What documents are necessary for a foreigner to open a bank account?
Anyone opening a bank account in Greece – even locals – will need a hefty amount of paperwork to assure the bank they’re creditworthy. As a foreigner, you might need to have documents translated or notarized, which can add to the expense and complexity. Some banks, however, will accept documents in English as well as Greek. Check out exactly what your bank needs with plenty of time to spare.
- Contact number
- Proof of address – usually banks will accept a recent utility bill
- Local AFM tax number
- Tax registration number in the country of origin, Greek tax registration number, where applicable;
- Evidence of your salary – either payslips or a letter from your employer will usually be OK
- Signature sample (which means that the person concerned needs to appear at the bank in person at least once).
- You may also be asked to provide a reference from your previous bank to show you’re creditworthy and sign a declaration confirming you’re opening an account for personal use rather than for a business
The above information must be evidenced by official documents which cannot be falsified.
Therefore, the bank will normally request a power / telephone / water bill, a lease agreement, a payroll statement, a tax clearance certificate etc.
Moreover, given that these documents are executed in a foreign language, the bank will normally require that they be Apostilled, in order to ensure document originality (this entails further difficulties, as the foreigner will have to address a municipal service, a district court or a notary at his/her country of origin, depending on what applies in each country, in order to have copies of the above documents officially certified or have the notary’s signature Apostilled etc.)
The information required by each bank may slightly vary, but Bank of Greece definitely requires the information set out above.
Can I open a bank account abroad? What about online?
To complete the process of opening your bank account, you must visit a bank in person, and take along your passport. This is because banks require signature samples, and meet with all new account holders to take any additional information.
That said, you can complete the vast majority of the process online. After you’ve done that you just need to call your local bank branch when you arrive in Greece, to finish up your application and activate your account.
What banking fees are involved?
When you choose which bank to use, you’ll need to know what fees will be applied to the transactions you make. Although there won’t usually be an administration fee to open an account, every bank will have charges for some services, such as withdrawing cash from an ATM or making international transfers. Even if these look pretty small, they can add up quickly.
Some banks may have additional requirements such as as utility bills ad in some cases you will be required to present your credit rating as well. You will be required to sign plenty of paperwork and it is helpful to have a local to help out if you can but in general there will be English speakers on staff.
Foreign Real Estate Buyers: What Do You Need to Know
Foreigners who wish to buy real estate property in Greece are not expressly required by the law to open a bank account with a bank in Greece; in practice, however, they need to open an account in order to be able to pay the real estate transfer tax (which is payable to the Tax Office at the property’s location or to any other Tax Office in the district of the Notary who executes the deed of transfer, provided that it agrees to receive the transfer tax declaration).
Transfer tax is payable to the Tax Office in either of the following ways: a) A payment code is issued by the Tax Office and the payable amount of tax is wired to the respective account from a bank account held with a Greek bank, or b) By means of a cheque issued by a Greek bank to the Greek Government, which is deposited to the Tax Office’s treasury department.
In fact, for reasons of internal revenue management, the option of a wire transfer was recently abolished in situations where the Tax Office receiving payment is not the one at the property’s location. At the same time, certain Tax Offices are only willing to accept cheques from Greek banks, rather than a wire transfer, even if the property is situated within their district).
(This is obviously due, among others, to the fact that a payment code issued for transfer tax payment purposes is only valid for a few days, whereas a wire transfer from a foreign bank may take longer. Moreover, it may take up to 1 month for a foreign bank cheque to be redeemed).
Furthermore, once the deed of transfer has been signed, the foreign purchaser is liable to pay the applicable conveyance charges to the competent Land Register or Cadastral Service (although, given that these charges are usually of a smaller value, they can be wired from a foreign bank to the Notary’s account or to an account of the purchaser’s tax representative or accountant – that is, if the latter consents, because, following the imposition of capital controls and due to the strict tax controls which are now being conducted, these persons are no longer willing to offer that service).
Lastly, in practice, a person who has acquired real estate property in Greece is liable to pay for the property’s utility charges (power / water/ telephone charges); therefore, the purchaser needs to maintain a bank account with a Greek bank, in order to be able to effect payments of this kind.
Public Power Corporation of Greece (“DEH”) and the Greek Telecom (“OTE”) receive electronic payments (wire transfers) from countries of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) [i.e. from EU member states, including from the United Kingdom (for now) and also from Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Norway and San Marino], but it is questionable whether this applies also in respect of mobile telephony providers and local water supply organisations.
In relation to the SEPA countries and Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Norway and San Marino, certain taxes and charges levied by the Ministry of Finance can be wired to Bank of Greece. This applies also to ENFIA charges, but it doesn’t seem to apply to property transfer tax payments.
Banking Institutions in Greece
There are dozens of large banking institutions in Greece and they provide more than adequate banking facilities and infrastructure for the average expat, including plentiful ATMs in English (perhaps less so the further you go). The most popular banks in Greece and the Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and NBG which is the National Bank of Greece. They all have English mobile banking which is handy.
- Alpha bank: with a full selection of financial products from investment to business to personal accounts, Alpha Bank is a fully featured bank with a large network of ATMs. Outside of all the basic accounts which are affordable and come with debit cards, they have a Gold Personal Banking service with special service lines, personal managers and low interest rate investment.
- National bank of Greece: with a large network of ATMs and nearly 20 accounts types there will be something to serve you from youths and students to large corporations. Their basic current account comes with overdraft up to 5000 euros depending on conditions, cheques and debit cards included. You can apply over the phone if you want to start the process.
- Eurobank: a modern bank with an English mobile app and even an e-wallet for online transactions, if you like technology this could be a good option. They have an online account that is fully featured and low cost and the network of ATMs and branches are all around Greece.
- Piraeus Bank: Piraeus Bank features a large network of ATMs and English speaking staff which is helpful. There is a handy 24 hour phone service line and the list of services and products is comprehensive. For the basic current account, there is no minimum deposit amount, low interest rates, overdraft and cheque books available as well as debit card included.
There will be minimum deposit requirements on accounts and this will vary between 50 and 300 euros with 150 being the average number. Hours of operation are limited between 8AM and 2:30PM every weekday but Friday. On Fridays banks close by 2PM. Exchange rates and out of network AMT use is very expensive and you need to inquire with your bank about your fees.
You will be required to sign a document that states that you cannot use your personal bank account for business purposes as this is illegal in Greece. You are therefore to open business bank accounts if you want to receive and make payments as a business.