Ukraine is a country of extremes. From the impressive scale of the Carpathian Mountains, to the exhausting pace of night life and activity along the Black Sea coast, it’s an intriguing place. Although the expat community is fairly small, the larger cities are home to foreigners who have fallen in love with life there.
If you’re a frequent visitor to Ukraine, or considering making a move there for a longer period, you’re going to need a bank account. Here’s our short guide to get you started.
The process for opening a bank account in Ukraine is fairly simple in theory. You need to take documents along to your local branch, depending on your personal circumstances and the type of account you want to open. You might be asked for the following:
- Passport, including details of your residence and work visa if relevant.
- Proof of address, such as a rental contract if you’re opening a resident account. If you’re only visiting the country, a bank might be prepared to take a hotel address instead, and allow you to open a non-resident account.
- Tax reference number (for residents only).
- A minimum deposit amount. Some banks also charge a small admin fee for opening the account.
Getting anything done in Ukraine tends to require a fair amount of paperwork. The World Bank ranked Ukraine 83rd for ‘Ease of doing business’ in 2016. It is therefore worth opening your account in a large bank branch in one of the cities if you can. Here the staff are more likely to have experience with opening accounts for foreigners, making the experience smoother.
To open a bank account in Ukraine, you need to visit a branch in person and present the documents required. It is not possible to open an account from abroad.
You can open an account as a non-resident in Ukraine. The process and documents required are simple. Each bank will have their own system, but providing a passport and proof of address is usually enough to get started.
It’s worth remembering, though, that a non-resident account may have less functionality than a full resident account.
When opening a bank account in Ukraine, you can choose between the large national banks and one of the international banking groups represented there. It is worth checking if your home bank works in Ukraine. If they do, you might find it easier to set up a new account with the same firm.
Banking in Ukraine has had a turbulent recent history, and public faith in the stability of banks is quite low. Make sure you choose a large, reliable institution, and that you’re comfortable with its performance and operation.
Here are some suggestions of large banks operating in Ukraine:
|Pravex Bank||Pravex is a Ukrainian founded bank, now owned by an Italian financial services institution. Customers of Pravex Bank can hold current or investment accounts in either local or foreign currency. The bank has branches and ATMs throughout Ukraine, and offers mobile banking for everyday needs.|
|Privatbank||Privatbank has a massive 2500 branches, and 7200 ATMs available for their customers. They offer a broad range of accounts and payment cards alongside sophisticated remote banking options. You can access accounts and make payments using a free phone service 24 hours a day, or via an app. Branches are open 08:30 to 17:30.|
|UniCredit Bank||UniCredit Bank, created following the merger of two local institutions, is now one of the largest banks operating in Ukraine. There are 237 branches and an extensive ATM network. The website is available in English, making it easier for new customers to get details of account types and charges.|
|Piraeus Bank||If you have travelled around the Southeastern region of Europe, you are sure to have come across Piraeus Bank. This large Greek owned institution operate thousands of branches throughout the area, and have a wide ATM network. You’ll have a large range of accounts and payment cards to choose from, as well as other products like loans and mortgages.|
If you're planning to visit a bank branch to open an account, it's a good idea to call ahead and make an appointment. This is especially important if you don’t speak Ukrainian, so you can check that someone will be able to translate documents for you. Opening an account shouldn’t take more than an hour or so, and cards are usually ready within a few days.
When you open a bank account in Ukraine, you must read the terms and conditions carefully - especially when it comes to banking fees and charges. The large banks detailed above hold their account information online in English, so you shouldn’t have any issues reviewing the details before you choose.
Fee structures might be quite different to your home country. It’s not usual for there to be regular charges levied to keep your account open, make bank transfers, or use a credit or debit card. You’re also likely to be charged a set fee for withdrawing cash from an ATM operated by a different bank.
Many expats find themselves needing to move money regularly between accounts which use different currencies. This can be particularly expensive, so do your research to find the fairest deals available.
Usually, your bank will be a costly choice. As well as a processing charge, expect to see the bank’s profit rolled into an exchange rate which is far from favourable.
A better option for international money transfers is to use TransferWise. With TransferWise you can transfer money between accounts using the real exchange rate. You don’t need to worry about an excessive markup, or hidden fees. Instead, transfers incur a clear set charge, and you get the best exchange rate available. Check out our website to find out more about simple and fair international money transfers with TransferWise.