Before you decide about opening an account it’s worth checking out the different banks and comparing the conditions offered. For one, there are large differences in terms of costs such as account administration fee, withdrawal fee and transactional fee.
Most of the Hungarian banks offer the complete palette of banking services. The conditions are often optimised for foreign clients – flexibility and goodwill increases with the level of monthly income arriving in the account, just like elsewhere in the world.
The first question you have to clarify as a potential account holder is whether you would like to open a euro- or forint-based account. It makes more sense to open a forint account if you are going to stay in Hungary for a longer term, and you will be keeping forint amounts in your account. Many banks offer an additional euro account with this – however, most charge high administration fees.
The following services are standard products in every Hungarian bank: account management, loans, pension savings and insurances. SMS service also counts as a basic service, which means the following in practice: you will receive one text message on your private mobile phone number each time there is any kind of transaction performed on your account.
This service should help to protect against misuse of your card in case of theft. If you opt for this service, make sure you set an upper limit for the cost of these text messages. If you don’t, it can easily happen that you will receive a notification per text message for HUF 40 each for each yoghurt you pay with your debit card.
If you own real estate in Hungary, you can ask for a loan or a mortgage for it at any of the banks. Usually the maximum value of the loan is 80% of the real estate’s market value. You need a Hungarian bank account, a salary statement and a telephone invoice to ask for the loan.
The savings accounts operate in a similar way in Hungary as they do in Germany. The interest rate depends on their total length. Usually you are not allowed to withdraw money from this account until the end of the agreed savings period. Banks often offer insurances as an additional service, such as for travel.
How to get your money
Most of the banks allow you to perform transactions and wire transfers via an online banking surface too. With the help of this service you can follow up on your account balance, start transfers and even upload the prepaid card for your cell phone with some of the banks.
Online banking is also the cheapest service; at least for wire transfers they charge a lower fee than if you would use the traditional method of filling in a wire transfer form at the bank office.
Cash withdrawals work according to the principle of fees – according to each bank and your individually selected package there is an applicable fee charged after the withdrawal. However, the fees usually are not more than HUF 100.
It can also happen that you are allowed to make some “free” withdrawals each month and all the further withdrawals will be charged.
When you finally hold the forint banknotes in your hand and you can see the hologram stripes on the side of the note, then you are looking at the work of a Hungarian citizen: Dennis Gábor invented holograms in 1947 and he got the Nobel Prize in physics for his work in 1971.
Every beginning is difficult
When you have gathered enough information about the different banks and their offers, you can begin opening your account. Leave enough time for it and ask the clerk for an English version of the account contract – more and more banks have recognised that foreign clients do need to receive a copy in their own language.
The best thing is to book a time slot so you can avoid queuing for a long time. However, you can’t avoid the time-consuming process of filling in the forms and signing the contracts and additional explanations (for example a statement saying that you are not a member of an embassy or a member of a foreign party).
Accept all this with a pinch of humour: After all, you don’t get the opportunity that often to feel like a star sitting at an autograph session…
You will need the following documents for opening a bank account (may be different for each bank)
– passport or ID card
– address card (lakcimkártya)
– Hungarian tax number (or work contract)