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Opening a Bank Account

The banking facilities on most islands are very good and have improved tremendously over the last 10 years. Nevertheless the Greek banking system works much slower than that in Western Europe. Greece has 20 domestic banks operating across the country including the islands.

Key Banks

The country’s largest bank is the Bank of Greece and it also acts as the central bank and monetary power. It is accountable for the management of credit organisations, which operate in Greece. Other leading banks include: the largest private bank, Alpha Credit Bank, EFG Eurobank, Egnatia Bank and Piraeus Bank. Several internationally owned banks have a strong presence on the mainland including Barclays Bank, Citibank, HSBC, Natwest Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland. They are predominantly located in Athens and Thessaloniki. Some of the commercial banks are overseen by the state, but a process of privatisation is underway.

Opening Hours

Banks are generally open from 8 am until 2.30 pm from Monday to Thursday and from 8 am until 2 pm on Fridays. Hours do vary between towns and islands according to the season and you need to check the opening times of your individual branch. During the summer the banks in key resort areas are open much longer including during weekends and evenings. In the villages opening hours are more restricted.

Opening an Account

Both residents and non-residents can open an account on one of the islands or on the mainland. It’s better to open a bank account in person than by correspondence from abroad. You can even open an account before you visit the country so long as you can get to an overseas branch of a Greek bank or the branch of an international bank like Barclays, which operate in Greece. You will have to go to the local Greek bank once you arrive to confirm your signature before the account can be truly opened. There are various accounts on offer including current accounts, foreign currency accounts and deposit accounts, but before you decide on the type of account that best serves your needs, you should choose your bank carefully by analysing the fees each bank charges for its services and especially for international money transfers. You have to be above 18 years old and show proof of identity in the form of a passport or residence permit as well as details proving your local address and documents outlining any funds you have imported.

Banking Services

Most banks now provide internet banking as this has become a popular way of working in Greece and helps you to avoid the slow teller services. Each time you visit your branch you will need to show your passport or residence card.  Transactions are often made in two stages; a withdrawal must be accepted or dealt with at one counter. Once this has been done you have to queue up and collect your money from the cash desk. Most banks will give you an ATM or debit and cash withdrawal card if you have a current or deposit account. This will enable you to get money from the outdoor cash points and again will save you queuing. You can also use your Greek ATM outside of the company.  You can apply for a credit card but your bank may require information directly from your home bank. Greek banks do offer mortgages to foreigners but other loans are usually not available.  

Your Home Bank Account

It is inadvisable to close your home bank account even if you are making a permanent move to one of the Greek Islands. You never know when you may need it and many people have emigrated to Greece only to be called home by family circumstance or because they failed to settle. Additionally, business plans for earning a living in Greece may change and you may find yourself in need of your home account.