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Similar questions here and here, but neither answers my question

The facts:

  • I am a UK citizen.
  • I am not a resident of the UK.
  • I have not lived in, worked in or visited the UK for the last 7 years.
  • I currently do not have a UK bank account (I think?)
  • I owe approximately £9,000 to a UK debt collecting company (So it is possible I have a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against me.) from credit card debts.
  • I have one(reasonable..ish) private ‘final salary’ pension and three small private ‘with profits’ pensions.
  • I am over 55 but not yet 67.
  • The cost of living in my resident country is (currently & for the foreseeable future) considerably lower than the UK; so whilst my current income is sufficient for my current needs, to save £9,000 would take approximately 5 – 6 years(Paying by instalment would be paying more money in currency transfers & differences in currency rates than off principle sum owed) I intend to stay in my resident country.

The debt part of this is really another question which I will ask later, but is relevant to this question.

What would I like to do? I would like to visit the UK open a bank account, claim some or all of my private pensions taking 25% as a cash lump sum; with some of this lump sum I would like to pay off the debt collecting company. Then return to my resident country to live off my existing income and my retirement pension.

The problems:-

  • UK banks now insist on UK residency.
  • UK banks now have such products named ‘International Bank Account’; these accounts appear to be for the considerably wealthy; not the average man in the street. For example Citibank listed in this answer requires a minimum deposit of £150,000.
  • Due to the debt I would only be eligible for a ‘Basic account’ and I am not sure if foreign withdrawals or transfers are allowed with these type of accounts.
  • Pension companies will only pay into a UK bank account in my name.
  • Due to the circumstances my choice(currently none) will result in having to take the only banking option available which could have exorbitant bank charges. But then ‘beggars can’t be choosers’?

So the question is ‘How do I open a UK bank account’ so that I can pay off my debt and claim my pension. Any advice or guidance would be very welcome.

I am and continuing to research the following possibilities:-

  • Non UK citizens(possibly only European Union citizens) are allowed to open a bank account so that their wages can be paid; but my understanding is they need to supply an address within a reasonable time frame. If this is the case it is possible to open a UK account without an address, but is this viable in the long-term?
  • Will pension/annuity providers pay into a joint account? (I could possibly get a joint account with a member of my family)
  • Opening bank accounts in my resident country with banks that have links/owners in the UK, this may allow their UK counterpart to permit me a bank account.
  • Try and find out if any of my old UK bank accounts are still open or dormant (I have no account numbers or relevant info, just memory)

Please do include advice about the risk of taking pensions early in your answer; a)I have considered the possibilities and b)I have little to no trust in UK financial institutions;

  • 3
    "Will pension/annuity providers pay into a joint account?" I would be amazed if they did not. There are many retired married couples with only joint accounts. – Rupert Morrish Aug 5 at 20:58
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Why don’t you just transfer your pensions to a qualified pension scheme in the country where you now live? That would seem like the best option, saving you from needing to visit the UK or open a UK bank account.

The overseas scheme you want to transfer your pension savings to must be a ‘qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme’ (QROPS). It’s up to you to check this with the overseas scheme or your UK pension provider or adviser.

If it’s not a QROPS scheme, your UK pension scheme may refuse to make the transfer, or you’ll have to pay at least 40% tax on the transfer.

  • You got my hopes up there! Disapointedly no south american countries listed - so no ‘qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme’ (QROPS) available - thanks for the suggestion though - I wasn't aware that was even an option – Financesinamess Aug 5 at 20:08
  • Is that 40% tax liability only if I am under 55? Or over 55 as well? – Financesinamess Aug 5 at 20:29
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I do think the fall back position of opening a basic account is a good solution, and the 'basic' means the bank concerned will simply not permit an overdraft and will charge every time the account hits the zero buffer, as it were.

There are challenger banks and they are usually internet based. Before opening an account with https://www.revolut.com/ or Monese, N26 and Monzo there are two things to do. (1) check that your pension administrators are happy to send money to them (2) check their accounts and their FCA regulation for sufficient equity. Last time I looked most of these starter banks are still making losses.

".. it is possible to open a UK account without an address, but is this viable in the long-term?" No. Money Laundering regulations will bite hard at some point. I've known some US clients in the UK provide the US address of their US resident family for those US institutions who require something local. Maybe you can ask any family left in the UK. But I have to say I don't understand why you would want to avoid using your actual South American address. "..Will pension/annuity providers pay into a joint account? (I could possibly get a joint account with a member of my family)" Joint as in 'with spouse', sure. Otherwise, no. "Opening bank accounts in my resident country with banks that have links/owners in the UK, this may allow their UK counterpart to permit me a bank account." Yes that is a good idea. Ask them about correspondent banks in London.

I see that you ruled out the QROPs route. I'm not sure your reasoning is right though, There's no UK based requirement for the QROPS to be administered in your country of residence. But your choice might have been wise anyway if your pension carries guarantees. In addition, you may find that a UK pension is lightly taxed in your country of residence, whereas that from a QROPS may not be (depends upon the country of residence of the QROPS). And finally, if you have a money purchase pension I personally find it impossible to get the kind of returns one can out of a SIP within a QROP structure because (the ones I have studied) limit what you can invest in to certain funds.

You wanted advice about taking pensions early. There's a computation to do which takes the escalation of the pension or annuity you've chosen, over your expected life span with chances of death, and adjusted for your own personal preference of wanting money to spend while you are still having a fun life. Sometimes one includes the rest of the estate as well if there's a knock on impact upon the estate to leave and that's important to you. I don't know of any shortcut. Perhaps you can say you're going to die at... 82 and work it all out based on that. Then, there are tax considerations including tax on the lump sum and as I said above some countries tax pensions lightly... and that all depends upon your other income and assets and family. And there is also the open market annuity option. Most computations at the moment say taking the money between 65 and 70 is best, but quite a few don't, so do the numbers. Wealth management is not a fast food type commodity. It takes time.

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