If you are a tourist, have just moved to Europe, or are looking to open a business there, you need to open a European bank account.
Having a local bank account will make your life much easier when it comes to managing your finances and making and receiving payments.
This article will outline everything you need to know to open a bank account in Europe.
Why should I get a European bank account?
A European bank account makes it easier to spend, receive and transfer money in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).
What is SEPA?
The European Payments Council introduced the Single Euro Payment Area to simplify and make cross-border payments as easy as local ones.
Now, all customers, businesses, and government organizations in countries that are members of SEPA can benefit from easy direct debits and transfers between one another.
The SEPA covers the whole EU and includes many non-EU countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway, and Iceland.
Typical bank accounts in the SEPA zone are known as IBAN accounts due to them being identified with the IBAN number system.
IBAN Accounts are the majority accepted across the EU and globally and they can even be opened while outside the EU.
Any European citizen over the age of 18 with a valid passport or any other form of national ID is able to open a bank account in Europe.
Residents of a European country can usually apply with just their passport and proof of address.
Countries like Slovenia also let tourists open a bank account without having an official residency.
However, Scandinavian countries have stricter requirements and will likely take a little longer to set up.
Therefore, you need to look for a bank that communicates the eligibility requirements depending on your personal circumstances.
It is also possible for non-residents to open a European bank account.
While the options are limited, it is not impossible for a non-resident who regularly accepts payments from a European client or a tourist to open a bank account in Europe.
However, non-residents may have to pay an in-person visit as bank accounts in some countries require the provision of documentation in person.
Your best option would be to open a multicurrency borderless account that will give you complete access to a European bank account, allowing you to make and receive payments easily.
A multicurrency borderless account is a virtual multi-currency account that lets you store funds in over 40 different currencies
The biggest advantage for non-residents is that you can convert them at the real exchange rate whenever you need them and for whatever currency you want at a very low fee.
What documents do I need to open a bank account?
While every bank has different document requirements, the standard information needed to be provided includes the following:
- Passport or national ID
- Proof of address in a European country (rental agreement or utility bill)
- Proof of employment or school enrollment
Some banks may also ask for additional information like your income statements or your tax code.
Suppose you can't provide all the necessary documents when applying for a European bank account.
In that case, all you have to do is make arrangements to organize your papers.
Alternatively, you can look for a bank with different eligibility requirements.
Online Banking or Traditional Banking?
There are over 40 different countries in Europe.
Therefore, there is no single universal way to open a bank account.
While the process is similar, each country has its own banking and compliance requirements depending on the type of account and bank you choose to set up an account with.
You have the choice to either open an online bank account or a traditional bank account with a physical branch.
You can complete the entire sign-up process from your home through an online bank or anywhere you have a solid wifi connection.
Have your passport and your residency documents handy as you go through the application process.
Depending on the bank you choose, you may have to do a short video call to verify your identity.
However, the general process for applying for a European bank account is much easier if you opt for online banking compared to applying to a traditional bank which may be inconvenient and take up more of your time
While many traditional banks have the option for mobile banking, you can set up a European bank account completely online.
Some of the best online banks in Europe include Wise, Vivid Money, and Curve.
All you have to do is research and choose the bank or payment platform of your choice, visit their website and complete the application form online.
While some online bank providers are not legally recognized as 'banks', they are approved and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
- You can do all banking services including setting up an account online
- No need to visit a local branch which can be time-consuming
- Making and receiving payments can be done completely remotely regardless of your location
- Personalized banking features tailored to your specific financial goals
- Not all financial services providers are licensed banks
- Heavily dependent on the internet and electronic devices
Alternatively, you can opt for a traditional bank.
With traditional banks, the easiest way to open your account will be to go to your local branch in person.
You can either make an appointment or simply walk in with all your necessary documents and consult one of the staff members about why you need a bank account and the kind of services you are looking to benefit from.
It would be best to book an online appointment so that you can confirm the required documents beforehand and so that you do not have to wait in any long queues.
- Fully regulated and licensed banks
- Offer more advanced services due to being licensed
- Most high street traditional banks do offer online mobile banking
- Limited online access
- Accessing certain services requires visiting the bank
- Higher annual fees due to traditional banks having higher operating costs
- Small smaller banks may not offer the range of services online banks do
Deciding whether to opt for a traditional online European bank account mostly depends on your personal preference.
You may not be super tech-savvy and may want to go visit your local bank branch and speak to customer support face to face.
On the other hand, you may find paying a visit to the bank extremely inconvenient and prefer dealing with your funds remotely.
When choosing a bank and deciding whether to opt for online or traditional banking, always make sure to understand the difference between online payment platforms, companies that offer the same services as banks, and traditional banks.
While many online payment platforms and financial services providers can provide you with a debit card, they are not legally considered a bank.
All traditional banks in Europe are fully licensed banks that undergo a rigorous application and compliance process before being given a banking license.
As a result, only those who go through such a process to acquire a license can legally call themselves banks.