What to Look for in a Seafarer Bank Account

Bank accounts for yachties

Modern technology has without a shadow of a doubt made banking easier for seafarers, including yacht crew. Seafarers, like most people, have a wide range of online banking and app-based banking opportunities, both with traditional banks and the challenger fintechs. In fact, some superyacht crew have given up traditional banks altogether in favour of the new fintechs like Wise and Revolut, who even offer debit cards.  So what should you look for in a seafarer bank account?

Your unique position & high street banks

First, let’s take a step back and look at your situation, which is very different from people who live ashore and work where they live. You could argue yacht crew work where they live too. You live and work on the yacht, after all. But the yacht is often on the move. Your place of work roams the world, and so do you. For this reason alone, a current account (let alone a savings account) with a traditional high street bank in your home country might not be the best option for you. 

High street banks are better set up than they used to be in terms of internet banking, international banking, online facilities and currency transfers, but their fees are high and they aren’t very keen or organised for people who don’t actually spend most of their time in the same country or at a fixed address. In other words  they aren’t very suitable for customers who are regularly resident external to their home country like yacht crew. Even customers on a short holiday get security messages from their home bank when they use their card abroad. Yacht crew use their card almost exclusively abroad with spending patterns that would severely stress most high street bank security algorithms. 

Clearly as someone who spends most of their time on a superyacht, travelling the world using a normal high street bank is not the best choice for you. As a citizen of the world, you need a bank that understands this and is used to working with travelling ex-patriates, just like you. 

Dedicated seafarer bank accounts

With all this in mind, international bank accounts have a lot to offer superyacht crew. An international bank account matches your status as a global citizen.

The international banking system is designed with your global citizen status in mind. It makes multi-currency banking easier and allows you to get paid and spend money regardless of where you are in the world.

There are two main banks providing international bank accounts that are generally used by seafarers. These are Lloyds International Isle of Man and Standard Bank Isle of Man. Standard Bank even has an account designed especially for Seafarers. From our experience, Standard Bank provides a very good service to superyacht crew. Through its Seafarer international Bank Account, it provides you with the facility to have different accounts for different currencies under one umbrella and full online banking and a banking app for all your banking needs. However it also offers good old customer service for those really urgent or tricky banking problems. You can talk to a real person Monday-Friday, 7:00-17:00 UK time. 

Lloyds International and Standard Bank are also used to dealing with documents certified by senior officers or by dedicated yacht crew financial service providers like us.

Disclaimer: We’re biased. We have a very long-standing working relationship with Standard Bank. It’s the bank account we recommend to all our clients and we have received a lot of positive feed-back from clients. One of the things we are most impressed by is the fact we’ve been dealing with the same lady for many, many years now. She is super proactive and engages constantly with us about the banking needs of superyacht crew. But we do want to point out that there is another bank that also offers an international bank account that can work for yacht crew.

Fintechs and superyacht crew

More recently, fintech start-ups have entered the banking scene and have proved to be a popular alternative to international accounts with either Standard or Lloyds bank in the Isle of Man. They are international, let you handle multiple currencies with a very competitive currency exchange rates and there are no fees for transfers between account holders on the same fintech platform. What’s not to like?

While fintechs offer you many things that suit the seafarer lifestyle, there are some things to be aware of.

Firstly, many of these companies are still in the start-up phase and some are still ironing out the kinks. For instance, you don’t have to look too far for stories of people who hit a spending limit on their card and had access to their account frozen until they could provide certified evidence of their identity. That can be a problem if your salary is paid into an account you can’t actually use. Also, unlike say Standard Bank, fintechs are unlikely to accept documents certified by a superyacht captain.

Secondly, while speaking with a human being to sort out issues can be hard. On some account subscription levels with Fintechs, it is impossible. You have to rely solely on automated customer service. OK—regular banks aren’t exactly stellar in this regard, either. But Standard Bank Isle of Man have call centre for you to contact especially for Seafarer account holders and Lloyds International, Isle of Man also have a general call centre.

Thirdly, just like regular banks, fintechs can pull out of a market. For instance, N26 pulled out of the UK when it became apparent that it wouldn’t be able to operate in the UK with a European banking licence. But unlike, say, Ulster Bank pulling out of the Republic of Ireland following Brexit, N26 was able to close accounts belonging to UK customers in only a couple of months and had no network of branches to shutter. Imagine dealing with the sudden and swift closure of a fintech during the height of the Mediterranean season.

 Fourthly, some fintechs are struggling to keep up with demand. At the time of writing, there is a waiting list to open an N26 account.

 Does this mean you should shy away from fintechs altogether? We don’t believe so. They offer superyacht crew financial flexibility, but only when used as a secondary account. We would still recommend an International, ideally a dedicated Seafarers bank account to all yacht crew as their primary account.

If you have any queries about banking for superyacht crew or if you want to find out more about Standard Bank’s Seafarer Bank Account, please get in touch. We can help you open a Standard Bank account smoothly and efficiently. Save yourself time and hassle, make sure that you have right account for your banking needs.

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Yachting Financial Solutions (Ireland) DAC, trading as Yachting Financial Solutions (Ireland) DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland