Opening a bank account as an expat in Malta has changed a lot over the last few years and from speaking to people I meet who moved here recently, it sounds as if it is becoming harder and harder to get yourself set up.
Some things to know about banking in general in Malta;
There is a serious lack of ATM cash machines. In general you only really find them on the outside of banks, meaning they’re mainly in busy, popular areas. You’re not guaranteed to have a cash point within walking distance, so try to be organised about always having enough cash on you as Malta is still way behind when it comes to card payments in general. Often, a place wont accept cards (but of course wont tell you until it comes to paying, even in a restaurant), they usually have a minimum card spend between €10 – €20 and they still don’t allow you to insert your own card; you have to hand it over whilst they mess about with it. Oh and contactless? Haha. No.
Using the Banks
Actually going in to your bank and seeing a cashier or personal banker is an absolute nightmare. They only open part-time, usually between 08:00 and 13:00 and rarely have enough cashiers to deal with the scrum. In general, I find the banks so busy they’re almost unusable. On many occasions I’ve spent over an hour waiting in line and still not had a chance to see a cashier and ended up having to leave as I just didn’t have time. This can be very frustrating, so avoid going into the bank unless absolutely necessary.
A bank is a hugely personal thing and not everyone will have the same experiences. I personally use BOV and would recommend them, mainly for a lack of better options. HSBC is the next biggest on the sland, and a popular choice. Other options include Banif and APS, neither of which I would recommend, but read on and make up your own mind on opening a bank account in Malta.
Opening A Bank Account in Malta
This is the Mediterranean, with all the good and bad that goes along with it. Everything here is slow, so don’t expect opening a bank account to be any different. I had to provide references for some colleagues and you wouldn’t believe how long the banks took to process them. After claiming they never received it in the post, and refusing to accept a scanned copy via email I went and physically handed iintoto the right person who still claimed she never got it. But this kind of thing is pretty common in Malta, as long as you do all you can, it’s a pretty simple process.
- Your ID– they will accept either a Maltese ID card or a passport. If you have a Maltese ID card, always use this as it makes the reference process easier. You have to have one to live here anyway, so I’d recommend just waiting to open the account until your ID card is sorted.
- A general reference– if you have an ID card then the reference can be from a bank, your employer, a lawyer and so on. Easiest way is your employer, on company headed paper they simply have to complete a form that BOV will be happy to send you via email. It asks for things like name, address and salary (not sure why this is necessary). If you don’t have an ID card then you’ll need a reference from your bank, which you cannot provide- BOV will contact your bank directly. Due to the slowness with banks in general, on both sides, this can take a while.
Cashlink vs Visa Debit
However, when you eventually do get your account and card, chances are it’ll be a cashlink and not a visa card. I have no idea why BOV is so strict on giving Visa debit card to foreigners as this isn’t a credit card! It’s just a card you need to access your own money. The cashlinks don’t have a chip and can’t be used outside of Malta. After approx one year of using your account, you can then apply for a debit Visa card so you can pay for things abroad.
Banks in Malta
BOV in Malta (Bank of Valletta)
This is the bank I currently use and the bank I would recommend if you’re opening a bank account in Malta. They’re not perfect, but I’ve had fewer problems with them than with other banks on the island. Most gaming companies on the island will use BOV, so if you work in gaming especially they’re ideal as you’ll get your wages faster and it’s probably the most used bank on the island.
Their mobile app is bordering on useless, so I actually use a company called Revolut for most of my spending. BOV I have my wages paid into and keep my savings in. The app is very slow to update, often not showing purchases for 5+ days after the transactions and on the mobile app you can only see around 30 of the last transactions. If often crashes (but keeps you logged in, so if you try and get back into it, you get an error that you’re already logged in) and generally can’t be used between 17:00 – 19:00 each evening. With BOV it does cost if you withdraw cash from an ATM in Malta that is not a BOV ATM. At the last try, it cos me €3.50, which is absolutely atrocious in my opinion.
HSBC in Malta
When opening a bank account in Malta, you should consider that HSBC in Malta are hugely anti-gaming. They’re an international brand so really should be more open minded and accepting. But, if you own a gaming company then you cannot have a HSBC account and if they find out your account is being used as a gaming companies corporate account they will shut you down.
As a normal customer this doesn’t really affect you- even if you work for a gaming company you wont have any problems, it’s more on a corporate level they don’t like it. However, you cannot process payments to gaming websites if you have a HSBC credit card. They keep threatening to do the same for debit cards, but as of yet, you’re still able to deposit into online gaming sites with your HSBC debit card.
If you have a HSBC account already, in another country then it’s fairly simply to transfer over your details. In the past I know this has been a troublesome and drawn out process but from more recent reports, it’s clearly been streamlined and is a simple case of letting your bank know you want to transfer to Malta and they’ll do the rest.
Banif Bank in Malta
I banked with Banif almost 10 years ago and had a lot of problems with them. They were very slow to process my wages each month, often taking 5+ days to show the funds in my account. A few times they even ‘lost’ the transfer and continually blamed BOV (who sent them the funds) but each time it turned out to be a Banif issue.
At Banif you do not need a reference letter in order to open a simple bank account, however they also won’t give you a reference which makes things hard if you want to switch accounts later on.
APS Bank in Malta
APS is a ‘church bank’, which immediately makes me quite wary. I don’t know anyone who uses them and I’ve never used them myself. When I first moved here I did try to open an account with them, but I was in there for 30 minutes and the woman couldn’t figure out how to do it.