Thousands of people have family, work or property interests in both Ireland and the UK. Many hundreds of people live in Ireland but work in Northern Ireland or other parts of the UK. Those people will be dealing with payments in both Sterling and Euros on a regular basis.
The ability to have a UK Bank Account allows Irish Residents to send and receive payments to or from the U.K, without the need to convert to Euro.
Opening a GBP Sterling account while living in Ireland can sometimes be long-winded and messy with the “main” banks. (See below) .
One option we can recommend is the “Borderless Account” from Transferwise. This online electronic money account provides you with a valid UK account number and sort code that can be used in the same way as a normal bank account to accept bank transfers in Sterling such as rental payments , wages or self employment earnings , pensions etc.
The Transferwise accounts are not full bank accounts – so you can’t lodge cash or cheques or set up direct debits.
From the Transferwise account, you can then carry out transfers to other UK bank accounts of friends/relatives or suppliers/utilities etc in the UK. (Transfer fees are fixed and low – eg 60p for a UK to UK transfer) .
You can also convert the GBP to Euros within Transferwise and transfer back to your “main” bank in Ireland if you need to. The exchange rates they use are the “mid market rates” – (the real exchange rate).
They do charge a percentage fee for currency conversions which reduces for larger amounts. For example – converting £1000 GBP to Euro will be charged a 0.42% fee (£4.22) . Converting £100 to Euro will have a fee of 0.9% (90p).
Your bank might say they charge no conversion fees – but the exchange rates used by the main banks will typically be 3% or 4% away from the mid-market rate. This would mean you are better off using Transferwise.
For example – on the day this was written – a £1000 conversion and transfer to Euro using Transferwise would end up with €1186.87 Euro.
If you used Barclays Bank in the UK – doing the same transfer – you would end up with €1158.52 (€28.45 less).
If you have weekly or monthly transfers – those differences would become very significant over the course of a year.
You can also link the Transferwise account to a debit card for spending.
You can sign up for a Transferwise account here.
Transferwise is an Electronic Money Institution authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”)
They also have a “Classic” account with a £4.95 a month fee that has bigger limits and lower charges. (e.g. 0.5% on currency exchange).
If you need to transfer larger amounts of Sterling to Euro (over £2000- you may be able to get a better deal from one of the currency specialists listed further on in the article below.
Opening a Sterling bank account in the UK with the “mainstream” banks while you are living in Ireland.
If you want to go with a “bricks and mortar ” bank you will probably find it easier to try one of the Irish banks that have branches in Northern Ireland. Some of these will allow residents of the Republic of Ireland to open a Sterling Bank Account. You can ring around the various banks that are the easiest for you to get to – and arrange an appointment (Try Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Allied Irish ). They might even let you open an account through the post without having to travel in person.
AIB offer a Sterling current account in Ireland – but it isn’t that good . It comes with a £10 standing charge every quarter – plus transaction fees and fees on incoming payments. It doesn’t come with a debit card.
It is probably best to open a Sterling account with a small amount of sterling, to begin with. You could use cash if you have it or do a small electronic transfer from your Irish Bank to the UK Bank. You can send Euros and it will be converted into Sterling by the UK bank. But don’t go drawing out hundreds of Pounds in cash at an ATM.
Once you have the UK sterling account opened you can then arrange for any larger currency exchange and transfers from your Irish Euro account into the Sterling account. (See below for options)
If you want to transfer Euros from your bank in Ireland and convert it to Sterling to be sent to a UK bank account – don’t assume you have to do the transfers through your own bank in Ireland. You don’t.
The exchange rate from the banks will not be the best you will get – and they may also charge some additional fees or commissions too. You could send Euros straight to your Sterling account – but the recipient bank will convert it to Sterling using a poor exchange rate which could end up losing you as much as 2 to 3% of the value.
There are specialist currency exchange brokers that you can use – and their exchange rates will typically be better than the banks. Even a difference in the exchange rate of just 1 per cent will save you €1000 on a €100,000 Euros transaction
For example – we did a check on the exchange rates offered in early 2020 and found that on a transfer of just €10,000 Euro into Sterling using AIB would have got you £8272 Pounds but using a specialist currency exchange company (see below) would get you £80 more (£8350) . So the savings are substantial.
Some Currency Exchange Companies
Fexco is an Irish firm that can exchange your money and transfer the funds to your chosen bank account overseas. Fexco was established in 1981 in County Kerry and now employs over 2,300 people in 29 countries. They are authorised as a payment services provider by the Central Bank of Ireland and are also regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for the conduct of payment business in the UK. Fexco can provide personalised advice to reduce your exposure to fluctuating exchange rates. You can get a quick quote online at the Fexco Website
FairFx is a London based foreign exchange company – and they have an office in Dublin. They have been operating since 2007 and are fully regulated by both the UK Financial Conduct Authority and the UK HMRC. You can arrange currency transfers with FairFx online or over the telephone. FairFx will allocate you a personal broker and advise you on setting up regular transfers such as pension or rental payments. You can call FairFx on their Irish number 01 5665546 or on their UK number (0044) 207 858 2001 .
Another company we recommend that specialises in Foreign Currency Exchange is Currency Solutions. They are based in London and regulated and authorised by the UK Financial Services Authority and HM Revenue. They can carry out currency transfers from Euros to Sterling as well as most other major currencies. You can make a no-obligation enquiry about your currency requirements online here . If you prefer – you can telephone the Money Guide Ireland contact: Ernie Enver direct on their Irish number 01 431 1344 or on a UK number 0044 207 740 0000 .
Transfermate is another well-established currency broker – they are based in Ireland and regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. They also provide an international money transfer service. You can do everything online or if you prefer you can do it by phone. They tend to deal with amounts over €5000.
You can call them in Ireland on 01 6353776 or register online at Transfermate.com
If you need to transfer smaller amounts of money you could use online companies such as CurrencyFair or TransferWise . These companies are “peer to peer” – they cut out the banks and for a small fee allow you to get exchange rates that are pretty close to the interbank rates. You won’t get any advice or a dedicated broker.
Of course – always check with your own bank first to see what exchange rate they will offer you so you can be sure you really are getting a better deal by not using the bank. The rates are usually better on larger amounts. Don’t just ask for the exchange rate – get the bank to confirm exactly how much Sterling you will get after conversion – and after any fees have been deducted.
If you just compare the raw exchange rates – the difference in those figures may look insignificant and you may feel it’s not worth the bit of extra hassle. But when you see the difference in the total amount you will get after the exchange – it could easily amount to hundreds of pounds. Not bad for a couple of phone calls and a bit of online form filling.
If you are worried about the fluctuating exchange rates – you can reserve an exchange rate up to a year in advance. This is useful when your money might be tied up in a fixed rate account or in a property.