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Personal finance

Updated : 18/06/2012

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Opening a bank account

Basic rights

You may want or need to open a bank account in another EU country. However, the bank is free to choose whether or not to accept your application. That is a private business decision for the bank. Before opening a bank account, the bank needs to get to know its potential clients. This may require more due diligence in assessing bank account requests from non-residents. Some banks may therefore have a policy not to accept non-resident customers.

Residence issues

Banks often refuse to let people open bank accounts if they do not live in the country where the bank is established. But there are banks that offer banking products specially designed for non-residents or expats. Please shop around to find out which bank offers accounts to non-residents.

This refusal is only acceptable if there is sound commercial justification. Banks must not discriminate against any EU citizens on the basis of nationality.

Sample story

Be aware that you may be denied a bank account abroad

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

Czech banks refused to let him open a bank account because he was not a resident, and the company refused to pay his salary into a Hungarian bank account.

Sándor has lodged a complaint through the appeals procedures of the bank concerned. If he is dissatisfied with the outcome, he may refer the matter to the EU’s out-of-court complaints network for financial services.

Short-term residents may also encounter problems when trying to open a bank account, as some banks insist on proof of long-term residence.

Sample story

Check whether a refusal is justified on commercial grounds

Rosa, a Portuguese national, moved to the United Kingdom to work and tried to open a bank account there. The bank she contacted required proof that she had been resident in the UK for at least three years.

Although it is up to the bank to decide whether to let someone open a bank account or not, as a national of an EU country Rosa has a right to the same treatment as UK nationals.

She should ask the bank for a written statement explaining the reasons for their refusal.

If she feels this is a case of discrimination on grounds of nationality and the bank’s decision is not justified by commercial reasons, she could take her complaint to a consumer protection organisation such as the European out-of-court complaints network for financial services.

Your money protected

The money in your EU bank account is currently protected (up to 100 000 euros – more in many countries) in case of default by the bank.

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Footnote

In this case, the 27 EU member states + Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway

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