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BANKS

Post-Brexit bank changes for Brits in Sweden: Here’s what we know so far

As the end of the Brexit transition period looms, the UK has so far failed to negotiate access to the European passporting scheme for banks. What does this mean for you if you're a British citizen and live in Sweden?

Post-Brexit bank changes for Brits in Sweden: Here's what we know so far
The Canary Wharf financial district in London. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP

What's happened?

Last week, it was reported that, with just three months to go until the Brexit transition period ends, the UK has so far not managed to negotiate a continuation of EU banking rules – known as passporting.

This means that all UK banks will need to apply for new banking licences to provide certain services in each of the 27 different EU countries.

Some banks have decided it is not worthwhile to their business to continue to provide these services, and have already began informing British customers abroad that their accounts will be closed.

Which banks are affected?

Brexit doesn't mean any blanket closure of accounts for all Brits overseas. It depends on who you bank with, where you live, and what kind of account you have. 

The Local has contacted 10 major British banks, and at the time of writing had received responses from four. Santander, Lloyds, and HSBC said there were no current plans to close the accounts of customers in Sweden. Nationwide said that no decision had yet been taken. 

Barclays did not respond to The Local's request for comment, however several readers of The Local Sweden said they had been contacted by Barclaycard and told their accounts would be closed in November unless they could provide a UK billing address.

Digital bank Revolut has an EU banking licence, but currently does not have a UK one, although it has reportedly applied for one and has approval to operate in the UK post-Brexit (but this affects exactly what services are available).

If you have been contacted by your British bank, please let us know by emailing [email protected] or filling out our questionnaire.

Which types of accounts are affected?

Again, this will depend from bank to bank, because it's a question of which services the bank deems worth paying to continue.

It may be the case that only certain products become unavailable, such as credit cards or business accounts. Straightforward current/checking accounts are less likely to be closed. 

Can I provide a 'care of' British address to keep my account?

Many British people living overseas use a 'care of' address in the UK, for example the address of a relative or friend.

It is not entirely clear if this would be sufficient to prevent affected accounts from being closed.

One British reader said she had been told by Barclays that she needed to provide a UK address by November 16th to keep using her MasterCard, but she was told that providing the addresss of a relative would be sufficient.

Another reader said they were told they would have to close their Barclaycard account despite having a 'care of' contact address in the UK, because they did not have a UK billing address or residential address.

Barclaycard is separate to Barclays bank. The Local has contacted the company for further details about which customers are affected, but it has not commented on the record so far.

What have the banks said?

Here is what the banks who have responded to The Local have told us. We will update this page with any further comments we receive.

  • Santander

    A press spokesperson told The Local: “We have no current plans to close any of our retail or corporate accounts.”
     

  • Lloyds

    A press spokesperson told The Local: “We have written to a small number of customers living in affected EU countries to let them know that due to the UK's exit from the EU, regrettably we will no longer be able to provide them with some UK-based banking services. We want to keep customers informed and offer advice on next steps.”

    Customers in Sweden are not among those who have been contacted.
     

  • Nationwide

    No decision has yet been taken. A spokesperson said: “Because the outcome of Brexit is not yet clear and the position continues to evolve, there is currently no certainty as to any actions we will be required to take. Regrettably we cannot provide any further detail on the impact on specific products and transactions at this point. However, we will communicate with members as soon as possible about any necessary changes that impact them.”
     

  • HSBC

    A spokesperson told The Local: “HSBC UK customers who reside in the EU will continue to have access to the banking and/or wealth management products and services that we currently provide to them. We are monitoring the situation closely, and will keep our customers informed in the event of changes that may impact how we are able to support them.”

    They directed customers to their Brexit Q&A for retail customers.

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For members

ENERGY

EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Sweden this year?

Energy costs in Sweden are set to reach sky-high levels this winter, which will leave many people wondering when they should start heating their homes. Here's what you need to bear in mind.

EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Sweden this year?

What’s happening?

As a result of supply stoppages for cheap Russian gas affecting energy prices on the European market – particularly in Germany – energy prices in Sweden have been at record levels for months, especially in the two energy price zones in the south of the country.

With winter looming and no sign of things getting cheaper anytime soon, private individuals are starting to cut down on energy usage as much as they can to slash their bills this season.

Does it make a difference what type of accommodation I live in?

The right time to start heating your home depends on several factors including your own personal preference, the weather, whether you live in rented accommodation or own your own property, and on the age and features of the property you live in.

How does the heating system work in Swedish homes?

More than half of all houses and commercial properties in Sweden use district heating or fjärrvärme, with this number rising to around 90 percent for apartment buildings.

This system distributes hot water from heating plants to houses and apartments through underground water pipes, meaning that heating sources are centralised, rather than individual houses or apartments having their own heating source.

In smaller towns and in houses, district heating is less common, and it’s these households who can benefit the most from waiting longer to turn on their heating.

Do I control my heating?

It depends. If you live in a rented apartment or a bostadsrättsforening (co-operative housing association) with district heating, your landlord or the board of your housing foundation will usually decide for you when to turn your heating on.

Unlike other countries, Sweden has no official legal heating season, with heating in bostadsrättsföreningar usually switched on automatically following periods of cold weather, no matter which date they occur on.

This will usually be designed to provide an indoor temperature of around 21 degrees – you can turn your radiators down if you feel this is too warm, but you won’t usually be able to turn them up if you want the temperature to be warmer.

The Public Health Agency recommends temperatures of between 20 and 24 degrees indoors, with temperatures lower than 18 degrees in apartments posing a health risk.

Temperatures lower than 14 are not recommended as they can cause condensation and mould growth on walls and furnishings, which, again, are a health risk, and can cause permanent damage to properties.

Can I save money by waiting to turn my heating on?

Again, it depends. If you’re renting and you pay varmhyra – rent with heating included – then you won’t save money directly, but heating your home wisely could make it less likely for your landlord to raise your rent to cover increased heating costs.

If you pay kallhyra – rent without heating included, then waiting to turn on the heating will save money on your electricity bill.

Similarly, in some housing associations, electricity and heating costs are included in your monthly fee, meaning you pay your share of the heating costs for the entire building ever month. In this case, your energy costs are more affected by how much energy everyone else in your housing association uses than your individual usage.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about how warm your heating is – if you have your heating on full-blast for the whole winter, your costs will increase as well as the costs of all of your neighbours, and if the entire association’s energy costs increase substantially, the board may decide to raise the monthly fee or avgift for everyone in the building to cover this.

If you pay an individual energy bill based on your own household’s usage, and not on an average of the whole building, it could pay to wait before you switch on your heating.

How else can I save money on heating costs?

Turning your heating down a couple of degrees can make a big difference to your heating costs, but you can also save money on heating and make your property feel warmer by making it more energy effective.

There are a few easy ways to do this, according to the Swedish Energy Agency.

Firstly, make sure your house is well insulated, not just your doors and windows, but also in the loft: a large amount of a building’s heat escapes through the roof. This also applies to the boundaries between well-insulated and poorly-insulated areas.

If you have a cellar or conservatory, for example, which is not heated and not insulated, make sure the door between this room and the rest of the house is well-insulated with no gaps around the doorframe where heat can escape into the colder room. 

In a similar vein, locate any drafts and do what you can to block them, either with draft excluders or by replacing worn-out draft excluder strips on old doors and windows.

You can also benefit from thinking about how you furnish your home – furniture placed in front of radiators mean it is harder for warm air to circulate, and you can keep your house warmer at night by closing your curtains or blinds to keep eat from escaping through your windows.

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