How to open a bank account in Iceland

5 min read

Perhaps you’re moving to Iceland for its spectacular landscapes, rich culture, or excellent quality of life. But here’s another perk—did you know that Iceland is almost entirely cashless? Electronic payments via debit card or smartphone are accepted even in rural areas. But to avoid high currency exchange fees, you’ll need to open a bank account. Here’s our guide on how to do just that.

What to look for when choosing a bank account in Iceland

While some countries offer a wealth of banking options, choosing a bank in Iceland is refreshingly simple. During the 2008 financial crisis, the Icelandic government allowed the banks to go bankrupt rather than bail them out, opting instead to take out a loan from the International Monetary Fund. From there, they opened three new state-owned banks, each similar in scope. There’s also one international bank and a handful of online banks—and that’s it. When selecting the bank that’s right for you, it’s worth considering what services you want, as well as comparing the banking costs, ATM fees, and foreign transaction fees.

What do you need to open a bank account in Iceland?

Upon arriving in Iceland, the first step is to apply for your kennitala, or your Icelandic ID number. This number is essential for day-to-day needs, like filing taxes, accessing car registration, health insurance, gym memberships—and, of course, banking. Citizens from the EEA/EFTA states can apply for a kennitala directly with the Icelandic National Registry. Citizens of all other countries need to apply in person. Visit the Directorate of Immigration website to learn how to apply, and expect approximately 10 days for processing. 

Once you have your kennitala, you’ll be able to apply for an electronic ID. Stored on the SIM card of your phone, this ID allows you to perform various official actions online, including opening a bank account. You’ll be able to activate your electronic ID through cell phone companies and banks. As you need an Icelandic SIM card for the electronic ID to work, it’s often easier to go through a cell phone company. 

How old do you have to be to open a bank account in Iceland?

There is no minimum age requirement to open a bank account in Iceland. Like adults, children will need an electronic ID to open an account. Parents or guardians can apply for an electronic ID for their children on the Auðkenni website. To apply for a debit card, children must be at least nine years old. 

How to open a bank account in Iceland

Once you have your electronic ID, you can open a bank account online in just a few minutes. If you don’t yet have an electronic ID, you can bring your kennitala, passport, and residence permit and open an account in person. The process is simple and your account will be set up immediately. If you choose to open an account with a debit card, the card should arrive via post in about five days.

Can I open a bank account online in Iceland?

Yes, Icelandic banks will allow you to open a bank account online once you have your electronic ID. However, as non-EEA/EFTA citizens need to apply for an ID number in person, you may not be able to start the process until you’ve arrived in Iceland. 

If you’d like to have your bank account set up before you move to Iceland, consider opening one with an online bank. This way, you can begin enjoying the Icelandic life as soon as you settle into your new home. One important caveat—if you want all the security and services of a traditional bank, avoid e-money companies and opt for a fully licensed bank. 

What is the difference between a banking license and an e-money license?

Most FinTech and e-money institutions are able to offer simple banking services online, like currency exchange and money transfers. However, if you’re looking for more robust banking services like managing deposits in your personal and business accounts, plus more advanced activities like lending, you’ll need to choose an institution with a banking license. A banking license is essentially a legal requirement for any company that wishes to call itself a bank. Licensed banks must comply with all the regulations set forth by the European Central Bank, ensuring their clients’ money is secure. N26 received a banking license in July of 2016, allowing us to offer the full suite of banking services—including protection on deposits up to €100,000. 

How to open an account with N26

How to open a bank account online with N26

You can open a bank account with N26 in just 8 minutes, no matter where you are. To get started, download the N26 smartphone app or visit our website. You’ll be asked to enter your personal information and choose the type of account you’d like to open. You’ll then complete the verification process during a short video call. Finally, you’ll be given the details to make your first transfer into your new account. Your virtual debit Mastercard will be ready right away, so you can add it directly to your mobile wallet and start spending.


Your money at N26 

An N26 account is more than a place to put your money. It allows you to stay in control of your finances, whether you want to get insights on your spending, save for a post-lockdown vacation, or splurge on something special. Our premium accounts have innovative features, such as spaces Spaces—easy-to-use sub-accounts where you can set money aside for rent, a big purchase, or anything you like. Our premium accounts offer a range of other benefits, including unlimited withdrawals in any currency worldwide, medical travel insurance in case of emergencies, flight insurance, luggage coverage, and more. 

By N26

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