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Updated : 25/11/2016

Bank accounts in the EU

Right to a basic bank account

You may want or need to open a bank account in your home country or in another EU country.

If you are legally resident in an EU country you are entitled to open a "basic payment account". Banks cannot refuse your application for a basic payment account just because you don't live in the country where the bank is established.

This right does not apply to other types of bank account, such as savings accounts.

When banks can refuse you a basic payment account

You can be refused an account if you do not comply with EU rules on money laundering and terrorist financing.

In some EU countries, you may be refused a basic bank account if you already have a similar account with another bank in the same country.

If you're applying for a basic payment account outside the country where you live, banks in some EU countries may also want you to prove a genuine interest for doing so – for example if you live in one country but work in another.

Features of a basic account

A "basic payment account" is an account that covers standard transactions that you use in daily life, such as:

  • making deposits
  • withdrawing cash
  • receiving and carrying out payments (for example direct debits and card purchases)

It should also include a payment card that you can use to withdraw cash and make purchases - both online and in shops.

Where available, the bank should include access to online banking services with your account. However, they do not always have to include an overdraft or credit facility.

In some EU countries, your bank might still charge you an annual fee for this basic payment account. This fee should remain reasonable.

Sample story

You don't need to live in an EU country to have an account there

Sándor started to work for a company based in Slovenia while continuing to live in Hungary. The company requested that he open a bank account in Slovenia so that his salary could be paid into it.

He found a Slovenian bank near his work and asked to open a basic account. The bank let him open an account even though he was not living in Slovenia.

Banks cannot simply refuse you a basic account because you don't live in the country.

Switching bank accounts

You can switch your bank account to another bank account in the same EU country. Your new bank should help you with this.

If you want to switch to a new account in the same country, tell your new bank that you want to switch and transfer your recurring payments to the new account.

The new bank will then ensure that your old bank transfers data and cancels any standing orders. The new bank must also:

  • inform third parties – such as your employer, social security provider and utilities providers – that you are changing your account
  • set up your new standing orders
  • accept relevant direct debits on the new account

You may still be charged a fee if you decide to close your old account.

If you incur costs during the switching procedure because the bank misses a deadline (to cancel a payment for example) or makes mistakes, they have to refund these costs. If you have any difficulties, you can take the issue to the out-of-court dispute resolution scheme.

Sample story

Switching bank accounts doesn't always go smoothly

When Suzanne moved from Toulouse to Paris, she decided to move her bank account to her local bank in Paris. She asked her new bank in Paris to transfer all her payments to the new account and close her old account in Toulouse.

The bank in Paris told the bank in Toulouse to cancel her standing orders and close Suzanne's account. They then set up standing orders from her new account. However, they forgot to tell her mobile phone provider, and Suzanne was fined when the standing order for her mobile phone contract didn't go through on time.

Suzanne complained to the bank in Paris. They agreed to refund her the cost of the fine and correct the standing order payment for the mobile phone contract.

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