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Expats in Italy and bank accounts

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Investments, Italy, Saving, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 13th January 2015

During the course of my many conversations, one particular issue comes up all too frequently which I thought I just have to write about. It is something which has been on my radar for some time now. Now the time has come.

What am I talking about?
I am referring to basic bank accounts that expats use in Italy, those bank accounts which were probably set up when you first moved to Italy, either because the person who you were buying a house from suggested you open an account at the same branch to make life easier, or you were referred to the local branch because most people used it, or someone knew someone who could open you an account when you may not have even been a resident at the time. I am sure these reasons may sound familiar to some of you.

But unfortunately, you are more than likely being charged an extremely high amount of bank charges for little to no service.

Monte Pashi di Siena;
Monte Paschi di Siena keeps coming up as the worst culprit, by a long stretch, but yet, seemingly used most frequently by the expats I meet. One person I met last week was paying 34 euros a quarter for the bank account and then on 210 euro transfers to another Italian bank account (a simple bonifico) a commission of 4.50 eur. (2% commission PHEW!).

I did not even get to see what they were paying for exchange rate conversions (the mind boggles) or transaction fees for taking money from the hole in the wall and other services.

I estimated the costs could be as high as 800 Euro a year.

But it is simply daylight robbery and too many of you could be getting ripped off (I have no better words for it I am afraid) because you think that ‘it is just not worth the hassle of changing’ or ‘they are all alike’ or ‘banking back home is much better’.

However, this is no longer the case. In the last few years, Italian banks have really started to compete for business and there are options available. If you are happy with internet banking, then that’s even better.

I personally use 2 banks (personal and business). My personal account is Fineco (who? I hear you say). Fineco! (part of the Unicredit group). I am VERY satisfied with the service they offer. It is an exceptionally well operated online bank and even won the Global Finance Award for Best bank in Italy in 2013. It is 100% online. Now, I imagine that you might be thinking, online – Italy – errr, not sure, I need to keep an account where I can talk with someone if things go wrong. But, for basic banking it operates very smoothly. And I have emailed them many times and got responses within 24 hours.

And the best part is, at the time of writing:

ZERO canone. In other words no monthly, quarterly or annual charges just for having an account. FREE withdrawals from ANY cash machine throughout the whole of Italy. FREE credit card cash withdrawals from any Unicredit machines in Italy (and there are many). ZERO cost bank transfers in Italy.

My other bank for the business is Banca Popolare del Commercio e dell’Industria. This does not mean much, but it is part of the larger UBI banca group network.

I chose this account at a branch as it is a business account and I need to speak with my bank Director from time to time, but otherwise I operate everything online.

I pay only 5 EUR a month for this account and 0.50 Eur to make bank transfers. I can also withdraw cash from the UBI Banca group bancomats for FREE. The account, in general, is more expensive than the Fineco account but it is a business account and it has to be expected.

However, there are other personal account options with similar cost structures to Fineco, such as Ingdirect, Webank, Chebanca or Hellobank.

A good comparison website is www.confrontaconti.it

My simple message is to pay some attention to your bank account in Italy if you have not done so for some time. It is not difficult to change or use accounts, as in the past. With basic Italian you can do it without any problems.

You could be making huge savings just through changing bank accounts. They are as easy to operate as online bank accounts abroad and if, in this person’s case, a saving of 800Eur a year can be made then I would think it is definitely worth it. Any savings made can compensate for the increased taxes in recent years!

Take some time and have a look at your old bank statements to see what charges you are paying and compare this on the web link above to find out how much you ‘could’ be paying.

Article by Gareth Horsfall

Gareth HorsfallIf you live in Italy and or have financial interests in Italy you can contact Gareth Horsfall directly on: gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com to request more information about how he may be able to help you. Alternatively you can complete the form below and a message will be sent to him. If you would like to read more about Gareth's work you can follow his blog on tax and financial planning in Italy HERE

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