Italy is a beautiful country with a range unique regions, all of which have something different to offer visitors and expats. Whether you’re moving to Italy for wine, Mediterranean coastline, the bustling fashion industry, to enjoy delicious pasta or anything in between, it won’t be hard to find a place that’s right for you.
That being said, the cost of living can be pretty high in urban centers, like Florence, Milan and Rome. Smaller towns, in Amalfi and Tuscany, for example, tend to come with a smaller price tag, and many consider those places to be the “real Italy” anyway. You may also enjoy the countryside simply for the room to breathe, as 69% of Italy’s population live in the cities. If you’re ready for incredible cuisine, nightlife and the dolce vita, you’re sure to love Italy no matter where you choose to live.
Paying for your life in Italy, however, comes with a few things to consider-- the most important of which is how to open a bank account. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to get started, including the process and where to bank.
Yes, you can open a non-resident account. Make sure to gather all the required documents in advance to make it a smoother process.
To get started, you’ll need to fill out a bank opening request form, which can be sent by mail or in person. Since Italian banking schedules can be quite restrictive, it’s a good idea to consider opening an account close to your home or workplace.
Be sure to compare rates for different banks, especially for international money transfers, which can be especially high. It’s also important to be aware that Italy’s banks are fairly expensive for consumers. In fact, it’s not uncommon for Italians living in rural areas to have no bank account at all, a phenomenon that’s almost never the case in other European countries.
To open an account, the most important thing to bring is a valid identity document. The more of the following you have, however, the less likely you’re to have to make a second trip:
- A valid identity card for each person opening an account (in case of joint account)
- Each account holder’s tax code
- Proof of address
- A certificate of residence (for some banks with internal regulations)
Unfortunately, it’s not really possible to open a bank account online in Italy, especially as a foreigner. If you can’t make the trip to get your banking set up, however, it’s still possible to make it happen. You’ll need to retain a lawyer and give them power of attorney. After that, they’ll be able to handle the process for you.
No matter where in the world you choose to bank, you’re going to be faced with fees. While each individual bank sets its own price scale for various services, the following can be used as a general guide for what you might be expected to pay:
It’s highly advised to withdraw cash from your own bank’s machines, otherwise you could run into a fee between €1 and €3, or even up to €6 in popular tourist neighborhoods.
While it’s tempting to just use your foreign debit and credit cards while you’re living in Italy, the fees that come with doing so can be incredibly high. If you do choose to go this route, it’s a good idea to use your debit card at ATMs and pay at individual merchants in cash, as typically you’ll get the best exchange rates directly from the bank. It’s possible that your card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, especially if it’s a credit card. You may even want to get a new, fee-less card before you move.
Be aware that your bank’s daily withdrawal limits could be lowered in a foreign country, and that you’ll still be charged foreign withdrawal fees when you’re using an ATM
- Interest is paid on check accounts quarterly, however it may be as low as 0.5%
- Each entry on your bank statement costs between €0.80 and €1.50, although most banks allow you 100 free transactions a year (this includes every withdrawal made with a debit card)
The fees for international money transfers can vary widely and can cost you quite a lot, as they typically charge very high fees. With bank fees that are unclear and highly variable, as well as an additional exchange rate markup that often isn’t pointed out to consumers, banking can get very expensive in Italy.
TransferWise provides a solution that makes sense and allows for a fair and real exchange rate that isn’t tweaked by banks just to benefit them. By breaking international payments into two local ones and guaranteeing the mid-market exchange rate, TransferWise can save you a lot of money if you make international transactions with any regularity.
Living in Italy comes with a ton of choice in banking, from smaller domestic banks to huge international ones. Some of the most popular banks in the country include:
BancoPosta is a division of the Italian post office that provides financial services.
- Current and savings account
- Prepaid bank cards
- Payment services
- Foreign Exchange Trading
- Investment Services
Italy is the largest European market after Germany for this bank. It has about 550 retail outlets and over 1,550 financial advisors, making it a leading bank nationwide for commercial and investment banking.
- Mobile & Online Banking
- Current Accounts
- Debit Cards
- Credit Cards
- Revolving Accounts
- Loans & Mortgages
- Pensions & Retirement Planning
- Insurance Investments
- Cash Management
BNL is one of the leading banking groups in Italy, with about 2.5 million retail customers and approximately 1,000 stores nationwide.
- Financial & Insurance Services
- Savings & Investment
- Penison Products
- Private Banking
- Consumer Credit & E-banking Services
Headquartered in Milan, this bank has branches throughout the country and provides telephone customer service. The branches usually open from 9:30 to 19:00 and Saturday mornings until 13:00.
- Current accounts
- Income Wallet: reloadable prepaid card
- Deposit accounts with interest in advance
- Business deposit accounts
- Securities accounts
- Individual Insurance: home, life & accident insurance
TransferWise currently supports a multi-currency borderless account (in EUR, USD & GBP), so you can beat bank fees and live like a true local. This option is great for freelancers and businesses, or anyone who pays or gets paid in various currencies with any regularity.
TransferWise will also add consumer debit card support by fall 2017, making this a super convenient option.
Italy has so much to offer: culture, art, great food and a good life. Once you’re armed with a bank account, you’ll be ready to start business and life in Italy.