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Opening a Bank Account and Understanding Banks in the Czech Republic

The initial difference you will probably see with Czech banks is the significant monthly charges for standard services, such as withdrawals from ATM’s that, in the UK or US, tend to be far less or even complimentary. The sole piece of positive news is that, because of increased competition for clients and, with newer internet banks appearing offering less expensive services, banks have to provide improved value for your custom. Be aware that bigger grocery shops, such as Albert, Globus and Billa allow you to request “cash-back” after you pay. This is a complimentary service that requires a purchase of at least 300 CZK (withdraw as much as 1500 CZK). To set an account up at a Prague bank, you will have to produce your passport and, normally, a minimal deposit of several hundred crowns to get a standard account. A few banks even demand a residence/long-term permit or a visa. Many banks vary from branch-to-branch, and you may find staff who tell you that they will not open accounts for foreigners, because their English is not good enough. Another explanation for denying you an account may be that you require an address and cell phone provider based in the Czech Rep (hotels are not accepted). Česká spořitelna, Komerční banka, ČSOB, Citibank and Raiffeisenbank are favourites on message boards for tellers who speak English (although only true for bigger branches or ex-pat centres), low monthly charges and customer service. AirBank or mBank are well-liked internet banking options, although they do not expect their tellers to understand a lot of English. Another new internet banks are Equa Bank or AirBank, that provides excellent banking services for foreign people, with virtually no charges, and is simple to set-up – even using your foreign cell phone. The Post-Office Bank (Poštovní spořitelna) is another option and has a cheap ATM charge of 5 CZK for each withdrawal but, apart from this, their service is restricted.

After your account has been opened, you’ll be provided with an account number and a bank code. You will also get an IBAN number to use for international transactions, as well as a SWIFT code. The majority of banks offer either Visa Electron or Maestro cards, or an embossed Master-card or Visa card free of charge. To manage your bank account, every bank usually offers phone and online banking.

Advice for setting an account up: You will probably be offered a medium-price deal, so always enquire whether they offer a less expensive package. Don’t forget to ask about services such as ATM charges and wire transfers. Whilst some banks provide an excellent English language service, you might need to pay more for this. Should you discover a bank that charges small or no fees each month, other services might be restricted (but not every time). The amount you save on monthly charges, you might have to pay in ATM withdrawal fees, for example.

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