How to open a bank account in Italy【Guide 2024】

By Go! Go! Italia staff
19 Feb 2024
Reading Time: 6 minutes
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Imagine studying in Italy – the historic cities, excellent food, and friends from around the world. Exciting, right? Now, let’s get real about something less glamorous but super important: money.

Figuring out how people manage their money in a new country can be a bit tricky. Things such as how to open a bank account in Italy, do international transfers possibly at the lowest rates and so on, makes it crucial to understand the basics of money management in Italy and make smart choices. This article is here to help you with all these.

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The easy option: Wise online banking

Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, is a great online banking option that caters not only to individuals in Italy but also to those in various other regions worldwide, including USA and Asia.

This makes Wise a convenient choice for relocating to Italy, as it helps avoid the potential headaches of dealing with local bureaucracy, especially if you’re not yet familiar with the Italian language.

Users are given access to a versatile multi-currency account customized to suit their individual needs. You can sign up online even before going to Italy.

Established in the UK in 2010, Wise has been committed to providing its customers with competitive exchange rates and minimal fees since its inception (check rates here, by making sure to select your country). This dedication has made it a highly favored solution, particularly among students and frequent travelers who value cost-effective international transactions.

In addition to its multi-currency account, Wise now offers a convenient debit card that allows users to withdraw cash and make payments globally at authentic exchange rates, with no transaction fees and low conversion fees, ensuring a hassle-free banking experience across borders.

Setting up a Wise account is a straightforward process, offering individuals a easy way to manage their finances and conduct international transactions with ease and efficiency.

You can easily set up a Wise account here.

The local option: open a bank account in Italy

If you prefer to open a bank account directly in Italy, you will likely need to provide proof of residency in the country. While some banks may permit non-residents to open accounts, the associated costs for opening and maintaining such accounts are typically higher, therefore not advisable.

There are a few essential tools you need to know about when considering to open a bank account in Italy such as: carta prepagata, conto corrente and IBAN.

Below we will walk you through what they are and how to get them.

What is carta prepagata (Prepaid card)

A carta prepagata is a prepaid card, similar to prepaid debit cards in other countries. You can add money to it as needed and use the card to make purchase items at shops or internet shopping.

It’s not linked to a traditional bank account, and you can only spend the amount that has been loaded onto the card in advance. You can add more money to them as needed, but depending on the chosen carta prepagata there are limits to how much you can top monthly.

Various fee such as activation fee, recharging fee, or monthly fee may be applied depending on the bank however, overall this is a cheaper option compared to conto corrente (more on this below).

Tip: If you want to get a carta prepagata, getting one with IBAN might be a better option if you want to be able to send and receive bank transfers or have your salary credited.

What is IBAN?

IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number. It is a standardized international system for identifying bank accounts across national borders. Typically consists of 27 characters and you can typically find it on your bank statements.

Using an IBAN simplifies administrative tasks such as setting up direct debits, receiving salary payments, and managing recurring payments.

What is conto corrente?

A conto corrente is a standard current account or checking bank account. It is a basic account that always comes with an IBAN and allows you to deposit and withdraw money, make payments, and manage your finances. With a checking account, you typically receive a debit card, and you can issue checks in case of need. Having a conto corrente allows you to make electronic or paper-based transactions. It may also offer other features like direct debits and other online banking services. A monthly fee or annual fee may be applied depending on the bank and the service.

Once you have your conto corrente, you can dive into Italian life and deal with bigger things like getting a car, or even looking into mortgages. This bank account gives you a solid base for managing your everyday money needs just like carta prepagata, with features like putting money in, taking it out, and using a debit card or credit card.

Carta prepagata or conto corrente?

In summary, a carta prepagata is a prepaid card that functions separately from a standard bank account. With this card, you can only spend the amount you’ve loaded onto it in advance. On the other hand, a conto corrente is a comprehensive bank account offering a wider range of features and services and offers more versatility in managing finances. The choice between the two depends on your financial needs and preferences.

The key difference between a carta prepagata and a conto corrente is how much you commit to them and what kind of financial activity you can stipulate. With a carta prepagata, you can spend money daily at shops, online, and send money to friends with less commitment, which can make this a good options for international students planning.

On the other hand, a conto corrente requires a bit more commitment, but it is a prerequisite for handling more complicated financial matters, such as getting a mortgage. Even though it needs more involvement, a conto corrente is great for handling tricky money stuff and planning for bigger financial goals, so it is recommended if planning to live in Italy long term after your studies.

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How to get carta prepagata

Acquiring a carta prepagata in Italy involves a simple process. Begin by selecting a provider suitable for international students, which could be major banks like:

  • Italian Post office with Postepay Evolution – The card carries an initial issue fee of €5, along with an annual fee of €15. Additionally, there is a €1 charge for top-up transactions conducted at Italian post office ATMs or local tabaccheria. It has a limit of 30.000 euro that you can load, and allows withdrawals up to 600 euro per day.
  • Intesa San Paolo offering Carta Superflash – The card comes with an annual fee of €26.90. It incurs a €1 charge for top-up transactions at Intesa San Paolo banks, while cash withdrawals are free of charge at Intesa San Paolo banks. It allows you to load up to a maximum of 10,000 euro, and it permits withdrawals of up to 500 euro per day.

For all the above you can apply either in person at a local bank branch or online via the provider’s official website, where you’ll complete a form with personal details. Provide necessary identification documents such as your passport, codice fiscale and, if applicable, a valid visa or permesso di soggiorno. Once approved, you will receive either physical or virtual carta prepagata.

How to get conto corrente

Getting a conto corrente is a bit trickier than getting a carta prepagata, but it sets you up for handling more serious money issues in Italy, so this might be a better option if you are planning to reside in Italy long term, even after you finish your studies.

To begin, research and select a bank that suits your preferences and needs, considering factors like accessibility and the services provided. Once you’ve made your choice, we recommend visit a local branch as online application options are not always offered to international students or expats. 

Popular options for international students are:

  • Italian post office – The standard version of conto corrente entails an annual fee of €30, with the exception of clients with an ISEE (Equivalent Economic Situation Indicator) below €11,600.
  • Fineco bank – While there are no upfront costs to open a Fineco current account, the offer entails a monthly fee of €3.95 (equivalent to €47.40 annually). Additionally, there’s an annual stamp duty cost of €34.20, which is standard for most accounts with a balance exceeding €5,000.

Prepare necessary documentation such as your identification (passport), proof of residence (like a utility bill), and, if you are a non EU student, permesso di soggiorno.

Once approved, you’ll receive a debit card associated with your conto corrente, along with documentation outlining the terms and conditions of your new account. Make sure to follow the bank’s instructions to activate both your account and debit card, a process that may involve an initial deposit, visiting an ATM, or using online banking.

For more useful information on navigating life in Italy or studying Italian, make sure to follow our blog.

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