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Italy is a beautiful country with a range unique regions, all of which have something different to offer visitors and expats. Whether you’re moving to Italy for wine, Mediterranean coastline, the bustling fashion industry, to enjoy delicious pasta or anything in between, it won’t be hard to find a place that’s right for you.
That being said, the cost of living can be pretty high in urban centers, like Florence, Milan and Rome. Smaller towns, in Amalfi and Tuscany, for example, tend to come with a smaller price tag, and many consider those places to be the “real Italy” anyway. You may also enjoy the countryside simply for the room to breathe, as 69% of Italy’s population live in the cities. If you’re ready for incredible cuisine, nightlife and the dolce vita, you’re sure to love Italy no matter where you choose to live.
Paying for your life in Italy, however, comes with a few things to consider-- the most important of which is how to open a bank account. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to get started, including the process and where to bank.
There are plenty of different bank account types for Italian citizens and residents. If you’re not already in Italy, you may find your options a little more limited from traditional Italian banks - although some digital banks and specialist providers can help with euro denominated accounts you can open from outside the Eurozone.
Once you’re in Italy and have your local address and tax status sorted out, you can open a bank account using the following documents:
- Proof of ID like a passport or National identity card
- Proof of Italian address and legal residence status
- Codice fiscale (tax number)
- Proof of employment or student status, depending on the account you select
As we’ve mentioned, some Italian banks do let you open an account online. However, the account products which offer digital opening options may be limited to accounts designed for online and in-app use only. For other accounts - or if you don’t have the standard ID and residency documents - you might need to pop into a branch to open your Italian bank account.
Once you have a full suite of Italian paperwork, and you’re already settled in the country, you’ll be able to choose from a good range of bank account types, including the following:
Some banks in Italy do offer non-resident account options which may be handy if you’re not in Italy full time. The account type to watch out for is conto corrente non residenti - often available through specialist banks which support cross border commuters.
Civibank³, for example, is one bank which has non-resident account options, which targets accounts at people commuting between north-east Italy and the Balkans, with services in Slovevnian, Croatian and Serbian to meet customer needs.
Another alternative is to pick a bank which has accounts for holding euros, but does not specifically require an Italian address. Starling bank in the UK, or N26 for European customers may be good options, although the services available aren’t necessarily the same as those you’d get if you had a full Italian resident account.
Student accounts can be opened at many Italian banks, with account products aimed at under 18s, and those in further education. There are also often preferential terms for people under the age of around 30, with waived fees and lower transaction costs - whether you’re a student or not.
The major Italian banks have a pretty strong range of account types for Italian residents. As well as standard current accounts you can often open digital only accounts, with different packages to suit individual customer needs. Most banks have basic banking packages for example, which may have no monthly fees, but transaction fees for the services you need - through to more complex account products which may have higher fees but come with a certain number of fee free transactions every month.
Savings accounts are available from many major Italian banks, alongside investments and retirement products.
Mainstream Italian banks usually ask for a local proof of address and tax code to open your account. That can mean it’s tricky to open an account in Italy from overseas.
There are a couple of alternatives you may consider here. Firstly, some banks in Italy can offer specific non-resident bank accounts. However, these often have more restrictive conditions, and may not offer the full range of services available from other accounts.
A second option is to look for a specific digital bank. There are some digital challenger banks, both in the UK and in Europe more broadly, which can offer euro accounts to people who have a proof of address from the UK or EU. In the UK, check out Starling Bank¹ for example - or N26² if you’re already in Europe.
Finally - for a flexible alternative that goes beyond euros, check out the multi-currency Wise account. Wise is not a bank but an Electronic Money Institution that allows you to , to hold, send, spend and exchange 50+ currencies.
That means you can use the same account to get paid in euros, send money back home to the UK in pounds, and spend in any of 170+ countries with the Wise debit card, while using the mid-market rate and low, transparent fees. The Wise account come with local bank details for euros, pounds and up to 8 more major currencies, and manage your money easily wherever you happen to be.
We’ll look a bit more at Wise international transfers and the Wise multi-currency account, a little later, to help you decide if this option might suit you.
There’s no single best bank in Italy for foreigners - but you’ll probably want to pick one of the major banks for your account, so you’ve got a good range of branch locations and ATMs. You may also find it easier to locate an English speaking member of bank staff if you’re using one of the larger banking groups.
Here are some of the major banks in Italy to consider when you’re looking for your next account.
- Bank Branches: Many services available at 12,000+ post office branches
- Products Offered: Current accounts, prepaid cards, accounts targeted at younger people, sole proprietors and pensioners
- Fees to consider: Accounts may have monthly fees which you can reduce based on how you use your account, transfer and transaction fees also apply
- Bank Branches: 200+
- Products Offered: Accounts and cards, savings and investments, insurance and pensions, loans and mortgages. Private wealth management services, plus business banking services available
- Fees to consider: All accounts come with their own features and fees, based on the account type
- Bank Branches: 1,000
- Products Offered: Accounts, cards, mortgages, loans, insurance and more. Business and corporate services are also available
- Fees to consider: Accounts with no monthly fee are available, other account products have fees which may be waived based on your personal circumstances; transaction fees still apply
- Bank Branches: 200+, split across standard branches, and financial advice offices for more complex product requirements
- Products Offered: Accounts, cards, mortgages, investments, retirement products, loans
- Fees to consider: Accounts typically have monthly fees, although these costs cover some free services every month
- Bank Branches: 3,700
- Products Offered: Accounts including saving accounts, mortgages, loans, financial advice, investments and retirement plans
- Fees to consider: Accounts with no monthly fees for customers who transact via the bank’s app, plus fee free accounts for children. Other account products may have monthly fees, and in all cases, some service and transaction fees still apply
Italy has a modern banking system, and most Italian banks offer some or all their services online and in apps, as well as having branch services available. If you’re transacting in a branch you may prefer to take an Italian speaking friend along, as you won’t necessarily find staff who can communicate in English.
Similarly, bank websites and apps are usually only available in Italian, so do take some time to review all the account terms and conditions carefully, and with a translator, before you sign up for any products or services.
Banking hours can vary based on the specific branch you select. You’ll often find branches open from around 8:30am to 4:30pm, with an hour or so closed over lunchtime. Banks will be closed on weekends, and may have different opening hours on patron saints’ days, which vary based on the location of the branch.
If you’d prefer to have 24/7 access to your finances, with an intuitive user interface - and a choice of 15 different languages - get yourself a multi-currency Wise account instead of relying on an Italian bank.
Open a Wise Multi-Currency Account online or in the Wise app before you head to Italy, with no minimum balance or maintenance fee. You’ll be able to order a linked Wise card for convenient spending and withdrawals, and you can get paid in euros, pounds, and up to 8 other currencies, just like a local.
Italian banks are obliged to show transparency documents, which cover fee and product information. These are available online or by asking in a branch. However, they’ll be in Italian only - so you’ll need to read through carefully to make sure you’ve understood all the relevant fees properly. Here’s what to look out for:
- Account opening fee - this may be waived if you open your account online, but could be around 15 EUR if you open in person
- Monthly maintenance fee - these charges can vary widely, from accounts which have no monthly charge, through to products you pay a hefty monthly or annual charge for. Some account fees can be waived if you fulfil eligibility requirements
- Card fees- including costs to get a credit or debit card, and to make withdrawals - these charges vary quite widely
- SEPA transfer fees - these tend to vary based on how you set up your payment and can be cheap when transacting online, but up to 6 EUR or so if you prefer to bank in person
International transfer fees - which can be steep. More on that later.
It’s highly advised to withdraw cash from your own bank’s machines, otherwise you could run into a fee between €1 and €3, or even up to €6 in popular tourist neighborhoods.
While it’s tempting to just use your foreign debit and credit cards while you’re living in Italy, the fees that come with doing so can be incredibly high. If you do choose to go this route, it’s a good idea to use your debit card at ATMs and pay at individual merchants in cash, as typically you’ll get the best exchange rates directly from the bank. It’s possible that your card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, especially if it’s a credit card. You may even want to get a new, fee-less card before you move.
Be aware that your bank’s daily withdrawal limits could be lowered in a foreign country, and that you’ll still be charged foreign withdrawal fees when you’re using an ATM
If you want an account that lets you do more - with low, transparent fees you can rely on, check out the Wise account. Hold and exchange 50+ currencies, send payments to 80+ countries, spend in 170+ countries with your Wise card, and get paid like a local in up to 10 different currencies. All for no monthly maintenance fee, and no opening fee for personal customers - you just pay low transaction fees for the services you actually need. Easy.
Different banks - and different account products - will all come with their own international transfer fees. Usually sending money in euros within the SEPA area isn’t too expensive. But as soon as you’re using a different currency - or sending outside of SEPA - the charges can start to ramp up pretty quickly.
To review how much international transfer fees may be when you send money from Italy to the UK, let’s look at a quick example. In this worked example we’ll imagine you’re sending 100 euros to the UK with Wise and CheBanca - one of the Italian banks we profiled earlier.
|Provider||Bank Transfer Fee||Exchange Rate|
|CheBanca⁹||0.2% (minimum 3 EUR) + fixed fee 12.50 EUR for online payment||0.5% fee added to the mid-market exchange rate|
|Wise¹⁰||1.33 EUR||The mid-market rate.|
Transfer Fee and exchange rate correct as of 2-Feburary-2023
As you can see, the Wise transfer fee here is far cheaper than the fee applied by the bank - plus you’ll get a better exchange rate when converting your funds back to pounds. In this example there’s a fixed transfer fee from CheBanca - which can bump up the costs a lot when sending lower amounts. However, this is a common way for Italian banks to structure their payment fees, so worth understanding before you get started transferring money between Italy and the UK.
Each individual transfer is different, so comparing a few different options before you set up your payment is the best way to make sure you get the best available deal - and save money on your currency conversion.
When you move to Italy you’ll likely want to open an Italian bank account with a local provider once you settle in. Before you arrive and have your Italian address and tax code, getting a local Italian bank account may be a bit of a challenge - but you’ll always be able to open a multi-currency Wise account to hold, send, spend and receive euros - even before you travel to Italy.
See how much you can save with Wise today.
- Starling Bank
- Deutsche Bank Itali
- BNP Paribas BNL D’Italia
- Intesa San Paolo
- CheBanca fees - digital current account
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 Wise Payments 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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