option to open a global account, which offers online convenience and currency flexibility. However, to avoid a £40 monthly fee, they must maintain a balance of £100,000.
A spokesperson for Barclays stated that the bank’s UK products are primarily intended for customers residing in the United Kingdom. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the city regulator, noted that this was a commercial decision, as banks have the authority to establish their own criteria for accepting customers.
One affected customer, 89-year-old Professor David Barker, remembers opening his Barclays account over six decades ago when he lived in Greater London. In 1988, he relocated to Australia with his wife Catherine. They have been using the account to receive their English pensions, royalties from book sales, pay direct debits, make charitable donations, and give gifts to their grandchildren.
The couple received a letter in April notifying them of the account closure, which shocked them. Initially, they were told they could re-register with their daughter’s UK address when Mrs. Barker visited Hertfordshire, but recently, they received a call from the bank stating that the initial advice was incorrect, and that their account would indeed be closed.
Professor Barker expressed frustration with the lack of guidance from Barclays on how to maintain access to their British funds, stressing that the account forms the financial cornerstone of their family.
He told The Telegraph: “We are concerned about the way Barclays is handling it. I couldn’t believe that we would get a cold call telling us we would be debanked.”
The couple has been informed that they must withdraw all their funds from their accounts by November 24.
According to Australian government data from June 2021, there were over one million British expats living in Australia, accounting for nearly 16 percent of overseas residents.
In 2021, Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Halifax and the Bank of Scotland, notified 13,000 expats residing in Europe that their UK-held accounts would be closed.
Under the latest closures, individuals with cash ISAs and fixed-rate bonds can retain their accounts, unless they live in Estonia, Italy, the Netherlands, or Slovakia. The same policy applies to mortgage and loan holders with the UK branch of the bank, although existing home loan customers will not have the option to remortgage when their terms expire.
Crown employees and their spouses can maintain their accounts, and the bank will permit the account to remain open if the overseas address is for someone managing the funds, such as an accountant or lawyer.
A spokesperson for Barclays said: “We will no longer be offering personal current or savings accounts to retail customers with addresses registered with us outside of the United Kingdom, subject to limited exceptions. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and explain the next steps they need to take.”
The FCA also commented: “Banks may set their own requirements on the country of residence for account holders and must comply with local law and regulation when serving customers outside the UK. Whether or not banks decide to extend services to customers outside of the UK is a commercial decision for them, but we expect them to treat their customers fairly, comply with equalities legislation, and provide adequate notice to the customer if they decide to close their account. Customers who feel they have had their accounts closed unfairly have the right to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.”