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Essential bank features for expats in Europe

November 7, 2022

Did you know that, in 2021, roughly 23.7 million people in the EU were non-EU citizens? Whether you're moving to Europe for work or school, or simply want to experience all Europe has to offer, you'll need to prepare yourself financially.. 

Part of moving overseas requires specific knowledge of expat banking. There are easy steps you can follow if you're looking to open an account, get a local IBAN, or transfer money to relatives back home. Whatever bank you choose to go with, they should provide assistance with all this and more. 

How to open an account

Expats and citizens of the EU have busy schedules, and opening a bank account traditionally requires a lot of time-consuming paperwork and lengthy trips to the bank. This is what makes bunq a great solution. bunq is a European digital bank dedicated to serving EU citizens and expats. Simply click this link to begin the application process. bunq also offers personal and business bank accounts, so all your needs are met in one convenient digital location. When expats look to open accounts with brick-and-mortar banks, they may encounter higher fees and service limitations. bunq works to make all transactions as seamless as possible, saving you time and money. Although requirements vary from a financial institution to financial institution, the following documents are usually requested no matter where you go:

  • National ID or valid passport book
  • Provide proof of an address in a European country (rental agreement, utility bill, proof of employment, or proof of enrollment in a school)
  • You may also be asked for an income statement or your tax ID number. It may take time to get your documents together, so the sooner you prepare to open an account, the better. If you're unable to get these papers together, you can always look for another bank that has different requirements. 

Essential features to look for

It's important to remember that a bank can't refuse your basic payment account application if the bank is established in a country in which you don't reside.

To avoid refusal from a bank, you'll have to comply with European rules regarding terrorist financing and money laundering. Your basic bank account should allow you to do the following:

  • Make deposits
  • Withdraw cash
  • Receiving and carrying out payments (this may include direct debits and/or purchases with your credit card)

Your new basic bank account should include a payment card. This will allow you to make purchases and withdraw cash. You should be able to use this card online and in stores.  If offered to other customers, the bank you choose should provide you with access to its online banking services. Keep in mind that an overdraft may not be included, along with a credit facility. Depending on which European banks you use, you may be charged a reasonable annual fee for a basic payment account. The fee should be reasonable. While your account may be free, there may be a monthly maintenance fee. 

What's a Local IBAN?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established IBAN to provide an easy identification process of the country where the bank is located, along with the account number of the money transfer recipient. 

Your IBAN will have a two-letter country code, a two-digit check digit, and a BBAN, or Basic Bank Account Number attached to it. 

Your IBAN plays an integral role in identifying the bank involved with the transfer and the individual bank account. For every account you have, you'll receive a specific IBAN number. 

If you can't locate your IBAN on your statement, your bank should be able to provide it. Your IBAN allows you to receive international transfers, whether they're personal or work-related. You don't, however, need an IBAN for transfer set forth by you or for any withdrawals. 

Although the US and Canada don't use IBANs, as they’re primarily used in the EU, they do recognize IBANs and process payments from international IBAN transactions. 

Banking with bunq

If you're an expat looking for the most convenient, stress-free way of opening a bank account, then bunq has you covered. bunq is internationally-focussed, saving you money when travelling abroad, and making international transfers a breeze. 

Here's how bunq can help:


As an expat, you need the availability to make international bank transfers anywhere, at any time. Your bunq app comes equipped with Wise, allowing you to effortlessly make and receive bank transfers. Even better, you can complete these transfers in over 40 different currencies. 

It's as simple as opening the app, making a payment, selecting your currency, entering the amount, choosing the recipient, and sending the payment. No mess, no stress. It's that simple. 

Travel Free Exchange Rate

Unlike traditional banks that charge you every time you use your card for a foreign currency payment, bunq works to save you those fees. Instead of charging you fees, bunq helps you save money. 

When spending abroad, bunq saves you up to 3%. All you have to do is live your life, enjoy your travels, and use bunq for your payments.  

Support Languages

While traditional banks may only offer a few language options, bunq works tirelessly to be multi-cultural. You can choose from any of the following languages when accessing your bunq app. 

  • English 
  • German 
  • Dutch 
  • French 
  • Italian 
  • Spanish 
  • Ukrainian 
  • Russian 

Open an account with bunq today

Remember that essential banking features include making deposits, withdrawing cash, and receiving as well as carrying out payments. 

If you're an expat in Europe, you can open an account with bunq today. Join us and experience the ease of using our mobile banking app.

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