Opening a bank account in Austria could be worth exploring if you’re looking for private banking, business banking, wealth management, or simply interested in diversifying your savings.
In fact, this landlocked alpine nation in central Europe has a long history of providing tight-lipped banking services to European elites, secretive wealth management structures, and strong private banks. Similar to Swiss bank accounts, banks in Austria have a strict process you need to follow to successfully open bank accounts.
Today, Austria is favored by Europeans from neighboring countries, Russia, and a few other CIS member states. And, that makes sense given Austria’s close proximity to Eastern Europe, the fact it shares a border with Hungary and the Czech Republic, and Vienna is a short 2.5-hour flight from Moscow.
- Bank accounts in Austria aren’t a suitable option for everyone
- Non-resident individuals can unlock private bank accounts and wealth management services with an Austrian bank account
- Requirements for opening an account will vary between client types, services required, banks, branches, and even bankers
- There are specific client types that can benefit more from opening an account in Austria
- The bank accounts available to you will depend on how much money you’re able to deposit
But, anyone looking to open a non-resident bank account in Europe who can stomach the account fees and has a decent sum of money can consider Austria too. While some of Austria’s larger universal banks don’t have the greatest financials, some of its smaller private banks have strong balance sheets and are worth considering.
In this article, we’ll discuss the available bank account options in Austria, which types of people and companies are best suited to open a bank account here, the benefits of having an Austrian bank account, and how you can open an account in Austria right away.
Before diving in, if this is your first time visiting GlobalBanks, don’t forget to download your FREE copy of our Non-Resident Banking Starter Guide. It’s the perfect starting point when opening bank accounts in international jurisdictions like Austria.
Like all banking jurisdictions, opening an account in Austria isn’t for everyone. Depending on your goals, the services you need, the amount you’re looking to deposit, the type of account you want to open, and even where you’re from, you might be better off opening bank accounts elsewhere.
So, at the end of this article, we’ll also share a few alternative jurisdictions for you to consider that have similar attributes. This way, you can get a taste of what else is out there, so you can make the best choice based on your client profile and bank account needs.
Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the sections most relevant to you.
Table of Contents
- Opening a Bank Account in Austria Today
- Why Are People Choosing to Open a Bank Account in Austria?
- Who Should Consider Opening a Bank Account in Austria?
- Alternatives to an Austrian Bank Account
- Ready to Explore Your Options?
Opening a Bank Account in Austria Today
For decades, Austria was famous for account secrecy and many considered it a tax haven. On top of that, the country was politically stable, in the EU, had attractive estate planning structures, and it didn’t have any inheritance or wealth taxes.
Plus, Austrian banking secrecy was literally written into the country’s constitution. And, many non-resident individuals liked that it was a cash society. Additionally, privacy was a virtue embedded into the hearts and minds of people (and bankers) that live here.
For years, the Austrians took their bank account secrecy really seriously. Austria also saw how the Swiss were cashing in on account secrecy and wanted in on the action. So, Austria took the concept of an anonymous bank account to an entirely new level, creating the (now infamous) Austrian Sparbuch bank account. But we’ll get into that more later…
The point is, banks in Austria have a long history of attracting non-residents. But, the private banking industry here is much more low profile than, say, Switzerland. This is because Austrian private bank accounts have traditionally been dominated by domestic players, not big international names. So, you won’t see Austrian private banks with offices and subsidiaries scattered all over the globe.
Also, keep in mind that thanks to new and stricter regulations, account secrecy is a thing of the past. In fact, Austria now has a beneficial ownership registry. This registry lists Austrian and foreign UBOs of Austria Treuhand arrangements–more on these below.
Why Are People Choosing to Open a Bank Account in Austria?
Here are a few reasons why someone might choose to open a bank account in Austria over other jurisdictions.
Safer Banks in Austria
If you’re from Russia, the CIS, Central or Eastern Europe, or a country prone to civil unrest, exchange controls, shaky banks, or corruption–Austria is a safe haven for you. Certain banks in Austria may be safer than in your home country. Austrian bankers won’t steal your money, fiscally-responsible banks in Austria won’t implode overnight, and there is a rule of law. So, this makes Austrian bank accounts an attractive option to some people.
Banks in Austria Accept Non-Resident Clients
Certain banks in Austria accept non-resident individuals and foreign companies. So, for those who are having difficulty opening bank accounts elsewhere in Europe, Austria could be a nice backup option.
First, Austria is one of the few quasi-respectable countries that offers private foundations. Introduced in 1993, an Austrian Privatstiftung (Private Foundation) is an asset protection and estate planning structure like those available in Liechtenstein and Panama.
Secondly, Austria offers Treuhand accounts, which are essentially an Austrian trust managed by a custodian. Treuhands are governed by civil contracts. They are not regulated by law. And, they’re based on the autonomy of the contracting parties.
Austrian Tax Advantages
Combining such structures with Austria’s zero wealth tax, zero inheritance tax, and an abundance of double tax agreements (DTAs) to reduce withholding taxes on royalties, interest, and dividends, is another reason why Austria is a favored jurisdiction for some groups.
Austrian Economic Stability & Political Stability
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Austria offers political and economic stability. Being a member of the European Union, it doesn’t have the stigma of an offshore jurisdiction. And, when you’re doing business, the reputation (and risk-level) associated with your jurisdiction is important.
That said, if you’re not interested in Austrian structures or investing in the Austrian stock market, then you may want to open a bank account elsewhere.
Remember: If you’re able to meet the opening requirements of private banks in Austria, you’ll probably be able to meet the requirements of banks elsewhere, possibly in even more prestigious jurisdictions as well.
With this in mind, let’s look at who might want to open a bank account in Austria.
Who Should You Consider Opening a Bank Account in Austria?
Given the availability of stronger jurisdictions with similar opening requirements, it’s fair to say that the client types best suited for bank accounts in Austria are those interested in investing in Austria directly, doing business there, or looking to set up an Austrian structure.
Clients With an Austrian Privatstiftung or Treuhand
If you already have a Privatstiftung or Treuhand, opening a bank account here makes sense. Banks in Austria understand these structures. And they know how to conduct due diligence on them without getting frazzled. So naturally, they’re comfortable onboarding them as new clients. This is especially true for private banks in Austria.
In fact, if you try to open bank accounts with these structures in non-European jurisdictions, you may struggle to find bankers that have even heard about them before.
Clients Considering Austrian Privatstiftung or Treuhand
If you’re considering an Austrian Privatstiftung or Treuhand for your asset protection or estate planning needs, it’s always good to consider what options are available for that structure before setting it up. This is true regardless of whether you are considering a foundation in Austria, Liechtenstein, Panama, or even Liberia (yes, they exist–don’t use them).
With this in mind, if you’re considering an Austrian Privatstiftung or Treuhand, speak with a qualified advisor. They should understand the specifics of your situation and any relevant DTAs before making a decision.
Clients Looking to Access Specific Investments in Austria
If you’re looking to invest in the Vienna Stock Exchange, then having an account in Austria can reduce transfer fees, exchange fees, and give you access to supplementary research and trading resources. That said, most clients can access the same securities using Interactive Brokers and similar online trading platforms.
If you do decide to open a bank account in Austria for the purpose of trading Austrian securities, make sure you confirm the fees that will be charged by the bank before you open an account. This can vary widely and is often negotiable.
Clients Looking to Buy Real Estate in Austria
On the other hand, if your reason for opening a bank account here is to invest in Austrian real estate, then a local bank account will likely be required. In most cases, non-resident individuals looking to acquire Austrian real estate will tend to use structures in order to reduce personal liabilities and provide for easy transfers in the future. And, Treuhand’s serve as a common structure for these transactions.
Clients With Businesses Active in Austria & Surrounding Countries
Of course, if you have a business that is operating in Austria, has suppliers in Austria, or has customers in Austria, having a bank account here might also make sense. This is also true if you have operations in surrounding countries and prefer to bank in a more stable jurisdiction.
For instance, it’s not uncommon for Central and Eastern European companies to set up joint ventures or have business relationships in Austria, and then bank from Vienna.
Non-Residents Interested in Private Banking & Wealth Management
Like other European jurisdictions, Austria offers a personalized approach to private banking and wealth management. Additionally, certain banks here are very in-tune to the needs and services of non-residents. And, some even cater to clients from Russia, CIS, and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). If that’s you, Austria could certainly be a jurisdiction to consider.
However, before rushing to open an account in Austria, do your homework. You need to carefully examine the bank’s financials and check for red flags. Some banks in Austria have notoriously poor financials. Other banks take on high-risk clientele that make them vulnerable to massive compliance failures, scandals, and prone to failure. Likewise, it’s good to shop around and consider fee structures and which banks offer the particular services you need. After all, while Austria does have several excellent banks, not all banks are equal. And some can get quite pricey.
Alternatives to an Austrian Bank Account
Austria is one of many European jurisdictions that cater to non-resident individuals seeking personalized attention and specific services. With this in mind, it’s important to consider the other options before you open a bank account in Austria.
So, here are a few other options:
Open a Private Bank Account in Switzerland
If you’re looking for a private bank account and wealth management services, it’s hard to beat Switzerland. Depending on the type of account you’re looking to open in Austria, it’s possible that the amount of money you’re able to deposit will be sufficient to open bank accounts with top Swiss banks as well.
Structures & Banking in Liechtenstein
If you’re attracted to Austria for Privatstiftung or Treuhands, you may want to consider Liechtenstein instead. After all, Liechtenstein offers similar structures and advantages while also offering a wider range of private banks that cater to non-resident individuals.
Open a Private Bank Account & Real Estate via Monaco
If your preferred investment is real estate and you’re looking for secure investments, favorable financing, and sought after real estate, Monaco could be worth considering. Additionally, many private banks in Monaco will offer creative financing. This is especially true for property. Although this can sometimes be limited to the French Riviera and surrounding areas.
Understand All of Your Banking Options
Needless to say, this is just a small (and very simplistic) taste of the many options that are available to you. And of course, having a bank account in Austria is certainly one of the options that you should consider. But, if you want to know which specific jurisdictions, banks, and bankers are best for your client profile, then we’re happy to help.
Ready to Explore Your Options
If you need help finding the best bank to open an account with in Austria, want to know which bank (and banks) will actually accept you, or just aren’t sure where to start, we can help.
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