Thursday, October 30, 1997

Banking In Italy...?

I was born in Australia and hold both an australian and italian passport. I plan to find work in Italy, and thought I would enquire about opening a bank account in Italy. I will be based mainly in Reggio Calabria and Bologna.

Firstly I need an account where I can check all transaction details online. Secondly a bank whereby I can transfer money into my australian bank account and vice versa. Does anyone know of a bank that has low fees? Does anyone bank with Monte Dei Paschi Di Siena bank? What account should I go for? Visa Debit etc...or are there any other options?

Thanks heaps for your help!

Answer on Banking In Italy...?

First, you need to be aware that Italian banks can be a bit funny when it comes to opening an account for a foreigner, but if you have an Italian passport, if you have proof of a base of some sort in Italy, and if you speak Italian well, you should be able to find a bank who will open an account for you.

I assume that, if you have an Italian passport, you have a Codice Fiscale. If not, contact your nearest Italian consulate to say you would like one. If for some reason you can't get one before you leave Australia, then getting a CF should be the first thing you do on arriving in Italy. It's a simple process and should take only a few minutes, but the point is that you will not be able to carry out any sort of financial transaction in Italy (or do many other things, like register with the health service) if you do not have a CF.

I'm not familiar with the Australian banking system, but Brits who come to Italy find the banks here expensive compared to UK banks. On the other hand, it seems that quite a few Brits like the personal touch you can get in Italy if you've had an account for a while. In recent years in the UK, banks have gone through a period of closing down branches, while in Italy even tiny villages will have a bank and some towns seem to have one on every other street corner.

It seems from the Monte dei Paschi di Siena website ( that the bank has many branches in Bologna and 6 in Reggio Calabria, so that seems to me like it makes it a good choice for you.

I believe that most, if not all, Italian banks offer Internet access these days.

My bank is Banco Posta, chosen because it has very competitive rates and branches all over the place.

It should be possible for you to transfer money between your Italian and Australian bank accounts. The questions are just how easy this will be and how much it will cost. I've never done a transfer between Australia and Italy, but I am familiar with the process of moving funds from the UK to an Italian bank. British banks are very happy to do the whole transaction for you, but the fees and the exchange rates they offer make this a poor choice compared to dealing with the transfer using a foreign exchange broker. What most ex-pat Brits who still have financial affairs based in the UK do is set up an account with one or more foreign exchange brokers (you need to provide proof of identity these days due to money laundering laws) and then contact them when money needs to be transferred to see who is offering the best rate on the day. Once a deal is agreed, money is transferred from the UK bank to the exchange house and they then transfer the money to the Italian bank. I've never done this in reverse, so I am no familiar with how you might buy Australian dollars in Italy and transfer them to an Australian account.

You might consider checking out the Italy Magazine forums I've linked to below. There is information on there about people's personal experiences of banks and you might get some useful information if you post a question. Italy Mag is aimed mainly at the UK market, but there are also foreigner-in-Italy websites and forums which attract mainly people from the USA. It's been a while since I looked for these, so I'm unfortunately not able to post links.