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Greece - Banking

Most banking facilities in Greece are very good and have improved significantly in recent years. However, there are also a number of banks in Greece that are very inefficient and slow compared to their European counterparts. Greece has around 20 local banks divided into two groups: specialized credit companies and commercial banks. The Bank of Greece (www.ethniki.gr) is the country’s central and the largest bank. In addition, it is the sole monetary authority in Greece, which regulates other banks and credit companies operating in the country.

A number of commercial banks are regulated by the state, but most of them are currently trying to merge with other banks or being privatized. The good thing about most banks in Greece is that they offer internet-banking services, which is a popular banking option for many people in the country. Greece also has a number of foreign-owned banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays Bank, Natwest Bank, HSBC, and Citibank.

Opening Hours

Nearly all banks in Greece open from 8am to 2.30 pm on Mondays to Thursdays. On Fridays, the banks are usually open from 8am to 2 pm. However, banking hours may be different from branch to branch and even from town to town. Branches in big towns and resorts normally have extended working hours, which may include weekends and evenings. Banks in small towns and villages open for a few hours a day or on specific days only. It is important to carry your passport as proof of identity and be ready to wait in line for minutes or even hours whenever you want to use over-the-counter bank services. Bank queues in Greece have a reputation for moving slowly. Most banks in Greece prefer passports to residence permits. Transactions are carried out in two parts in many Greek banks. This is basically because the country wants to keep as many people as possible at work. Any withdrawal must be processed or approved at one counter. The next step will require you to queue to collect your money at the cash desk.

How to open a bank account in Greece

Residents and non-residents can open bank accounts in Greece. Many people prefer opening bank accounts in person, rather than opening one from abroad. It is important to check and compare the fees charged for services like international money transfers before choosing a bank. Talk to your colleagues, friends, or family members for recommendations.

To open a bank account in Greece, you must be at least 18 years old and provide proof of identity. You will also need to provide your local address. It is also possible to open a bank account prior to arriving in the country through an overseas branch of any Greek bank. You can also open an account with a UK or US bank operating in Greece. However, your signature will have to be ratified first before you can open the account.

You can open a wide range of bank accounts in Greece including external accounts, current accounts and foreign currency accounts. Most banks in Greece offer cash withdrawal (ATM) and debit cards with savings and current accounts. You can use your Greek debit card to make purchases outside Greece. Anyone who needs a credit card can request one but most banks may ask to see a recommendation from your bank in your native country before giving you one.

Non-residents cannot access loans since Greek banks do not offer loans to non-residents other than mortgages. It is advisable to leave your overseas bank accounts open when you are residing in Greece permanently, unless you are sure that you will not need to use them in the future. This means that you will not have to pay commissions to exchange foreign currency. Many expats in Greece have at least two accounts: a local bank account for day-to-day activities and a foreign bank account for international business.

International banks in Greece

Many international banks operate in Greece. These banks have their offices in city centers with branches spread around the country. Expats can withdraw money from ATMs in various parts of the country.

UK/US Banks in Greece

American Express
Aghia Paraskevi
2, Iroon Polytechniou Street
210 6395 901

ABN Amro
3, Paparrigopoulou Street
210 6124 680

American Express
Athens Airport
East Terminal-Helliniko
210 9619 367

Barclays Bank PLC
1, Kolokotroni & Stadiou
210 8068 457

Bank of America NT & SA
Athens centre
39, Panepistimiou Street
210 3251 901

Athens centre
109-111, Messogion Avenue
210 6960 000

Aghia Paraskevi
22, Ag. Ioannou Street
210 9025 503

Cards & Travelers’ Checks

The best and fastest way to access money in Greece is to use a credit or debit card. Many foreigners residing in Greece save their money in foreign accounts and access it with credit or debit cards locally. Many hotels, restaurants, and retail stores accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express. Cash is often the only mode of payment accepted in rural areas.

Travelers’ Checks

It is safer to carry travelers’ checks than cash when visiting Greece. Consider buying travelers’ checks in Euros when visiting Greece. Normally, they are acquired for a service charge of one percent from banks in Greece. It is mandatory for you to show your passport when banking euro travelers’ checks through banks, but there should be no charges incurred. However, rates and charges for travelers’ checks are different in other currencies.

Generally, banks present better exchange rates for travelers’ checks than banknotes. It is important to always preserve a separate file of cheque records and be aware of when and where they have been cashed. American Express offers replacement services for stolen or displaced travelers’ checks in their branches all over the world as long as you know the serial numbers of the checks. Clients who are not aware of the serial numbers of the lost checks will have to wait for a minimum of three days for them to be recovered.

Read more about this country

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