Moving abroad can be exciting, but it’s not without its challenges. Maybe you need to learn a new language, find a new home or you have a mountain of forms to fill out... not to mention all those boxes to pack and unpack. And on top of all that, you’ll need to think about your finances.
But getting a bank account in Italy shouldn’t be so hard. Even if you don’t speak Italian, this should be one aspect of your move that doesn’t have you tearing your hair out. Here’s our guide to the easy way to open an Italian bank account.
What are the different types of bank accounts in Italy?
Your first Italian banking decision is whether you want a resident account or a non-resident account. If you’re only going to be living in Italy for part of the year –if you’re only buying property you intend to rent there, for example – a non-resident account might be enough. But if you’re going to be spending serious time in Italy, you should consider a resident account. You don’t have to be an Italian citizen to get one – you just have to live there.
There are different types of resident accounts. Expect to encounter the following:
- Conto corrente (current account) – as in other countries, this is the standard type of account for day-to-day transactions.
- Conto corrente cointestato (joint account) – this is a current account that you share with someone else.
- Conto di risparmio (savings account) – this is for your savings, on which you can earn a little bit more interest.
- Conto di deposito (deposit account) – this is a less flexible type of savings account that might offer a higher rate of interest.
How to choose a bank account in Italy
There’s a wide range of banking institutions in Italy. There are major national and international banks based in the big cities, but further out of town you’ll find smaller local ones. What’s more, these days there are newer, digital banks to consider as well. Here are a few things to think about while you make your decision:
- How easy is it to open the account? Can you do it online?
- Will you need to visit your branch often, and is there one close to you?
- Does your bank offer services in English (or your other first language)?
- Are there any fees and what are they?
How to open a bank account in Italy
So, you know what sort of account you want and have chosen a bank. Here are our tips for opening a resident account with ease:
- Wait until you’re in Italy. It can be tempting to try to start the process from abroad, but unless you’re getting a non-resident account, this might prove difficult. Even if you don’t need to go into a branch to open the account, you will still need to provide details such as a valid Italian address. So you might just need to bide your time.
- Have your documents ready. Banks always need to be able to verify your identity, so you’ll need to show them some documents. There’s more information on what you’ll need below.
- Go to your new bank, or its website. Once you’re ready, you can begin the signup process. For traditional institutions you may well need to go into a branch, but digital banking options like N26 mean you can apply online.
- Wait for the mail to arrive. You’ll need to wait a few days to get your bank card and other information in the post – another reason it makes sense to already be in Italy!
How to open an online bank account in Italy
Traditional Italian banks can hold some surprises for foreigners. The opening hours, for example, can seem really strange: they’re usually open from early in the morning until around 1 pm, and then for just an hour or so later in the afternoon – but that’s it.
That’s just one reason why you might want a bank where you can do pretty much everything online. Another is the language barrier: some online banks provide their services in a variety of languages, so you won’t have to try to find a bank teller who happens to speak your language.
With N26, you can use it in five languages and do everything online. You can set up a full Italian bank account from your phone in minutes, without any paperwork, from the comfort of your sofa.
How much does it cost to open a bank account in Italy?
Every bank has its own set of fees, and they can vary a lot. It’s one of the most important factors to consider when choosing an account. Fees in Italy tend to be on the high side, by European standards.
There might be an account opening fee, but the fees that’ll cost you more in the long term are the ones that you pay every month or even every transaction.
Types of bank account fees in Italy
You might face the following fees with a standard Italian account:
- Maintenance fee – this service fee could be charged regularly, for instance every month.
- Transaction fee – you might find that the bank charges you a small amount for each individual transaction that shows up on your statement. You might get a certain number free each year.
- Cash withdrawal fee – if you use an ATM (bancomat in Italian) to withdraw cash, there could be a charge, especially if you don’t use your own bank’s ATM.
- International transfer fees – this can be a big deal for expats. If you’re likely to need to send money abroad, check what your bank will charge you for this. These fees can vary hugely.
Not all banks will charge the same fees, and it’s worth considering a variety of options. Try to find an account where the fee schedule works in your favor – for example, it could be in your interest to minimize international transfer fees, or to get an account that doesn’t charge so much for withdrawing cash.
What do you need to open a bank account in Italy?
You’ll need to show your new bank some documents to prove you are who you say you are. The details can vary, but the general requirements to open a bank account in Italy are:
- ID, such as a passport.
- A valid Italian address. Most banks require proof of address, such as a utility bill, although N26 is an exception – you just need to legally be resident there.
- Your codice fiscale (tax number).
- Proof of employment (or proof that you’re studying, if you’re a student).
This is only for a resident account – for a non-resident account, as you’d expect, it’s all a little different.
At what age can you open a bank account in Italy?
You generally need to be 18 years old to open a full bank account in Italy. Anyone younger might need to get a parent or guardian involved. You can prove your age using your ID.
How much does it cost to cancel a bank account in Italy?
It sounds paranoid, but it’s worth checking up on this before you open your account. If you think you might want to close the account at some point, you should find out how easy the bank makes it, and how much it could charge you. There could be extra fees and more paperwork – the last thing you need when you should be spending your last few days in Italy eating as much gelato as possible.
Your money at N26
We aim to be transparent and fair about the fees we charge. When it comes to card payments, we never charge our customers fees on transactions made online or in-stores, anywhere in the world. We don’t charge a markup on foreign currency payments and you’ll always get the benefit of Mastercard’s best currency exchange rate. Best of all, our standard N26 bank account is free to open, with no account maintenance fee.
To take the stress out of expat living, our series on all things relocation, An Expat’s Guide, aims to help you land as smoothly as possible in your new life in Italy. We’ll be breaking down the mysteries around getting your new life on track when it comes to banking and finance.