UK Banking for EU Freelancers

Setting up a bank account in the UK can be a hassle, especially if you’ve just arrived from abroad and you want to go freelance. But thanks to London’s thriving fintech scene, there are a number of banking start-ups that can help you get up and running in no time.

A five-pound note Photo by Philip Veater

Quick disclaimer: the following list is just a personal selection of services I like. Use it as a starting point and do your own research. I’m not affiliated with any of the companies and this is not financial advice.

Personal bank accounts

Monzo

Probably London’s most beloved fintech start-up, Monzo is everywhere and easily recognisable by its bright orange cards. It’s free and offers a fast, painless sign-up through its mobile app. Monzo’s key features revolve around budgeting: instant notifications whenever you spend or receive money, monthly spending targets and “Pots" that let you put money aside.

Monzo started out in 2015 with a mobile app and a prepaid debit Mastercard. In April 2017, they received their banking license. That means you get a sort code and an account number, a Mastercard debit card, you can set up standing orders, get an overdraft and your money is protected up to £85,000 by the FSCS.
Check out Monzo

✅ Fast and easy online setup
✅ Free personal bank account
✅ Easy budgeting
✅ Fully licensed bank
🔸 Free ATM withdrawals abroad of up to £200/month, 3% charge after that

Starling

Starling offers a similar set of features like Monzo. It’s a fully licensed, “mobile-only" bank giving you a dedicated mobile app, a debit Mastercard, UK account details and deposit protection of up to £85,000.

Starling adds some nice features on top: most importantly, in my opinion, Starling charges zero fees when you pay with your card abroad. Starling uses Mastercard’s exchange rates (so it’s not hiding fees in the exchange rate). You also receive a bit of interest on your credit balances and you can apply for an overdraft.

Another interesting thing is that while the world of banks and payment providers can be highly fractured, Starling takes a more inclusive approach. The company has an ever-expanding “Marketplace", which lets other financial services — such as pensions, savings, travel insurance and mortgage brokerage — integrate with the Starling app through a comprehensive API.
Check out Starling

✅ Fast and easy online setup
✅ Free personal bank account
✅ Easy budgeting
✅ Fully licensed bank
✅ Zero fees abroad

Business accounts

Monzo Business

Monzo Business accounts are relatively new and aimed at small businesses. They offer the same features as their personal accounts, so it’s easy to stay on top of your everyday banking requirements. This basic version is free (in contrast to most high street business bank accounts, which usually charge something between £5 and £10 per month), but you can upgrade to a “Business Pro" account for £5 a month.

The “Business Pro" account gives you some interesting features, such as the ability to create, send and track invoices, connect 3rd party accounting software, and save a percentage of your income in “Tax pots".
Check out Monzo Business

✅ Fast and easy online setup
✅ Free basic account
✅ Easy everyday banking
✅ Fully licensed bank
💰 Create, send and track invoices
💰 Connect 3rd-party accounting software
💰 Put money aside for taxes

Starling Business

Starling’s Business account offering is similar to Monzo’s: a free, easy to set up bank account that lives primarily on your phone and offers instant notifications and simple budgeting overviews.

In contrast to Monzo, however, Starling is completely free, and there is no upgrade to a “Pro" account. Another potential benefit is the “Business Marketplace", which lets account holders connect to 3rd-party insurance, lending, legal and accounting tools – right through the app.
Check out Starling Business

✅ Fast and easy online setup
✅ Free business account
✅ In-app “Marketplace" for business-related services
✅ Fully licensed bank

Transferwise Borderless

Transferwise is not a bank, it’s actually a service that provides fast, low-cost international money transfers. But Transferwise realised that people don’t just send money across borders – sometimes, companies and freelancers work across borders. So Transferwise developed the Borderless account.

Here’s how Transferwise works: their transfers are cheaper than most regular bank transfers because money never actually crosses borders. Essentially, if you send money from the UK to, say, France, you deposit your funds in Transferwise’s UK account, and it gets paid out from the company’s French account. Because of its competitive rates, Transferwise has become quite popular in the last couple of years. Learn more about how Transferwise works

Recently, they introduced a business banking concept that’s especially interesting to companies and freelancers who work with clients abroad. The Borderless Account lets you hold money in over 50 different currencies and gives you local bank details for GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, NZD and PLN. This is especially interesting if you work a lot with clients from different countries. They can pay you like a local and you don’t have to pay fees for receiving money from abroad.

Something to note is that Transferwise is not a bank. It’s an Electronic Money Institution authorised UK Financial Conduct Authority. Funds are held in a ring-fenced Barclays account, which means: 1) Barclays can’t use your money for any risky parts of its business, such as investment banking, and 2) should Transferwise go out of business, your money is still kept in the Barclays account. However, your funds are not protected by the FSCS.
Check out Transferwise Borderless

✅ Fast and easy online setup
✅ Free
✅ Hold money in over 50 different currencies
✅ Get local bank details for GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, NZD and PLN
❌ Not protected by the FSCS

There are plenty of other options

Like I mentioned in the beginning, these are just some examples. Check them out or have a look around for alternatives. The UK fintech scene is quite frothy at the moment, and new financial services are popping up all the time.