How to Open a European Bank Account: A Step-by-Step Guide

Opening a bank account in Europe can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With this guide, you’ll be able to open a bank account quickly and easily – from almost anywhere in the world.

When the Euro (EUR) was born in 1999, naysayers were standing in line to predict its immediate demise. Fast forward to today, the euro is one of the most widely used currencies worldwide, with around a third of all global transactions completed using it.

Whether you think the euro’s political or economic purpose is good or not, the fact is billions of euros are moved, spent, and received every day. It’s only logical that individuals and businesses around the globe want to have their own European bank accounts to take advantage of the currency. Fortunately, opening a European bank account is easier than ever before.

Key takeaways

This guide goes through everything you need to know to open a personal or business euro account, no matter your location. But if you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick summary so you don’t have to read the whole article:

  • You live in the US, Canada, or another non-European country: If you want to open a European bank account but don’t reside in Europe, the easiest option is to go with a global digital bank like Wise or Revolut. These online banks allow you to hold, spend, and save in multiple currencies, including euros. Alternatively, you could research if your bank offers foreign currency accounts. High-net-worth individuals may want to consider the HSBC Expat Bank Account.
  • If you’re moving to Europe: If you’re relocating to Europe, you should be able to open a traditional bank account in the country where you’ll reside. Some banks require a local address, while others may let you open an account before you move.
  • You live in the UK: Despite Brexit, Brits still have a variety of euro bank accounts to choose from. You can open a euro account online in the UK with Starling, Wise, Revolut, Monese, or Fineco for free or almost nothing. High-income earners can also consider an offshore account in the Channel Islands with Lloyds, NatWest, or another traditional institution.
  • You live in the EU/EEA (or Switzerland) but not in the eurozone: If your country doesn’t use the euro as its currency, the easiest option is to go with an online bank. The list of online banks that serve EU/EEA and Swiss residents is endless, but some of the more popular choices are Wise, Revolut, Monese, and bunq, just to name a few. Most traditional banks in your country will also offer foreign currency accounts.
  • You need a euro account for your business: If you want to quickly set up a euro account for your business, you can do so with Wise, Revolut Business, AirWallex, or Payoneer, from almost anywhere in the world. Depending on where your business is registered and other factors, you may also be able to open a foreign currency account in euros with an institution in your country.

How to open a Euro account

The process of opening a bank account in Europe can be confusing. Thankfully, it’s not too hard once you know what your options are. You can open a bank account in euros from almost anywhere in the world by following these four simple steps:

1. Understand your options

Banks have different requirements for opening an account depending on where you’re coming from, so it’s important to do your research ahead of time. While most traditional banks require that you have a local address, there are online banks that will let you open an account without one.

Non-EEA residents

If you’re not a resident in the European Economic Area (EEA), your best option is to open an account with a global online bank. Some of the most well-known online banks are Wise and Revolut. These accounts are available outside Europe and allow you to hold, spend, and save in multiple currencies—including euros. If you’re from the UK, see the section below on opening a euro account as a UK resident.

By law, European banks are not required to provide services to non-residents. They must decide if you’re worth their time or simply another administrative burden they don’t need. That being said, there are still a number of traditional brick-and-mortar banks that offer accounts to foreigners. These include large international institutions like Barclays, HSBC, and Citibank. If you’re a high-net-individual, opening an account with them is preferable to an online bank. For common folks, these options are often out of reach.

EEA residents

If you’re a resident in the EEA or Switzerland, you have plenty of options for banking in euros. If you don’t already have a bank in mind, you can check out the top picks for the best online banks in Europe. Some of the most popular online banks are Wise and Revolut.

In addition to online banks, you can also open an account with a traditional bank. The easiest way to open a euro account is most likely through your existing bank. But easy doesn’t mean cheap. There’s a high chance you’ll be met with bad conversion rates and high fees for having the account.

Luckily, EU residents have the most options available thanks to the “Non-discrimination” clause in the European Union’s Banking Directive. This allows you to bank freely anywhere in the EU without being subjected to unfavourable conditions based on your nationality. In theory, a German can open an account in Portugal with the same ease as a Portuguese national.

Businesses

Companies trading internationally often need accounts in multiple currencies. Strangely enough, it’s easier for a non-resident business to open a euro account than it is for a non-resident individual. Some of the online business bank accounts that are available to both EEA and non-EEA-based companies are Wise, AirWallex, and Payoneer. UK-domiciled businesses have it easier than the rest, as most UK banks offer euro business accounts as a standard feature. If your company is Europe-based there’s no shortage of online business banks to pick from.

2. Choose a bank

Now that we covered the basics of opening a euro bank account, it’s time to talk about the available types of banks. The two main types of banks in Europe are online and traditional high-street banks.

Online banks

For non-residents, opening a euro account is much easier with an online bank than with a traditional bank. The main benefit of online banks is that they offer accounts to people from all over the world, regardless of their residency status. All you need is a passport and proof of address, and you’re good to go.

Still, it’s crucial to bear in mind that the online bank refers to two different types of financial institutions. The first is licenced online-only banks that don’t have any physical branches. Depositors at these institutions are protected in the same way as with traditional banks.

The second type of European online bank is electronic money institutions (EMIs). These are not banks in the traditional sense, as they latch onto the infrastructure of a larger financial institution rather than build their own. EMIs are primarily for when you need to do transactions, like when you’re travelling or sending or receiving payments in different currencies—not for keeping large sums of money.

Traditional banks

Traditional banks (or high-street banks) are the brick-and-mortar financial institutions that most people are familiar with. These are your typical mega banks, like HSBC, Santander, BNP Paribas, ING, etc. But this category also includes small and medium-sized local banks and credit institutions.

For non-European residents, the biggest obstacle to opening a bank account with a traditional institution is residency. The majority of conventional banks only offer accounts to people who live in the country where the bank operates or who have a valid reason for needing an account there. For example, you might be able to open an account in advance if you’re moving to the country soon, have a property there, are making an investment, or are studying at a local university.

3. Gather the required documents

The next step is to gather the required documents. The specific documents that you’ll need vary depending on the bank and your country of residence, but there are a few that are required by most banks:

  • Proof of identity: A picture of a valid government-issued photo ID, like a passport, driving licence, or national ID card. If you’re a non-EU resident, the bank will most likely ask for a copy of your passport.
  • Tax identification number: You’ll need to provide your tax identification number. If you’re moving to Europe, you often need to apply for a tax number in the country you’re moving to before you can open a bank account. For example, to open a bank account in Portugal, you need to have a Portuguese fiscal number (NIF). A tax number usually doesn’t mean you’re liable for taxes in the country—it’s just a way for the government to identify you.
  • A picture of your face: This is either a selfie or a video call with a bank representative. This is to verify that you are who you say you are.
  • Proof of address: A utility bill, rental agreement, or bank statement issued within the last three months with your name and address. Some banks only accept government-issued documents, like a tax return or notarised copy from the embassy or consulate.
  • Proof of income: Depending on the bank, you might need to provide proof of income, like a pay stub or bank statement. This requirement is more common for traditional banks.

4. Use your euro account

If everything went smoothly, congratulations—you now have a euro account. Whether you’re travelling, working, or plan on living in Europe, a euro account will hopefully make your life a little easier.

There’s usually no minimum balance required involved with opening an account. The only time this won’t apply is if you’re opening a bank account with an offshore institution like HSBC’s Expat Account or similarly. Some Southern European banks do require an initial deposit, but it’s only to confirm the account, and you can usually withdraw the money right away.

International Euro account

Wise (formerly TransferWise)

Wise provides euro bank accounts worldwide.
Quick take
  • Unique euro bank account details
  • Free to open
  • Available worldwide
Fees
  • Account opening: £0
  • Ongoing fees: £0
  • In-kind card spending: 0%

A non-resident’s best option for sending and receiving money internationally in Europe is the Wise (formerly TransferWise) multi-currency account. The Wise multi-currency online banking service makes it possible for individuals to open a European bank account even if they live outside of Europe. 

The account is available worldwide (with a few restrictions) and can be opened online with no physical paperwork involved.

It’s free to sign up for Wise’s multi-currency account, and it’s free to get a European IBAN, as well as details for other currencies like the USD, GBP, AUD. You can send and receive money in EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD, RON, HUF & SGD with no fees and USD using ACH transfers. 

  • Free local banking details in EUR, GBP, USD, AUD, NZD, SGD, CAD, and more in your name
  • Hold and convert between 54+ currencies and transfer money to 80+ countries
  • Mastercard debit card and virtual cards to spend from your account and connect with Apple and Google Pay
  • Zero monthly/weekly account fees or minimum balances

You may store a total of 50+ different currencies in your account, which you can convert with minimal costs. You can also order a physical Wise debit card for a small fee and add it to Google or Apple Pay.

Opening a non-resident personal euro bank account can be done on Wise’s website or mobile app with just some basic information. 

First, you need to sign up and verify your identity by providing either a photo ID and proof of address. It usually takes about two business days for this process from start to finish. 

After you’ve activated your account, you will receive unique account numbers with your own SWIFT/BIC and IBAN information.

Wise is without a doubt the most cost-effective and straightforward method to open a personal euro bank account in the United States, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, or anywhere else. 

Wise: Features

  • A free European bank account that can be opened from almost anywhere in the world.
  • A personal IBAN. Meaning, ingoing, and outgoing transfers are made in your name.
  • €0 fees for account opening and maintenance, for receiving and holding euros, and for spending euros with the Wise card.
  • It’s free to set up Direct Debits with your EUR account details to pay for monthly subscriptions like phone or energy bills.
  • The free personal Euro account is part of Wise’s multi-currency account which lets you can hold and convert money in 54 currencies. Besides the free EUR account, you get unique banking details for USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, SGD, RON, CAD, HUF, and TL.
  • A physical and virtual multi-currency debit card that allows you to spend currencies from your account fee-free. If you don’t have the currency in your account, there is a conversion spread, starting at 0.24%.

Euro account in the UK

How to open a Euro bank account in the UK

Many UK individuals have ties to the other side of the Channel regardless of Brexit and may be wondering how to open a euro account in the UK. There are still around 3.5 million EU citizens are still in the UK, many of whom have economic connections to the continent in one form or another.

For UK citizens and residents, there are generally more options available than for people living overseas elsewhere. Wise is available in the UK, but you can also open a personal euro account with a nationally regulated financial institution.

Here are some of the most popular options for opening a euro bank account in the UK:

If you don’t require a dedicated euro account but want access to occasional spending in foreign currencies, the Curve Card is also worth looking into. You can spend up to £500 per rolling month with zero exchange fees.

Euro account in the U.S.

How to open a European bank account in the US

US individuals will often be met with a wall of silence when they try to open a bank account in Europe or will be turned down flat. European banks are often cautious when it comes to onboarding US citizens because of the enhanced scrutiny from US law enforcement agencies.

Non-US financial institutions must adhere to FATCA and other reporting obligations when dealing with American customers. This adds extra administration and legal difficulties that most banks would rather not deal with. 

Wise is one of the few (if not the only) online bank that offers free personal European bank details and a euro balance to US customers. It’s free to open an account, so if you don’t like them, you can always close it down again.

If you’re a US citizen moving to Europe, you probably want a traditional bank account before or after you arrive. If this is the case, your best option is to contact a large bank with a global presence or a private institution in the country you’re moving to. These will have the know-how and resources to deal with the often onerous FACTA reporting requirements. Reddit, Facebook groups, and similar places are usually good places to start to find seasoned expats who have already gone through the process.

Euro account for digital nomads

If you’re a perpetual traveler aka digital nomad, it can make a lot of sense to establish a tax residency in a low-tax country. Because of bureaucracy and legal rules, most digital nomads have to be tax residents somewhere and pay taxes to avoid facing claims from their home countries.

Of course, you can go for a zero-tax country, but this solution often brings more problems than were there in the first place (no one wants to do business with you). Now, with a tax home in a tax-friendly EU country (yes, they still exist) comes the benefit of access to European banking, the single market, and the ability to issue invoices from a whitelisted jurisdiction.

There are many secret tips and tricks in a digital nomad’s playbook. One of the most popular ones is to have a mailing address with a friend an EU country and use a VPN while traveling abroad. It’s in the gray area, but it’s a common practice nonetheless. This method can often (but not always) help you gain access to a European bank account.

Euro account for Visa investors

Say you’re planning to buy European citizenship by investment (through the Golden Visa route) in Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, or elsewhere. In that case, I wouldn’t recommend transferring funds through a digital bank, as you want a real, fully insured bank account when it comes to handling large sums.

The most common solution is to see if you can open a bank account in the country you’re moving to use a legal representative’s power of attorney. If a representative is not required, you can try doing it yourself.

However, if you’re investing euros in real estate or something else to obtain citizenship, you’ll still need to swap your local currency for euros. So how can you avoid paying excessive currency exchange fees when making the remittance?

One option is to open an Interactive Brokers account and convert currencies with almost zero spreads and fees involved. Brokerages typically charge a conversion spread of 0.5 percent, but Interactive Brokers’ rate is so ridiculously low that it’s like there isn’t any (only 0.20 basis points for those familiar with forex terminology). It’s practically free. Later on, you can withdraw the converted amount to the account in your new home.

Best online banks for EU citizens and residents

EU citizens

A legal resident of any EU country has the right to open an account with a bank located in another member state- (in theory, at least). The foreign bank cannot refuse an applicant just because the person does not live there. This is due to the so-called “Directive on Payment Accounts,” which provides EU citizens with the right to a basic payment account regardless of their residence or financial situation.

The Directive on Payment Accounts was created based on the principles of the “Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union” or TFEU. The TFEU is one of two treaties forming the constitutional basis of the European Union. The TFEU ensures the free movement of goods, services, persons, and capital within the EU. The financial system is harmonized throughout the EU, allowing people and their money to move freely between states without restrictions.

Put in simpler terms: An Italian citizen has the same right to establish a bank account in Germany as a German does and vice versa. If you want to open an account online right now, you can use Wise, Nuri, N26, or any other neobank on the web.

EU residents

If you live and work in an EU member state but are not a citizen of an EU country, your options are similar to those of EU citizens. Residents of European nations who are nationals of a foreign country can generally establish a bank account there without much difficulty. They will almost always have a variety of banks and financial solutions to pick from, both brick-and-mortar banks and online banks.

Online banking options EU/EEA residents and citizens

Suppose you already reside in the EU or EEA as a citizen or national of another country. In that case, you’ll have many excellent choices available, both in terms of traditional banks and internet banks. 

The most important thing is to ensure that you can trust the provider in question and that you won’t have any problems when you need them the least.

Although there are minor variations between institutions, EU/EEA residents generally have an easy time opening bank accounts. With online-only banks, the process is more or less the same across the board: upload your identification (ID card or passport), submit a utility bill, take a selfie, and wait a few days for approval. 

When compared to traditional banks, internet banks are far less expensive. Most charge nothing for their basic plans, while some charge a nominal fee for specific services and premium plans.

Traditional banks with physical branches are generally more reliable for long-term relationships and holding large sums of money. But most want to meet you at least once before offering their services. Fees, mark-ups, and spreads, on the other hand, can be extremely high and sometimes arbitrary when it comes to changing foreign currencies. This is especially true for banks based in non-Eurozone European nations, where the local currency is different.

Best online banks for EU residents

Since this article focuses on euro accounts that you can open online, it’s only natural to list the best options for internet-only banking. If you want to open a regular bank account, it’s best to do your homework, compare prices, and find one that works best for you. 

A set-up that many people use is to have one or two current accounts (so-called “savings accounts” are a joke these days, anyway), plus an equal number of fintech accounts.

But why would someone who already lives in Europe want to establish an online euro account? 

Let’s say you live in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Norway (EEA countries), or Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, or Sweden (EU countries that use a different currency). In that case, you’re likely to transact in euros at some point and pay unnecessarily high fees in the process.

Perhaps you buy games, shop on Amazon, or want to fund your brokerage account in euros. Maybe you’re seeking to keep certain transactions private from prying eyes at your regular bank. 

No matter your purpose, you need a banking strategy to control your finances.

The following is a shortlist of banks that offer excellent services to most EU/EEA residents and Switzerland without any hidden fees and charges:

1. Nuri

Nuri combines fiat and cryptocurrency into one platform and offers up to up to 5% interest per year on bitcoin. Image: Nuri. Modified.
Quick take
  • Free EUR bank account
  • €100,000 deposit guarantee
  • Up to 6% interest on bitcoin
  • Available in the EEA (incl. Switzerland and UK)
Fees
  • Account opening: €0
  • Monthly fee: €0
  • Card Payment: €0
  • Ingoing/outgoing transfers: €0

Nuri (formerly Bitwala) is a German online bank specializing in combining fiat and cryptocurrency. Nuri gives you a free, fully deposit-insured euro bank account and provides free SEPA transfers, a free debit card, as well as a personal IBAN in your name for receiving and sending money. 

It appeals to younger users that Nuri comes with built-in Bitcoin and Ethereum wallets. It’s also one of the few crypto platforms in Europe to offer dollar-cost savings plans for automatic investments into Bitcoin. Even if you don’t like cryptocurrencies, Nuri is still one of the best free bank accounts available.

Nuri is specifically for the European Economic Area (incl. Switzerland and the UK) but accepts identification documents from 70+ nationalities. Unlike with N26, no EU member states are left out in the cold. If you don’t reside in an eligible country or have permanent residency there, you may still attempt to join Nuri via a VPN and sign up with a virtual address or C/O address at a friend’s.

Nuri: Features

  • A free, fully-insured European bank account that can be opened from anywhere in the EEA
  • A unique German IBAN, bank details, and a euro balance to send and receive money in your own name
  • Free Euro SEPA deposits and withdrawals
  • €100,000 deposit guarantee
  • Free Visa debit card with unlimited free ATM withdrawals
  • Up to 5% interest per year on your bitcoin
  • €0 fees for card spending in foreign currencies
  • €0 monthly/yearly account fees

2. Wise

Wise provides euro bank accounts worldwide. Image: Wise. Modified.
Quick take
  • Unique euro bank account details
  • Free to open
  • Available worldwide
Fees
  • Account opening: £0
  • Ongoing fees: £0
  • In-kind card spending: 0%

As discussed above, Wise’s multi-currency account works for non-residents as well as residents. There are many benefits to using this product, and honestly, very few (if any) downsides to it. Besides getting a free euro currency account (located in Belgium), you get local bank details in 9 other countries in your name (UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Canada, Hungary, and Turkey) to send and receive money from.

In addition to personal accounts, you can hold up to 54 different currencies through Wise’s omnibus solution. You can trade between these currencies at the actual rate, and there is only a relatively low up-front fee for doing so.

It’s free to create a multi-currency account, and there are monthly/yearly fees for having one, which makes it extremely cheap compared to most other companies. Furthermore, Wise’s debit card allows you to spend currencies in your account without paying any fees, which can save you a lot of money when shopping online or traveling abroad.

Wise: Features

  • Free Euro bank account, plus local banking details in GBP, USD, AUD, NZD, SGD, CAD, and more
  • Hold 50+ currency balances
  • Free EUR Direct Debits
  • Fee-free card spend with currencies in your account
  • Virtual cards for safe spending online

3. N26

Nuri combines fiat and cryptocurrency into one platform and offers up to up to 5% interest per year on bitcoin. Image: N26
Quick take
  • Free EUR bank account
  • €100,000 deposit guarantee
  • Available in the EEA (incl. Switzerland and UK)
Fees
  • Account opening: €0
  • Monthly fee: €0
  • Card Payment: €0
  • Ingoing/outgoing transfers: €0

N26 is a German online “challenger” bank that provides free current accounts in the Euro with no monthly fees, overdrafts, or card fees. N26’s Standard plan includes a free European IBAN in your name, a virtual debit card that you can link to Google or Apple Pay, three free ATM withdrawals in the eurozone, and free-spending in foreign currencies with the card.

N26 is available for residents of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (not available for residents in the French overseas territories), Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Unfortunately, many countries are not supported: the UK, Croatia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Malta, Cyprus, Romania, Latvia, and Lithuania.

You can still create an N26 account if you don’t reside in one of N26’s supported nations, as long as you use a little creativity. To open an account, you must provide N26 with a mailing address in one of the countries where it operates. You could, for example, first find a friend or relative who will allow you to use their address as a C/O address. There are also testimonies online of individuals who were able to register using a virtual mailing address.

N26: Features

  • A free, fully-insured, mobile bank account in Euro with a unique German or Spanish IBAN
  • €0 monthly/yearly, set-up, or service fees
  • Protection of your deposit up to €100.000
  • A free virtual Mastercard you can add to Google or Apple Pay, or Curve
  • Fee-fee spending in foreign currencies

How to open a business bank account in Europe

Opening a business account

If you run your own business or freelance for foreign clients, I’m sure you know how difficult it can be to open a corporate bank account. Your business is entirely legitimate, but you’re still treated like a criminal. 

Opening business accounts can be complicated, and banks want to stay on the safe side. So they often decline applications from risky people such as micro-businesses or freelancers who don’t have traditional jobs at big companies.

Each country has different requirements and fees, and you often need an office address (and sometimes even employees besides yourself) before the bank will give you an account. In addition, people who run an internet business frequently spend a fortune on exchange fees to accept foreign payments. PayPal is probably the most notorious, and many people believe they have no choice but to use them.

Non-resident businesses

Opening a business account in Europe as a non-resident is not easy, especially if you have limited ties with local businesses or customers. You’re subject to all sorts of rules and questions from banks that want to know who your customers are, how they found you, and what you’re selling.

Very few European banks accept remote applications. You might think that using introduction services to open an account will increase your chances of approval, but this is rarely the case. These are often unnecessary and can even hurt your chances of approval with the foreign financial institution, as they will rarely provide an increase in chance or success rate.

Luckily, several legitimate remote business solutions have emerged in recent years. These are great for location-independent entrepreneurs or firms setting up a European leg. 

Xolo, for example, offers complete corporate formation packages with an EU company and euro bank account that can be controlled from anywhere in the globe. In a nutshell, you’ll get an E-residency in the EU, and agents like Xolo then provide your business an EU address, bank account and take care of most of the accounting.

There are also a number of globally accessible euro accounts like Wise, Airwallex, and Payoneer, which can be used with an existing company. Such solutions are usually ideal for non-resident businesses and freelancers that have no intention of setting up in Europe.

Resident businesses

If you already have a company registered in an EU/EEA member state or plan to incorporate one, there are several different options available.

The most obvious one is a local bank account, but these often come with many fees for transacting in foreign currencies. As previously said, many EU member countries do not utilize the Euro as their currency, but if you run a company in one of them, there’s a good chance you’re receiving or paying in euros all the time.

If this is the case, I once again recommend checking out Wise. They offer a full-blown euro account that can be opened remotely with no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees and allows you to send money to several European currencies at lower rates than banks. 

It might not seem like much on paper, but these savings quickly add up when doing business.

If your business is within the eurozone but you prefer a completely online banking solution, more and more solutions are popping up. Holvi, for example, is a fully-fledged online business bank that works for companies and freelancers in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Austria, Ireland, and the Netherlands. French Qonto is another online solution that works for companies registered in France, Germany, Spain, or Italy. 

Best Euro bank accounts for non-resident businesses and freelancers

Wise Business

Wise is most likely the banking option that will work for the majority of non-resident companies, as well as individuals. Fortunately, it’s an excellent service and cheap, too. It’s the simplest way for businesses to receive payments in various currencies, including euros, when residing outside of Europe. It’s fast, affordable, secure, and works well across most business types, limited companies, partnerships, and sole traders.

Personal accounts are entirely free, but business accounts come with a one-time set-up charge of around €21. For that price, your company gets its multi-currency Mastercard and its own Euro IBAN, UK account number, and US routing numbers to use like you would any other bank account, plus a bunch of other foreign currency accounts. 

  • Local bank details in in EUR, GBP, USD, AUD, NZD, SGD, CAD, and more to receive and send money in your company’s name
  • Receive, send, and hold up to 54+ different currencies
  • Available for legal entities (limited companies), freelancers, and sole traders in almost every country (excluded countries are listed here)
  • Small one-time set-up fee of around €21/£16/$31 which includes the multi-currency account and Wise Mastercard debit card (physical and unlimited virtual cards)
  • Free to spend currencies in your account with the debit card
  • Integration with Xero and other accounting programs
  • Direct debits with USD, EUR, GBP, and AUD
  • Excellent exporting features (PDF and CSV) 

Unlike online money exchanges, you can accept and send money from these accounts in your company name. It’s free to receive money in EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD, RON, HUF & SGD, and free to spend the currencies you already hold.

For accounting purposes, there’s a detailed breakdown of all expenses and incoming transfers, with complete transaction details: amounts, time stamps, card number, vendor, exchange rates, running balances, among other things. You can export statements in CSV or pdf format for each currency you hold and use it for bookkeeping. Wise also integrates well with popular accounting systems like QuickBooks or Xero, allowing you to sync business activity automatically.

The multi-currency account also works nicely with payment processors such as Stripe. If you run an e-commerce store, connecting your Wise account to Stripe may save you 1-2% in exchange fees when receiving payments in different currencies. Wise also lets you directly receive your earnings in foreign currencies from marketplaces like Amazon.

Airwallex

Airwallex is an Australian-based company that has been offering international banking services online since 2015. They’re only for businesses and aren’t as advanced as Wise yet, but they have a compelling product that’s developing quickly. 

Interestingly, they rejected a $1b acquisition offer from Stripe, so they’re definitely determined to build a successful company. As a business owner, it’s easy to see how Airwallex’s entry into Wise benefits us – fees will almost certainly fall further.

  • Local bank accounts in in EUR, GBP, USD, AUD, NZD, SGD, CAD, CHF, and JPY to receive and send money in your company’s name
  • Open to legal entities (limited companies and partnerships) and sole traders in almost every country 
  • It’s free to sign up and there are no monthly/yearly ongoing fees
  • Physical Airwallex “Borderless” Visa debit cards are free to order and so are the virtual cards
  • Free card-spending with any of the 10 currencies you can hold in your account
  • Integration with Xero to consolidate transactions
  • Direct debits with USD, EUR, GBP, and AUD
  • Excellent exporting capabilities with 47 different filters (PDF and CSV) 

There are no monthly or yearly fees, and there are no account minimums with Airwallex. Like Wise’s multi-currency account, Airwallex offers what they call a Global Account where you can send and receive multiple different currencies in your company’s name. This includes a free EUR IBAN business account and account details in USD, AUD, HKD, GBP, CHF, CNY, SGD, JPY, NZD, and CAD.

Payments to most countries are based on local payment technology, which means you don’t have any transfer fees. Transfers through the SWIFT network incur a fee of 10 SHA per transaction. The exchange mark-up fees are competitive, with 0.3 – 0.5% for major currencies or 1% for less frequently traded ones. If the receiver uses Airwallex, you may benefit from zero fees when payments are made through Airwallex’s payment network.

Airwallex markets itself to APAC countries and is available in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Australia, but businesses in the EEA are welcome as well. Limited companies, partnerships, and sole traders can apply for an account. Airwallex is also expanding into the United States, and American firms should be able to join soon.

One significant benefit over Wise is creating multiple debit cards for different employees and setting spending limits. Airwallex integrates naturally with Xero and QuickBooks for accounting purposes, so it’s easy to consolidate transactions and reduce administration time. Furthermore, you can add multiple users to Airwallex, such as your accountant, and set different permissions for each.

Payoneer

Founded in 2005, Payoneer is the oldest service provider among the three recommendations listed here. Big companies like Airbnb, Amazon, and Google all use Payoneer, so it’s a well-established and trusted company. 

However, it’s also stiffer and hasn’t changed much throughout the years– perhaps being too comfortable with their position in the market. The interface isn’t the best, and the payment flow is kind of clunky, but most functions work fine, aesthetics aside. 

  • Get paid in EUR, USD, GBP, and more currencies, as if you were receiving a local bank transfer
  • Available worldwide
  • Beneficial for online retailers selling on multiple different platforms

Payoneer serves a different purpose than Wise and Airwallex. They’re a money-collecting tool for people working with e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Fiverr, and Upwork. It works as a payment system that links vendors with customers for internet transactions. As such, it’s a platform that’s more like PayPal than a bank account. 

Payoneer is especially popular among freelancers, international businesses, and those who use major e-commerce marketplaces such as Airbnb or Upwork to buy products online from people in other countries without setting up an account on each site individually.

You get dedicated accounts in EUR, USD, and GBP for making transactions in your business or personal name. There is a 0.1% fee for each payment received via bank transfer in USD, but there is no charge for payments received in other currencies. 

To withdraw in the same currency to your local bank account, you will pay a 1.5 €/$/£ fee. However, conversion fees are at the high end, going up to 2% of the transaction amount, which is similar to a regular bank.

How European banking works

The European Union (EU) is a large, complicated union of many different countries all working together. The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is a system that allows for the easy movement of money between EU citizens and companies under the same rules and regulations, making it more straightforward than ever before to send or receive money across Europe.

SEPA makes payments between member states as easy as if you were making them domestically. SEPAs current list includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom (even after BREXIT).

From 2017, SEPA transactions are routinely settled immediately (within seconds) through the SEPA Instant Credit Transfer or instant SEPA transfer system, including on weekends and holidays. This system is already in use, and you can see the current status of funds transfers here.

How to start a company in the EU online

Opening a company in the EU might sound like a lot of work, but it’s not that complicated. Some services offer ultra-simple incorporation packages with a traditional European bank account and accounting services included, the most popular being Estonian Xolo. Estonia will be the most straightforward EU country to establish a remotely controlled business with the least amount of bureaucracy, and it has a great corporate tax system as well.

  • Xolo provides you a limited liability EU company, company address, bank account (with LHV), legal support, and accounting support
  • Reporting, compliance and taxes are handled by Xolo
  • An integrated, “all-in-one”, accounting platform for invoicing, tracking expenses, and seeing bank transactions, with integration with Wise, Paypal and other payment systems
  • Potentially the easiest service for digital nomads and location-independent entrepreneurs to manage a company while travelling 

The first benefit of services like Xolo is that it makes you eligible to open a bank account in the EU (they partner with the largest national bank, LHV). An Estonian company and bank account make it possible to invoice customers from an EU entity. As such, you won’t face any problems with companies and payment gateways that only accept partners from the EU to reduce compliance risk. 

Since 2019, it’s no longer necessary to have an Estonian bank for Estonian companies, so you can go with Wise if you don’t need a traditional bank account.

Second, Estonian companies can easily be remotely managed online, which makes it possible to administer all your company’s affairs without being present there physically. That said, you need to travel to Estonia at least once to set up the bank account, and meeting with your Xolo manager is also recommended. In most cases, the formation procedure should take less than 24 hours to complete and a few extra days to get banking data.

Third, the Estonian corporate tax system has a lot of advantages. The tax code in Estonia is set up so that companies can reinvest their profits and not pay any corporate income or capital gains taxes, as long as the funds stay within the company. Keeping profits within the company will allow you to take advantage of compound interest when building a nest egg for the future, which many experts agree stands as one of the world’s most effective ways to grow money over time.

Best banks for EEA businesses and freelancers

bunq

bunq is a Dutch online bank that provides virtual euro accounts to freelancers and businesses. It was founded in 2012 and is one of the few banks that services multiple jurisdictions. 

You can open a business euro account online if your company or freelance business is registered in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, or Spain.

  • A Dutch IBAN for holding and transacting in euros
  • Integration with different bookkeeping programs
  • Pricing from €4,99 to €10,99
  • The bunq app can scan invoices and automatically fill in payment data, which can help you save time on bookkeeping

Qonto (France, Germany, Spain, Italy)

Qonto is a digital payment institution (technically not a bank) that offers services exclusively online. The platform launched in France and has been met with great success since its 2017 debut – 150K customers strong. 

Qonto offers Euro accounts for freelancers and limited companies in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

  • A French Euro accounts with IBAN in your company’s name
  • Available for legal entities and freelancers
  • Qonto has an integrated, “all-in-one” platform for controlling bookkeeping, invoicing, and banking, with several semi-automated features

Qonto is great for businesses that want to simplify their banking processes without paying expensive fees. There are a variety of solutions specially designed for your company’s needs and excellent services that may assist you in keeping track of budgets. 

Besides bank accounts, Qonto comes with automated accounting to control your income and expenses without hidden fees or transfer commissions, with the addition of bookkeeping management is fully automatic.

N26 Business

The N26 Business bank account is ideal for freelancers and the self-employed. You can’t use N26 business for legal entities such as a limited company. However, if you operate under your name and have a residential address in Europe, N26’s bank account will be the most cost-effective option available.

  • The simplest, free choice for freelancer who do business in their own name and don’t need a lot of fancy features (note: not available for limited companies)
  • A fully-insured, real German bank account with a personal IBAN (in your personal name)
  • 0.1% – 0.5% cashback on all business spending
  • Free and unlimited payments in any international currencies
  • You can export transactions which makes it easier to consolidate income and spending with your accounting software

N26 Business Standard is free to open and maintain, and your deposit is fully insured up to €100,000 by the German Deposit Protection Scheme. Moreover, you get a free virtual card on your phone or get a physical card for just €10.

The personal name on your bank account is the same as your real name, so you can send and receive money without needing an intermediary. A business account includes unlimited free SEPA transfers and 0.1% cashback on all purchases, a small but excellent addition. You also get free and unlimited payments in foreign currency through their partnership with Wise.

What you need to know before opening a European bank account

Who should consider opening a Euro bank account

Depending on what you want to accomplish, how you approach financial services in Europe may vary. In general, if you regularly interact with European individuals or companies, it usually makes sense to have a euro-denominated account.

Here are some reasons when you might need a European bank account:

  • Your feel your bank is overcharging you for Euro payments and is providing you a terrible exchange rate
  • You’re a freelancer who receives payments from European clients
  • You are paid or pay salaries to employees who live in Europe
  • You run a company or branch with European customers
  • You’re moving to Europe soon and want to open a bank account before you arrive
  • You’re a student, expat, or temporary visitor
  • You have investments in Europe or are planning to invest there soon
  • You’re buying a second home or investment property and need to send and receive international payments to do so
  • You enjoy traveling and want a quick way to spend money in various nations
  • You want to protect your saving against the devaluation of your home country’s currency

Whatever your purpose, there are many options out there, and it’s critical to figure out the best solution for you.

What’s a multi-currency account, and why you should consider one

It’s expensive to manage your finances when you’re an internationally-minded individual or small business owner. Local transfers are typically easy to deal with, most of them free or have negligible fees, but as soon as you expand into different currencies and countries, your bank is ready to take a hefty cut. 

Sure, let’s agree that most banks are handy for keeping local money safe; but there aren’t many advantages to them other than that. Most are slow, expensive, annoying, and not keeping up with technological progress. Try and call your local manager and ask how much it would cost to open an account in a foreign currency and you’ll often be surprised by the answer.

So here’s a banking strategy that has worked out very well for me over the years: I invest in international stocks, ETFs, and other types of assets online. These are denominated in different currencies (EUR, USD, GBP, etc.). However, I would pay a lot in currency conversion costs and sneaky mark-ups if I utilized my local bank for deposits and withdrawals to my brokerage accounts.

This is where multi-currency accounts come in handy. I use them to keep various foreign currencies in the same place to deposit and withdraw funds across several platforms. Having multiple currencies in the same place is perfect because I can save a ton of fees since I regularly move euros, dollars, and pounds back and forth for my investments. I can also compare the different rates and spend in multiple currencies, which has helped me spot some good opportunities and save money.

A good multi-currency account such as Wise gives you dedicated local banking details, which is different from what currency exchange services offer. With a multi-currency account, transactions are recorded as sent or received in your name rather than the bank’s name. 

It’s like having a local account in numerous jurisdictions, but without the glamour. For the sake of amusement, even though I haven’t used them yet, I now own accounts in Swiss Francs and Hong Kong dollars – sexy, right?

What you need to open a Euro account

European bank accounts aren’t opened like your typical US, Canadian, or Australian account. Primarily, the heaps of know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations imposed by the EU can make it seem difficult to open a bank account from abroad.

That being said, it’s never been easier to open a European bank account. A slew of new fintech companies in Europe, such as Wise, makes things considerably more straightforward. Still, preparation is crucial, and here’s what you typically need:

  • Proof of identity – often using a copy of your passport and/ID card/ or driver’s license.
  • A selfie
  • Proof of address (utility bill, rental agreement) for the last three months. This can be a digital document or paper letter from your landlord, utility bill, bank statement, or similar, but it must show your name and current physical address.

For opening a Euro account for your company, you need documents such as: 

  • Proof of identity of the contact / authorized person
  • Certificate of incorporation or link to the online registry
  • Share register proving ownership
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association
  • Proof of identity for shareholders owning 25%
  • Proof of identity for directors
  • Proof of address for the business

If you don’t know what these documents are, your accountant will. 

There’s usually no minimum deposit required or anything like that involved for the neo-bank accounts listed here. There are no strings attached, which makes it extremely easy to start using the services. You may test the providers’ offerings and switch to another at any time. 

Bonus: Want to incorporate and open a bank account in the US as a non-resident?

If you want to start a business in the US from abroad, Firstbase is a top recommendation. Firstbase has helped several non-US people get established in the United States through an LLC or C Corp in privacy-focused states like Delaware and Wyoming – the states where most Fortune 500 companies are registered.

The initial set-up with Firstbase is $399. The package includes a business bank at Mercury, an FDIC-insured bank. Moreover, you’ll get a US business address with a registered agent, a US EIN, free initial tax consultation, and legal guidance. The current turnaround for non-residents is around 15 days.

Bonus: Want to incorporate and open a bank account in Singapore?

Singapore is a top location to incorporate and one of the easier places to open a bank account as a non-resident. While opening a bank account as a foreign resident is possible, tons of paperwork and checks are usually involved. 

Among the many company formation agents in Singapore that help with the process, Aspire has the most competitive offer, offering registration packages, address services, and banking for limited companies with foreign owners.

The price to form a limited company with a nominee director, local address, secretarial service, accounting, and digital business account is S$2680. This might seem steep for newly started businesses, but it’s among the cheapest company registration and banking packages you’re going to find. 

You never have to enter Singapore for the whole procedure, which takes place entirely online. But why not spend a day or two there?

FAQs

The easiest way to open a European bank account is with Wise (formerly TransferWise). You can open a Euro account online from almost anywhere in the world, and it works for both individuals and companies. Registering takes about 5 minutes, and there are no phone calls or physical visits required. It’s a great way to get a European bank account without the hassle of dealing with local banks.

Yes, it’s possible to open a European bank account online without being a resident in the EU or EEA. Many of the best global neo-banks will accept non-residents and don’t require you to be in the country when applying for an account (they need proof that your identity matches up with who is opening the account).

You can open a bank account as a non-resident in Europe through Wise. These neo-banks allow foreigners to apply from anywhere around the world – including those who don’t live full-time in EU/EEA countries. It’s also one of the few services that accept US customers.

If you like to travel a lot to Eurozone nations, send money to friends or relatives abroad, make money in Euros, or have Euro-based clients, it may be worthwhile to open a euro account in the United Kingdom and save money on fees. You can open a personal euro account in the UK online through Wise, Starling, Monese, or Nuri. 

Wise is probably the most straightforward solution since it supports most currencies, but all four banks are excellent alternatives and offer very low costs. Registering takes about 5 minutes, and there are no phone calls or physical visits required.

Many high-street banks in the US provide Euro accounts, but it’s often expensive and time-consuming to get the account up and running. Wise is currently the easiest option for establishing a Euro bank account from the United States if you’re a US citizen or resident, and there are no strings attached.

Canadians can open euro bank accounts with Canadian banks like Scotia, NBC, and RBC, but the process is expensive and time-consuming. A cheap alternative for Canadians is to open a euro account with Wise. This neo-bank allows Canadians to open an account without any fees or weekly/monthly charges.

The Nigerian banking industry has developed over the years and is advanced enough to handle various currencies. Guaranty Trust, Access, and Zenith all offer so-called “domiciliary accounts” or multi-currency accounts, which means you can have a Euro account in Nigeria. However, this is not cheap and involves many fees that will wipe out any cost savings from avoiding exchange rates.

Since many Nigerians are working abroad, it’s common for expats to establish a Euro account back home in Nigeria. Wise is the cheapest option and allows you to register online from anywhere worldwide (including countries outside Europe).