Private bank account opening Europe

personal bank accountWhether you’re preparing to move to or travel across the old continent, you may need to open a personal bank account in Europe to make your financial transactions more efficient and cost-effective. While you can choose from plenty of digital and traditional banks, keep in mind that the process of opening a personal bank account for non-EU citizens has become more complex due to increased requirements for foreign applicants.

Our team here at IB-IA GROUP UAB has eight years of experience in helping individual clients to open private bank accounts across Europe. We use our wide network of trusted partners in the European banking industry to offer the most suitable and effective solutions that improve the lives of our valued customers.

Key benefits of having a personal bank account in Europe:

  • Local accounts enable buying and paying bills in local currency
  • The transactions are considerably faster
  • It’s easier to transfer and receive money in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)
  • An opportunity to diversify savings by keeping money in different currencies
  • Integrability with various financial products and services

Types of Banks

You can choose to open a personal bank account either at a traditional bank or explore such options as digital banking which is often more accessible to non-residents of the EU, although may offer limited additional services associated with money management.

Key features of traditional banks:

  • Physical locations (branches) that customers can visit during regular business hours
  • In-person customer service
  • Online banking
  • Lengthier account opening process
  • Low savings interest rates
  • Large network of cash machines
  • Rather high administration fees

Just so you know, Europe’s financially best performing traditional banks include Belgium’s KBC, the Netherlands’ ING, the UK’s HSBC, Denmark’s Danske Bank and Germany’s Deutsche Bank. However, your personal financial needs can be easily met by most of the smaller local banks which is why you should consider other options once you’ve selected a country for your personal bank account.

Features of digital banks:

  • Mobile-first banking services
  • No physical location, the services can only be accessed via a web browser and a mobile application
  • The user-friendly interface of the bank’s website and mobile application makes banking services easily accessible
  • Lower or no fees
  • The accounting opening process is usually quicker
  • Cash machine fees often apply if the withdrawal limit is exceeded
  • Higher savings interest rates
  • Numerous online support channels – forums, chatbots, FAQs, social media

The most popular digital banks in Europe are Wise, Monzo, Revolut, Bunq and N26.

Things to consider before choosing a bank:

  • Availability of internet banking
  • Level of fees (monthly, annual, overdraft, wire transfer or other)
  • Customer support
  • Availability of branches in your local area
  • Interest fees
  • Security
  • Associated mobile applications
  • Integrability with other financial services
  • Extra features
  • Extra financial services and products

Types of Bank Accounts

Depending on your eligibility and needs a European bank will usually offer a variety of bank accounts. You can open multiple accounts in different banks as long as you can fulfil their requirements.

You can normally choose from the following bank accounts:

  • Current accounts are used for everyday transactions (paying bills by direct debit, receiving a salary, having an authorised overdraft and withdrawing money from cash machines)
  • Basic accounts are normally chosen by customers that aren’t eligible for a current account and can be used to pay bills and receive salary
  • Borderless accounts are virtual multicurrency accounts that allow account owners to hold money in various currencies, often at a lower exchange rate
  • Savings accounts are designed to store money and earn interest
  • Savings accounts for children are created in children’s names and are designed for parents who wish to deposit the money and earn interest for their children’s future
  • Bank accounts for students and graduates offer favourable conditions such as interest-free overdraft and freebies as well as minimal fees to domestic and international students
  • Expat accounts for people living and working outside their home countries
  • Private bank accounts are designed for people with a high net worth who are chosen by banks and receive customised services, including the appointment of a private banker

European Banking Services for Individuals

Europe is home to many trusted and reputable banks – traditional and digital – that can safeguard your money in a variety of bank accounts that match your needs. You may want to avail of the personal banking services or level up and become a client of a private bank.

Personal banking is also called retail banking since financial services are sold to individuals via local branches or online and are designed to meet the needs of individual customers.

European retail banking services include the following:

  • Various types of bank accounts
  • Loans
  • Credit and debit cards
  • Financial advice

Many retail banks also offer private banking services which are designed to exclusively cater to very high-income customers that are selected by a bank. Due to an individual’s high levels of funds and assets, private banks offer more sophisticated and value-added financial products and services that can satisfy more complex financial needs. Needless to say, private banking services are offered to individuals who expect more than a bank account.

Private banks create value through the following products and services:

  • A private banker or relationship manager assigned on an individual basis
  • Wealth management
  • Tax efficiency planning
  • Investment management and advice
  • Estate planning
  • Insurance
  • Lines of credit
  • Lower exchange rates on international transactions
  • Private equity partnerships
  • Strategies to retain wealth for future generations
  • Retirement planning

According to Private Banker International, the most reputable European private banks are Julius Baer (Switzerland), BNP Paribas (France) and Credit Suisse (Switzerland) and UBS (Switzerland). Although Switzerland is widely known for private banking, other European countries – the UK, Sweden, Poland and others – are also home to private banks. They all have different requirements that a high-net-worth individual has to fulfil. Some of them are outlined below but our team can explain them to you in detail during a personalised consultation.

Requirements for Individuals

When defining requirements for individuals, a selected country, the applicant’s residence status and requirements of a specific bank must be factored in.

Generally, the following documents are required to open a personal bank account in Europe:

  • Proof of identity (passport or national ID)
  • Proof of address in a respective European country (rental contract or a utility bill), although it’s still possible to open a bank account without proof of permanent residence
  • Proof of employment or enrollment in a school
  • Proof of source of funds

Oftentimes, you’ll have to get your documents translated and authorised by a notary public if you’re a foreigner opening an account from abroad. Our team here at IB-IA GROUP UAB will be more than happy to arrange such a service for you.

Any permanent resident of the EU (regardless of citizenship status) who’s over 18 years old of age, is entitled to open a bank account in an EU bank as long as they can provide a national ID card or passport and proof of address.

Non-residents of the EU usually must meet much stricter requirements, including credit and background checks, and have fewer options. In some countries, they may be required to visit a bank in person and pay higher fees once their bank account is open.

Non-residents of the EU looking to send and receive payments in Europe may opt for a borderless account provided by a digital bank (e.g. Wise) since this option is quite easily accessible compared to requirements for other types of bank accounts. As long as you have proof of identity and can provide your contact details, a digital bank can open an account for you in 15 minutes.

While for non-residents of the EU it’s quite difficult to open a bank account in many European countries, Portugal is less strict and offers a solution. Start with getting a NIF (Portuguese tax number) through a representative in Portugal. Then bring your passport, proof of address, proof of employment (or proof of registration with the Portuguese employment center) and a deposit of around 300 EUR in cash to the branch of a selected bank. You’ll also have to provide your NIF number and your Portuguese cell phone number when initiating the application process. These few steps should guarantee a personal bank account in Portugal even if you’re a non-resident.

Estonian banks also welcome foreign non-residents of the EU through their e-residency programme. However, the programme itself doesn’t promise an Estonian bank account – it’s best if you can prove your link to Estonia by supplying evidence of employment, company formation or local property and visit one of the branches of your selected bank to initiate the application process. You should note that higher fees apply for non-residents of the EU.

Regardless of your residence status, you can make up your mind to become a client of a European private bank. Qualifying thresholds vary from bank to bank but generally speaking annual income should start from several hundred thousand euros.

How to Open a Personal Bank Account in Europe

Not every bank requires an in-person visit to its branch to open a new bank account as the application can be submitted online, usually provided that you’re a resident of the respective country. Depending on the quality of your prepared documents and the number of pending applications, your selected traditional bank can process your application within 1-5 working days. A digital bank can open an account for you in less than a day.

To open a personal bank account in a traditional European bank, you should usually take the following steps:

  • Determine your personal needs and the type of account
  • Select a European country and a bank where you wish to open a personal account
  • Reach out to the selected bank to clearly define specific requirements
  • Collect required documents
  • Submit an application to the selected bank
  • Either visit the branch or hop on a short video call with the bank to verify your identity
  • If applicable, pay a minimum deposit

To open a personal bank account in a digital bank, you should usually take the following steps:

  • Determine your personal needs and decide on the type of account and currency
  • Select a digital bank
  • Open the mobile application of the digital bank and take a picture of your passport
  • Enter your contact and other details required for KYC purposes
  • Upload proof of address

If, after determining your needs, it’s become apparent that you may need more than a bank account, consider selecting a private bank.

To become a client of a private bank, take the following steps:

  • Identify your investment and borrowing needs as well as know your annual income
  • Decide on a country and select a private bank in accordance with your eligibility and needs
  • Send a request to the bank
  • You’ll most likely have to pay an in-person visit to the bank to start a relationship

If you intend to open a personal bank account or seek private banking services in one of the European countries, highly experienced consultants of IB-IA GROUP UAB will be delighted to assist you. Over the last eight years, we’ve developed a wide network of trusted relationships across the European banking industry which will streamline your application processing at a selected bank. Book a personalised consultation now.