Malta bank account: can a foreigner get one?
When you ask if a foreign national can get a Malta bank account, the answer is: it depends. If you need an account to pay your salary to, you may be able to get an account from a local bank but you shouldn’t take it for granted, even if you are a citizen of another EU country. Banks in Malta don’t seem to have a clear idea on their own requirements and many migrants say that the end result of the bank account application has almost depended on the right alignment of stars and planets on the night sky, the colour you are wearing on the day or how much the bank employee hates his or her Monday. If you are new to banking in Malta, then read on!
There are a few options to choose from: the HSBC and Bank of Valletta, which is also known as BOV. Other, smaller chains are called APS Bank, Lombard Bank and Banif Bank. When you walk into the nearest branch in an attempt to open an account, don’t expect for it to be an easy ride. The more prepared you are for an irritating experience, the better. Although some foreign nationals have had good experiences opening an account, for many of us, getting a proper account can be a challenge.
In Mediterranean cultures it always helps to know someone inside the organisation who can help you. If your uncle can make a few calls, things can move along swiftly. But if you are a new-comer, this may not be possible. Here’s a small guide to banking for foreign nationals in Malta. If you find this post helpful, please share it!
How to open a bank account in Malta
So you have landed on the Maltese islands and have hopefully found a job and an apartment. You shouldn’t need a Malta bank account for securing an apartment and paying rent, as in Malta, cash is still king. If you want a local bank account, here’s what to do.
As a minimum precaution you should bring along the following documents:
Work recommendation letter
If you have a Maltese ID card, it’s highly recommended that you bring it along. In many cases your application won’t be accepted without one. What has also been asked in some cases is a reference from your old bank. This could prove to be impossible to obtain, as the Maltese bank can’t just call your branch to check your reference. Banks shouldn’t give out any information to the outsiders about their clients. If someone calls in the branch with a Maltese accent, what would you do if you were an employee of a bank? Discuss the financials of a client over the phone? Probably not. It may be worth your while to print an online bank statement to take with you. Some banks may also ask for a proof of address in your home country. Also this may be a pain, if you don’t have an address at home any more. Next, I will tell you more about the bank accounts, so read on.
What kind of a Malta bank account can an expat get in Malta?
Although your papers are in order and you seem like a genuine applicant, it’s still unlikely to get the same treatment as the locals get at Maltese banks. You may need to pay in a deposit. Getting a credit card may also be almost impossible, as you haven’t built up your credit score over many years, like the locals have. If you struggle to get a bank account, it’s also possible to get an account that comes with a simple debit card from the Malta Post.
What else do I need to know about the Malta bank account problems?
There is something expats tend to warn others about. The recommendation is to hold on to your old bank account in your home country for two reasons. Firstly, if you close your account when you leave home, you may not be able to open up another one in your home country, as you are now living abroad. Most banks require you to have an address in the country in question, if you wish to open an account. This is a security measure against money laundry and other fraudulent activities.
Another reason, why you should not close your old account, is that you should transfer large chunks of your funds out of Malta bank account. The reason behind this is something worth mentioning. It is actually possible for someone else to freeze all of your funds in Malta bank account, if you somehow end up in the legal system. Based on the discussions that the expats in Malta are having, it seems to be quite common that landlords dispute payments on fraudulent basis. If your whole bank account and all of its funds are frozen indefinitely, you really are screwed. Times of Malta wrote an article about a pensioner who wasn’t able to even buy her medicine after her account was frozen. Going into battle in the Maltese legal system is not advised for expats, even if you have taken a financial hit for a reason that is not your fault. There are more unfortunate examples in the media with unbelievable outcomes. In this article a Swedish Gozo expat says that if you don’t have the right connections, you can forget about justice. If you want to read more into the corruption in Malta, you can start here.
I have stopped making international money transfers through my bank. If you are considering sending money out of Malta, I recommend using the Transferwise service, as their international money transfers are way faster and cheaper than banks. To get your first Transferwise transfer free, use this promo code. Recently the funds have been transferred between countries in a matter of minutes, which I think is incredible.
You should seriously consider just sticking with your old, foreign bank account, if your employer is happy to pay your salary into your overseas account. Of course, this results in higher withdrawal costs but in some cases, is worth the hassle. Most employers know that getting an account is not easy for us immigrants or expats, which ever you want to call us. So many employers don’t need you to have a Maltese account. Rent is typically paid in cash, but make sure nobody tries to pay you using a cheque!
I hope you have found this article helpful. Please take a few seconds to share it if you think it may help someone. And please comment below!
Malta doesn’t have Uber either: