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What is a multi-currency account?

Also called borderless accounts, multi-currency accounts make cross-border transactions easier.

Modern trade agreements, accessible payment platforms and international shipping options mean we have the world at our fingertips. We can order products from abroad and receive them within days, send money to friends and relatives in other countries and make global business connections at the drop of a hat. 

But what if you regularly invest, buy property or work with commercial partners overseas? Larger and more complicated cross-border transactions are much easier and less time-consuming if you hold a multi-currency account rather than a standard bank account. 

In this guide, we’ll explain what multi-currency accounts are, how they work and why they’re useful. 

What is a multi-currency account? 

Also known as foreign currency or borderless accounts, multi-currency accounts let you hold, send and receive funds in multiple currencies within a single account. These accounts also come with SWIFT details, unique IBANs and the ability to create subaccounts for different currencies. 

If you want to send a payment to a relative in Seoul, for instance, you can log into your account, buy South Korean won and transfer them to your loved one’s local account. 

You can hold several different currencies in the same multi-currency account simultaneously and move funds between currencies whenever you like. 

How does a multi-currency account work? 

Multi-currency accounts work a lot like traditional bank accounts. You can send, receive and hold funds, set up direct debits and make withdrawals. However, you can transact in many different currencies rather than just one. 

Borderless accounts come in very handy if you do regular business in a country outside the UK. For instance, if you run an online shoe shop in Japan, you can accept customer payments and pay business-related expenses from a single multi-currency account. Because that Japanese yen circulates in the same subaccount, or “wallet”, you can avoid fees until you transfer profits back into British pounds. 

Multi-currency accounts aren’t just for business owners. Let’s imagine you spend a lot of time in Dubai: with a multi-currency account, you can buy United Arab Emirates dirhams while rates are favourable and keep them on hand when you visit.  

Some multi-currency account providers also offer FX solutions, including spot contracts, forward contracts and limit orders, which can help you guard against currency volatility and lock in exchange rates. 

What are the advantages of a multi-currency account? 

Multi-currency accounts have numerous advantages: 

  • One account; many currencies. With a multi-currency account, you can manage many currencies in the same account rather than multiple foreign accounts. 

  • Local account details. Local subaccounts make sending and receiving payments from clients, friends and family members living abroad easier. 

  • Lower costs and transaction fees. A multi-currency account can help you guard against currency volatility and reduce fees across the board. 

  • Easier accounting. Maintaining one account rather than several can help you (or your accountant) monitor transactions in all regions. 

Which UK banks offer multi-currency accounts? 

Many high street banks in the UK offer multi-currency accounts. Often, applicants must hold (or open) a standard current account with the bank before applying for a multi-currency account. 

With a multi-currency bank account, you can open subaccounts and hold money in a range of major currencies – sometimes up to 18. Some multi-currency bank accounts have minimum balance requirements, maintenance fees and conversion fees, which can be quite high. 

Which alternative providers offer multi-currency accounts? 

Challenger banks and alternative providers also offer multi-currency accounts, which can be more flexible and less expensive than traditional multi-currency bank accounts. They also tend to offer more currencies – sometimes over 55.  

Some of the advantages of opening a multi-currency account with a fintech or alternative banking provider include: 

  • Easier account-opening process. Alternative banks are held to a different set of rules by the Financial Conduct Authority, making it easier to open an account. 

  • Quicker onboarding. You’ll still need to fulfil Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) requirements, but alternative provider onboarding is often faster than onboarding with a traditional bank. 

  • International flexibility. Some providers offer more than 55 currencies and support transactions in over 160 countries, making them ideal for global citizens. 

You can usually apply for a multi-currency account with an alternative provider even if you’re not an existing customer. Many fintechs and challenger banks don’t have minimum account balance requirements, and fees are often lower. 

What is the best multi-currency account? 

Given the range of options available, choosing a multi-currency account provider can be challenging. Thinking about how you’ll typically use the account and which services will benefit you most can help you make a decision. 

How fast can you onboard? 

Quick onboarding is essential if you need to use your account soon. Most providers should be able to give you a timeframe for account opening, plus a list of the documents you need to get started. 

Is there a minimum account balance requirement? 

Eligibility criteria for accounts can vary between providers. If you don't plan to use the multi-currency account as your main account, it's better to choose an option without a minimum balance requirement. 

What support choices are available? 

Talking to a human being can be helpful if you have a complex question or need tailored advice. When comparing multi-currency accounts, look for providers that offer personal customer service. 

Go global with Interpolitan 

You could benefit from a multi-currency account if you spend a lot of time juggling currencies or dealing with bank accounts in different countries.  

One exclusive option is an Interpolitan multi-currency account. Unlike other alternative banking providers, we guide you through the 7–10-day onboarding process. You receive tailored advice and support from a dedicated relationship manager who will remain assigned to your account indefinitely. 

We also work with intermediaries. If you’re an accountant, lawyer, family office representative or other individual looking for a multi-currency account on behalf of a third party, we invite you to contact us. 

At Interpolitan, we put you first, no matter what. Learn more about us or open an account today. 

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