To buy a property in Greece you will need to open a Greek bank account. How easy is that, and what services do Greek banks offer? You might have heard it can be tricky, but it just takes a little patience, says Diana Giannoulis of Corfuhomefinders.com, our writer in Corfu.
Opening a bank account in Greece needn’t be intimidating, and once opened it is very easy to operate as the major banks all have online banking in English, plus the ATM machines also have ‘menus’ in English.
The major banks geared to international clients are Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank. They all have branches in the major towns as well as ATM machines in many villages and resorts. Most staff in branches speak excellent English and there are usually members of staff designated to assist international clients.
Banks have opening hours of 0830 – 1400 from Monday to Friday, and also have 24 hours service phone lines, with English speaking members of staff available to assist with phone banking.
Opening your account
If you have left a Power of Attorney with your lawyer, he/she may be able to open the account on your behalf, although the bank will always want to meet new customers at least once.
Below is a list of documents required from your home country, in order to open an account with a Greek bank:
- Recent mobile and land line phone bill.
- Recent utility bills of electricity or water.
- Last Tax Return or P60 or P45.
- Any document that has the NI number, if it is not shown on tax Return.
- Latest monthly salary slip or any other document that proves occupation.
- Bank statement going back at least 12 months
- Copy of Birth Certificate
- Copies of passports.
- Marriage certificate – if the property is being purchased in both names of a married couple.
- Tax Residency Certificate from HM Inland Revenue Office
Most accounts are deposit accounts, with a debit card attached – current accounts with cheque books are rare. Internet banking, Standing orders and direct debits can be established from the deposit account in order to pay utility bills, taxes etc.
Until recently Greece was subject to capital controls, which have now been relaxed, and therefore ATM withdrawals and transfers are not subject to restrictions.
As well as the usual banking services your bank can also offer insurance for your property, contents, vehicles and belongings. If your property is going to be a holiday let they can also provide the obligatory third party liability.
Something not currently available from your Greek bank are mortgages. This may change in the future, but currently none of the banks offer property loans.
As elsewhere in the world, Greek banks are extremely security conscious. When carrying out online transactions there is always an sms code issued for security purposes, or an automatic pin dongle can be requested from the branch.
Two golden rules for visiting your bank:
- Always take your passport – without this as proof of ID you won’t be able to do anything.
- Have patience – many Greeks still conduct their transactions by physically visiting the bank, so banks are usually pretty crowded.
Diana Giannoulis of Corfuhomefinders.com.