While it may not be the first Scandinavian destination you think of when you’re considering where to live next, Finland has a lot of appeal that more and more expats are being drawn to. The differences between Finns and their nearest neighbors are pronounced - in fact, Finland is often not considered Scandinavian at all, but Arctic. As such, the lifestyle and demeanor is different; quieter, more peaceful, and is a very wholesome way of living.
If you have decided to set up your life in Finland, you’ve probably considered many of the major hurdles; how to get visas, where to work, where to live, etc. But have you considered how and where to bank?
If you’re ready to get started, but not sure where to start, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Finland.
Yes, however the process might be a little slower than you’d expect. While you can open a bank account as soon as you arrive, the account will be a simple or limited one, meaning you won’t have any online access and you’ll be dealing with a lot of bureaucratic banking procedures in person, at the expense of your time.
After you’ve been living in the country (legally) for three months, those restrictions will be lifted and you’ll be able to have a fully functional bank account, but it’s important to keep in mind the time you’ll spend banking at the beginning.
Opening a bank account in Finland is super fast and easy, assuming you’re in the country in person. At the moment foreigners may not open Finnish bank accounts online.
If you’re in Finland and ready to get started, all you need to do is show up at the bank with your documents in hand. Almost all personnel at the bank will speak English, so no need to bring a translator. You can make an appointment, though it’s not necessary unless your primary language isn't English or Finnish; in this case, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to ensure a person who can help you in your native language is available when you go in.
While the following list of identification documents will work in most banks (and it’s advised to bring as many of them as possible), it’s also a good idea to call your prospective bank in advance to make sure you bring everything you need the first time. Otherwise, some baseline documents include:
- Other government-issued photo ID
- Proof of your address (like a bill)
- Personal ID number, if you have one
- Residence permit or proof of visa
As of 2014, Finnish banks may not discriminate based on the nationality of the applicant. This means no matter where your documents are issued, you’re unlikely to have a problem opening your account.
If you arrive prepared, you’ll be walking out with an active bank account in about an hour.
Realistically, you’ll need to visit a branch in person in order to open a bank account. At the moment it’s more or less impossible to open a bank account online, especially for foreigners.
As with banking anywhere, having an account will incur some regular fees. These vary bank to bank, but the following will give you an overview of charges.
If you’re using an ATM owned by the bank you have an account with, you’ll very rarely encounter any fees. That being said, some banks may charge a small fee if you go over a certain number of withdrawals per month.
If you’re using a different bank, you’ll likely be charged, though some Nordic banks will reimburse you for your ATM fees. This changes bank to bank, and if it’s an important feature for you you’ll want to do some research before deciding where to open your account.
If you’re using a card from your home country, you’ll be charged foreign ATM fees and will be subject to the bank’s exchange rate. These rates are typically slightly inflated.
Current or checking accounts typically only incur small maintenance fees, roughly €2 per month.
Most banks charge fairly exorbitant amounts to transfer money internationally, and also inflate the exchange rate so they profit off of your transfer.
If you’re sending or receiving money internationally often, you should always make sure you’re getting the mid-market rate and that you know what percentage of the transaction your bank is charging you in fees.
It may also be beneficial to use TransferWise instead. TransferWise breaks down big international payments into a series of local ones, so the fees are significantly reduced for the end user. More importantly, TransferWise always guarantees the mid-market exchange rate.
Finnish residents enjoy a range of local, nordic and international banks to choose from. It’s always a good idea to research each bank and the features they offer to choose the best one for you, but some of the most popular include:
Nordea Bank is an extensive institution, with hundreds of branches and ATMs across Finland and Scandinavia as a whole. With you current account, you can:
- Use internet banking services
- Open a credit card
- Use a debit card
- Use ATMs
- Earn interest
Another large banking network is OP Financial Group. The bank offers a breadth of locations and ATMS, as well as:
- Current accounts
- Savings accounts
- Foreign currency accounts
- Internet banking
- Easy account transfers
With 50 branches and countless ATMs spread across Finland, Danske bank is one of the largest Finnish - and Nordic - banks. Some benefits current account holders enjoy include:
- Debit and credit cards
- Mobile services
- Telephone services
Aktia Savings Bank has 42 branches ready to help you set up and maintain an account. Account holders at Aktia get:
- Checking and savings account
- Debit cards
- Credit cards
- Online banking
- Select discounts
If you want a little more flexibility in your banking, you can also use a TransferWise borderless account, a multi-currency account that supports local bank details and allows you to pay and be paid seamlessly, without worrying about transfer fees. Come fall 2017, borderless account holders will also have debit cards.
Once you’ve picked your bank, opening an account is easy. Good luck getting started!