Sweden is a popular destination for expats, especially given its healthy job market and tolerant attitude. Whether you’re starting a new career, furthering your education, or just visiting, Sweden boasts a thriving community of expats.
With an 89% English-speaking population, the process of opening a bank account should be fairly friendly. Many banking facilities host interpreters for non-Swedish or non-English speaking visitors. The country is turning into a cashless society, so opening a bank account in the country as soon as possible is imperative for your comfort and convenience.
Depending on how long you intend to stay in Sweden, the process of opening a bank account differs and can be quite a task. Cash is seldom used in Sweden and checks are completely obsolete. Making the bank one of your first stops when you arrive is highly encouraged. If you’re planning to stay in the country for less than 3 months, some policies may restrict the amount of access you have to your bank account, such as no access to a debit card.
You’ll need the following documents to open an account:
- Residence permit
- Employment contract
- Personnummer (your Swedish ID number)
- Swedish ID card
To apply for a personnummer you’ll need to register with the Swedish Population Register through Skatteverket, the government tax agency. You must apply in person as there is no online option. Registration will require:
- A valid passport
- A Swedish residence permit (unless you have a family member that is an EU/EEA citizen)
- Proof of your Swedish address
It’s recommended that you get your personnummer before trying to open a bank account to make the process a bit easier.
Sweden has very strict guidelines on opening bank accounts. Due to anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering policies, many banks don't offer the option to open an account online. While many banks offer a Mobile BankingID, which is an e-identification for smartphones and tablets that you can use for internet and mobile banking, including while you’re abroad, you’ll still need to open a bank account in person before obtaining your mobile BankingID.
Although it’s a bit more difficult, you can open a bank account as a non-resident. If you’re a non-resident of Sweden, however, make sure you do your research and visit your bank of choice in person, prepared with the proper documents. These include:
- A valid passport
- A Swedish visa
- A residence permit
- A letter of acceptance from a university with information of duration of the studies or an employment contract
- Details of your Swedish address
It’s fairly likely that you won’t have access to online banking this way, but having a bank account will at least make moving about the country easier. You’ll also likely need to wait for three months of established and steady income before you’ll be eligible to receive a Swedish debit card. This means you’ll need to withdraw cash directly fromt the bank teller until then.
If you already have an existing bank account within a particular financial institution, most will open an online account for you. However, there are only a few options to start the process on your own that don’t involve a banking agent at some point. Given Sweden’s technological advancements, every bank there offers online banking as well as mobile services.
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There are a variety of well-known banks to choose from within Sweden. Although the banking system tends to be complicated, it can actually serve as a blessing in disguise for expats by narrowing down the options available for your personal banking needs.
Luckily, there are multiple financial institutions with proven rapport with expats. With the proper documentation, they should provide you a relatively simple process for opening a personal account.
Nordea bank offers 35 branches and 110 ATM locations. They offer standard banking services.
- Personal account
- Savings account
- Insurance (home, auto, life, health child)
- Debit and credit cards
SEB bank offers 21 branches and 232 ATM locations. In addition to standard banking services, they’re well known for their high-functioning mobile app.
- Personal account
- Business account
- SEB Selected bank card
- 24 Hour customer service phone line
Handelsbanken has 460 branches and ATM locations. They offer standard banking options.
- Individual current (checking) account
- Personal savings account
- Personal online & mobile banking
- Handelsbanken Debit Card
Swedbank tops the previous banks on ATM locations with more than 3000 ATMS and 270 cash deposit machines. They also offer services in both Swedish and English and interpreting services for any other languages.
- Bank account
- Debit and credit cards
- Insurance (Home, Life, Health & Child)
This first step in the application process is obtaining your personnummer prior to opening your bank account. Once you have all of your required documentation in hand, opening a bank account is very simple, with the process typically being completed in a single business day. To avoid unnecessary delays, it’s best to start with a smaller deposit amount.
Though you don’t need an appointment to set up a bank account, banks in Sweden are typically open from 10:00 to 15:00, so be sure to allow enough time to take care of the account process in one day.
Non-EU/EEA citizens will have to go in person to open the account, and in compliance with their financial regulations, bank officers will ask the purpose of your account.
Traveling abroad can accrue many types of fees in connection with banking.
Though in Sweden, banks don’t usually charge an ATM fee. Many banks avoid this by charging a yearly fee, as well as additional exchange fees with your Visa Debit card for purchases in other currencies. Skandiabanken, for instance, charges debit card holders 250 SEK every year. However, clients enjoy free ATM usage around the world. Contact your banking institution for specific exchange rates and account handling fees.
Using a check in Sweden is rare and many banks these days don’t accept them. If you were to try and deposit a check in Sweden, be prepared for a sizable fee and several days to clear.
If you’re planning to move money from overseas with any regularity, then It’s important to do your research about foreign transfer fees. While most Swedish banks won’t charge a fee to transfer within the EU, there’s typically a fee associated with sending money outside of it. At Nordea bank, for instance, the fee is 50 SEK if you initiate the transfer online, or 150 SEK if you make the transfer with a bank teller. SEB, however, charges a significantly larger fee of around 230 SEK for online transactions, or 325 SEK for those done at a branch.
Most travelers recommend a bank transfer as the quickest and most affordable way to receive funds, however, it also generally comes with not only international transfer fees from your Swedish bank, but also fees from intermediary banks and the destination/originating bank. All in all, though the fees for these transfers (generally via an international transfer method called SWIFT) are fixed, if you’re sending only a small amount, it can get costly.
Another fee that’s generally levied against international transfers is hidden into the poor exchange rate that a bank gives its customers when transferring money abroad. To easily and reliably check on the current mid-market exchange rate between your home currency and SEK to see what your money should actually be worth, use an online currency converter. You’ll also be able to see how the market’s been trending over the last 30 days and see what you’ld be receiving if the actual exchange rate was used.
To not only avoid these international fees, but to also get a fair exchange rate, it’s generally better to use a service called TransferWise. Not only does TransferWise use the real mid-market exchange rates (unlike with regular bank transfers, there’s no hidden markup on the currency conversion rate), but they work by making two local transfers, instead of one costly international transfer, avoiding many international bank charges. Not only do you get transparent pricing, but the transfer costs up to eight times less than what your bank would charge.
All in all, opening a bank account in Sweden should be a fairly straightforward process after you obtain your personnummer. Having the right documents ready, you can hopefully open an account without too much hassle.
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