Best GBP account in Australia: Banks and online providers compared

If you send frequent international transfers to the UK, get paid in British pounds (GBP), or spend overseas in GBP often, you might be able to save with a foreign currency account.

Having a GBP account lets you receive and hold British pounds, which can make it easier to ride out fluctuations in the exchange rate. It also means you can easily send and spend pounds – which can cut the costs of transacting internationally.

GBP accounts from Australian banks typically have limited functionality, and come with high fees. Specialist providers like Wise and Revolut can be good alternatives.

In this article, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about opening a GBP account, including the best GBP account options available, the costs, and how to open one.

Open a GBP Account in Australia

Can a GBP account be opened in Australia?

Yes. You can open a GBP account from a mainstream bank, or choose a specialist provider instead.

GBP accounts from the big Australian banks usually require you to have an eligible AUD account with the same provider, they don’t normally come with a debit card to make it easy to spend and withdraw your funds, and the fees can be on the high side. And finally, whenever you need to convert funds to and from GBP you’ll be tied to the bank’s exchange rate, which probably includes a markup – an extra fee.

Alternative providers, including financial technology firms, often offer multi-currency accounts which have more flexibility, a broader range of features, and lower fees. You won’t usually get credit, overdrafts or loans from these services – but for holding, sending and spending around the world, they can be a great choice.

This guide will walk through some of the best GBP accounts in Australia for individuals, business owners, freelancers and online sellers.

What are the advantages of a GBP account in Australia?

These days, many people lead an international lifestyle. Maybe you draw a pension or income in a foreign currency. Or you send remittances overseas to family. Perhaps you just love to travel and shop internationally. If you’re transacting in GBP often, you could save time, money and hassle with a dedicated GBP account.

Having a foreign currency account can save you money in a couple of key ways. Firstly you can ride out changes in the exchange rate by holding your GBP balance instead of needing to switch it with a poor exchange rate. And secondly, if you know you need to make a payment in pounds soon you can buy GBP when the rates look good, to take advantage of a great exchange rate when you see it.

There could be even more benefits if you’re a business owner. Having a GBP account makes it easy to get paid by customers or clients from the UK by local transfer. Or, if you work with PSPs like Stripe and marketplaces like Amazon you can link your foreign currency account to collect GBP payments and reach more customers. Having a GBP account also makes it easier and cheaper to pay in pounds if you have employees, suppliers or contractors in the UK.

Best GBP accounts

The best GBP account for you will depend on how you’ll use the account, and whether you’re a personal or business customer. Here are a few options to consider:

Provider Availability Fees Debit card Other features
Wise Personal and business customers
  • Personal accounts, free to open; no monthly charges
  • One time 22 AUD payment for business account; no ongoing fees
Yes
  • Multi-currency account for 54 currencies
  • Local account details for 10 currencies
  • Send payments to 80+ countries
Revolut
  • Personal accounts are immediately available.
  • Business customers currently waitlisted.
  • Standard personal accounts, free or upgrade to a fee paid plan for up to 24.99 AUD/month
Yes
  • Accounts available in 27+ fiat currencies
  • Budgeting and saving tools account options
Westpac Personal and business customers
  • No monthly fees
  • Telegraphic transfer fees apply
No
  • Open accounts in GBP or 11 other major currencies online
  • Not intended as a travel account
NAB Personal and business customers
  • No monthly fees
  • Telegraphic transfer fees apply
No
  • Open accounts in GBP or 15 other major currencies online
CommBank Personal and business customers
  • No monthly fees
  • Fees apply when you send payments, deposit or withdraw foreign currency cash
No
  • Open account in most convertible currencies
  • Pay in and withdraw foreign currency notes at a CommBank branch
Airwallex Business customers
  • No fee to open account
  • Relatively low 0.3% – 0.6% currency conversion fee
  • SWIFT transfers fees apply or payments to other Airwallex for free
Yes
  • Accounts available in 11 currencies
  • Not available to personal customers

Wise

Wise multi-currency accounts have no minimum balance, no monthly fee, and no ongoing charges. Open as a personal or business customer and hold, send and spend GBP as well as 50+ other currencies. You’ll get a linked international debit card to use all over the world – with no foreign transaction fees to pay. In fact, all currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate with low, transparent fees.

Get local bank account details for 10 different currencies including GBP, to get paid for free from 30+ countries. Business customers also get features like integration with accounting software, batch payments, multi-user access and an API to automate workflow.

Fees: No fee to open a personal account, 22 AUD one-off fee to open a business account. No monthly fee for either personal or business accounts

Currency conversion: Hold and convert 54 currencies with the mid-market exchange rate

Other notable features: Receive payments like a local from 30 countries, send money to 80+ countries, spend with your linked debit card in 200+ countries

Wise Multi-Currency Account
 

Revolut

Revolut accounts can be used for GBP and 26 other currencies. There are a range of account plans, from a free standard plan to the top tier of account – Metal – which has a 24.99 AUD/month fee. All accounts get a linked debit card, a free Junior account, some free ATM withdrawals, and some free currency conversion.

Revolut also has business accounts, but at the time of writing, business customers in Australia will need to join a waitlist to apply for an account.

Fees: Standard accounts are free. Upgrade to a fee paid personal account for up to 24.99 AUD/month

Currency conversion: 27+ fiat currencies available

Other notable features: Broad range of account services including budgeting tools, savings and investments

Open Your Revolut Account

Westpac

Westpac personal and business customers can open a foreign currency account in a range of currencies including GBP. Apply online, and either link or open an eligible Westpac AUD account in order to make any transfers out of the GBP account. This is required because the costs of your outward payment will be covered from your AUD balance in the linked account.

It’s useful to know that Westpac GBP accounts aren’t really suited to travel use – especially as you won’t get a linked debit card and you can not withdraw in a foreign currency from your account.

Fees: No monthly fees. Transfers into the account cost 12 AUD; outward payments cost 10 AUD – 32 AUD + exchange rate markups

Currency conversion: Open an account in any of 12 major currencies online, or visit a branch to open in other currencies

Other notable features: Not intended for travel use, can not withdraw directly from this account in GBP

NAB

If you already have – or are happy to open – an AUD account with NAB you could also get a GBP account for yourself or your business. NAB foreign currency accounts come in GBP and 15 other currencies, and you can open your account online if you’re a personal customer, sole trader, or company with only 1 or 2 directors.

You can add funds by cheque or with a bank transfer in AUD or GBP. Any currency conversion required will use the NAB exchange rate, which is likely to include a markup. You can’t withdraw money directly from the NAB GBP account, you can only transfer it to another account.

Fees: No monthly fees. 10 AUD – 35 AUD to send an overseas payment, and up to 15 AUD to receive an international transfer

Currency conversion: Up to 16 currencies available, including GBP

Other notable features: Business customers can also get advanced banking features, trade finance and foreign exchange solutions

CommBank

CommBank has GBP accounts for personal and business customers. In both cases you’ll need an eligible AUD account with CommBank too.

However, these accounts are somewhat less restrictive than some available from major banks in a couple of ways. Accounts can be opened in pretty much any convertible currency; and you’ll be able to pay in and withdraw out foreign currency notes – a service not available in many banks. There are fees of 1% of the transaction value for this.

Fees: No monthly fees. Up to 30 AUD to send an overseas payment, and 1% (minimum 10 AUD) fee to deposit or withdraw foreign currency notes at a branch

Currency conversion: Accounts available in most convertible currencies, including GBP

Other notable features: Business accounts also available

Airwallex

Airwallex offers a range of accounts for business customers, including a GBP account. When you open your account you’ll get UK bank account details you can use to get paid by clients, or withdraw from marketplace platforms and similar online income sources. There’s a fee of around 0.3% – 0.6% to convert GBP back to AUD, although if you use your account for a range of currencies aside from GBP it’s worth noting that rates may be less favourable for exotic currencies. You’ll also be able to get physical and virtual international debit cards to make spending easier around the world.

Fees: No fee to open your account. 0.3% to 0.6% fee to convert major currencies. SWIFT transfers cost 10 AUD

Currency conversion: GBP and 10 other global currencies available

Other notable features: Business customers only

How to open a GBP account in Australia

Both regular banks and specialist services will usually let you apply for your account online, or using the provider’s app. In some cases if you’re not an existing customer with the bank you select you might need to visit a branch to get started.

Here are the basic steps you need to take if you’re able to complete your GBP account application online:

  1. Choose the best provider for your needs
  2. Register for your account 
  3. Give your personal and contact information
  4. Complete the required verification steps
  5. Fund your account – and you’re ready to go

All financial service providers will need to complete some verification checks before you can use your GBP account. This is to comply with the law and keep customers safe. In most cases you can complete this step online by uploading images of your ID documents. If you’re applying for a company account, you’ll also need to present paperwork about your business. Required documents can include:

  • Government issued photo ID
  • Proof of address – a utility bill or bank statement in your name for example
  • Tax ID information
  • Business registration documents if you’re opening a business account

Conclusion

Using a GBP account when you need to to receive, hold, send or spend in British pounds can make life easier, and cut your costs when you transact internationally.

While big Australian banks do often offer GBP accounts to both personal and business customers they can be limited in terms of features, with high transaction fees and inflated exchange rates. You’re also unlikely to get a linked debit card, so you won’t be able to access your pounds when you may need them most – when you travel.

Instead of relying on your normal bank, check out some modern online providers to see if one suits you. You’ll often find cheap, easy and flexible multi-currency accounts – which come with a debit card to spend around the world. Use this guide to kickstart your research and find your perfect match.

Open a GBP Account in Australia
 

FAQs

Can I open a GBP account in Australia?

You can open a GBP account in Australia. However, the accounts offered by many major banks tend to be pretty restrictive, with relatively high fees. Instead, you may find it easier and more convenient to use an online specialist service like those listed in this article.

How much does it cost to open a GBP account?

GBP accounts are often free to open with low, or no ongoing fees – but transaction costs can be high if you choose a mainstream bank. Use this guide to start your research to find the perfect GBP account for your needs.

By Ileana Ionescu Updated March 29th, 2022