One of the first hurdles that most newcomers to Malta face is opening a bank account.
Something that should be a pretty easy process often quickly turns into an absolute nightmare. And that nightmare can lead to significant issues. At best, you’ll have to wait in queues to pay your rent, phone, and Internet bills. At worst, you’ll be unable to claim your salary!
Because of this, I’ll share some tips that I wish someone had told me when I first moved to Malta myself.
Get Prepared in Advance
Different from many other EU countries, the banks in Malta ask for a mountain of documentation to even start considering opening you an account.
The exact requirements vary from bank to bank, but in most cases, they need at the very least documentation proving who you are (ID card or passport), and a reference from your previous bank.
Most of the documentation can be quite easily gathered on the spot, but it’s the bank reference that’s often an issue, and must be thought about beforehand.
It’s essentially a paper from another bank that you’ve had an account with, saying that you’re an “ok person to do business with”, and don’t have any bad loans.
The good news is that most banks around the world easily give out such references. The bad news is that many of them require you to apply for it in person!
With this in mind, make sure to pay a visit to your current bank before leaving to Malta, and have them issue you a reference letter. It’s also a good idea to get 2-3 copies of it, just in case, or if you need to apply for an account with multiple banks.
Banks also often require a utility bill as proof of address. Needless to say, this can be quite an issue for people who have just moved, and haven’t had any bills yet. For this reason, I’d recommend you to bring with you a utility bill from your previous address. This way, you at least have something and won’t get stuck in the wheels of bureaucracy.
Make Sure to Get the Address Right
As a general rule, banks only accept an address that you can provide a utility bill for. But in case you’ve got several addresses that would be “eligible”, such as your previous address in another country and your new address in Malta, it pays to stop and think for a moment.
Because of the outdated IT systems and complicated procedures that no-one seems to be able to make sense of, changing your address with your bank can be a HUGE hassle.
From my personal experience, after having moved twice and informed the bank of my address change at least 5 times, some of my paperwork (such as a replacement card) still ends up being mailed to my old address – 2.5 years later!
Because of this, you should think whether the first place that you’ll rent in Malta is likely to remain your home for a longer period, or for just 6 months. If it’s the latter, then it may be a better option to use a foreign address instead, if you happen to have your friends or parents living there and being able to receive your post.
Ask Your Workplace
The above requirements are often just scratching the surface. Based on stories that go around, many banks tend to come up with a bunch of additional requirements, during the process, that may be difficult or impossible to meet.
But a good way to “fast-track” your application is to speak to your workplace and see if they have a special arrangement in place with one of the local banks.
Most of the larger foreign companies and even some smaller ones have deals in place with banks, where they can open their employees a bank account with much less paperwork than would otherwise be required.
So ask around, speak to your PR manager, and hopefully you’ll be in luck!
Get Ready to Wait
As with nearly everything that has to do with large institutions, be prepared to wait.
You might get incredibly lucky and get your account opened in a few days (like I did!), assuming your paperwork is all in order, but it’s also not uncommon to wait for several weeks for the account to be opened. It can then take another couple of weeks for your card to arrive.
Also note that cards are often mailed using the standard (untracked) post, making it rather easy for them to get lost on the way, or delivered to a wrong address.
With a bit of preparation and a lot of patience, opening a bank account in Malta isn’t overly difficult. You might get extremely unlucky and get your application refused by one bank, but odds are that there will be at least one willing to do business with you.
You should definitely take the requirements seriously, though. I don’t know any banks that would open an account under any circumstances without a reference letter, for instance. So make sure to have this all ready to go, or you can find yourself in a tough situation.
What are your experiences with Maltese banks like? Let me know in the comments below!