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.
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.
Before you open your account, the bank should give you a document showing the most important services offered on the account and any related fees that you might have to pay. This is known as a "fee information document". You can use it to compare the cost of accounts at different banks.
Your bank must also give you a statement explaining the fees incurred on your bank account at least once a year. This "statement of fees" document should also give information on the interest rates applied to your account.
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.
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.
Your money protected in the EU
EU rules ensure that the money in your bank account (savings account and/or and current account) is protected if the bank holding your account fails. Your money is protected up to a limit of EUR 100 000 or the equivalent in local currency. This limit applies per person and per bank, meaning that if you have several accounts at the same bank, the limit of EUR 100 000 applies to your aggregated accounts.
There are some exceptions to this rule. If you have a joint account with your partner, for example, the limit of EUR 100 000 applies to each of you, meaning up to a maximum of EUR 200 000 for your joint account. In addition, your money will also be protected above EUR 100 000 in certain other cases for a limited time, such as:
- money you receive from selling a private residential property
- money you receive linked to a particular event in your life such as marriage, divorce, retirement, dismissal, redundancy, invalidity or death of a family member
- money you receive from the payment of insurance benefits or compensation for criminal injuries or a wrongful conviction
In these cases, amounts over EUR 100 000 are protected for at least three months and no more than 12 months after the money has been credited, or from the moment when the money became legally transferable, depending on the conditions and thresholds set by each EU country.