The appeal of Malta isn't lost on many. Between a relaxed, laid back lifestyle, affordable cost of living and the island country’s incredible natural beauty, Malta has always been a destination for tourists and retirees.
Thanks to the rise of digital nomadism and freelance culture, however, the island’s demographics are rapidly changing. Previously overlooked by young professionals and families, the evolving economics of employment have made Malta a place not previously known for start up culture, modern business or business in general outside of finance. Malta has become an ideal destination for anyone whose employment can be maintained with an Internet connection.
If you’re among the many people looking to enjoy island life on a more permanent basis, one important part of living in Malta you may have overlooked is opening a bank account. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to get started on moving your financial life to the island.
Can I open a bank account as a non-resident of Malta?
Yes. If you have a good credit rating and don’t have any major debts, opening a local bank account in Malta is a fairly straightforward process.
If you have a history of debt, or if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy, you may have a more difficult time opening an account, but it’s still not impossible. Most likely, you’ll need to become a Maltese resident for awhile before you’re allowed to open an account, at which point you’ll probably only be allowed to open a current or checking account.
What's the process? How long does it usually take?
If you don’t have any particular outstanding debts, opening a bank account can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, and must be completed in person. Assuming you have the right documents in hand, you’ll simply go to the bank, fill out an application form and wait while the banker processes your account. Next you’ll wait to get to your debit card, which can take up to 10 days.
What documents are necessary for a foreigner to open a bank account?
To ensure that your application moves quickly, bring the following documents to the bank with you:
- Utility bill with proof of address
- Bank reference from your previous or current bank
Can I open a bank account abroad? What about at least online?
Yes and no. If you’re planning to open an account on your own, you’ll either need to do so in person, or use a bank that exists in both your home country and Malta; like HSBC. If you want to open an account with a Maltese bank without visiting Malta, you may be able to do so by contracting a lawyer and granting them power of attorney.
What banking fees are involved?
No matter where in the world you bank, you’re going to encounter fees. Some of the most common are account maintenance fees, transfer fees and ATM fees. While these types of charges typically can’t be completely avoided, it’s important to check the price list of your prospective bank to ensure the fees that come with the services you need most aren’t too high.
Taking out cash from an ATM that belongs to a bank other than yours will typically cost between €2 and €4. It’s a good idea to choose a bank with a branch, or ATM well located to your home or office to avoid these fees.
If you choose to use a debit card from your own country, you’ll be hit with foreign ATM fees - typically whatever the ATM charges, plus a percentage amount of the transaction that your bank has predetermined.
Normal bank fees
Usually a checking account comes with pretty nominal fees; a maintenance charge of €1 or less per month, for example. Other types of accounts come with different fee ranges, all of which should be listed on your bank’s website, or can be requested in person before opening an account.
Fees for international transfers
Most banks charge high fees for international transfers, which can translate to up to 7% of the total transaction. They also tend to inflate the exchange rate without disclosing the markup to customers, so it’s important to check the rate you’re getting before you process your transaction. If you’re making international transfers often, it’s a good idea to use Wise to ensure you’re always getting the mid-market rate, and to cut back on charges altogether.
Which bank should I choose?
Banking in Malta comes with a range of options, from small local banks to huge international ones. While the best bank for you will vary depending on what perks and services you need most, the following are the most popular banks in Malta:
Bank of Valletta
A local Maltese bank, the Bank of Valletta serves customers all across Malta with nearly 100 branches and ATMs scattered throughout the tiny nation. Customers with checking accounts through the Bank of Valletta are able to:
- Make deposits and withdrawals
- Track account balance online, on mobile, or at the ATM
- Use a BOV Cashlink card
- Create standing orders and direct credits and debits
One of the biggest banks internationally, HSBC has 65 branches and locations stretched across Malta. Customers can choose from a range of accounts based on how large a deposit they keep in the bank, as well as the services they need. Customers with an HSBC Advance account enjoy:
- No monthly fees or minimum balance requirements
- Free phone and internet banking services
- HSBC Quick Cash card
- HSBC Advance international debit card
- Free travel insurance
- Global View and global transfers
A much smaller bank, IIG Bank has just two locations on the island, but is still a popular choice among locals. IIG account have access to:
- Internet banking
- Interest on savings accounts
- Debit cards
Sparkasse Bank Malta
Another international bank, Sparkasse Bank has a fairly light presence in Malta, although its international basis still makes it a common choice. Some perks to being a Sparkasse account holder include:
- Secure banking
- Standing orders
- Access to a corporate account
- Online banking
- Debit card
- Multicurrency accounts available, including EUR, GBP, AUD, USD, CAD, CHF, CZK, DKK, NOK, SEK, ZAR, HKD, JPY, PLN and NZD.
If you do pay or get paid regularly in more than one currency, one of the best options is a Wise borderless account, which allows you to bank with local account details without worrying about currency conversion markups.
If you’re planning to fund your bank account in Malta from your bank account abroad, using Wise can also 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 Malta is an easy, straightforward process. With your finances set up, you’re free to enjoy all the benefits of a Maltese lifestyle, from incredible beaches to delicious cuisine. Good luck opening your bank account in Malta!
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