Unless you are being paid in nero (under the table), opening a bank account may be on your list of things to do. I walked into the bank with my head held high, assuming I would leave the building in an hour with a checkbook and a debit card in hand but, alas, I left with nothing but an appointment card for next Monday. Like with all official things in Italy, be prepared to wait. However, if you’re impatient like me and America has ruined you, causing you to crave instant gratification, then I have some tips for you.
In Italy, a bank account is called a conto corrente (current account). It functions just like a bank account in the U.S. where you receive a debit card and access to a checking account. Most banks have an app as well where you can check your balance, transfer money to your foreign account, and top up your cell phone. While setting up a bank account may seem like a very straightforward process, generally bureaucratic things in Italy are not. Usually the process is as follows:
Step 1: Go to your local bank and schedule an appointment.
Step 2: Arrive at your appointment with the required documents and go through the sign-up process.
Step 3: Come back the next day and do everything all over again because the bank’s server went down and your information didn’t get saved. (Hopefully you can skip this step).
Step 4: Wait for a phone call from your bank telling you that your Bancomat card is ready (usually 3-4 days later).
Step 5: Go to the bank in person because it has been two weeks and you haven’t received a phone call yet.
Step 6: Swear internally as you realize the bank wrote down the wrong phone number.
Step 7: Go to the nearest bar and order the biggest spritz you can find as you celebrate your victory.
My Tips for Opening a Bank Account
- Bring every official document you have in your possession and be prepared to produce documents that you don’t have yet/didn’t even know existed. Every branch, even within the same bank, can have different requirements.
- If you get an appointment to open a bank account that’s too far in the future for you, just go to another branch and see if you can get an earlier appointment. In my case, I received an appointment for the next week. I walked 5 minutes down the road to another branch and got an appointment for the following day.
- Know your U.S. Social Security Number; you might need to provide it. If you don’t have it memorized, make sure you are able to figure out what it is before your appointment.
My Italian is what you could describe as sufficiente so I was able to open an account on my own, but if you aren’t yet feeling too confident in your Italian language skills there should be someone at the bank who speaks English. It’s never a bad idea to bring an Italian friend with you either!
Documents You Should Bring
- Permesso di Soggiorno or the receipt if the card isn’t ready yet
- Codice Fiscale
- U.S. Social Security Card (if you’re American). Carisbo said the number was sufficient, but other banks may want your actual card.
- Work contract
- Proof of address. I provided my Declaration of Hospitality that was part of my visa application and they accepted this.
Note: Even though I went to two different branches of the same bank, they still asked me to bring different documents. If one branch asks you for documents that you don’t have or can’t provide, try going to another branch.
Fees and General Information
I have a bank account with Carisbo, a company that was somewhat recently acquired by Intesa Sanpaolo group. It costs 1€ per month for the Bancomat card and, if you are under 30 years old, the bank account is free. While there may be better options out there, I’m content with the basic services that Carisbo provides for a decent price. If you are looking for an inexpensive bank account that is easy to open as a foreigner, then I highly recommend Carisbo. If anyone has had any success with a specific bank and wants to recommend it, please let me know in the comments below!