Known for its rich oil reserves, frosty weather, family-orientated culture and fishing, Norway is also one of the most expensive countries in the world. Despite its high cost of living, it’s still regarded as one of the best countries for quality of life - it’s not surprising that so many expats choose to emigrate there.
It’s such a popular destination that immigrants and expats actually make up a whopping 16.8% of the country’s population. So if you’ve always dreamed of living near snow-capped mountains or cabins in the Norwegian fjords, you’re not the only one.
In order to get around easily in daily life, one of the first things you’ll need when moving to another country is a bank account. Opening a bank account in Norway isn’t difficult, but there’s a process that you need to be aware of.
Firstly, you’ll need a Norwegian National Identity Number. This is issued by the local tax assessment office to those entitled to stay or work in the country for more than six months.
Those planning to stay for less than six months will be given something called a D-Number instead, which can also be used to open a bank account. You should note that it can take up to two weeks for these to arrive.
In some cases, banks can order a D-Number on your behalf as part of their account opening process.
To open a bank account, in addition to your Norwegian National Identity Number or D-Number, you’ll also need:
- A valid passport
- A separate passport-sized photo
- In some cases, a letter of recommendation from your bank in your native country is also requested
All of these documents are pretty easy to obtain, so it’s best to acquire them all before you start looking for your ideal bank.
You can’t open a standard bank account from abroad. However, you may be allowed to open a savings account if you’re from a major country and willing to make a large deposit. For example, DNB Bank has a minimum deposit requirement of one million Norwegian kroner. But if you’re short on cash and looking to open a standard day-to-day bank account, you’ll definitely need a residential address in Norway first.
You can’t open a standard bank account as a non-resident of Norway, but in some cases you can open a savings account as per the info in the previous section.
Yes, you can open an account online, but you must obtain a Bank ID first. As well as using your Bank ID to open a bank account online, you can use it to sign legal documents, bid on a house and even pay bills.
You can obtain a Bank ID by taking your passport and D-Number/National Identity Number to any bank. Once you have a Bank ID, you’ll then be able to open a bank account online.
Once you’ve applied for and received your D-Number/National Identity Number, you can open an account instantly by visiting a branch or online with Bank ID.
If you don’t have a Bank ID yet, you’ll have to physically visit a branch to open your account as well as obtaining a Bank ID in the process. To physically open an account in a branch, you’ll need to make an appointment first.
Yes, there are several banks who can open an account for you quickly. Skandia Bank, Bank Norwegian and DinBANK offer an online-only experience if that’s what you’re in the market for. These banks are typically easier to deal with as you can also apply for your Bank ID online and are usually exempt from ATM fees unlike the normal Norwegian high-street banks who usually charge you for ATM withdrawals.
Deciding which bank is best for you depends on your needs and where exactly in Norway you’re moving to. Sparebanken Vest, for example, has branches and ATMs in only Western Norway.
Let’s take a look at the four big banks in Norway and the services that they offer their customers.
Most - if not all - banks in Norway deduct an annual VISA card fee. DNB has the lowest fee at 275 NOK. But they also charge a fee of 10 NOK for ATM cash withdrawals.
Alternatively, they offer a current account called SAGA that comes with a financial advisor and travel insurance, which is useful for expats that want to fly back home every now and then.
If Norwegian is still tough for you, DNB is also the only major Norwegian bank to offer an English language website. Plus, it’s relatively easy to open a bank account online if you already have a Bank ID.
Norway’s largest and second most popular bank, Nordea, has 240 branches and 233 ATMs across the country. They offer current, youth, child and saving accounts with the usual mobile banking options. However, their annual VISA card fee is a bit higher than DNB: 300 NOK. Like DNB, their youth and child accounts are also exempt from any fees, and accounts can be opened online with a Bank ID.
Even though they don’t offer an English-language website, all of their accounts can be compared side-by-side using built-in browser translation features like Google Translate in Chrome.
Sparebanken Vest has 35 branches across Western Norway, each with an ATM. They offer the normal assortment of current, student and business accounts. However, if you’re looking for a savings account, you’ll be out of luck. Their VISA Smart current account allows for online payments, easy cash withdrawals and use abroad, as with all other Norwegian banks.
Like with DNB, customers can open accounts online using Bank ID, and the annual VISA card fee for the current account is 275 NOK, though student accounts are exempt.
A credit card with free travel insurance and 0% interest fees up to 100,000 NOK is also available.
Danish bank Danske has been operating in Norway since the early 1900s. It has 36 branches throughout Norway and 73 ATMs. Three current accounts are available: the Basic Account with an annual VISA card fee of 300 NOK, the Gold Reward Account with travel insurance and a credit card, and the Platinum Reward Card with all of the above plus free airport lounge access. Gold and Platinum accounts are exempt from the VISA card fee, but incur a monthly fee of 50 and 75 NOK respectively.
With the exception of student and child accounts, all banks have an annual VISA card fee.
- DNB: 275 NOK (0 for Mastercard accounts)
- Nordea: 300 NOK
- Danske Bank: 300 NOK
- Sparebanken: 275 NOK (200 NOK for Visa Electron)
ATM fees also apply. If you withdraw money from a rival bank, you can be charged anything between 7 and 10 NOK, although students and children are exempt from these withdrawal fees. Sparebanken charges 3 NOK to withdraw from their own ATMs, and 10 NOK for rival ATMs. DNB charges 10 NOK regardless of which ATM you withdraw from, or 40 NOK + 1% if you have a Mastercard.
Standard current accounts don’t incur a monthly fee. However, reward accounts with extra benefits such as travel insurance and airport lounge access usually deduct a monthly fee.
If you need to transfer money abroad, there will be a hefty surcharge. DNB offers the lowest rate at 1.95% for international transfers, but you can expect other banks to take as much as 2.25% for their troubles. Some banks will charge only 0.5-1% but will also include an additional fee of 20-30 NOK.
On top of these fees, which are usually poorly documented, you’ll also be subjected to a bad exchange rate as the currency is converted. This is quite typical of retail banks and other normal transfer service providers. However TransferWise lets you transfer funds using the real mid-market exchange rate - the same one you’ll find on Google. And, with lower, way more transparent fees.
All in all, the process should be fairly straightforward, so good luck!