How to open a bank account in Latvia

TransferWise content team
24.09.18
6 minute read

Breathtaking natural surroundings, cities full of cultural attractions, inspired gastronomy, and warm people, many expats are moving to Latvia. With one of the lowest costs of living in the European Union, more and more people are moving to this Baltic European gem.

Like many other families, retirees, and young professionals moving to Latvia to bask in its wondrous combination of tech friendliness and relaxed living, how to manage your finances is naturally a consideration. While many businesses take credit and debit cards, small businesses and local merchants sometimes take only cash. Since foreign bank fees can add up, the smartest and simplest option is to open a Latvian bank account. But the question remains, how do you do it?

This short informational guide will take you through all the details you need to know about opening a bank account in Latvia.

Can I open a bank account as a non-resident of Latvia?

Yes. You will need to hold a valid passport or a National ID card. At most banks, residents of countries with which Latvia upholds a visa regimen must present a travel document with an entry stamp upon opening their account in person.¹

What's the process? How long does it usually take?

To open an account, you can either make an appointment (recommended for non-native speakers to ensure an english speaking clerk is on hand or otherwise to have a translator present) or walk into the bank of your choosing. It is generally better to choose a larger bank office for that, as smaller ones may not always have an english speaker available. Be sure to have all necessary documentation with you when you go to open your account.

Once at the bank, show your documents to the banker and fill out an application form. The banker should be able to open your account within a matter of minutes or hours, but be prepared for it to take a few days or even weeks in some cases,² especially if you’ll need to prove your income/deposit source which some banks will require you to do.

What documents are necessary for a foreigner to open a bank account?

The documentation required for opening an account will vary from bank to bank, so it's best to call in advance to ensure you bring all the needed documentation to your appointment. While the bank may not ask for all of the documents listed below, here are the ones banks will most often ask you to bring along:

  • Passport
  • Proof of residence/your foreign resident card/resident permit
  • Proof of address
  • Work Agreement/contract³

While you can open most accounts online, it's recommended to come into the bank location in person to make the process easier. You'll also most likely need access to a scanner to scan the documents required to open the account. In Nearly all situations, you’ll need to visit the branch to pick up your card and sign a few last documents.

What banking fees are involved?

It’s common for Latvian banks to charge an account opening fee for non-residents in the range of 100 to 250 euros.

In most countries, opening a bank account includes fees. It's advisable to collect and compare information from several banks to see which offer the most competitive rates and desirable services. You can usually find this information online or from a clerk in the bank. Typical fees include the following:

ATM fees

Most ATMs in Latvia won't charge a fee for taking out money if you hold an account in the bank who owns the ATM. Taking out cash from an ATM that belongs to a different bank, however, can be costly, with flat withdrawal fees ranging from 2 to 5 euros per transactions, and some banks will charge a percentage of the amount withdrawn as well.

If you’re using a debit card from a non-Latvian bank at a Latvian ATM, it’s likely you’ll be charged a foreign ATM fee as well as a percentage of the amount withdrawn. This is the flat fee as set by the ATM, plus a percentage of your transaction that goes directly back to your bank at home. You may also be given a less than competitive exchange rate at ATMs than you would at a local bank.

Standard bank fees

To stay competitive, banks try to eliminate or lower regular fees. However, some banks do have maintenance and convenience charges that can add up to cost a pretty penny such as:

  • Express Card Issuance Fees
  • Account statement by mail
  • Monthly account maintenance fees
  • Self-defined pin fee
  • Check cashing fee
  • An account balance maintenance fee, which is applied if your account balance falls below the bank’s set minimum
  • Wire transfer and deposit fees

Fees for international transfers

Banks typically charge for international transfers in a similar way to foreign ATM fees - a flat fee that can sometimes be as high as 50 EUR, plus a percentage of your total transfer. You should also be observant of your exchange rate, so it's always a good idea to keep an eye on the mid-market rate.

You can also use TransferWise to transfer money between your account at home and your account in Latvia, or to pay employees or be paid. TransferWise guarantees the mid-market rate and decreases foreign transfer fees by taking your international transaction and breaking it into a series of local ones.

Which bank should I choose?

There are many banks to choose from in Latvia, all which offer different services. Most of the largest banks in Latvia are predominantly foreign banks, with Citadele being the exception.

  • Swedbank
  • Rietumu
  • Citadele
  • Luminor

Swedbank

Swedbank is the largest bank in Latvia serving over one million people and over 71,000 businesses. It boasts the widest branch and ATM network in Latvia with 400 ATMs and 50 branches. Please note: For those expats with documents issued outside of EEA, there is a 200 EUR “Inspection of Documents” fee⁴.
Some of the services they offer are as follows:

  • Current and savings accounts
  • Business accounts
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Online Banking
  • Comprehensive online banking
  • Investment, insurance, and safety box services

Rietumu

One of the first private banks in Latvia, Rietumu is one of the largest in the Baltic States. They specialize in providing services for affluent individuals and corporations. They also provide services in Latvian, English, Russian, and French.
Some of the services they offer are as follows:

  • Current and savings accounts
  • Same-day payments
  • Remote banking
  • Investment services
  • Business accounts

Citadele

Latvia’s home bank is the result of an EC restructuring plan and opened its doors in August of 2010 and was privatized in 2015⁵. A still relatively young bank, it offers a vast array of services which include:

  • Current and savings accounts
  • Contactless payment cards
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Payment card with E-Ticket options
  • A variety of loans
  • Term Deposits
  • Investment and Insurance services
  • Business accounts
  • Business financing
  • Private banking

Luminor

Part of the biggest Norwegian financial services group, DNB serves clients and businesses in 18 countries⁶. It has an extensive ATM network and many branches in Latvia. They offer a range of services including:

  • Bank packages
  • Savings accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Business accounts
  • Business financing
  • Loans
  • Life Insurance
  • Investment Services

TransferWise

If you are paid or pay others internationally, consider using TransferWise. It’s the smartest option for reducing fees and ensuring you get the best exchange rate. TransferWise works by breaking international payments into a series of local ones to lower your costs, and always uses the mid-market rate.

While there are some fees and obstacles to opening a bank account in Latvia, especially the process of getting all your documentation in place. Once it's done, you can enjoy a more simplified and less costly financial experience. This will give you more time and money to enjoy the rich culture, delicious cuisine, and natural landscape all the more!


Sources:
1.http://www.rietumu.com/accounts-open
2.http://www.offshore-specialists.com/product/latvia-bank-account-3/
3.https://www.swedbank.lv/private/d2d/accounts/openNewAccount#
4.https://www.seb.lv/sites/default/files/web/files/webstorage/product_documents/Cenradis/vpc_priv_ang.pdf
5 https://www.baltictimes.com/citadele_bank_privatisation_milestone_in_latvia_s_recovery__ebrd_vice-president/
6.https://www.luminor.ee/en/governance


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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