Opening a bank account as a foreigner in Turkey used to be a long, tiresome process. And after all the waiting and asking around, you'd be shocked to discover that you'd need at least a certain amount of money or sizeable investment, plus a residence permit to open one. But thankfully, those days are long gone, and few remaining districts have hurdles.
Owing to a growing number of investments, tax waivers, and new business agreements, the Turkish government and banks have made it easier for non-nationals to participate in financial activities.
Some widely known and largest banks in Turkey are Işbank, Garanti Bank, HSBC, Yapı Kredi, Akbank, QNB Finansbank, TEB, Halkbank, Vakıfbank, ING Bank, Kuveyt Türk and Ziraat Bank, and all of them cater to foreign nationals.
To be safe, check for details online or make an appointment with the bank to discuss with English-speaking staff.
The Documents You'll Need To Open a Bank Account in Turkey
- Photocopy of your passport
- Tax identification number
- A residence address in Turkey (or foreign address some banks may accept)*
- Residence permit (if applicable)
*Your address is required for identification purposes. If not, you will need to provide an invoice of a service that requires a subscription/utility bill that is not older than 3 months, issued by a public institution (Turkish or foreign)
Regardless of which bank you choose, you will need a potential tax number. You can get this number by visiting the tax office with your passport. For more on getting a Turkish tax ID, read this article.
Or, if you already have a residence permit, you can also use your foreign identification number (that usually begins with 99) as your tax number.
Some banks may also request a Turkish mobile phone number from you. (If you have applied for a tax ID number online, the system will already have asked for a Turkish number to continue.)
What To Do When You Are Always Moving
Whether you are working as a freelancer or digital nomad or want an expat-friendly bank, money transfer websites might be a better option for you because bank charges in Turkey are high and varied, whether they are routine operations or transfers out of the country.
Traditional banks or your home bank may charge extortionate prices to send, exchange, or withdraw money internationally, which is the reason why many expats turn to virtual borderless multi-currency accounts or their own bank's international accounts. A global account caveat is that you deposit hefty sums upfront, and some even stipulate that you spend or deposit a certain amount every month.
There are services like Transferwise, which offer borderless accounts to circumvent these challenges and use the real exchange rate when making international transfers as it has multiple currency accounts. Unlike traditional banks, this virtual service does not handle fees associated with traditional banking and charges up to 12 times less when making cash withdrawals.
You can open overdraft accounts for utility bills set for automatic payment, which prevents you from paying interest on overdue invoices and allows you to pay off the debt when you deposit money into the account.
As a foreigner, you can also utilize such accounts when you don't have sufficient funds in your demand deposit account to meet your daily cash needs. Interest rates and the required documents vary from bank to bank, and you'll visit the branch to discuss specifics.
To apply for a credit card as a foreigner in Turkey, first, you'll need to have a credit history or proof of your monthly income via payroll. Suppose. In that case, a Turkish company employs you, this process will be easy as they will be able to provide you with a statement declaring your salary, and banks will issue you with credit proportional to that. Expect your limit to be about twice that of your salary for the first year and rise from there.
However, if you are not working in Turkey, the only other way you can apply for a credit card in Turkey as a foreigner is to put the credit limit in your bank account as a deposit.
The only bank that provides credit cards and overdraft accounts without a security deposit is HSBC Premier.
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*No identification required, just a valid Turkish mobile number. To send IBAN payments, a “kimlik” ID is needed.
If you are thinking of applying for a loan, whether that be for furniture, home renovation, marriage, holiday, or professional purposes, there are things you should know.
Before you apply for a loan, Turkish banks will ask you to provide:
- Your passport/national ID/driver's license and its photocopy
- Proof of address/residency in Turkey
- Proof of your monthly income
- Residence or a work permit must be valid throughout the loan.
- A Turkish guarantor or cash collateral (in some cases)
*The last two requirements may change from bank to bank, so it is best to inquire ahead so you don't end up with unwanted surprises.
Which Brings Us to the Kbb (Kredi Kayıt Bürosu)
The KBB is Turkey's first and only credit bureau, and it collects information regarding your payment and borrowing habits to provide an accurate picture of your consumer credit status. You will need to have a credit score to apply for loans or credit cards or enter into business relationships.
You'll need KBB's services to receive your "risk report," namely assessing your credit risk and credit scoring. The report will help you know your loan and credit card limits at all banks.
To benefit from this report, you will need your bank or the KBB system to have your mobile phone number registered. After an inquiry, you'll receive an SMS asking for your consent to produce the report, and you'll need to reply 'yes' to the message. Each inquiry will cost a few Turkish lira.
Findeks Credit Rating is calculated based on these 5 categories:
- Credit Product Repayments (35%),
- Current Accounts and Debts (35%),
- Loan Usage Intensity (10%),
- New Loans Taken (11%),
- Other Factors (9%).
In the end, it will calculate a credit score between 1 and 1900.
The KBB also provides a similar report for checks.