Italian Bank Accounts for Foreigners: best tips and recommendations
If you’re opening a bank account in Italy there are three paths. You can open a traditional account at any number of small regional banks, you can open an account with the Italian Post Office, or you can choose from a number of online banks such as N26 which are becoming more popular. The choice will depend largely on its purpose: we’ll look at both personal and corporate accounts. In some cases traditional banks can open accounts remotely, but it always helps if you are already living in Italy or preparing to move here (documents in hand let’s say)—in person appearances, while not strictly necessary, are still culturally important.
Am I able to open a personal account?
First, this largely depends on your residency status. As a resident, bank accounts in Italy are easier to open. However, if you are not yet a resident or are trying to open one from abroad it may be more difficult as banks may be more reluctant to open accounts unless the transaction is particularly profitable for them even if, in theory, it is possible. For example, Italy is open to foreign investment, so if you are looking to take out a mortgage from abroad in order to buy a property then it is more likely that a bank will be willing to open an Italian bank account for you.
What documents will I need for the personal account?
Let’s start off with the other requirements before we look at documents. You’ll need to be at least 18 years old to open your own account and (preferably, but not necessarily) an Italian resident. Given that you’ll then need to produce the following documents:
2. Tax number (Codice Fiscale)
3. Proof of address (usually as a utility bill)
4. Proof of employment or a residence permit
While not explicitly requested in this case, it is always useful to keep copies of all documents when dealing with any bureaucratic institution. The process is rather straightforward and it is not necessary to make an appointment to open a bank account in Italy.
Are there fees for opening an account?
In short, no. There aren’t any bank fees when you open an Italian bank account, but some banks impose fees for maintenance, money transfers or withdrawal. The contract between yourself and the bank will have more complete information about any associated fees. Additionally, most banks offer a debit and/or credit card for no extra fee.
You should be aware that some banks will require that a certain amount of money be deposited into the account upon opening and that different banks set different amounts. It’s best to shop around in this case.
If for some reason you need cheques, the bank can issue a cheque book for a small fee, usually a couple euros, but be aware that it is illegal to bounce a cheque in Italy and that doing so risks your ability to have a bank account at all and can result in prosecution.
If you prefer having an international bank…
There are some international banks as well. ING (Dutch), Deutsche Bank (German) and Crédit Agricole (French) all operate within Italy and offer the same services.
Is the process different when opening a corporate account?
When opening a corporate account it is best to use a traditional established bank, of which there are many in Italy and all of them offer services tailored specifically to businesses. The process itself is more or less the same, but the corporate account will require documents, listed below, that are not necessary for the personal account:
1. Company director’s passport
2. Company director’s proof of address
3. Tax number (codice fiscale)
4. Company’s registration certificate
5. Company’s certificate of good standing
6. Statements of the financial status of all shareholders with more than a 20% stake in the company.
When opening a corporate account it may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the laws that govern them. At the national level there is the Consolidated Law of Banking along with Legislative Decree 58/1998. And, at the European Union level, there is the Capital Requirements Regulation (Regulation No. 575/2013) which applies to all banks in Europe.
In addition to the laws listed above there are several international institutions that take a supervisory role over banking and financial activities. They are:
1. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision
2. The European System of Financial Supervision
3. The Financial Stability Board
4. The International Organization of Securities Commission.
If you need to close a bank account:
This could happen for any reason. It’s best to review your contract carefully when initially opening the account to see how difficult it will be or if there will be any fees involved. You will need to send a registered letter (raccomandata) from the post office to the branch of the bank where your account is before appearing in person. If you have a joint account, then all those attached to the account will have to provide signatures.
A note for U.S residents:
Laws between Italy and the U.S. regarding the opening of bank accounts to foreigners can be quite strict as a way of deterring money laundering and other illicit activities. Workers often have an easier experience opening a PostePay account through the post office. This kind of account functions as a debit card would and has its own IBAN for making money transfers and direct deposits through work, but the amount of money that can be kept on the card is limited to around €5,000. If you still wish to try and open an account before arriving in Italy the process of obtaining the codice fiscale can be started through the Italian Consulate in your jurisdiction, but only before applying for the entry visa.
Check out our video below about foreign pension in Italy as well.
After moving back to Italy from the United States in 2013, I realized how much an accounting and tax firm was needed to help expats living in Italy to comply with the local tax regulations.