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The essential guide to opening a bank account in Italy

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The essential guide to opening a bank account in Italy
Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP
16:52 CEST+02:00
Here's everything you need to know if you're planning to open a bank account in Italy, whether you're a resident or not.

Along with finding a flat and a job, opening a bank account is one of the first things you’ll need to do when arriving in Italy. Your overseas account is unlikely to cut it for everyday tasks like paying bills, withdrawing cash, or getting paid yourself.

Italy has a good number of banks to choose from, ranging from traditional Italian institutions to international banks and online-only operations.

But there are a few things you'll need to know before you open an account. From paperwork to choosing the right bank for you, here's our complete guide to opening a bank account in Italy.

What do I need to know about Italian bank accounts?

Your first decision is whether to opt for a resident or non-resident account. If you’re not going to be working in Italy and plan to stay for a short period of time (if you're studying temporarily, for example), a non-resident account (conto estero) will be enough and, if you don't have Italian residency, it's all you can have.

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to getting residency in Italy

This type of account doesn't allow you to receive payments from within Italy, but it offers higher rates of interest.

Of course, if you’ve moved to the country you'll want a resident account, for which you'll need to be registered as a resident in Italy. (You don't need to be an Italian citizen.)

Photo: Depositphotos

Almost all banks in Italy (except some online only banks) charge monthly fees, which can be a nasty shock for people coming from places like the UK where this is unheard of. You don't get much interest on most accounts, either.

They also tend to charge for withdrawals made from cash machines. Most banks allow you to make withdrawals (though often a limited number) from the bank's own machines without paying a fee, so it might pay to choose a bank that has a good network of ATMs.

Most banks have a €300 daily withdrawal limit. Still, Italian cash machines tend to be out of cash (or out of service) irritatingly often.

Application forms seem to always be in Italian, with no English translation available. Some larger banks may have English speaking staff but usually, unless you've arranged an appointment with an English speaker, it helps to take an Italian speaker with you to translate if you're still getting to grips with the language.

What are the requirements?

Some online banks such as N26 will allow you to open an account with an address elsewhere in Europe, although there are tighter restrictions on addresses outside the EU.

While the specific paperwork is likely to differ from bank to bank, each application is likely to require some combination of the following:

  • An application form
  • Your ID card or passport

  • Your tax number

  • Proof of your address (such as a utility bill)

  • An initial deposit (which will vary from bank to bank);

Americans and other non-EU citizens may have to fill out additional forms.

Can I apply online?

Online-only accounts have become more popular in Italy in recent years as they often offer a greater degree of flexibility and lower (or no) account fees.

Some traditional banks also allow online applications, while others will want you to show up in person. And a lot of people have found that applying in person is much more straightforward.

What kind of fees do I need to watch out for?

There are various different fees to look out for when opening an Italian bank account. Not all bank accounts will charge every type of fee, so it's worth shopping around to find an account that works in your favour.

  • Maintenance fee – a service fee, usually monthly, charged simply for having an account.

  • Transaction fee – you might find that the bank charges you for each individual transaction that shows up on your statement.

  • Cash withdrawal fee – if you use an ATM to withdraw cash, there is often a charge.

  • Interest on checking accounts – Some checking accounts charge quarterly interest fees.

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

  • Cancellation fees – few of us think about this but some banks charge fees for closing an account. It can pay to check what will happen if you decide to cancel your account.

Which bank should I choose?

This is a difficult choice to make, and it's wise to ask friends and family for recommendations.

To get you started, here's a list of some of the most popular banks among expats and our readers' thoughts on each.

BancoPosta

The Italian post office offers various types of accounts and you'll find a branch even in the smallest towns. It has “the owest annual fees, better exchange rates for account holders, no ATM fees - and they're everywhere,” says Peter Luigi Bonta in Pistoia.

Intesa San Paolo

Italy's biggest private bank has plenty of branches and is often recommended as a good place to open a non-resident account. Plus opening an account here is “very easy”, according to reader Martin C Smith in Turin.

Photo: AFP

Fineco

Several readers highly recommended Fineco, which they said was easy to manage online.

“I can easily manage my account online and keep deposits in multiple currencies. Paying taxes, utilities and other vendors is easy and quick and can be done from an app on my phone,” said A. Reed in Umbria, though she pointed out that US citizens must keep their balance “under 10 thousand or be subjected to additional IRS scrutiny.”

Alexandra Miletta in Rome agreed that her account with Fineco was easy to manage and “very straightforward” to set up.

Barbara Susan Bale in Naples said she could do almost everything online with Fineco, and praised the app's “easy to navigate” interface – though she deducted points for the rudeness of staff in branches.

Unicredit

This major international bank has a large presence in Italy.

“You can open an account online and there's no monthly payment for basic accounts. Branches of the bank are available in every city,” said reader Dilshya in Mogliano, Veneto, though she said you may be charged other fees by the bank.

Basic account holders can be charged for every direct debit, and a two-euro fee for using an ATM belonging to another bank.

Deana Murray in Verona praised the variety of account options, and said fees were not too high.

“They were so friendly and patient with my Italian and made the whole process extremely stress free,” she said, but warned: “Try not to open the account in a branch that is in a town in the middle of nowhere. Often if there is a problem, you will have to go back to that specific branch so try and open it in a city that is easy to reach in case you move.”

John Batten in Lazio agreed that the bank was “very helpful” - but warned that non-resident accounts come with a hefty fee of “at least €200 per year”.

CheBanca

This relatively new bank has no account fees or charges if you do everything online, and account holders told us that's easy to do and praised the “user-friendly website.”

“My local branch was very helpful when I opened my accounts. You can go to any branch in Italy for assistance as your accounts are not associated with any specific branch,” said David Murphy in Sassari.

But check that you do have a local branch before opening an account, as it's not found everywhere.

John Brown in Florence said the bank's main attraction is “the good customer service and the lack of charges for many services. Only €1 monthly for a current account and €2 monthly for a prepayment bancomat card, useable here and abroad without additional charges.”

N26

A few readers also recommended this international online banking company, where accounts are free and can be opened online via a video call.

The fact that it's based in Germany and has a deposit protection scheme from the German government is something many account holders find reassuring.

Daniel Tse in Mantova praised the bank's “EU-wide access to cash machines irrespective of specific banks or building societies”the “, “decent English-speaking (and German-speaking) customer service support,” and “simple, transparent” fees.

He added that there are “no hidden fees, but beware of a maximum limit of five free cash withdrawals a month - even if the Summary of Charges says it is 'unlimited' (subject to 'fair use')".

This is not a complete list of all the banks available, and it pays to do as much research as possible before opening your account.

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