Banks in Greece play a crucial role in the country’s economy by providing a diverse range of financial services to residents as well as customers from around the globe. Their history is deeply interwoven with the rich heritage of the Hellenic nation, and they have kept pace with the times by adopting digital technologies and adapting to the ever-changing financial landscape.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of Greek banking, exploring the sector’s inner workings, key players, regulatory framework, services, and future prospects.

Overview of Banking in Greece

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 The Greek banking sector comprises several major banks that dominate the market, as well as smaller regional and cooperative banks that serve their immediate local areas. The Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank, oversees the system and ensures financial stability and regulatory compliance.

Banking in Greece has evolved significantly, especially in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The country now has a stable financial market with 36 individual banks, embracing online and mobile banking.

For expats and residents, opening a Greek bank account is essential for becoming a tax resident or receiving payment for work. Documents typically required include a Greek tax number (AFM), proof of identity, proof of address, and salary evidence. Greece is moving towards becoming a cashless society, although ATMs are widely available.

Banking Regulators in Greece

The regulatory framework for banking in Greece is primarily overseen by the Bank of Greece and the Hellenic Capital Market Commission, alongside adherence to European Union regulations and directives.

Bank of Greece: As the central bank of the country, it plays a crucial role in supervising credit institutions, ensuring the stability of the financial system, and implementing monetary policy. The Bank of Greece operates under the legal framework provided by its statute, EU regulations, and national laws.

Hellenic Capital Market Commission: This body supervises and regulates capital markets, ensuring transparency and protecting investors.

EU Regulations and Directives: Being a member of the EU, Greece follows the European regulatory framework for banking and financial services. This includes directives like the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD IV) and the Capital Requirements Regulation (CRR), which set out prudential requirements for banks, and the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II), which governs financial markets.

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If you’re planning to move to Greece or already living there, you’ll find that the top banks in the country offer a wide range of financial services. These banks can cater to your everyday banking needs as well as offer more sophisticated financial management and investment services.

Piraeus Bank

Piraeus Bank is Greece’s largest bank in terms of total assets. The bank offers a wide range of financial products, including personal accounts, credit and debit cards, investments, mortgages, and insurance products. It provides both regular Current Accounts and Foreign Currency Current Accounts, which can be opened online, catering to the needs of travelers, students, and regular customers. Piraeus Bank also offers a selection of credit cards that come with various perks.

Alpha Bank

Alpha Bank is the third largest bank in Greece. It offers a wide range of retail banking products such as savings and current accounts, card services, investment solutions, insurance, and mortgages. With myAlpha, Alpha Bank’s mobile app, customers can easily manage their finances while on-the-go. Customers can open a current account online, which gives them immediate access to e-Banking and a debit card for daily transactions.

Eurobank Ergasias

This bank specializes in providing retail banking services to international and expat customers. They offer a convenient one-stop hub to set up current accounts, mortgages, and insurance products. Eurobank Ergasias also simplifies banking for foreign customers by offering v-Banking and translation services. Customers have the option to open a current account digitally without visiting a branch.

National Bank of Greece (NBG)

The National Bank of Greece (NBG) is the oldest and second-largest bank in Greece. It offers a wide range of financial services, including cost-effective current and savings accounts, personalized credit cards, investment options, and a variety of insurance products. NBG’s current accounts are fee-free and can be opened online or in-branch without any initial deposit. Moreover, NBG provides a Student account with benefits such as favorable loans and interest rates, as well as a Foreign currency savings account.

Attica Bank

Attica Bank may be smaller than other banks, but it still offers a wide range of banking services. These services include current, savings, payroll, and pension accounts, as well as credit cards, mortgages, insurance, and investment products. The Current Account and Premier Current Account options allow customers to access their funds for payments and bills while earning interest. The Premier account requires a minimum deposit of €5,000.

Top Greek Banks for Online Banking

In Greece, internet banking has also progressed significantly over the years, driven by technological advancements and changing consumer needs and expectations. Greek banks have turned to online and mobile banking services to offer customers the convenience of managing their finances remotely.

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Digital banks like N26 and Revolut are gaining traction in Greece due to their convenience and modern banking solutions. N26 offers an app-based account with no fees and includes a free debit card, making it easy to manage finances on the go.

Revolut, on the other hand, provides various plans, including a free Standard plan, with each offering a debit card and comprehensive app-based banking services. These digital banks represent a shift towards more flexible and accessible banking, especially suitable for people frequently traveling or living abroad.

If you are a digital nomad in Greece and have to pay in Euro for services or make deposits, having a savings account from one of the Greek banks is an excellent idea. However, an online bank account lets you do business worldwide, reach out easily for support, and stay on top of your taxes.

Opening a Greek Bank Account

To open a bank account in Greece, you typically need to provide:

  • a Greek tax number (AFM),
  • proof of identity (e.g., passport),
  • proof of address (e.g., utility bill),
  • and salary evidence (e.g., payslips or an employer’s letter)

While some banks may allow online applications, others require you to visit a branch in person. Additional documents might be required depending on the bank. This process is essential for tax residency and employment purposes in Greece​​.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Banks in Greece

Are there any international banks in Greece?

International banks have a presence in Greece and offer services to both locals and international clients. Banks such as HSBC and Citibank have been operating in Greece for a while. HSBC, for instance, has been in Greece since 1981, but there have been changes over time, such as HSBC Continental Europe selling its branch operations in Greece to Pancreta Bank SA in March 2022.

International banks offer a wide range of services, including personal banking, corporate banking, and wealth management. They cater to the needs of expatriates by providing products like multi-currency accounts, international money transfers, and investment services.

What is the safest bank in Greece for foreigners?

When it comes to determining the safest bank to use in the Greek market, there are several factors to consider, including financial stability, services provided, and personal banking needs.

Major Greek banks like Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, National Bank of Greece, Eurobank Ergasias, and Attica Bank are all trustworthy options that offer a wide range of services to foreigners and expats.

These banks are supervised by the Bank of Greece and comply with EU banking regulations, providing a high level of security for your banking needs in Greece. To make the best and safest choice for your specific banking requirements, it is recommended to consider consulting with a financial advisor.

Can I open a Greek bank account as an American?

As an American, you are eligible to open a bank account in Greece. The specific procedure may differ depending on the bank, but usually entails submitting a Greek tax number (AFM), proof of identification (such as a passport), proof of address, and income verification. While some banks permit online applications, others may require you to appear in person at a branch.

Which banks in Greece can give you a mortgage?

Eurobank, located in Greece, provides mortgage loans to both residents and non-residents who are interested in purchasing, repairing, or constructing properties. Applicants have the option to choose between floating-rate and fixed-rate mortgage loans, and they can receive pre-approval within a few days of submitting the required documents.

The amount of the loan and the term of the loan vary depending on citizenship status, income, creditworthiness, and the property’s value. To find out more information about mortgage loans and the application process, you can visit Eurobank’s website or contact their customer service.

What are some popular Cypriot banks?

The top Cypriot banks, based on total assets and market share, include Bank of Cyprus, Hellenic Bank, Eurobank Cyprus Ltd, Astrobank Limited, and Societe Generale Bank – Cyprus Ltd. These banks offer a wide range of services such as retail, private, corporate, and commercial banking, as well as investment banking, fund management, and international transactions.