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Which Italian bank accounts have the lowest fees in 2023?

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected]
Which Italian bank accounts have the lowest fees in 2023?
Account maintenence fees and harges for transactions and cash withdrawals add up and can make having an Italian bank account surprisingly expensive. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

Having a bank account in Italy can prove surprisingly expensive, and fees have soared over the past year. Here's a look at the cheapest banking options available now if you're planning to switch.

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Some 4.4 million banking customers in Italy have switched their current account provider within the past year due to “excessive costs”, according to one survey commissioned by price comparison website Facile.it, which found account fees charged by Italy’s six leading banks have increased by between eight and 26 percent over the past year.

But figuring out which is the cheapest account available - and then actually making the switch - is not always an easy feat in Italy where there’s a mind-boggling array of banking options to choose from.

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The very existence of bank fees comes as an unwelcome surprise for many new foreign residents, particularly those coming from countries like the UK where banks don’t generally charge customers for the privilege of keeping their money in a current account.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about opening a bank account in Italy

But fees for the most basic of banking services are an accepted fact of life in Italy, where customers spend a lot of time monitoring charges from their banks and, once these become intolerable, trying to find a better deal.

The canone, the monthly maintence fee paid for simply keeping an Italian conto corrente (current or checking account) open, now adds up to anything between 28 and 154 euros per year at Italy's six main banks, according to the Facile.it survey.

A branch of Italian bank Intesa SanPaolo in Milan. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)

Banks say these fees are rising due to inflation, and traditional banks add that keeping branches open comes at an ever-increasing cost.

This figure doesn’t include the range of common extra charges for basic transactions including money transfers, card payments, and ATM withdrawals. The average cost of transactions has risen by 15 percent on average in the past year, according to consumer groups, pushing the cost of maintaining some accounts to around 200 euros a year.

Some accounts also come with other fixed and variable costs, such as fees for issuing your first debit or credit card, and stamp duty fees when opening an account.

But fees vary widely - one analysis found charges for comparable accounts could vary by as much as 10 times between banks - and disgruntled customers looking to switch will be pleased to know that accounts with low or even no monthly fees do exist in Italy.

According to Facile.it, online-only accounts are dramatically less expensive to maintain: 77 percent cheaper on average, in fact, compared to 'traditional' accounts opened in person. Just over half (54 percent) of online banking customers in Italy reportedly pay any fees at all.

The bank accounts that are rated cheapest by Italy's main comparison websites in February 2023 include:

  • BBVA Conto Corrente;
  • ING Conto Corrente Arancio;
  • Widiba Conto Corrente;
  • ControCorrente Semplice IBL Banca;
  • Conto Crédit Agricole online;
  • Banca Mediolanum Selfyconto.

Find details about these and other accounts on Italian price comparison websites ConfrontaConti, Facile.it and SOStariffe.

Financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore also has an online comparison tool that can deduct your expenses from your likely interest to show exactly how much an account will really cost you.

And of course, make sure to read the fine print: some low-cost accounts are promotional offers which expire after a year or so, leaving you suddenly paying hefty fees. Others look more expensive, but are actually free if you maintain a low minimum balance or have your salary paid in to that account monthly.

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How do you close or move bank accounts?

Once you've found a better deal, you'll need to move your money and close your old account - a process which sadly isn't always as straightforward as it should be, and may incur yet more fees.

It's not usually as simple as walking into your local branch and asking to close your account, so you'll need to check your bank’s website and your account contract carefully.

READ ALSO: Which are Italy’s best value supermarkets?

To close an account, in most cases, you'll need to send a registered letter or raccomandata to your local branch including signatures from everyone on the account. Some banks will also charge a fee to close your account.

Italian law protects your right to transfer payment services from one bank account to another. Transferring your money, direct debits, and other services should be free and should take no more than 12 days for your current bank to complete the procedure - though in reality it may take weeks, or longer.

The study by Facile.it found that almost 34 percent of people surveyed (equal to some 1.5 million people) reported problems and delays when transferring payment services to a new account - a figure that rose to almost 45 percent in southern Italian regions.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for other readers looking for a low-cost bank account in Italy? Please share them in the comments below.

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jehp101 2023/02/23 14:29
For young people, Intesa Sanpaolo is the best bet as they have a promotion for new clients where there are no fees applied if you are under 35 years old. This gives you the best mix of using your local branch as well as their excellent online banking. Of course, be prepared to switch accounts once you hit 35 as the fees are rather high.

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