Opening a bank account in Greece

Banking in Greece
Updated 2023-05-14 12:22

It is possible to open a bank account as an expatriate in Greece, but a residence permit is needed. Having a Greek bank account is especially important for expats intending to live and work in Greece in order to pay bills and be paid by their employers. Despite the positive signs with the economy and financial sectors in general, it is recommended that you should keep your bank account in your home country, at least as a fail-safe.

Although fragile, the Greek economy is showing some signs of recovery, although this took a hit with the pandemic. In addition, banking is fully operational after the Mitostakis Government removed capital controls in 2019 in an attempt to speed up economic recovery and encourage investment.

Choosing a bank in Greece

During the crisis period, the Greek banking system took quite a hit, with several international banks having left the country and smaller banks shut down or bought out/merged with larger ones. Since then, the banking system and Greece's economy have begun to improve in small increments. Thus, if you are an expat considering opening a bank account in Greece, now is probably a good time to do so.

Currently, the largest banking groups remaining in Greece are Piraeus Bank, Eurobank EFG, National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank. Some international banks, such as HSBC and Citibank, also operate in the country. When choosing between them, you should keep in mind that if another wave of crisis or capital controls hits, the government is more likely to assist a domestic bank like the National Bank of Greece first (that's the bank where pensions are being deposited each month). In comparison, a privately owned bank like Piraeus Bank is more likely to offer services like internet banking in English or an easy-to-use mobile app.

Opening a bank account in Greece

Once you've chosen the right bank for you, you should also take a moment to consider what kind of account would most suit your needs (and also compare commission rates for money transfers to and from Greece). Most Greek banks will provide savings and current accounts, monthly income savings accounts, investment accounts, student accounts, time deposits and deposit accounts in foreign currency. Along with your account, you can get a checkbook (although only companies use cheques in Greece), account statements, and a debit card for ATM use. You can also issue standing orders for the payment of utility bills and credit cards.

To open a bank account in Greece, you'll need the following:

  • Your identity card and/or passport (to open an account, you need to be older than 18).
  • Residence permit card, along with a photocopy
  • A nine-digit tax number (AFM) which you can get from the local tax office.
  • Some proof of address (usually in the form of a utility bill)
  • A formal statement declaring that the account will not be used for trade.
  • Statement of accounting called an ekkatharistiko, or εκκαθαριστικο if you have previously paid tax in Greece
  • A certificate of your mobile number, you should have a Greek mobile number. You can get this from most mobile stores, Comoste, Germanos, etc.
  • Certificate of employment, i.e., your contract or a letter from your employer. Sometimes you might be asked for it in Greek, and it is known as a veveosi ergodoti (βεβαιωση Εργοδοτη).
  • It is worth noting that there might be some additional documents that are bank-specific, so you should clarify this with your chosen bank before submitting your application.

Good to know:

Post-crisis, most banks in Greece no longer require a minimum deposit for opening an account, although Alpha Bank still has a minimum of 300 euros.

If you want to make a long-term deposit, the minimum is 5,000 euros for Alpha Bank. In comparison, with the National Bank of Greece, the amount needed to open an account is free; however, if you're considering a deposit, it is 3,000 euros. Interest rates are set by the Central Bank of Greece on proviso of the ECB.

The Central Bank of Greece is responsible for structuring the actions of the country's financial bodies: the banks, investment and insurance companies (including pensions). The Bank also reflects the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB) to build stability in Greece's financial systems and institutions.

Procedures for opening a bank account in Greece

Typically, you must arrange an appointment with your chosen bank to open your account. This is because although Greek banks do offer a walk-in service, this does not extend to opening an account. Fixing your appointment can be done a few different ways — you could either fill in an online form, whereby your chosen bank's customer service team would then call you back to arrange an appointment with your nearest branch so that you can open an account; alternatively, you can go to closest branch to you and arrange an appointment in-person. However, it is important to note that for this process, intermediate knowledge of Greek is recommended because they mainly communicate in Greek. If your Greek is not as strong, arranging your appointment with the help of a Greek friend is recommended.

On the other hand, some banks, such as EuroBank, have an online sign-up service, which is available in Greek and English. It is a simple process; all you need to do is download the Eurobank app and upload your required documents there. After this, they request you to arrange a video call with an advisor who will then verify your documents and assist you with the last steps. After the process is completed, you will receive your card and pin by post, or they can be collected from your local branch. See the online onboarding as well as the services offered to expatriates. Similar procedures for opening an account online are also offered by the National Bank of Greece, Piraeus Bank, etc.

During your appointment, you will be asked to present your documents, along with an opening fee/deposit, where applicable. In some instances, an extra payment might be required as some Greek Banks have add-ons when opening an account, such as health insurance. However, it is best to ask your advisor/cashier to explain this further. Once your documents have been accepted, your Greek bank account will be open. Moreover, most branches will be able to print cards, so you can start using your account immediately.

Opening a commercial bank account in Greece

The process of opening a commercial bank account in Greece is much the same as opening a savings or current account, albeit with a few different documents. You will have to make an appointment; this can be done the same way by going into your chosen branch, over the phone, or online. The difference with a commercial account is you will need documents for yourself and the business. For example, you will need all the required documents (mentioned above), plus the following additional business documents, where applicable:

  • Customer income and VAT registration documents
  • Income tax return (legal persons or entities). This includes submission receipt and note of tax payment
  • Certificate on no requirement to submit a tax return (when it is not possible to submit the above documents)
  • Other documents proving your income, such as an employer's certificate stating the total annual income
  • A document from the Tax Authority (DOY), where the business' VAT registration number is mentioned
  • Addresses and contact details
  • A utility bill from the last two months
  • Recent income tax slip matching the current home address.
  • Home or business premises lease filed to the Tax Authorities (DOY)
  • Certificate of profession/employment
  • Social insurance institution receipt
  • Residence permit for the purpose of starting a business or self-employment.

Opening a business account varies according to the bank in Greece. However, banks such as Piraeus offer a minimum deposit of 0 euros, and with all the documents, accounts can be easily opened in a day. In addition, the process of opening a personal or business account can either be done by the individual themselves or by proxy with power of attorney, such as a lawyer, for a charge.

Payment methods in Greece

Although the use of debit and credit cards is increasing in Greece (more than two out of three Greeks are now using debit or credit cards for their daily transactions), you are still advised to carry some cash with you — as a lot of small businesses, especially in remote areas of Greece, only accept cash. Know your withdrawal limit! You will see most ATMs allow you to withdraw, 20 €, 200€, 400€ and, in some cases, 600€. However, your transaction will be declined if your bank's daily withdrawal limit is below this. This might change, so make sure to check the screen of the ATM, as it will inform you of the current limit at the time of your withdrawal. Most ATMs in Greece have the option to choose English, so it is unlikely you'll encounter any difficulties.

If you'd like to be issued a credit card, be aware that things won't be that simple nowadays. Due to the significant amount of debt, banks have become very wary of issuing new credit cards. You may be required to obtain a reference letter from your bank back home to show some proof that you have a steady income (or provide your latest tax statement), and even then, you'll probably start with a relatively low credit limit. Note that getting a loan in Greece is even harder, and they are unlikely to provide loans to non-Greeks; even foreign businesses are expected to be more or less self-funding or have more significant outside investment.

Online and mobile banking in Greece

All the major Greek banks — National Bank of Greece, Eurobank, Piraeus Bank, and Alpha Bank — offer e-banking and mobile banking services. Their e-banking websites and mobile apps have all the normal functions you would expect; you can view the health of your account in general, security enables you to shop online securely, you see all your transactions (income and expenses), and access documents such as your bank statements, as well as managing standing orders and transfers. Once you have your account and e-banking setup, it takes a lot of the complications of banking in Greece. Still, it is a typical picture in Greece to see people queuing in the banks, and wait times can be long. Thus, getting your e-banking or mobile banking up and running removes all this hassle, considering most banking you will need to do can be done via your e-banking or mobile app.

Bank opening hours in Greece

Compared to what you are probably used to, Greek banks have shorter operating hours. Most banks are open from 8 am until 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Some banks have extended working hours and are open on weekends, but these are very rare. Most of the time, online banking and mobile banking will cover you at these times for transactions and transfers, and documents. These services are reliable and are available 24/7.

Do you need a bank account in Greece?

The short answer is yes. If the intention is to remain in Greece for the long term, a bank account is essential. Travel cards such as Revolut and Wise are great tools for making purchases here. There and currency exchanges, too, but you will likely encounter more difficulties further down the line without getting a bank account. Greek employers often require you to have the same bank account as their payroll to be paid — this is for convenience, but also, there are transaction fees between different Greek banks.

Moreover, when you pay your rent or communal expenses to your landlord in Greece, they will want you to pay with a Greek Bank account. Otherwise, they are charged a transaction fee to receive payments from international accounts, which is usually around 2.50 euros but can vary depending on the bank.

Finally, having a Greek account gives you the freedom to make payments easily to friends, such as when you want to share the bills or when you go out to a restaurant. This can be done instantly via IRIS payments, which use the recipient's mobile number or Tax identification number.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.