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Considering a move to Turkey? You might need to spend extended time there for work, or to set up a business. Or perhaps you have friends or family living in Turkey, and you’d like to fly over and join them. Whichever is the case, one of the first things you may need is a Turkish bank account.
But just how easy is it to open a bank account in Turkey as a foreigner? We’ll run through everything you need to know in this guide. This includes the documents you’ll need, the Turkish banks you can choose from and whether there are any fees to pay.
We’ll even throw in a handy tip to help you manage your money across international borders - the Wise multi-currency account. This can help you send money between Turkey and the UK, or all over the world, for low fees and a fair exchange rate. Plus, you can spend in Turkish Lira (TRY) like a local using your Wise debit card.
But first, let’s focus on getting your Turkish bank account open.
The good news for expats is that there are no restrictions preventing foreigners from opening a bank account in Turkey¹. As long as you’ve got the required documents (which we’ll look at in just a moment) you should be all set.
It’s possible, but potentially more complicated, to open a bank account in Turkey without actually living there. You might want to do this if you’re organising your move and want to open an account in advance of your arrival.
Most banks in Turkey will ask you to provide a residency permit and/or proof of residence in the country. If you don’t have this, you may find your options limited. However, you may still be able to open a foreign currency account, or be able to get around the usual rules if you’re able to make a very large initial deposit in Turkish Lira².
If you don’t have an address in Turkey yet, it could be worth contacting a few banks to see what your options are.
It varies from bank to bank, but many Turkish banks offer the option to open a bank account online. This includes Ziraat Bank³ and VakıfBank⁴, although not every account type can be opened online if you’re a new customer or non-resident.
For other banks and accounts, like İşbank and its expat banking services, you’ll need to visit a branch in person with your documents in order to open an account⁵.
Another option is to open an account at a digital bank like Enpara.com, Turkey’s first online bank.
As we’ve mentioned above, it can be a little tricky to open a bank account in Turkey without a residential address or residence permit. You’ll need to contact your chosen bank to find out their requirements, and what your options are if you haven’t yet found somewhere to live in Turkey.
While it varies from bank to bank, here’s what most retail banks in Turkey will require in order to open an account¹:
- Your completed application form (or completion of the online application process, if applicable).
- Valid ID - such as your passport or residence permit.
- Either a Turkish Tax ID Number or your Foreigner’s ID Number - you can get a Turkish Tax ID Number this at the GİB (Turkish Revenue Administration) website, by completing an online form and uploading the photo page of your passport⁶.
- Proof of residence in Turkey - for example, a recent utility bill or rental contract.
Just before we move on to look at Turkish banks, a quick word on the kinds of bank accounts you’ll find in Turkey. They’re not quite the same as you’ll be used to in the UK, so it’s useful to have the lowdown before you start comparing accounts.
Here are the most common types of accounts you’ll find in Turkey¹:
- Current Account (Mevduat Hesabı) - this is the same as you’ll find in the UK, suitable for all your everyday banking needs.
- Time Deposit Account (Vadeli Hesap) - an interest-bearing account in Turkish lira or a foreign currency offering higher rates of interest over a fixed-term.
You’ll probably only need a current account as an expat living in Turkey. However, some banks may require you to open a time deposit account at the same time.
There are around 50 banks in Turkey¹, and many are foreign banks. Many of the major banks offer services in English, along with accounts and services targeted towards expats and foreigners living in Turkey.
Let’s run through some of your options when choosing a bank in Turkey.
As Turkey’s largest bank (as well as its oldest), you’re sure to find a branch of İşbank nearby. They also have several branches outside of Turkey, in areas such as the Middle East, China and UK. Some branches within Turkey specialise in banking for expat clients, which may make the experience of setting up an account a smoother one.
It offers everything you’d expect from a major bank, including online and mobile banking and debit and credit cards.
İşbank offers a wide range of deposit and investment accounts, including its standardLira Time Deposit Account. This is a fixed-term interest account which comes tied to an everyday current account, and you can transfer money between them using Regular Savings Orders¹.
Ziraat Bank has one of the biggest banking networks in Turkey, with over 1,700 branches and ATMs spread across the country⁷. It’s also a great choice for expats, with an English version of its website and products perfect for new arrivals.
One of these is the Turkish Lira Current Account. This everyday account offers direct debits, bank transfers, a debit card and internet banking, along with the option to upgrade to an overdraft account if you need it¹.
Another expat-friendly Turkish bank, VakıfBank has a whole section of its website dedicated to expat banking services. This includes an English website and call centre staff who speak your language - although you’ll need to get in touch to find out more about expat accounts and services.
Garanti BBVA is another of the big Turkish banks, and is known for having a full suite of expat services in English. This includes English online, mobile and phone banking, and ATM menus in English⁸.
The bank has over 860 branches in Turkey, along with a number of foreign branches in Cyprus and Malta⁹.
Among the many major multinational banks with a presence in Turkey, HSBC and ING Bank are among the only ones with services for individuals (rather than business or corporate clients).
Both offer English-speaking services, and accounts suitable for expats. For example, there’s the HSBC Modern Account available in Turkish Lira, British pound, Euros or US dollars.
Or there’s the ING Current Account, an everyday current account for bill payments, cash withdrawals and money transfers.
Lastly, there’s the option to open an account with a digital-only bank. Thanks to Turkish banking rules, there aren’t too many to choose from.
One of the most popular is Enpara.com. This provides branchless banking, so you’ll manage your account via online and mobile banking. You can choose from term accounts (in a choice of major currencies), savings accounts and gold current accounts.
These include the Demand Deposit Account, which offers everyday banking services such as payments, money transfers and even foreign exchange transactions.
The right bank for you all depends on your circumstances, and what you need from a bank. Remember that your options for bank accounts may be limited if you don’t have proof of residency.
Expats will ideally want a bank with English-speaking services that caters to foreigners, such as Ziraat Bank or a multinational like HSBC.
You should also look at fees and charges before choosing. We’ll cover these in a little more detail next.
Turkish bank accounts don’t tend to have monthly fees¹, although you may need to meet a minimum deposit threshold in order to open one.
You will need to check carefully whether your chosen bank charges ATM or debit card fees, or a fee for early closure of the account.
If you plan to send money back home to the UK or anywhere else outside of Turkey, you should also take a close look at international transfer fees. Most banks charge them, along with applying a mark-up to the mid-market exchange rate which can make overseas transfers more expensive.
A Turkish bank account is certainly handy to have, especially for things like paying your rent or receiving your salary if you’re working. But when it comes to sending and receiving international payments, a traditional bank may not be the best option.
The Wise multi-currency account is an alternative solution for expats living in Turkey, or anywhere else in the world. From one powerful online account, you can send money worldwide for low transparent fees and the mid-market exchange rate. This is at a fair rate without the mark-up that banks tend to add on top.
You can even receive money for free in a range of major currencies, and spend in Turkish Lira like a local with your own Wise debit card. This automatically converts currency at the mid-market rate whenever you spend, for only a tiny conversion fee (or it’s free if you already have the currency in your account). This is the ideal option for covering your day-to-day expenses, and you can use the same card in 175 countries too.
Open your Wise account online today, and you’ll be all set for a truly global experience.
Sources used for this article:
Sources checked on 01-Aug-2022.
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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