If you’re looking to open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident, you’ve probably noticed that it’s getting increasingly difficult. And the reason is pretty simple: non-residents (especially those with no connection to the country that they intend to bank in) are considered to be “high-risk.”
Regulators, governments, and bank compliance everywhere are waging war against non-resident accounts.
Why? Because, in recent years, several European banks were busted for facilitating money laundering through non-resident accounts. We’ve seen this happen in Latvia, Estonia, Malta, and even Andorra.
Now, these “non-resident accounts” weren’t actually set up for legitimate banking purposes. They were opened to facilitate illegal activity. Moving money into the country, and then out again.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of the regulators, it’s becoming difficult to tell the difference between good non-resident accounts and bad non-resident accounts that might be used for illegal activity.
Fortunately, if you’re a law-abiding citizen that’s capable of providing the necessary documents and passing KYC & AML procedures, you can still open an account. And in this article, we’ll explain how to open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident.
We’ll also share some important considerations, the pros, and cons of banking in Europe, as well as some of the specific questions that you need to ask before applying for an account.
To get started, there are three important questions that you’ll first need to answer before you can open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident. These are…
We’ll explore each of these questions and get you on your way to opening bank accounts in Europe as a non-resident.
If you’d like to get a head start on account opening in Europe as a non-resident then download our FREE Non-Resident Banking Starter Guide right now!
Not surprisingly, many European countries are at the top of the list when it comes to banking excellence. These include such places as Andorra (pictured), Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, and Switzerland.
But, there are other countries in Europe that find themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum. And, you might be better off avoiding them –unless, of course, you have a specific reason to bank in that country. Such places include Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, and many other countries.
That said, be very careful about where you choose to open accounts in Europe. The country you choose is just as important as the bank you open with. It can mean the difference between a top-notch banking experience or drowning in fees, customer service headaches, and regretting that you ever applied.
Imagine not being able to send outgoing transfers because you don’t have a local phone number that can receive SMSs. Or discovering that the bank charges absurd fees for services that should be free- like balance statements, transfer confirmations, or just viewing your transaction history. Or worse, after physically traveling to the bank and applying for an account, you discover that you can’t even make international transfers via online banking – which was the whole point of the account in the first place!
Fortunately, you can avoid all of these problems and find great banking options in Europe. But you need to pick the right banks in the right countries.
We’ll share more details on how you can do this below, for now, let’s discuss the main non-resident groups that can benefit from banking in Europe to make sure it’s the right choice for you.
There are a number of different types of non-resident clients that can benefit from banking in Europe. The benefits for each group will vary and ultimately depend on their banking goals.
Here’s a quick list of the different types of non-residents that can benefit from banking in Europe. We’ll expand on each of these below:
For example, entrepreneurs with business operations or customers in Europe might need a European bank account to send and receive payments.
Similarly, freelancers who need to receive payments from clients in European countries would benefit from a European bank account.
In addition, any business that wants to sell digital or other products via online channels would benefit from having European payment processing solutions and the ability to process payments in euros. Having low-cost payment processing in the same currency that your customers are paying in will ultimately decrease your processing costs.
But it’s not just businesses and entrepreneurs in Europe (or selling to Europeans) that can benefit from having a European bank account…
Anyone who travels to Europe frequently, even if just for pleasure, would benefit by being able to access funds via a European bank while in the region. By doing this, they would slash the cost of international transfers, currency conversion fees, and likely capturing preferential rates from a local bank.
Many foreign debit and credit cards will also charge additional foreign transaction fees (3% or higher), just for making a purchase abroad. By having a local debit or credit card from a European bank, you could avoid these fees entirely.
Depending on where you’re from, you might want to open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident in order to diversify away from risks in your home country.
For instance, people from countries with unstable currencies may want to open euro-denominated accounts. When compared to other currencies, the euro is still relatively stable and less prone to shocks. Likewise, if you are in a country with a plummeting currency, like Lebanon or South Africa, by moving your money to a European bank, you can preserve your wealth and protect yourself from risks at home.
While the Eurozone has suffered some political and economic bumps, it is still relatively stable when compared to many countries around the world. By opening a bank account in Europe as a non-resident, you can better protect yourself from risk. This is especially true if you are from a less stable country, with shaky banks, and a volatile currency.
We’ve touched on a few of the benefits that can be achieved by specific groups when opening accounts in Europe as non-residents.
But, there are additional benefits and advantages that come with having a European bank account that are also worth mentioning.
By banking in Europe, you will be able to access a number of regional benefits. These can include everything from free transfers to most European banks and low-cost multi-currency accounts that aren’t always available in other regions.
Similarly, some European banks charge low fees for maintaining accounts. This can allow you to open with good quality banks for zero fees if you can meet minimum balance requirements. Additionally, banks in Europe tend to have high-quality online banking. This can make it easier for you to manage your accounts while abroad.
Additionally, if you are banking in a European Union country, your bank will have a deposit guarantee. This is backed by the European Central Bank (the ECB). And while deposit guarantees aren’t an indicator of a bank’s quality or financial health, they do provide an extra layer of insurance. Thanks to the ECB, your deposits in an EU insured bank are guaranteed up to €100,000.
While this is a relatively new phenomenon, certain banks in Europe have become more open to the acceptance of cryptocurrencies. This even includes banks in some of the more established banking hubs. This includes such places as Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Both of which have good crypto banking options.
In such instances, as long as you can provide the supporting documentation (as described in our premium report, The Ultimate Guide to Crypto Banking), certain European banks are willing to accept crypto-related businesses, allow withdrawals from cryptocurrency exchanges, and accept clients with crypto as a source of wealth.
But regardless of the specific benefits that you’re looking to achieve when you open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident, you need to know how to open the account. Below, we dive into some key requirements for account opening.
When opening a bank account in Europe as a non-resident, there are several important considerations and stumbling blocks that you need to be aware of. These will ultimately determine which bank and European country are most suitable for you.
The account opening process can vary depending on which country and bank you are considering.
While the account opening process is slowly becoming more standardized across the European banking industry, there are still major differences and inconsistencies.
For certain banks, account opening may depend on whether or not you have a local address. Alternatively, it might be determined by whether you have an accepted proof of address. And in some cases, you might need other types of ties to the country.
At other banks, the opening requirements might be much more lenient. For instance, maybe a foreign proof of address will work. If that’s the case, you won’t need to show ties to the country. Instead, you just have to physically show up at the bank with your standard documents.
Let’s take a look at some specific requirements below…
One of the key questions you will be asked when opening a bank account in Europe as a non-resident will be your reason for wanting an account.
Remember: as a non-resident, you’re automatically considered a higher-risk client to the bank, so your answer matters.
Ultimately, the bank will have its own policies for what they deem to be an acceptable justification. And this will have a big impact on your ability to open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident. Obviously, if the bank deems your reasoning acceptable or not is an important step in account opening.
We discuss specific non-resident account opening strategies for European countries and other major banking hubs in our Banking Intelligence Reports, which are available to GlobalBanks Insiders in the member’s area of the site. For more information, click here.
Another major stumbling block for non-residents trying to open accounts in Europe is their ability to prove local ties. This can be more complicated than your justification for wanting an account.
To prove local ties, a bank might require that you provide local reference letters. Alternatively, they may accept supplier contracts or even lease agreements. Though this can also include a certain type of visa or an employment contract. And if you don’t have any of these documents, you’re going to need to find a different way, another bank, or another country.
As with account opening in most countries, your citizenship and your place of residence will matter to banks in Europe. Some European banks also do not look favorably on individuals from countries that are on black or greylists.
With this in mind, if you come from a less desirable or high-risk country, you might find yourself going through enhanced due diligence. This can often be a more stressful and costly experience than it is worth. If it happens, you’ll be subject to more stringent requirements. This usually includes providing more supporting documents and authentications. And the bank may even charge fees just to review your application. If that’s the case, you might want to consider another bank account at a different bank.
Banks in certain European jurisdictions may require a local tax identification card or a local tax number. If that’s the case, you will almost always need to obtain this before applying for an account.
However, as we’ve already shared with GlobalBanks Insiders, it is possible (in certain instances) to obtain the necessary documentation in order to open accounts even if you are not a tax resident and don’t live there.
We‘ll outline this process in a future premium report. This report will explain how to open bank accounts in Europe as a non-resident in more detail. It will also include specific account opening strategies and first-hand experiences. And of course, you will receive direct contact information for the best banks in the region.
The key is having the right information and strategies. And where possible, having direct contacts and knowing what to do. But you also need to know what not to do. And when possible, where to go, what is acceptable, and what each bank’s preferences and sensitivities are.
It’s also a huge advantage if you can access specific details on what has worked in the past. Similarly, feedback from people just like you that were able to successfully open accounts is key.
GlobalBanks Insiders can access all this information from the Banking Database in the membership section of the website. They can look up the country or specific bank they want. Then, they can find the best strategies and account opening insights for that bank. And as always, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you have support. Simply use the chat feature to get help directly from our team of analysts.
No matter where you open a bank account, you always need to make sure that the bank and the services they provide match what you’re looking for.
Not doing this can result in high maintenance fees, expensive transfer fees, and even additional costs when you close the account.
Like banking anywhere, some banks in Europe will set a limit on monthly transfers. And they might have specific parameters you need to meet to avoid fees.
Such parameters may include a minimum opening deposit requirement. But they can also include a minimum balance requirement after the account is open. Often, depositing a certain amount of money each month can also be required. And in certain instances, they may also require you to invest in certain bank products.
Before applying to any bank, make sure that you can actually meet the bank’s opening requirements. This means you need to be able to afford their fees. And you will need to be able to deposit the required amounts. There’s nothing worse than going through a long application process at a bank that never would have accepted you in the first place.
If you want to open a bank account in Europe as a non-resident, you can get started by using the information in this article.
But, if you’re ready to take action and start opening European accounts now, you can access GlobalBanks IQ, our dedicated international banking intelligence platform.
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