British expats in Thailand bemoan Barclays’ latest debanking moves

Barclays has set the cat amongst the expat pigeons worldwide.

Barclays’ decision to shut down as many expat accounts worldwide as they can find is causing distress amongst British retirees and long stayers in Thailand. The bank claims the reason is that Barclays’ home services are for UK residents, but Pattaya expat Mike Gilmore says he has been an expat customer for over thirty years. “The real reason is they are not making enough money from us,” he said, “and don’t want the hassle of dealing with overseas customers as they continue to close branches and cut staff numbers.”

The bank is offering an alternative to switch to a global account at its offshore bases in the Isle of Man and the Channel Isles which are technically not part of the UK. The downside is that there is a monthly service charge of 40 pounds unless at least 100,000 pounds are kept on an ongoing basis in the same account. Other problems could include a complex online initial registration to transfer money internationally, renewal difficulties when a credit card expires and threats to close the account if the balance is too small. Zero interest is paid on most current and savings account.

The Barclays move is not unexpected as many expats, including Brits based in Thailand, had already been ordered to move their UK-based accounts when the bank discovered that they were using a UK post-restante address – often a relative’s – as their regular contact address. In 2021 Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Halifax and the Bank of Scotland, had ordered the closure of thousands of British expat accounts, mostly in Europe.

Another Pattaya Brit, Ken Taylor, said he had been told to close his Barclays account by mid November 2023. “I live on modest pensions in UK which I need to be transferred every month.” He said he was contacting the providers to see if they would transfer directly to his Thai bank account but had been warned that some pension companies charged extra, or used poorer exchange rates, or even insisted on sending a cheque which was impossible to cash here.

Ken Taylor added, “Although the Barclays news won’t affect most British expats in Thailand as they have already made other banking arrangements, it does illustrate how living overseas brings its own problems. We also have to worry about the rumors of changes in the Thai taxation system, a flat refusal by the British government to upgrade frozen state pensions and what the immigration bureau may or may not be planning.”