When moving to Greece, having a bank account is crucial for day-to-day activities. The banking system is very tricky anywhere you go, and so is the Greek one. It’s a maze to go through, and we have tried to simplify each step so that you do not have to worry about what to do and where to go.
Having a bank account is required for your salary, paying for utilities like rent, registering for electricity and internet, and getting insurance, among other tasks. Opening an account was a very rigid and tedious process that took up much time due to the fiscal crisis. Thankfully all is well now, and you can go through the process smoothly.
A Quick Comparison Of The Best Greek Bank For English Speakers
The best Greek banks for expats include:
- Alpha Bank – established in the 19th century, second largest in terms of assets.
- National Bank of Greece – over 500 branches in Greece and the largest ATM network.
- Eurobank is an international chain where you can also open an account remotely.
- Piraeus Bank – a multinational bank that operates out of Greece
These four are the only ones that provide their services in English and are reliable when in need. Other banks like Citibank and HSBC are also available here, but you might not have a very smooth experience with them when it comes to the legalities of banking.
Six Criteria To Choose The Best Bank In Greece
You have four banks to choose from, which is not an easy task if you look at it. According to your previous banking habits and experiences, you will find that one or two suit you the best. Let’s see what you should keep in mind when making your choice.
Online Banking Vs Branch Office In Greece
Notice how you use banking services right now. Do you happen to use a lot of the banking services online right now? Or do you prefer to go to a branch and talk to the representatives in person? It has generally been the trend worldwide to shift to a lot of e-banking via websites and apps, so if that is the case with you, you should look for a bank with an easy-to-use online banking service. With daily improvement, you can now open a bank account while sitting in another country.
Debit Vs Credit Card In Greece
Mainly we have two different types of cards with different types.
Credit cards operate differently in Europe as compared to America. Here we have charge credit cards with which you cannot spend more than a set limit. You cannot spend however much you want and then pay back your debt every month.
Visa and Mastercard have a monthly limit set by law. Once at any time of the month, your checking bank account will be deducted from the amount you spent with your card. This might not be at the end of the month, necessarily.
If your checking account does not have sufficient funds, then your account will have an overdraft. Keep in mind that the interest rates for an overdraft are pretty high.
A few banks which aren’t linked to your account or bank might offer you revolving credit cards. With these, you can pay back your balance on a monthly basis.
Prepaid credit cards
The way to operate a prepaid credit card is by transferring an amount from your bank account to the card and then using it for spending. This helps you check how much you are spending, and you won’t be able to spend more than what is on the card.
A prepaid credit card is easier to get than a true credit card for expats. There are no formalities in checking your credit score for this, so the process is hassle-free. No salary statement is required either.
You have Visa and Mastercard debit cards available in Greece. These are directly linked to your checking account, and whatever amount you spend will be deducted from it automatically. This can be both good and bad. You will have to keep a check on how much you spend. Setting a limit to these also helps. These can also be used for online payments, but small businesses might not accept these.
Bank Account Fees In Greece
The old and more traditional banks still charge you a monthly fee, while the newer banks have free essential account services. Some charges like applying for a credit/ debit card, message alerts etc have small set rates.
Securities Account In Greece.
If you want an account to manage investments, bonds and cryptocurrencies, you will need to open up a securities account. Usually, people have an account where they receive their salary and then use the same one for daily payments. To handle all sorts of investments, you can open securities account if your bank offers one. Otherwise, you can do so with a separate online broker.
Cash is the most common form of payment that is accepted throughout Greece. Greek people love using and carrying cash with them everywhere they go. Cards may not be accepted everywhere, but cash will be.
It was around 2019 that credit cards became more famous here. Post covid-19, contactless payments were preferred by many, but you kept some cash on you just in case.
The ability to withdraw cash should be kept in mind wherever you go.
How often do you withdraw cash?
The question is would you prefer an unlimited amount of ATM withdrawals from any ATM, or would you rather have a set limit on these?
It is common in Greece to charge around 2-2.5 euros per withdrawal. If you’re lucky, withdrawing from an ATM of your bank might not charge you this, but otherwise, this is a standard rate here. If you don’t make small withdrawals time and again, then this won’t be a hassle for you at all.
The availability of ATMs is also very important. On smaller islands, it might be impossible for you to find them, so you will have to withdraw cash beforehand. These might be more common in major cities like Athens, Crete, and Santorini.
The supermarkets here have recently offered a cash-back option to increase the availability of cash withdrawals. If you shop for more than a set amount and pay with your card, the supermarket will offer you cash back for it.
Your nationality matters when getting a bank account set up as well, unfortunately. If you thought getting a visa was the end of this bias, then surprise. There are strict laws throughout Europe to prevent money laundering. Every new customer has to verify their identity before they get access to their account. Those who set up their accounts online will do so through video identification platforms.
These providers don’t accept Ids if they do not comply with the industry-set standards.
What Is The Best Greek Bank For English Speakers?
Founded way back in 1879 by J.F. Costopoulos, the Alpha group is one of the leading financial groups in the financial sector in Greece. It offers a wide range of high-quality financial products and services in the domestic and international markets and has one of Europe’s highest capital adequacy ratios.
They have been the pioneers of a lot of services in Greece, which include installing the first ATMs, the first card that was a mix of cash and credit, the first limitless debit card, the first private banking services, and the first bonus points system in Greece which remains the largest to date.
They offer to help you with your debts, whether these are for your card, house or family budget. Similarly, they offer insurance policies for you, your car, your house and the future. You can take out loans from them in easy instalments so that paying back is easy.
Their website and mobile application are also user-friendly, and you can easily navigate them. You can get credit or debit cards according to your liking. They have current and savings account options along with brokerage services. You can manage your investments and bonds with them.
All their services are available in English, from signing up to transactions. They charge small amounts for credit/debit card applications, sending money outside Europe, and message alerts.
National Bank of Greece
Established 181 years ago in 1841, the National Bank of Greece started its operations by circulating money throughout the country and setting up 15 branches. They have been contributors in all significant events where relief and support where needed, from earthquake relief programmes to rebuilding cities. They have given monetary aid to the refugees that came into Greece. They are big on giving back to the community, and the community trusts them.
With 2.7 million active years, they offer services like current, student, savings and salary accounts. As a student, you can get their value packages which will offer you their services at a better price. They have a debit Mastercard along with a virtual option also available. For credit cards, you have gold, silver and black according to your credit limit.
They also offer internet banking services which include their mobile app. Here you can carry out all your transactions and set up your account by verifying your identity.
Eurobank, also known as European Investment Bank, was established in 1990. As it grew, it expanded to six more countries, including Turkey and the Balkans.
Their services include banking for individuals and businesses, investment banking, property and capital management, lease, stock exchange and real estate services. E-banking is excellent with them.
They are actively working towards adapting a fully sustainable service process. This includes you signing digitally and receiving all your documents via email. They have set up devices for you to operate yourself and get your problems sorted. Even their offices use sustainable and recycled material in their structure.
Along with tremendous and trustworthy banking services, they keep the environment clean.
Piraeus Bank, a 100% subsidiary of Piraeus Financial Holdings, was founded in 1916 and is the leading bank in Greece regarding market shares in loans and branch networks. Piraeus Bank provides a complete range of banking services and specializes in SMEs, retail banking, e-banking and capital markets.
They offer banking services like banking solutions, real estate management, private investment banking, car leasing, private banking, factoring and operations for small businesses. They also consult larger businesses in their operations as they are connected worldwide with other banks, making the process much smoother.
Like every other bank in Greece, Piraeus also follow the Environment, Society and Governance(ESG) strategy, which aims to give back to the community and keep the environment clean.
All of these four significant banks offer excellent services, especially online banking. You can also make an account online, and there is no hassle of going in and going through a tedious process in person. The choice of choosing the bank is on you. We would suggest going for one with a lot of ATM branches available, along with friendly rates that won’t put a dent in your savings. A smooth user experience is crucial, and the older and well-established banks have perfected all of this.