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Czech Republic - Banking
You may find it convenient to pay in Euros or US dollars when visiting souvenir shops or tourist restaurants. However, where establishments are happy to accept foreign currency, the exchange rate will be very poor; so the amount you pay will be much higher than if paid in the local currency. In addition, any change due would not be given in Euros or US dollars.
Instead, head to an ATM to withdraw Czech crowns, or pay by credit or debit card. If you don’t have a card or bank account operating in CZK, you are likely to be charged a currency conversion fee, and the conversion rate may be poor. Shop around to find the best credit or debit card offers for making payments in foreign currencies.
ATM machines are widely available in town and city centres. They will normally have an option on screen to complete the transaction in English if you are using a card which was not issued in the Czech Republic.
Occasionally you may find someone on the street offering attractive exchange rates. They may be hanging around near a currency exchange booth or a bank. Under no circumstances make a transaction with these people, as you will be given counterfeit money or be subject to some other criminal act. You will not be refunded by the authorities or your insurance company.
The Czech coins are available in the denomination of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Czech crowns. Banknotes in circulation are 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 Czech crowns.
Bank branches are open Monday to Friday, but are closed at weekends and on public holidays.
If you are living in the Czech Republic for any length of time, it will be useful to set up a bank account in the country. Carefully research the account charges for current accounts on offer. Some are free if you deposit a minimum amount each month. However, most will charge a monthly fee, and the amounts can vary enormously.
You are also likely to be charged an annual fee for your debit card, which many expats will not be used to. On top of that, you will be charged for all ATM withdrawals. Some will charge more for an ATM withdrawal from a machine which belongs to another bank. Occasionally you can track down an account which gives you up to two cash withdrawals a month without paying a fee.
The charges and interest rates for overdrawn accounts will also vary enormously. If you are very careful with money, you can ignore this aspect when choosing an account, but remember that sudden illness or emergency circumstances may cause you to leave the country unexpectedly, which might make it hard to stay on top of your banking in the Czech Republic.
Most banks in the Czech Republic offer a service to bank online. The charges for doing this will vary, as will the security procedures to keep your money safe.
Many banks in the Czech Republic will try to serve you in English, but how successful this is will depend on the member of staff you come into contact with. If you ask, it is likely you will be able to speak to someone who can communicate with you in fluent or sufficient English.
One bank, the Česká spořitelna has designed a bank account specifically for expats. All their services can be accessed in English, French and German. Like some other banks, they also allow you to operate two foreign-exchange accounts, which may help you manage financial commitments back in your country of origin.
Once you have decided to open an account, you will need to visit a branch in person. This applies even if you open an online account. Bring your original identity documents with you for the bank staff to check. The Czech government takes money laundering seriously and amended the anti-money laundering act in 2016, reflecting the demands of the EU directives on this matter. This increases the responsibility of all banks to check who their customers are, identify signs of criminal activity and respond appropriately. There has been a strengthening of the laws concerning who owns assets (such as trust funds and companies) and the true beneficiaries of those assets.
It is possible to obtain a credit card if you are a permanent resident in the Czech Republic. Interest rates are much higher than those offered for loans, so you should try to cover the full repayment each month.
Over the past thirty years, it has become normal practice to leave tips in restaurants, cafes and bars in the Czech Republic. Sometimes the service charge will be added to the bill and presented for your approval, in which case you do not leave any further amount. If a service charge has not been added then you should leave a tip. The normal guide price is 10 percent of the bill’s total. You can add more for excellent service if you wish; if the service was truly terrible, don’t leave a tip. However, bear in mind that the type of happy, exuberant service that US customers enjoy is not always the custom in Europe. Previously, good service was expected to be reserved. Don’t confuse a serious waiter with bad service!
Tips given to taxi drivers are also appreciated. You can usually round up to the notes you are handing over or tell the driver how much in total you would like to pay. It’s normally less than 10 percent and will depend on the fare and the cash notes you are using.
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