How to Open a Bank Account in Ireland as a Foreigner

Nov 8, 2021
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Ireland is a mix of the new with the old. You can find jobs at the headquarters of the world’s tech giants, or you can grab a pint at your local pub and enjoy the traditional music scene.

Whether you're planning to move to Ireland, have just arrived in the country, or plan to remain abroad while maintaining a bank account in the country, the Irish banking system offers several solutions for you. And the good news is that the process should be straightforward with or without proof of residence in Ireland. 

In this guide, we will walk you through the essential things you need to know about opening a bank account as a foreigner, how to open a bank account online in Ireland, as well as what your best options are every step of the way.

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Best Irish Bank Account for Non-Residents

If you're looking for a fully-accredited but low-cost bank account, we recommend digital bank N26, which gives you EU bank details, a checking account, a debit card for no monthly fee, and full banking services like deposit protection up to €100,000.

If you're looking for an online bank-like account, open a Wise Multi-Currency Account, which gives you Belgian bank details (eligible in Ireland) and a debit card to spend in multiple currencies. The account also provides UK bank details, which will come in handy if you want to hold British pounds for when you spend in the United Kingdom — just across the Irish Sea. You can open an account before arriving in Ireland, but you will have to verify your address before receiving the debit card. 

What is Banking Like in Ireland?

The Irish system is regulated by the European System of Central Banks and offers a range of options, including national banks, international banks, and online banks. The country’s largest and most storied bank is the Bank of Ireland, although digital banks like bunq and N26 have entered the market with great force. They have disrupted their high-street competitors so much so that Ulster Bank, one of the traditional big four banks, announced in 2021 that it would gradually close all operations within the Republic of Ireland¹.

It is common for Irish banks to charge a maintenance fee if your account’s balance falls under a specified limit. The “government stamp duty” also places an annual fee on ATM cards, debit cards, and credit cards and it cannot be avoided². Credit cardholders are charged a higher duty. Banks will often charge fees for using ATMs outside of their network too. The rules and standards for these fees vary depending on the bank, so it is worth comparing.

Types of Irish Bank Accounts

The two most common types of bank accounts in Ireland are probably like the ones in your home country: a current account and a savings account. The current account, which allows you to manage your money day-to-day with a debit card connected, is the most common in Ireland. People often also decide to open a savings account, which offers a higher interest rate. You can transfer some of your income here each month as you plan for long-term savings. 

Banks also offer student current accounts, which are free of maintenance fees for the limited time that you are eligible.

If you are the owner of a business, you may want to open a business bank account in Ireland. If you are a sole proprietor, some banks provide you options to open an account completely online — but you will need to be a registered taxpayer in the Republic of Ireland. If you are the director of a company or a member of a partnership, you do not necessarily need to be a citizen or resident of Ireland. You will have to make an in-person appointment with the bank’s business advisor to ensure that your legal entity is registered with Ireland’s Companies Registration Office or with your home country’s equivalent government ministry.

What Documents Do I Need to Open a Bank Account in Ireland?

If you are new to Ireland or if you have yet to set foot in the country, you can still open a bank account there. You will just need two documents, a valid form of photo ID and a document of proof of address.

One valid form of photo ID.

Valid identification includes:

  • A passport;
  • A driver’s license;
  • An EU national identity card. 

A document of proof of address.

Banks will accept the following documents:

  • A utility bill less than 6 months old;
  • A bank statement less than 6 months old;
  • Written correspondence from a government department or authority.

These documents of proof of address can be tied to the address of your home country if you do not yet have an Irish address. Just take note that to assure your identity, some banks will require non-residents to provide two types of documents instead of one.

Gabriel Ramos on Unsplash Bridge in Dublin, Ireland

Option 1 — Opening a Bank Account with an Irish High-Street Bank

Opening a bank account in Ireland as a non-resident or as a resident expat is generally straightforward, especially since Irish high-street banks do not require you to be a registered resident of the country.

However, bank accounts with high-street banks in Ireland tend to be slightly costlier than banks in most other European countries. While some banks waive all maintenance fees and transaction fees for the first year of opening a basic or current account, it remains the norm to charge annual fees after the first year for account maintenance, withdrawing at certain ATMs, using a chequebook, using an overdraft, sending and receiving bank transfers, and using other everyday financial services.

To compare products and services of Ireland's largest banks, take a look at the following offerings below:

Bank of Ireland

The Bank of Ireland is the country’s oldest bank and it offers the largest ATM and branch network. Their online banking platform allows you to make payments and gives you access to your current and savings accounts from your mobile phone.

  • Personal Account: You can apply for an account online, and you’ll get a contactless visa debit card, access to online banking, and overdraft options. Bank of Ireland charges a flat fee of €6 per month to maintain your account — and does not charge you for individual transactions and payments. You must be a resident of the Republic of Ireland.
  • Basic Bank Account: This account has the same features as the current account except that it does not offer access to overdraft. However, it is free of the monthly maintenance fee and can be opened by any resident of the European Union, including refugees and asylum seekers. You must physically go to a local branch to open your account.
  • Business Current Account: If you want to start up or run your own business in Ireland, you can use this account for online banking, a contactless debit card, overdraft, business loans, and business advising at €15 per quarter.

Allied Irish Banks (AIB)

Allied Irish Banks is one of Ireland’s Big Four banks and has integrated online banking into their personal services with their launch of the AIB mobile banking app. They offer several kinds of accounts, each with unique benefits to fit your needs.

  • Personal Current Account: This standard account will give you access to a debit card and online banking. You may also apply for an overdraft. AIB will charge a quarterly maintenance fee of €4.50 and €0.20 per debit transaction³. You can open an account if you are over 16 years old, live in Ireland, and have a passport from an EEA country.
  • Basic Bank Account: You will have access to AIB’s online banking and you can withdraw cash and make and receive payments within the European Union with this account. Maintenance fees and transaction fees are waived for the first year. You do not have to be a resident of Ireland, but you must provide two documents for proof of address.
  • Student Plus Account: Irish students going abroad, students coming from abroad, and students completing post-graduate studies are eligible to apply for this account. There are no quarterly maintenance fees or transaction fees for ATM withdrawals, contactless payments with the debit card, or standing orders. Students may even apply for overdraft (interest-free under a certain amount). You must live and Ireland and have an EEA passport to open an account.  

Permanent TSB

As Ulster Bank slowly begins to close its operations throughout the Republic of Ireland, space is opening for competition. It may also be worth looking into Permanent TSB. 

  • Personal Account: You can apply for an account online, and you’ll get a contactless visa debit card, access to online banking, and overdraft options. Permanent TSB charges a flat fee of €6 per month to maintain your account — and does not charge you for individual transactions and payments. You do not have to be a resident of the Republic of Ireland. You can show an ID and proof of residence at your local branch to open an account, but if you apply for an account online, you will have to submit two forms of proof.
  • Basic Payment Account: This account has the same features as the current account except that it does not offer access to overdraft. However, it is free of the monthly maintenance fee and can be opened by any resident of the European Union. You must physically go to a local branch to open your account.
  • Student Account: Irish students going abroad, students coming from abroad, and students completing post-graduate studies are eligible to apply for this account. There are no quarterly maintenance fees or transaction fees for ATM withdrawals, contactless payments with the debit card, or standing orders. You can apply to open an account online, but you must live in Ireland and have an EEA passport to open an account.
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Recommendation

High-street Irish banks are well-suited for the following types of customers:

  • New arrivals who already have proof of residence or plan to get one soon;
  • Those looking for fully-fledged financial services (e.g. overdraft, investments, credit card, etc.) and don't mind paying more in fees for them.

rupixen.com on Unsplash Banking online with card

Option 2 — Opening a Bank Account with a Digital Bank

Digital banks have been on the rise across much of Europe, offering lower fees and a more convenient user experience than their high-street competitors. Some digital banks are fintechs without a full banking license, while others are fully-fledged banks offering all or most of the usual banking services. The main difference is that they don't operate out of branches..

Let's take a look at some of the major offerings in this category that are available in Ireland:

N26

One of Europe’s best-known mobile-only banks, N26 is a widely-used and much-loved challenger bank with 7 million customers not only in Ireland but across the Eurozone, the US, and Brazil. Moreover, N26 is also partnered with transfer service Wise, allowing in-app international money transfers at some of the best exchange rates on the market.

N26 requires an EU proof of residence to open an account and offers customers the following three types of accounts in Ireland:

  • N26 Standard: A checking account available online and in the N26 app that allows mobile payments and includes a see-through debit card for a €10.00 delivery fee. The account costs €0.00 per month.
  • N26 Smart: The upgraded checking account allows one extra debit card, spending statistics, and phone support. The account costs €4.90 per month.
  • N26 Metal: A premium tier account option that includes travel and lifestyle insurances, bespoke rewards, and unlimited free ATM withdrawals. The account costs €16.90 per month.

Bunq

Amsterdam-based bunq is a rapidly expanding European challenger bank that has become a popular alternative to high-street and traditional Irish banks. The bank is well-known for its slick user interface and flexible features geared toward young people, travelers, and others frequently on the move.

Like N26, all of bunq's bank accounts are integrated with Wise, making international money transfers very cheap. The bank offers the following three current account options to customers across the EU:

  • Easy Bank: A low-cost current account with a Dutch, French, or German IBAN that comes with a debit Mastercard and money transfer capabilities. The account costs €2.99 per month.
  • Easy Money: An account with added features and functionalities, including spending statistics, four free ATM withdrawals per month, budgeting features, unique deals, a metal debit card, and bookkeeping software. The account costs €8.99 per month.
  • Easy Green: A premium tier, Easy Green's unique feature allows users to track the progress of the reforestation initiative already linked to other tiers (i.e. a tree planted for every €100.00 spent). Costing €17.99 per month, we've found in our bunq review that this initiative is not worth it for most users.

Fire

Fire is a digital bank headquartered in Dublin (and registered as a fully-fledged bank in Ireland and the UK) that offers its services exclusively to businesses. Recommended for businesses that receive and send payments in both Euro and Sterling, the Fire business account allows you to open as many Euro (€) and Sterling (£) accounts and order as many debit cards as you need for your business.

You will be charged to your Sterling account when you transact in Sterling and you will be charged to your Euro account when you transact in Euro, which avoids unnecessary bank fees. If you need to transfer money between your Sterling and Euro accounts, you will be charged a flat fee and an exchange rate fee but the funds will be available immediately. They offer only one account type:

  • Fire Business Account: Free to set up with no monthly fees, this account allows you to operate in both the Euro and Sterling, automate payments to your employees and business partners, and directly receive contactless payments from your customers (via QR-code, for example). Fees include €0.49 per transfer in or out, €0.40 on debit card transactions, a 1.25% foreign exchange fee, and £0.49 per direct debit.
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Recommendation

Due to their flexibility and lower costs, direct banks are best for the following customers:

  • Those who only require the standard range of banking services (e.g. current account, card, etc.);
  • Those who are looking to save money;

For those without proof of residence in Ireland, we recommend N26 or bunq, which don't require it to apply.

Wise Wise multi currency account platforms online

Option 3 — Open a Wise Multi-Currency Account

Another option for opening a bank account in Ireland as a non-resident is Wise's Multi-Currency Account. Alongside its debit Mastercard and your unique bank details, Wise allows users to pay and be paid like a local in Ireland and across the Eurozone.

Fortunately, after opening your account online, you'll only be required to verify your identity through their interface and you won't need to show proof of residence in Ireland to signup and access to service. (You will need to show proof of residence in the EU/EEA, US, Singapore, Japan, Australia, or New Zealand to sign up). 

Here's what Wise has to say about opening an account without proof of residence in the UK, although the same applies in Ireland: 

"You can then choose to either supply proof of address from a standard list of documents, or to send in a selfie, in which you’re holding your proof of ID. This can be a great alternative if you’re still waiting to move to the UK or haven’t yet got bills and other paperwork registered in your name."

Product Features

Once you're signed up and your card has arrived (which takes up to 2 weeks in Europe), you'll be able to take advantage of the following unique features with the Wise Multi-Currency Account:

  • Local bank details in the US, Eurozone, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Canada, Hungary, and Turkey;
  • Hold, exchange, and top-up up to 56 currencies;
  • A multi-currency Mastercard debit card that's handy for paying in foreign currencies without the hidden fees;
  • Access to Wise's powerful international money transfer service right from your account balance.

Transferring to Euros in Ireland

To get a sense of just how useful Wise can be for expats, let's say that you've just moved from the UK to Ireland and you'd like to spend in Euros before you've registered as a resident. With the Wise Multi-Currency Account, you'll be able to:

  • Send British pounds from your bank account to your Wise Euro account;
  • Convert to Euros at a low fee (e.g. if you convert £1,000.00 to Euros, the total fee* will be around 0.35% or £3.49);
  • Pay with your Wise debit card, make or receive SEPA (and SWIFT) payments, and set up direct debits.
  • You'll also have a dedicated set of Belgian bank details to share with an employer. Belgian IBANs are fully eligible in Ireland and across the Eurozone, and rejecting the payout or receipt of funds based on the origin of an IBAN is illegal. Note that this account does not offer an overdraft, and you won’t earn interest on any in-credit balances.

* Conversion made on 08/22/2021

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Recommendation

Speedy and versatile, we recommend Wise's Multi-Currency Account for the following types of users:

  • New arrivals in Ireland looking to spend and withdraw cash without a local bank card;
  • Those looking to make low-cost money transfers to the Euro from foreign currencies abroad;
  • Those looking for a dedicated European IBAN without having to show proof of residence.

Gregory DALLEAU on Unsplash Walking on Anne Street in Dublin, Ireland

Option 4 — Opening a Basic Bank Account in Ireland

The final option for opening a bank account in Ireland as a foreigner is to open a basic bank account, which offers basic banking services for free or at a low cost and is available so long as the applicant is an EU resident. This means that both EU nationals and holders of EU visas (including those with refugee status) are eligible to open one.

In Ireland, they will require you to open an account in person at a local branch with one proof of identity and one proof of address. You must also not have another current account with a bank in Ireland. Allied Irish Banks will require two sets of documents if you are not yet a resident of Ireland.

The basic bank accounts offered by Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Banks, and Permanent TSB are free of maintenance fees for the first 12 months. Basic payment accounts are offered by all major Irish banks and typically include the following day-to-day financial services:

  • Deposit processing: Top-up money into your bank account.
  • Withdrawals: Withdraw cash at ATMs.
  • Direct debits: Set up recurring payments where funds are automatically dedicated from your bank account.
  • Payment card: Use a bank card to make cashless payments and withdraw money.

Following EU law, basic payment accounts are also insured of up to €100,000.00 in deposits for individual accounts and €200,000.00 in deposits for joint accounts, making them a very secure option. Banks in the EU cannot refuse EU residents from opening an account in another country solely based on not living there.

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Recommendation

An accessible option, we recommend opening a basic payment account in Ireland to the following types of customers:

  • EU residents working (or planning to work soon) in Ireland;
  • Customers who do not plan to take out loans, such as an overdraft.

How to Send Money to Ireland

Once you've opened a bank account in Ireland, you'll need to consider how to move your funds across, a process that can be especially costly if you're depositing money from a currency other than Euros. To deposit money into your new Irish Euro account from your home currency before you move, you'll need to go to your online banking and choose between one of two options:

  • Sending a wire transfer through your bank directly;
  • Sending a bank transfer via a money transfer specialist.

In general, we don't recommend using your bank to transfer money internationally, as the fees can be exorbitant and the waiting times can be lengthy. This is mainly because banks wire funds over the SWIFT network, which adds many timely and expensive steps to the money transfer process.

Use an Online Money Transfer Service

Whether the amount you'd like to send to Ireland is small or in the order of several thousand Euros, then we recommend you use a money transfer specialist service (Wise is one among many.) To compare which services are cheapest for your transfer amount and home country to Ireland, run a search on Monito's real-time comparison engine below.

Use a Foreign Exchange Broker

If you're moving large amounts from your home currency to your Irish account, (i.e. anything upwards of €30,000 or equivalent), then services such as Wise may not be your cheapest bet. Instead, we recommend exploring your options among the foreign exchange brokers that support transfers from your country to Ireland. These services specialise in negotiating favourable exchange rates on your behalf and are the most cost-effective option for transferring large sums of money (such as life savings or liquid investments) across borders.

By analysing tens of thousands of searches on Monito's comparison engine over the course of 2021, we found that, on average, Wise, Xendpay, and CurrencyFair (for transfers from the United Kingdom) tend to offer the cheapest transfers to Ireland for small- and medium-sized transfer amounts. For large transfers (defined here as €43,000 or above), the forex brokers OFX and Currencies Direct tend to be the most cost-effective services.

To find out which service will offer you the best deal in real-time, run a search on our comparison engine below:

Send Money Cheaply to Ireland

Frequently Asked Questions About Banking in Ireland

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References Used in This Guide

2. Irish Tax and Customs. Stamp Duty. 14 June 2021.

3. Allied Irish Banks. A Guide to Fees and Charges for Personal Accounts. Accessed 6 November 2021.

4. Citizens Information. Basic Bank Accounts. 8 October 2021.

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