Looking for the best GBP account in Canada? Read on 2022

If you travel frequently to the UK, or run a business working with customers, suppliers or employees based in the UK, you might be wondering about getting a GBP account. 

Unfortunately in Canada there aren’t huge numbers of options for personal GBP accounts which can handle British pounds from traditional banks. You may fare better if you have a registered business, as most of the major Canadian banks offer corporate or treasury services covering foreign currency accounts. However, for both personal and business customers, GBP accounts from traditional Canadian banks can tend to be cumbersome, slow, and, most of all, expensive. Specialist online providers like Wise can be a good alternative. 

In this article, we'll cover what you need to know about opening a GBP account, including a look at a flexible online GBP account, a personal savings account from a traditional bank, and one traditional business account as an example. We’ll focus on convenience, the costs involved, and how to open one.

Let's get started.

Can a GBP account be opened in Canada?

There are not many GBP accounts from the major Canadian banks which are aimed at personal customers. Business and corporate accounts are more easily found, with most major banks offering some foreign or multi-currency account products for businesses.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t open a flexible, low cost GBP account in Canada - you’ll just probably be better off looking at a specialist online service instead of a traditional bank. We’ll walk through one option - Wise accounts for personal and business customers - alongside a couple of traditional bank GBP products, later.

Go to Wise

What are the advantages of a GBP account in Canada?

Despite the major banks in Canada not offering many GBP accounts for individuals, the main advantages of using a GBP account are the same for both personal and business customers.

If you need to work frequently in a foreign currency like British pounds, you could lose out if you’re forced to switch to GBP instantly when you want to pay for something  - or if you need to convert back to CAD every time you receive a transfer. In both cases, if the exchange rate at the time you need to transact is poor, you lose out.

Having a GBP account gives you the option to hold your GBP funds and switch when the time is right. You can buy GBP for future use and hold them in your account until you need them - or hold a payment there until the exchange rate picks up and switch it back to CAD only when it’s beneficial to you. In both cases, you’ll cut costs - and can make life far more convenient, too.

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:

ProviderAvailabilityFeesDebit cardOther features
WisePersonal and business customers
  • Personal accounts are free to open, with no monthly charges


  • One time 42 CAD payment for business account - no ongoing fees

Yes
  • Multi-currency account to manage 50+ currencies

  • Local account details for 10 currencies

  • Send payments to 80+ countries 

HSBC

Personal and business customers 

(account profiled is for personal customers only)

  • No monthly fee

No
  • High interest GBP savings account

  • Transfers out can only be made to other HSBC accounts

RBCBusiness customers
  • 25 CAD/month

No
  • Can handle a range of global currencies

  • 1 transaction a month fee free

  • Fees for both outgoing and incoming international payments

Wise

Both personal and business customers can open a Wise account in GBP, which can hold other 50+ currencies. You’ll also get GBP account details so you can get paid by local transfer from the UK, with no fees for you, and usually none levied by the sender’s bank either.

All Wise currency exchange uses the real mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees - whether you’re making a payment with your Wise debit card, sending an overseas transfer, or switching currencies within your account.

There are no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements when you open a Wise account, making this a cheap and straightforward way to manage your money in pounds - and a broad range of other global currencies too. 

Fees: Personal accounts are free to open, 42 CAD one time fee to open a business account. No monthly fee for either personal or business accounts

Currency conversion: Hold and convert 50+ 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.

Go to Wise

HSBC

HSBC offers personal customers a high interest GBP savings account product which may be an option if you’re looking for a way to let your sterling pound savings grow. Interest rates do change, so it’s worth looking at the actual interest earning opportunity before you sign up - at the time of writing, the prevailing GBP interest rates with HSBC are actually 0%. However, this can change and is reviewed regularly - so keep an eye out if you’re looking for an interest bearing GBP account option.

This account is pretty limited as a day to day account - there’s no debit card and you can only transfer funds out to another HSBC account. However, there are no monthly fees to pay and no minimum balance requirement. Alternative account products are available for HSBC business and corporate customers - so if you’re looking for a GBP business account get in touch with HSBC directly to see what may suit your needs.

Fees: No monthly fee, but transaction fees of 0.60 GBP apply

Currency conversion: Exchange rates are likely to include a markup 

Other notable features: No debit card, you can only transfer funds out to another HSBC account 

Go to site

RBC

RBC doesn’t advertise a GBP account for personal customers - but you can get a foreign currency account for your business which operates in GBP as well as a range of other major world currencies. No minimum balance is required for regular RBC business accounts.

RBC states that this account can help customers manage currency fluctuations by holding a range of currencies instead of being forced to switch back to CAD frequently. You’ll also be able to set up recurring payments and export reports to make it easier to reconcile your accounts and cut down on admin time.

Fees: 25 CAD/month

Currency conversion: Exchange rates are likely to include a markup

Other notable features: Operate in a range of currencies excluding CAD and USD; incoming wires cost 17 CAD, outgoing international wires start at 15 CAD

Go to site

How to open a GBP account in Canada

The process to open a GBP account will depend on whether you’re looking at a personal or business account, and whether the provider is a traditional bank or an online alternative. Here are the application routes available for the 3 providers we highlighted above:

  • Wise - apply online or in the Wise app

  • HSBC - existing customers can apply online, new customers must visit a branch

  • RBC - visit a branch or call the business helpline to discuss your needs

If you’re applying to a bank or provider you don’t already hold an account with, you’ll need to complete a verification step. With online services, this is entirely done remotely by uploading documents. For brick and mortar banks, you’re likely to need to visit a branch and show your documents in person.

Whether you’re applying online or in a branch, you’ll usually need to provide two documents:

  • One document must include your name and address

  • One document must contain your name and date of birth

Documents usually accepted by banks include:

  • A passport

  • Government issued ID documents 

  • Government issued tax or benefit statements

  • Canadian public utility bills 

  • Bank account or credit card statements

Open a free Wise account in GBP

Conclusion

In our globally connected world you may be surprised that personal customers in Canada aren’t better served when it comes to foreign currency and multi-currency accounts. However, it’s pretty tricky to open a personal account in a foreign currency (other than USD), and while businesses have a better choice, they’re still often hit by high fees and poor exchange rates.

The good news is that online providers can present a great alternative, with an intuitive onboarding and account management process you can handle from your phone. 

Use this guide and our top GBP account picks as a starting point to see which fits your needs best.

FAQ

Can I open a GBP account in Canada?

Yes. However, the major Canadian banks don’t offer many options for GBP accounts for personal customers. Check out online specialist providers as a strong alternative which can be cheaper and more flexible too.

How does it cost to open a GBP account?

Accounts are often free to open but may come with annual or monthly fees, plus transaction fees. For a more flexible option, look at online services which often have no minimum balance and lower transaction fees.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated August 22, 2022