Basics of banking in Italy



Banks in Italy 

The Italian banking system comprises three kinds of banks: ordinary commercial or credit banks, co-operative banks (banchi popolari cooperative) and co-operative credit banks (banche di credito cooperativo). The post office functions as a savings bank for many Italians and foreign residents, although non-residents are not permitted to open a post office account. 

Opening a Bank Account in Italy 

Non-residents in Italy are entitled to open a non-resident account (conto estero) in which you may deposit only foreign currency or imported Euros and earn a higher interest than resident accounts. You will be considered "resident" (residenti/valutari) in Italy if your main area of interest is here. To open a resident's account you must have a residence permit (certificato di residenza) or evidence that you have a job in Italy. 

It is best to open an account in person but keep in mind you are required to furnish two forms of identification, one of which should be with photograph such as a passport and proof of residence such as a recent utility bill.  

The bank account for day-to-day transactions in Italy is a cheque (assegno) or current account (conto corrente/interno). Non-EU residents are required to present their passport, tax number (Codice Fiscale), recent utility bill (as proof of address), and residence card or proof of employment in Italy to open a current account. Couples can open a joint account (conto corrente cointestato). Some banks have special accounts and deals for students, women, children and pensioners.  

Traditionally, Italian banks have imposed the highest bank charges in the world, so shop around and compare fees and benefits before opening an account. If you are opening a cheque account, you should request a debit (Bancomat) card to pay for goods and pay bills throughout Italy. You will receive a cheque book (libretto di assegni) and debit card, which you must usually collect in person from your branch, around two to three weeks after opening an account. Interest is paid on cheque accounts quarterly, although it may be as little as 0.5 per cent. Normal banking hours differ across Italy but are usually from 8 or 8:30am until 1 or 1:30pm and from 2:30 or 3pm until 4 or 4:30pm, Mondays to Fridays. Some branches in major cities also open from 9am to noon on Saturdays.  

Debit, Credit & Charge Cards in Italy 

Debit, credit and charge cards are referred to collectively as credit cards in Italy. People are now slowly learning to accept and use cards to make payments in Italy.  

Most ‘credit' cards issued in Italy function more like charge cards, in which case payments for purchases are due when billed and cannot be paid over a period of several months or years. The most common credit cards in Italy are MasterCard, Visa and CartaSì which are available from most banks. You can also obtain an American Express or Diners Club card directly from these companies.

All Italian banks issue debit/ATM cards known as Bancomat cards; an annual fee of between €10 and €20 is applicable. Most banks also charge between €0.80 and €2 for every purchase made with the card, which is why most Italians prefer to use cash.

A credit card costs between €35 and €110 per year, depending on the type of card and the level of service you opt for. Some cards include travel or other forms of insurance, either as an add-on feature or as part of the annual fee.