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How To Open a Bank Account in Greece (Even as a Non-resident)

Byron Mühlberg, writer at Monito.com
May 27, 2022
Affiliate disclosure

Greece is a small but lively country that draws many travellers, expats, and migrants worldwide every year. And although expats frequently report that learning Greek is an essential step in becoming fully at home in the country, many banking services are nonetheless available in English and widely accessible, both on and offline.

In this short guide, we go through the main options for opening a bank account in Greece (regardless of whether or not you're a resident) and suggest a few low-cost online alternatives for day-to-day spending.

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In short, here's our recommendation for opening a bank account in Greece:

  1. Without proof of residence: Wise Account, which comes with EU bank details and a Visa debit card to spend in 50+ currencies, including Euros.
  2. With proof of residence: National Bank of Greece, which offers a basic deposit account, internet banking, and a debit and credit card, with banking service available in English.

Overview of Banking in Greece

Part of the Eurozone, Greece's financial system rests on the Euro as its currency, and the Bank of Greece oversees its monetary policy. Despite a shaky course in 2009 and 2010 following the Greek government-debt crisis, today's Greek financial sector is increasingly stable and showing signs of a full recovery, with Moody giving the country a 'positive' rating in 2021.

Today, the country's banking sector is dominated by four major banks — National Bank of Greece, Eurobank Ergasias, Alpha Bank, and Piraeus Bank. Aside from these, around 33 other banks operate in the country as of 2022. Although some multinational banks operate in Greece (particularly in Athens), these banks are almost all aimed at wealth management and investment, which means they're not too relevant for the average expat.

Types of Greek Bank Accounts

The most common types of bank accounts you'll find in Greece include:

  • Deposit account: The equivalent of current and checking accounts in the English-speaking world, these accounts are used to process cashless payments and are geared toward everyday use.
  • Basic account: A basic checking account found in all EU countries charging no monthly fees but is only designed for minimal, core banking needs.
  • Savings account: An account that allows funds to be deposited while restricting withdrawals and (historically) accruing interest.

Documents Needed To Open a Greek Bank Account

In general, you will be required to present the following to open a bank account in Greece as a non-resident:

  • Greek tax number: A nine-digit tax registration number called an AFM.
  • Proof of identity: A valid passport, driver's license, or national ID card.
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What Is an AFM?

An AFM (arithmo forologikou mitrou) is a nine-digit number that's needed to pay taxes, obtain employment, open a bank account, and do many other crucial activities in Greece. It's only available if you have permanent residence in Greece or own a property there.

Path 1 — Deposit Account (Local Bank)

Jean Housen (CC BY 3.0, cropped)

The big banks in Greece are accessible, both online and offline, and offer a variety of modern banking services to meet your needs as an expat.

All of Greece's big banks offer service in English and charge low fees in general. For example, a standard deposit account generally comes with €0 in monthly fees and no minimum deposit requirement. However, Greek banks tend to make their money on deposit accounts in other ways, for example by charging for bank statements, direct debits, bank transfers, cash withdrawals, chequebooks, and international wire transfers. (What's more, when it comes to international wires, you'll always be charged an exchange rate margin whenever you transfer to another currency, and that's why we recommend comparing services on Monito to find the cheapest money transfer provider and save money instead.)

Below are some of the most popular everyday banking options at three of Greece's main banks. You might notice the offerings are almost identical, which is why we don't think it makes a big difference which bank you choose if you're simply looking for a deposit account for everyday transactions.

Piraeus Bank

Account: Personal Banking Account

Account type: Deposit account

Card(s): Visa debit and Mastercard credit.

Features: Semiannual interest rate, chequebook, overdraft.

Minimum balance requirement: €0

Greek residence required: Yes

Alpha Bank

Account: Alpha Premier

Account type: Deposit account

Card(s): Visa/Mastercard debit and credit.

Features: Semiannual interest rate, chequebook (upon request), overdraft.

Minimum balance requirement: €0

Greek residence required: Yes

National Bank of Greece

Account: Current account

Account type: Deposit account

Card(s): Visa debit and Mastercard credit.

Features: Semiannual interest rate, chequebook (upon request), overdraft, free standing orders.

Minimum balance requirement: €0

Greek residence required: Yes

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Pros of Greek Banks

  • Wide range of financial services (e.g. overdraft, investments, credit card, etc.)
  • Mostly available in English.

Cons of Greek Banks

  • Proof of residence is a requirement.
  • Costly fees on some services.

Path 2 — Deposit Account (Online Bank)

Damian Zaleski on Unsplash

Digital or online banks 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, with all banking services being handled online instead. These banks generally offer a more limited range of services than the traditional banks discussed above, but at a fraction of the price and over a user-friendly web or mobile app interface.

See Monito's rankings for the best online banks in Europe here.

Let's take a look at some of the major digital bank offerings available for opening a bank account in Greece for residents and non-residents alike:

Revolut Bank

The world's best-known online bank is available in Greece, where it became a fully-licensed Greek bank as of 2022. Opening a Revolut Bank current account doesn't require proof of residence in Greece, but you should be able to provide proof of residence in another EU/EEA country.

Account name: Standard

Account type: Current account (Lithuanian bank details).

Total cost: €0 per month.

Noteworthy features: UK bank account details, multi-currency balances.

Proof of address: Greece (or the EU, UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland).

More info: See our full Revolut review.

N26

Arguably the best-known mobile bank, N26 is a widely-used and much-loved German online bank with around seven million customers across the EU. It's not available for residents of Greece (unless they have another residence in the EU) but it can be used fee-free to handle just about any day-to-day transactions in the country.

Account name: N26 Standard

Account type: Current account (German bank details).

Total cost: €0 per month.

Noteworthy features: Instant social payments, overdraft facilities, cash deposit (in Germany, Austria and Italy).

Availability: Most of the EU (see the full list here), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland

More info: See our full N26 review.

Other Online Accounts

In addition to the two online banks above, other fintech or e-money platforms operate in Greece which offer similar low-cost current accounts. Take a look at our reviews of their savvy platforms below:

  • Monese: Good for multi-currency balances in EUR, GBP, and RON.
  • Nuri: Good for crypto trading.
  • Vivid Money: Good for cashback and rewards.
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Pros of Online Banks

  • Low costs for most services.
  • Seamless interface on web and mobile.

Cons of Online Banks

  • Only provides core banking services (e.g. current account, card, etc.).
  • No bank branches.

Path 3 — Wise Multi-Currency Account

Wise isn't a bank in Greece but a money transfer operator that's well-known for offering some of the cheapest international transfers globally. However, in addition to money transfers, Wise also offer a Multi-Currency Account, a low-cost foreign currency spending account and a card.

We think this account is the best way to open an EU bank account from abroad, whether you want to hold money in Euros, spend money on holidays abroad, shop online, or receive earnings in Greece.

Fortunately, after opening your account online, you'll only be required to verify your identity through their interface. You won't need to show proof of residence in Greece to sign up and obtain the Visa debit card (although 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 Greece:

"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

A significant benefit of the Wise account is that it comes with legitimate banking details in multiple countries and currencies, including Euros. Your Wise Pound account will be held by Barclays Bank and come with the following information unique to you:

  1. A Belgian IBAN (starting with "BE").
  2. A SWIFT/BIC code

This means you'll be able to spend and be paid just like a local in Greece and convert your Euro balance into your home currency without being charged exorbitant bank fees. Here's an overview of the other features you'll be able to take advantage of with a Wise Multi-Currency Account once it's set up:

  • Local bank details not just in the EU but also in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Canada, and Hungary.
  • Hold, exchange, and top-up up to 56 currencies.
  • A multi-currency Visa debit card that's handy for paying in foreign currencies without hidden fees.
  • You can access Wise's powerful international money transfer service right from your account balance.

How To Open a Euro Account With Wise

  • Step 01

    Go to Wise

    Head on over to Wise's website and select 'Get an account' to start the process. (The signup only takes a few minutes.)

  • Step 02

    Enter Your Details

    Enter your full name, address, mobile number, and submit a government-issued ID document.

  • Step 03

    Wait for Verification

    Once you've submitted your details, you'll need to wait for your account to be verified. This is usually completed within 24 hours.

  • Final step

    Start Using Wise (And Wait for Your Debit Card)

    Once your account is verified, you'll be able to use the online account and virtual Visa card immediately. The physical debit card will take a few days or weeks to arrive, depending on where you live in the world.

    Open your account ❯

Transferring to Euros in Greece

To get a sense of how helpful Wise can be for expats and foreign residents in Greece, let's say that you've just moved from London to Athens and you need an active online account to receive and spend Euros. With a Wise Account, you'll be able to:

  1. Send Pounds from your regular account to your Wise GBP account;
  2. Convert all or part of your GBP balance into Euros at a low fee (0.41% or £3.48 to add €1,000*);
  3. Pay with your Wise debit card, make or receive SEPA (and SWIFT) payments, and set up direct debits.

You'll also have Belgian bank details to share with an employer in Greece (all EU IBANs are valid in Greece, and it's illegal for anybody to refuse payment into a non-national IBAN account in the EU). Worth noting also is that this account does not offer an overdraft, and you also won’t earn interest on any in-credit balances.

* Conversion made on 27/5/2022

How To Send Money to a Greek Bank Account

If you're moving in from abroad, you'll need to consider how to transfer your funds into your new Greek bank account. (This process can be exceptionally costly if you're depositing money from a currency other than Euros.) To deposit money into your new 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.

We recommend against 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.

Instead, suppose the amount you'd like to send to Greece is several hundred or thousand Euros or equivalent. In that case, we recommend you use a money transfer specialist service (Wise is generally the cheapest to Greece from countries such as the UK, US, and Germany.) To compare which services are most affordable for your transfer amount and home country to Greece, run a search on Monito's real-time comparison engine below.

Similarly, if you're moving large amounts of money from your home currency to your new bank account in Greece (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 Greece. These services specialise in negotiating favourable exchange rates on your behalf. They are the most cost-effective option for transferring large sums of money (e.g. life savings or liquid investments).

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

Send Cheaply to Greece

Frequently Asked Questions About Opening a Bank Account in Greece

Non-Resident Bank Accounts in Greece vs Other Countries

Many countries allow non-residents to open a bank account within their legal jurisdictions, but exactly what kind of requirements non-residents face can differ drastically from country to country and even bank to bank. See the list below to get a better idea of this:

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