If you come to live in Greece, you may need to open a bank account. This guide explains in detail what you need to open a Greek bank account, and which Greek bank to choose.
Opening a bank account in Greece
So, you’ve decided to move to Greece. As a Greek, I will congratulate you on your decision! I am probably biased, but it’s a lovely country to live in. The food is delicious, we have dozens of beautiful islands, and tons of ancient sites.
(OK – I have to say, living here is totally different to just visiting on a holiday. Still, I personally enjoy it, and have many foreign friends who agree).
With that said, most people moving to Greece will need to sort out certain logistics. One of them has to do with opening a Greek bank account.
Depending on your particular circumstances, you may not be obliged to open a bank account in Greece. I know many expats who have been living here for extended periods of time over several years, and never opened a local bank account.
However, if you want to work for a Greek employer, or buy property in Greece, you will need to open a bank account here.
Having a bank account in Greece will also be useful if you are applying for residency, though many police stations are happy to accept proof of funds in other EU countries.
Let’s check which banks exist in Greece.
Major national banks in Greece
There are currently four major banks in Greece. If you live in Athens or another big city, you will have seen many of their branches.
- National Bank of Greece – NBG (Ethniki / Εθνική) – With 1460+ ATMs and 350+ branches around Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, North Macedonia, Egypt, Malta, the UK and Australia
- Piraeus Bank (Pireos / Πειραιώς) – With 1390+ ATMs and 440+ branches around Greece, Germany and Ukraine
- Eurobank – With 920+ ATMs and 300+ branches around Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Serbia, Luxembourg and the UK
- Alpha Bank – With 860+ ATMs and 300+ branches around Greece, Luxembourg and the UK
More banks operating in Greece
Further to the four main banks in Greece, several minor national banks operate. These include:
- Attica Bank – With 50+ branches all around Greece
- Pancreta Bank (Pankritia / Παγκρήτια) – With 45+ branches in Crete, Athens and Milos
- Optima Bank – With 25 branches, mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki
- Aegean Baltic Bank
- Viva Wallet
- Various cooperative banks of Chania, Epirus, Thessaly, Karditsa, Drama and Central Macedonia
Finally, there are certain branches of Banks incorporated in other EU countries under the “single licence” regime. Among others, these international banks include:
- HSBC Continental Europe, Greece – With 15 branches in Athens and Thessaloniki
- ProCredit Bank – With branches in Thessaloniki and Bulgaria
- Bank of America Europe DAC, Athens Branch
Which bank in Greece should I choose?
Having dealt with several banks in Greece over the last three decades, I’d say that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. All in all, if you want to open a checking / current account or a savings account, any bank will do.
Most people prefer the four major Greek banks, as they have ATMs everywhere in Greece. HSBC is also worth considering, especially for international customers living in Athens or Thessaloniki.
All banks offer similar interest rates and exchange rates, which are set by the Bank of Greece. However, fees for some services (e.g. direct debit / standing order / money transfer) vary slightly between banks.
The cost of money transfers between banks may also vary. As these costs often change, it’s best to ask at the time you are planing to open your account.
Opening a payroll account
If you are coming to work for a Greek employer, you will need to open a payroll account (logariasmos misthodosias / λογαριασμός μισθοδοσίας).
Don’t be surprised if your employer asks you to open your new account at a specific bank of their choice. This has happened to me three times since I first started working – hence, I ended up with three payroll accounts in three different banks.
The process of opening any of these accounts is the same for every bank, at least in theory. Let’s see what you will need.
Documents needed when opening an account at a Greek bank
Whichever bank you choose to open an account with, you will need to visit the bank in person and submit several documents proving your identity, address and financial status.
These documents are set by the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA). Ethniki, Piraeus Bank, Alpha and Eurobank are all members of the HBA, hence they all ask for the same documents.
You will need to provide the original documents in English or Greek, and the bank employee will make photocopies. If you are opening a joint account, every customer will need to bring their own documents.
If your original documents are in another language, you will probably be asked to have them translated and authorized with an apostille.
1. ID card or valid passport
The bank employee needs your ID or passport to collect the following data:
- Full name
- Father’s name
- ID card or passport number
- Issuing authority
- Date and place of birth
Note: Here in Greece, the father’s name (and sometimes mother’s name) is an important part of your identity. If it doesn’t appear on your ID document, you will need to bring an additional official document which proves it, like your birth certificate.
This is one of the main surprises for people trying to open a Greek bank account, given that the father’s name doesn’t appear on standard passports.
2. Proof of AFM
You will need to provide proof of your Tax Identification Number. This is known in Greek as AFM / ΑΦΜ (Arithmos Forologikou Mitroou / Αριθμός Φορολογικού Μητρώου).
For people who are already in the Greek system, the 9-digit AFM is usually obtained from the income tax slip or income tax return.
If you don’t have an AFM, you will need to get one. This is relatively straightforward if you can speak Greek. If not, you will need to find someone who does, and can help you navigate the official government website (featured below).
You can also hire a private company to undertake the tax number procedure for a fee, just make sure they are trustworthy. If you have worked with someone you would recommend, please leave a comment below.
You can also visit the Tax Office in person. Here is the latest list of Tax Offices around Greece (in Greek).
3. Proof of address and telephone number
Another document you will need to provide is proof of address. This is normally a recent utility bill or home / business premises lease contract in your name. The most common utility bills are those by the electricity / gas / water company.
If you have no utility bill in your name, you can ask the people you are staying with to provide a declaration, stating that you are staying with them. This is called ipefthini dilosi / υπεύθυνη δήλωση in Greek. They will also need to provide a recent utility bill in their name.
If you are a non-resident in Greece, and your primary residence is abroad, you will need to bring a utility bill from your home country.
You will also need to provide proof of your landline or mobile number. While a Greek mobile is not strictly necessary to open an account, it is essential for the e-banking services.
4. Documents proving your profession / current business address
Depending on your status and individual circumstances, you may be asked to provide additional documents, like the following:
- Valid residency permit, if applicable
- Proof of your employment status and business address, such as: Employer’s certificate / Copy of latest salary statement / Certificate of profession / Professional Identity Card / Social Insurance Institution Receipt / Copy of last pension statement etc
- Previous bank account in your home country, showing source funds
- An official certificate from your home country’s tax office proving your tax residency before obtaining your Greek AFM (pistopoiitiko forologikis katoikias / πιστοποιητικό φορολογικής κατοικίας)
For more information on the necessary documents, check this official leaflet published by the HBA.
In some cases, the bank might ask for a minimum deposit to open a new account.
Signatures, debit cards and other things to take into account
After submitting your documents, you will be asked for signature samples. The employee will now be ready to open the account for you.
You will receive a debit card, either on the same day or a few days later in the post, and may be asked if you want a credit card. Note that, in some cases, there might be a small fee for these.
All the above are supposed to be standard procedures. In practice, things may depend on your personal circumstances as well as the employee you are dealing with.
Even being Greek, I’ve been asked different things by different bank employees in the past. I’ve also had persistent employees trying to sell card protection, health insurance, or something else I didn’t really want at the time.
If you don’t speak Greek, it’s best to have a Greek-speaking friend or interpreter with you when you go to activate your account. While most of the forms you will need to fill in are in English, there are exceptions, and it’s always easier to communicate in the local language.
Web banking services for Greek banks
The banks mentioned above offer web banking in English, as well as Greek. You can use your computer, or download the relevant bank app on your mobile phone. Most of these apps support fingerprint identification on your smartphone.
To complete any online transactions on a computer, extra security features are in place. These typically include receiving an OTP (One Time Password) code on your mobile phone. You will need to key that on the computer screen.
You can choose to receive the code either by sms, or on an app widely used in Greece called Viber, which also works for desktop. This is important if you are often abroad, possibly in a country where you won’t use your Greek mobile phone number.
Withdrawing money in Greece
Once you have opened your account, you will receive your ATM / debit card which you can activate and start using immediately.
One thing you should be aware of when withdrawing money in Greece is that, unless you are using your own bank’s ATM, you will be charged a fee which ranges from 2 to 3.75 euro.
As an example, if you are using your Alpha Bank or Eurobank debit card to withdraw money from a Piraeus Bank ATM, you will be charged 3.75 euro. Ethniki’s cards have a smaller transaction fee, which varies from 2 to 3 euro.
Visiting a bank branch in Greece
From time to time, you might want to visit a bank branch. You will notice that on some days, there are long queues outside the bank. The NBG in particular is famous for its long queues.
It gets worse towards the end of the month, when pensioners receive their salaries. That’s right, many Greeks still queue up inside the bank to collect their pension at the till, or just to pay a bill.
If you are planning to have several in-branch transactions, it’s not a bad idea to check the banks close to you, and see which one is best in terms of queues.
You should also know that local branches of the same bank may differ a lot between them. If you are moving to Athens, it might be worth visiting 2-3 different branches close to your home.
As of November 2021, in order to visit a Greek bank in person, you will need a vaccination certificate / recent proof of Covid infection / PCR or rapid test. Here is some more information.
Opening hours for banks in Greece
Banks in Greece are open from 8:00 – 14:00 on weekdays. Certain branches close later in the day. Banks remain closed on national holidays:
- 1 January – New Year’s Day
- 6 January – Epiphany
- The Monday 7 weeks before Greek Orthodox Easter – Clean Monday
- 25 March – Independence Day
- Good Friday and Easter Monday
- 1 May – Also a strike day in Greece
- The Monday 6 weeks after Greek Orthodox Easter – Holy Spirit Day
- 15 August – Dormition Day
- 28 October – Oxi Day
- 25 December – Christmas Day
- 26 December – Boxing Day
Alternatives to a Greek bank account
If you are only in Greece for a short time, chances are you may not need to open a bank account here. You can just use your existing funds from your primary bank.
However, if your bank is a non-EU bank and you are planning to spend a few months here, you need to be very careful. Using your local card for withdrawals will result in some very high transaction fees.
Moreover, exchange rates from a foreign currency might not always be what you expected – plus, your bank might be charging their own transaction or commission fees.
Some good alternatives to a Greek bank account are Revolut, Wise and N26. I was very skeptical 8 years ago when I first registered with Revolut, but I’ve used it in over 15 countries abroad as well as Greece and can’t recommend it highly enough.
You can find out more about Revolut and register, you can use my referral link.
Frequently asked questions about bank accounts in Greece
Here are a few questions expats and non residents ask before opening a bank account in Greece:
Can foreigners open a bank account in Greece?
Yes, foreigners can open a bank account in Greece. You will need to bring the appropriate supporting documents, which may vary, depending on your individual circumstances.
What do I need to open a Greek bank account?
In order to open a Greek bank account, you will need to bring certain supporting documents. These include some proof of ID, proof of address in Greece, AFM (Tax Identification Number), proof of mobile phone number and a recent salary statement. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be asked for extra documents.
Can I open a bank account online without going to the bank?
In order to open a new bank account in Greece, you will need to visit a bank branch. Alpha Bank has recently launched a new service where you can open an account online, but it currently only applies for people with a Greek ID.
Which Greek bank is the best?
There are four major banks in Greece: National Bank of Greece (NBG), Piraeus Bank, Eurobank and Alpha Bank. International clients could also look into HSBC.
Which bank is easiest to open an account with?
All banks in Greece require the same documents, as defined by the Hellenic Bank Association.
Moving to Greece
Since you are looking to open a bank account in Greece, you may be considering to move here. This article with the cost of living in Athens will probably be useful.
Hi! I am Vanessa from Athens. I hope this article has shed some light on how to open a bank account in Greece. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer. Follow my FB page and FB group for more Greece-related info!