How to open a bank account in Turkey 2020 ?

by Fay

One of the first and basic things you start thinking about once you settle in Turkey is how to open a bank account in Turkey. You have probably heard about the difficulties to open one or you are just looking for information. Lucky you, you found the right place. This post is based on our personal experiences of opening a bank account in Turkey.

IS A TURKISH BANK ACCOUNT REQUIRED FOR THE RESIDENT PERMIT APPLICATION?

When applying for a residence permit in Turkey, you will probably be asked to provide a proof of your financial situation but a Turkish bank account won’t be requested since it’s nearly impossible to open a bank account in Turkey without a residence permit or work permit unless you are so lucky…

Since we had already leased an apartment within a month of arriving in Istanbul, we needed a local bank account so that we could pay our rent and bills easily. I had done some research online which said that I could open a bank account if I had a rental agreement and a tax ID number which you take from a Tax Office (Vergi Dairesi). I had visited Turkish, Arab and international banks and they all refused to open an account for me. My husband had a similar experience when he tried to open a bank account. We found this extremely frustrating and, to be honest, quite insulting.

DO YOU NEED A VALID RESIDENCE OR WORK PERMIT TO OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT IN TURKEY

We have tried to open bank accounts with and without residence/work permits. Unfortunately, we were pretty much rejected in both situations. This begs the question: why is it so hard to open a simple bank account in Turkey?
At first, we thought it’s going to be a pretty easy and straightforward process as many banks in Turkey advertise banking options for foreigners and expats. However, when we visited more than 10 different banks in Istanbul, we heard lot of excuses for not opening an account for us. Some of the most creative were:

Bank 1: We don’t open accounts for foreigners. (…your website says that you do)
Bank 2: We don’t open accounts for people with your nationality. (…omg…really!!!)
Bank 3: We don’t open accounts for foreigners at this branch. (mmm…so you have a special branch for foreigners…”No”)
Bank 4: We can’t find your address on the system…please come back and try again after 1 week…. (aha)

And then there are banks that demand money from you…

Bank 5: We can open an account for you, but it will cost you 650 TL. (Me: Is this a deposit or a fee? Teller: It’s a fee…Me: Well then, thanks but no thanks.

Bank 6: We can open an account for you, but you need to deposit 2000 USD with us. (ARE YOU SERIOUS????????????)

…LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Finally, I had heard from a friend that I should try Vakıf Katılım Bank. It’s a new bank in Turkey specializes in gold-based investment services while providing all the necessary day to day banking needs of both business and individual clients. I took my documents with me and went to their branch skeptically. The bank had a white blue and red logo that I had never seen before. The branch was small and empty. The bank had just two tellers and one counter for inquiries. I was surprised when the assistant greeted me in English and welcomed me. She was pleasant and eager to speak English. She asked the usual questions: where are you from, what’s your job etc. and then she requested the following documents:

  1. My Passport
  2. My Residence application form
  3. Tax Number and rental agreement.

THE PROCEDURES

She then began typing and clicking at her desktop for several minutes while occasionally calling out to her colleagues across the room requesting some information…so I thought. The longer things went on the more I began to feel that something was different at this bank. Sometimes you can sense from a person’s body language whether they are assisting you or not. She then began asking me random questions about whether I’m married and have kids. These questions are not considered personal in Turkey. I asked her if things were going well so far and she replied: It’s okay. Thus, she kept me guessing until she started giving me some documents to sign.

My ordeal was finally over. After signing several documents in Turkish and at one point, being compelled to write a whole sentence in Turkish that I was told means: I have read and understood the terms and conditions… I cooperated gladly. This was my only chance to open a bank account and I was not going to let anything stand in my way.
To my surprise, I was handed a bank card with my name on it immediately! I was delighted. The assistant asked me to make a deposit of 100 TL and helped me through the procedures of setting a password and downloading the mobile bank application which is available in English and easy to use. I had finally won the battle to open a bank account in Turkey.

WE TRIED OPENING ANOTHER BANK ACCOUNT…THIS TIME WITH A WORK PERMIT

After receiving my work permit, I wanted to open another bank account that gives more credit card advantages. I had to see for myself how easy it would be to open a bank account once I had become a full time salaried employee with a valid work permit in Turkey. Would I still be not able to open a bank account?
To be clear I need to say this again because I still can’t believe it. I visited 3 banks, two were Turkish banks and one was international. I took a ticket and waited in the long que while a bunch of people tried to cut the line. Unfortunately I still could not open a bank account.

A friend of mine suggested that perhaps it was an Istanbul issue. He had a similar experience in Istanbul but was able to open an account at a TEB (Türk Ekonomi Bankası) branch in Gaziantep city. So I visited my local TEB to see for myself. The assistant at the front desk could not speak English but did well to communicate with me using the Google translate app on her Tablet saying that they don’t open accounts for foreigners and suggested that I go to Zirat Bank.

TO CONCLUDE

Thus far, our experience with opening a bank account in Turkey depends the bank and the person in charge of opening it for you. If you are able to go to a small city, you will have a better chance to open a bank account easily.

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