Often forgotten nestled in between Turkey, Russia and Iran, Georgia is usually viewed as a post-soviet country struggling to regain its footing. That categorization, however, is far from the truth.
In reality, Georgia is a shining example of strength and resilience, as evidenced by its burgeoning arts and culture scene, plethora of new dining destinations and the arrival of tourists to visit the country’s lush nature and iconic monuments.
As Georgia’s beauty becomes less of a well-kept secret, expats are quickly catching on and choosing the Eurasian country as the place to start businesses, find work and raise their families. If you’re among those expats who have been drawn in by the allure of skiing, hikes, caving, exploring landmarks and enjoying urban life in Tbilisi, one of the first things you’ll need to do is open a bank account.
Luckily, the process is pretty straight forward and you’ll have plenty of options for where and how to open your account. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Georgia.
Yes, opening a bank account in Georgia is a simple process regardless of where you’re a resident. It’s worth noting, however, that foreigners wishing to open a bank account will occasionally need more proof of identity than native Georgian residents.
The process of opening an account takes about 30 minutes; all you’ll need to do is visit a bank, show your documents, fill out a form or two and you’re all set. If your Georgian isn’t up to snuff, however, you may want to bring a translator. While English is fairly commonly spoken in the country, it’s not a good idea to expect it; you can also make an appointment at the bank of your choice and ask for an English-speaking banker.
Foreigners hoping to open a bank account in Georgia are likely to need the following documents, though some banks may open your account with just your passport:
- Passport and copies
- Application form
- Sample of signature
- Proof of address
None of these documents are required to be Georgian, including your address.
While it’s not possible for an individual to open a bank account from abroad (even online), you can still do so by retaining a local lawyer in Georgia and granting them power of attorney. This is a pretty common practice, so you won’t have any trouble finding a firm willing to work with you to get your account open.
No matter where you bank, you’re going to run into fees for everything from account maintenance to withdrawals and transfers. The most common fee types are discussed below, but it’s always a good idea to research your bank’s individual price list.
While withdrawals from your own bank’s ATMs typically won’t come with any fees (at least up to a certain number, usually 10), withdrawals from other banks will cost you. Standard ATM fees for transactions from a different bank can run from GEL 5-16.
Foreign ATM fees, on the other hand, can be exorbitant. You may have a debit card from your home country that does not incur fees, however these are less common, especially in the US. More often you’ll pay a straight fee of $1-$5, plus 1-4% of the transaction.
While checking accounts usually come with a pretty nominal fee structure, you should expect to see some kind of account maintenance charge, usually about 5 GEL per month.
Most banks charge high fees for international transfers, and tend to inflate the exchange rate without disclosing it. If you’re making international transfers often, it’s a good idea to use Transferwise to ensure you’re always getting the mid-market rate, and to cut back on charges.
There are a multitude of banks to choose from in Georgia, many of which are local. That being said, it’s possible to select a larger international institution for your personal banking. The most popular banks in Georgia include:
With roughly 250 locations across the Republic of Georgia, the Bank of Georgia is one of the biggest and most trusted banks in the country. Account holders at the Bank of Georgia have access to:
- The choice between a standard or universal account (four currencies: GEL, USD, EUR, GBP)
- Debit card
- Free account opening
- Cash deposits and withdrawals
- Incoming and outgoing transfers
- Internet banking
- Mobile banking
- Currency conversion
TBC is a another massive Georgian bank, with more than 455 branches and ATMs available across the country. Current account holders enjoy:
- A monthly fee of just GEL .90
- Multi-currency account capability
- Easy access to funds
- Online banking
- Unlimited withdrawals and transfers
With more than 100 branches and ATMs to help you access and manage your money, Liberty is another popular bank in Georgia. People with current accounts have:
- The ability to bank in multiple currencies
- Liberty debit card
- eMoney VISA Virtual card
- eMoney wallet
- SMS bank
- Mobile banking
The fourth largest bank in Georgia, Basis Bank, is still a lot smaller than its giant counterparts, with 21 branches scattered around the country. For those who like to keep their banking personal, Basis’s small size means a lot of individualized service and attention. Customers with checking accounts at Basis can access:
- Useful Card (Debit card)
- Online banking
- Mobile banking
- No service fees for the first year
If you’re planning to fund your bank account in Georgia from your bank account abroad, using Transferwise can help ensure that you’re not only cutting way down on transfer fees, but that you’re always getting the mid-market exchange rate.
All in all, banking in Georgia is pretty simple. Having financial freedom means enjoying all the country has to offer - from unique Georgian cuisine to breathtaking countryside excursions. Good luck opening your bank account in Georgia!