05 April 2019Product & Services

An Expat’s Guide: opening a bank account in Italy

So, you’ve arrived in Italy at last. No doubt, there’s plenty of things on your to-do list. You’ve got a language to master, a new home to find, forms to fill out, not to mention all those boxes to unpack… And on top of that, you’ll need to sort out your finances.

But don’t let the mandatory things ruin your excitement about moving to a new country. Whether your Italian is fluent or not, we believe opening a bank account in Italy doesn’t have to be challenging or time consuming. This guide aims to answer the most commonly asked questions about the process.

What are the different types of bank account in Italy?

Your first Italian banking decision is whether you opt for a resident account or a non-resident account. If you’re not going to be living in Italy full-time (i.e. studying temporarily or travelling around), a non-resident account should be enough. Obviously, if you’ve moved to the country, you should consider the resident account. You don’t have to be an Italian citizen to get one – you just need to be living there.

There are also different types of resident account. Expect to encounter the following:

  • Conto corrente (current account) – this is the standard type of account for day-to-day transactions, commonly available in any country.

  • Conto assegno (checking account) – so called because this type of account traditionally put an emphasis on sending and receiving payments using paper checks (assegni). Nowadays, you can also use it to set up regular payments from your debit card.

  • Conto corrente cointestato (joint account) – this is a current account that you share with someone else.

  • Conto di risparmio (savings account) – this is an account for savings, on which you can earn a percentage rate of interest.

How to choose a bank account in Italy

There are a wide range of banking institutions in Italy to choose from. As well as the major national and international banks based in the big cities, further out of town you’ll also find smaller, local ones. What’s more, these days there are newer, app-based and digital banks to consider as well. Here are a few things you might want to research or ask the bank while you make your decisions:

  • 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)?
  • What are the fees?

How to open a bank account in Italy

If you know what sort of account you want and have chosen a bank, here’s some tips for opening a resident account with ease:

  • Wait until you arrive in Italy: There’s nothing like getting a head start, but unless you’re opening a non-resident account, proving your residential status from abroad might prove difficult. Even if you don’t need to go into a branch to open an account, you’ll still need to provide details such as a valid current address.

  • Have your documents ready: Read our section below to find out which documents you’ll need to open an account.

  • Keep some cash handy: Since your card (and check book, PIN, etc.) will be posted out to you, make sure to bring enough cash with you to tide you over until these arrive.

How to open an online or digital bank account in Italy

Traditional Italian banks can hold some surprises for new residents. The opening hours, for example can seem strange. Banks in Italy tend to open very early in the morning until around 1pm, and then for just an hour or so later in the afternoon– but that’s it.

One way to get around the opening hours issue, is to switch to an online or digital bank. Another reason is to avoid any language barriers– some online banks provide their services in multiple languages so you can easily bank in your mother-tongue.

How much does it cost to open a bank account in Italy?

One of the most important factors in choosing who you bank with when you move to Italy will probably be the cost. Every bank has its own set of fees, and these vary widely, but by European standards, fees in Italy tend to be on the high side.

There might be an account opening fee, but the fees that will add up most in the long term are the “regular” ones that you pay monthly, or after every transaction. In that sense, it’s better to pay more up front than to pay small recurring fees throughout the whole time you have the account.

Types of bank account fees in Italy

There are several different fees to look out for when opening an Italian bank account:

  • Maintenance fee – this is a non-specific service fee, normally charged on a regular basis, i.e. monthly.

  • 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 for 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.

  • Interest on checking accounts – Some checking account charge interest fees on their accounts, payable quarterly.

  • International transfer fees – this can be a big deal for expats. If you’re likely to want to send money abroad, check how much each bank will charge for this and shop around for the best deal.

Not all bank accounts will charge every fee listed here so try to find an account where the fee schedule works in your favor – for example, one person might be more helpful to have lower international transfer fees, than to have an account that doesn’t charge as much for withdrawing cash.

What documents do you need to open a bank account in Italy?

To open a residents account, 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:

  • A form of ID, such as passport.

  • A valid Italian address. Most banks require proof of address, such as a utility bill

  • Your codice fiscale (tax number).

  • Proof of employment (or proof that you’re studying, if you’re a student).

At what age can you open a bank account in Italy?

You need to be 18 years old to open a full bank account in Italy independently. Anyone younger than this might need to have a parent or guardian present.

How much does it cost to cancel a bank account in Italy?

Many of us forget this part, 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

The beauty of app-based banking is that it’s ideal for expats who don’t need the hassle of account set up and closure in a different country and language. With N26, you can use it in five languages and control everything in the app.

Best of all, compared to many of the traditional Italian banks, N26 doesn’t charge maintenance or transaction fees, no matter where you pay with your card in the world. You’ll also get free local withdrawals and you can withdraw money from any ATM.

It’s easy to set up a full Italian bank account in minutes in the N26 app, with no form-filling or paperwork.

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 aim to break down the mysteries of getting your new life on track when it comes to banking and finance.

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