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If you are to live and work in Malta or simply want to move there to retire then you will find that you will need to open a bank account. A bank account is particularly necessary if you are working or buying/renting a home in Malta. Both EU and non EU nationals can open a bank account, but there are terms and conditions that you will need to meet. So to save you some considerable time, here is our guide on setting up a bank account in Malta.
Maltese Banking Process for EU and Non-EU Nationals
If you have a good credit rating and are debt free, then you may find it a fairly simple process to open up a bank account. However, if you have been declared bankrupt or have a history of debt, then you may be required to become a resident of Malta for a certain period of time before you are permitted to open an account. In that instance, you may only be allowed a limited current account.
Non Maltese residents will need to present the following documentation to their local bank in person:
- Passport or Photo ID Card
- Utility Bill With Your Full Address (if you do not already have an address in Malta then provide a utility bill from your previous address)
- Bank Reference From Your Previous or Current Bank (this is to provide any history of debt and credit rating - your bank may charge you for this service and they may need to be contacted directly by the bank in Malta)
- Account Application
The bank will then communicate with your current or previous bank to verify your identification, credit rating and go through your banking history. This includes how long you've had an account, proof of regular payments, any debts, etc. As these two banks will need to pass information onto each other, this can take some time with reports of waiting times up to 6 months, but this seems dependent on circumstances and the efficiency of the banks involved.
Once your bank account is opened you may need to wait another few weeks for your card and PIN number to arrive. You can speed up this process by offering to pick it up from your local branch.
In theory the process for non-EU nationals should be the same as EU nationals, but some have been subject to slightly stricter controls. For instance, some EU nationals have been able to open bank accounts without a bank reference, whereas this appears to be a standard request for non-EU nationals.
Why Have a Bank Account in Malta?
There are many reasons why you should consider opening a bank account in Malta, especially if you are planning on living and working in the country for a period of time.
- Working in Malta
If you are working for a Maltese company then you may be required to have a Maltese bank account before you are paid your salary.
- High International Bank Charges
If funds are being paid into a foreign bank account you will be subject to high bank charges for foreign transactions and currency exchange (if you live outside the Eurozone).
- Paying Bills and Rent
Direct debits can be easily set up and you are free to use your bank's cashpoint, although charges can occur if you use an ATM which is not linked to your bank.
Malta Bank Charges
Bank charges in Malta do vary and you may find that some services which were free from your own bank now incur a fee in Malta, so it's worth checking the terms and conditions thoroughly. Typical charges include using another bank's ATM machine, transfer of funds, Internet banking, going overdrawn and with some an annual fee for a current account with a debit card.
Main Banks in Malta
The main banks in Malta are:
- Bank of Valletta (BOV)
- APS Bank
There are also numerous other smaller banks and international banks such as Barclays. Smaller banks may have their own debit cards which are given to account holders free of charge and which are accepted at most local retail outlets in Malta, but it is worth paying a little extra for a Visa card.
Expat and International Bank Accounts
It is possible to open up an account even before you leave your native country, as many banks such as HSBC are international. However, it's worth checking how many local branches your international bank has and which cash point machines you can use as well as any terms and conditions this type of account carries.
An account like this is ideal for those constantly on the move as it's flexible and designed with the traveller in mind. However, you may require a certain level of wealth before you can open an international (offshore) account. A monthly charge may also be payable, along with penalty fees for falling below the required minimum balance. So if your funds are limited, or you plan to work and live in Malta for a long period, opening an account on the island might be the best option.
Banking Services in Malta
Malta's banking system offers all the banking services you would expect, such as online and telephone banking, credit and debit cards and a variety of accounts such as savings, current and deposit.
The banking system largely follows the UK system, although the banks are under tighter regulation and have not been so quick to lend without fully investigating the individual's or company's financial record first.
Tips and Advice on Setting up a Maltese Bank Account
Go onto most of the expat forums and the advice is very clear - start applying for a bank account as soon as you can.
Get your paperwork ready and in order. Some banks will accept an original reference from your previous or current bank, whilst others will want to communicate with them directly. Although there is no harm in getting this reference done by your bank in advance so that even if they do have to send off for it, your bank has it already prepared. A letter from your employer may also be a wise move.
Other advice appears to be that having a Maltese ID Card (or new e-Residence card) will speed things up considerably. Applications need to be made in person at the Department for Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs in Valletta.
The larger banks appear to be more efficient at dealing with non-resident applications. However, it's worth remembering that if you are not happy with your bank and want to change, you may be charged a transfer fee. So do your research carefully before you decide which bank to go with.
N.B. All information contained within this article was correct at time of publication, but is subject to change. Belair property holds strong ties with local banks in Malta. So if you are thinking of moving to Malta and need advice on relocating to the island or are thinking of buying a property and require a loan to do so, contact one of our property agents today for comprehensive, up-to-date advice on what to do next.