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Banking for Expats in Russia

Submitted: March 2014

Russia is not the toughest country when it comes to opening bank accounts. Some banks may be happy to open bank accounts for non-residents, but not all. However, opening an account from overseas is best done several weeks in advance.

 

Account opening process: overview

The most straightforward applications are for savings accounts and the most basic current accounts; that is applications that you make because you need an account to pay money into. In general, current accounts come with a debit card. Things may get a bit trickier if you are looking forward to getting other products, such as credit cards, etc. Do check if you must maintain a minimum deposit balance as well.

If you are coming to Russia as an employee, your employer may open a bank account on your behalf. This is typically made at the employer’s bank, and this is sometimes imposed by the employer. You might wish to check with your employer if you can open an account with another Russian bank. If you do so, you will probably need a letter from your employer confirming your employment status.

 

Required documents

New residents may find it relatively easy to open a bank account, at least when compared with other countries. As far as paperwork is concerned, you need at least:

  • Passport
  • Valid travel documents

Proof of address may or may not be required, depending on the bank and the account you want to open. Documents may sometimes have to be translated, and security checks may be made to confirm the authenticity of your signature. If you are non-resident, this may require physical presence in Russia at some point, which is quite impractical.

 

Products available

Accounts may be opened in Rubles, US dollars and Euros. Whenever a savings account is denominated in Russian Rubles, this comes with an interest rate above 6%. Term deposits will easily land you with a double-digit return. Interest earned from bank deposits is generally subject to a 20% withholding tax. On 3 March 2014, the central bank of Russia raised its key lending rate from 5.5% to 7%. As a result, interest rates on Russian savings accounts are likely to rise over the coming months.

 

Where to apply?

Expatriates who do not speak Russian are advised to go to branches located in the centre of large towns, such as Moscow or Saint-Petersburg, where English-speaking bank staff is more prevalent. Most banks in Russia are open from Monday to Friday, from 8.30/10am to 6/8pm. On Saturdays, banks open from 10am to 2pm only.

 

Day-to-day account management

Online banking is becoming more and more widespread across Russia. In addition, ATMs may provide for an interface, a bit like those seen in the UK. With this technology, the day-to-day management of your accounts may be made through an ATM. Most banks in Russia are open from Monday to Friday, from 8.30/10am to 6/8pm. On Saturdays, banks open from 10am to 2pm only.

Russian ATMs will at least display English and Russian language, although German and French may be available as well. Your bank may charge you a fee if you withdraw cash from an ATM in Russia.

Fees may apply to outbound transfers and standing orders. Many retailers accept debit and credit cards for payment, but it’s best to carry some cash at all times, especially on trips outside town centres. For purchases from foreign websites, the card will need to be a Visa one. Cheques are hardly used in Russia.

 

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