Expats moving to Cyprus will feel welcome right away by the warm and inviting culture. While development has been slow, the cost of living is lower in Cyprus than in most Mediterranean regions. Before you truly settle in, you’ll need a bank account. Here’s everything you need to know to set up your finances.
Which documents do I need to open a bank account in Cyprus?
Opening a bank account in Cyprus is fairly hassle-free. The exact documents you’ll need to open up a bank account depending on the bank in question, but they’ll generally all need:
- Proof of identity, such as a passport
- Proof of local residencies, such as utility bills
- A reference letter from your prior bank saying your credit is in good standing
A variety of bank accounts are available, from current/checking accounts to foreign currency accounts to student accounts. You can compare fees, withdrawal limits, and other stipulations before you make a choice.
Can I open a bank account in Cyprus from abroad?
You can begin the process of opening a bank account in Cyprus even before you arrive. Any Cypriot or foreign bank should allow you to get the ball rolling online. Your signature is required, so you might need to wait until you’re in-country to complete the account setup. The Bank of Cyprus has a branch in London, so if you’re UK-based you can open your account at home.
Each bank will have a different policy, so it helps to speak to your home bank before leaving. You should also call your anticipated local branch to see what they can do. A customer relations representative will advise you on which papers to prepare and how to move the process along.
Can I use online banking in Cyprus?
A variety of banks in Cyprus offer online banking. Check for details at your particular bank’s website. Outside of opening hours, use your bank’s website to check your account balance, transfer money from checking to savings, or change your personal details. More complex transactions will probably require an in-person visit.
Which bank should I choose?
Foreigners in Cyprus are lucky to be supported by ex-pat assistance at most banks. You’ll find English-speaking representatives who are trained to guide you through financing, account setup, loans and other transactions.
Cyprus is home to numerous international bank branches. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- Bank of Beirut
- Jordan Kuwait Bank
- Societe Generale
- Banque SBA
There are also many local banks to choose from, such as the following institutions:
- Bank of Cyprus
- Hellenic Bank
- Coop Bank
- Astro Bank
- USB Bank
- Ancoria Bank
- Alpha Bank
What are the fees involved with banking in Cyprus?
If you’re accustomed to quick service, you’re in for a surprise. Cyprus operates in the typical Mediterranean way, with business occurring at a relaxed pace. This pace extends to banking, so expect to wait longer than you might at home. Familiarise yourself with banking regulations through the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission and the Central Bank of Cyprus.
Banks are open in Cyprus from Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Online banking is accessible 24/7 to supplement these limited hours. ATMs are found in all towns and larger villages. In most cases they have an English option as well.
Without a student or youth account, expect to pay a small annual fee for maintaining a checking account or credit card. Normally these fees are around €10 per year. For premium or concierge services, fees can run around €90 a year. If you overdraw, you’ll face penalties and potential interest charges.
ATM fees and service charges will also vary; in some smaller towns and villages, you might face up to €5 for withdrawals. If you’re using a foreign card in Cyprus, you might want to check which currency you should choose to be charged in when withdrawing money from an ATM.
International transfer fees
You’ll find international money transferring services at most banks. Within the EU, some transfers are treated as domestic transactions, while others are not. It’s difficult to navigate the variety of policies and exchange rates from bank to bank. While banks may advertise 0 fees, they are likely to mark up the exchange rate they offer when transferring your money, keeping the difference as profit.
To avoid sneaky exchange rates and hidden fees, use TransferWise. If you have a bank account in Cyprus or know someone who does, they’ll help you transfer your money there charging only a small transparent fee that’s stated upfront and using the mid-market exchange rate – the same one you’d find on Google. Before you convert you might want to compare rates using an online currency converter.
Should you be moving to Cyprus and want to transfer some money over before you get there, you can open a TransferWise borderless multi-currency account in up to 28 global currencies. It doesn’t cost anything to open the account or to maintain it, and you can keep an eye on all of your accounts and balances on one page as well as convert money between currencies with a single click whenever the rate is favorable.
Banking and Financial Services
Cyprus has a sophisticated and advanced financial services sector, which is expanding rapidly year on year.
Banking is the largest component of the sector, having emerged strong, fully recapitalized, and well-regulated out of the financial crisis of prior years. The banking system is fully harmonized with EU legislation and directives. Commercial banking arrangements and practices follow the British model and there are currently over 40 Cypriot and international banks operating in Cyprus. All banks maintain correspondent networks around the world and carry out both traditional and specialized financial transactions.
The Cyprus financial services sector is diverse, comprising domestic banks, International Banking Units (IBUs), insurance companies, and other companies that offer financial intermediation services. A significant number of international banks operate subsidiaries, branches, or representative offices in Cyprus. Banks located in Cyprus offer an array of services ranging from asset management, private banking, international, corporate, and investment banking, retail banking, syndicated loans, custodian services, and more. In line with business changes, Cyprus’ banking infrastructure has rapidly evolved and adopted the use of advanced technology systems, implemented measures to improve risk management, and acquired highly-trained personnel.
For a complete list of credit institutions operating in Cyprus, visit the website of the Central Bank (www. centralbank.gov.cy).
Cyprus’ banking and financial services sector legislation is in line with international best practices and has been simplified. Combined with an effective and transparent tax system, which is fully EU, OECD, FATF, FSF, and MONEYVAL compliant, the banking sector is in a position to service clients of all sizes and industries.
The Central Bank of Cyprus, an autonomous institution established in 1963, is the supervising authority of the banking system in Cyprus. The Central Bank of Cyprus follows the Basel Committee and European Union banking regulation directives. In January 2008, the Central Bank of Cyprus was integrated into the Eurosystem under the European Central Bank.
Other regulatory authorities involved in the monitoring of financial institutions include:
- The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission
- The Co-operative Credit Societies’ Supervision and Development Authority
- The Commissioner of Insurance Companies (Ministry of Finance)
- Authority for the Supervision of Pension Funds (Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance)
Cyprus is fast becoming one of the top emerging investment fund centers in Europe thanks to its continuous efforts to upgrade its legislative and regulatory regime and its strong network of financial and professional services providers. Determined to stay at the forefront of industry developments, Cyprus offers unique access to high-growth markets, compliance with EU fund regulations and international best practices, as well as high-quality and cost-efficient support services. The country’s population is one of the most highly educated in the EU, and the expertise of its service providers has established Cyprus as a location of choice for international fund promoters and investors seeking secure and advantageous fund solutions. Service providers support funds throughout their entire life cycle: regulatory approval, administration, custody, annual audit, listing on the Cyprus Stock Exchange (if applicable), order routing, registration, clearing, and settlement.
The Cypriot regulatory authorities have worked diligently to bring the funds’ framework in Cyprus up to par with other international jurisdictions. These efforts include the transposition of the Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS) IV Directive in 2012 and the Alternative Investment Funds Managers Directive (AIFMD) in 2013. Through the laws transposing these two directives, Cyprus offers a European passport to the fund management industry and outstanding possibilities for cross-border and global fund distribution.
The alternative investment funds industry in Cyprus has experienced significant growth in the last few years, with the establishment of a significant number. of both UCITS Management Companies and UCITS funds, a trend which is expected to continue.
In an effort to further enhance and grow the Cyprus Investment Funds Industry, the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) established the Cyprus Investment Funds Association (CIFA), as a natural development of the progress made in promoting Cyprus as a competitive investment funds jurisdiction. In extending its local network, CIFA has established close cooperation with the competent Regulatory Authorities, the Ministry of Finance as well as the relevant Industry Associations and Professional Bodies. At an international level, CIFA is taking the necessary steps to become a national member of widely recognized and respected international bodies. In 2016, CIFA was granted full membership in the European Fund and Asset Management Association (EFAMA).
The increasing number of applications being received by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) for Cyprus Investment Firms (CIFs) is indicative of the enduring attraction of Cyprus as an investment base. The number of CIFs has registered an impressive increase over the years, surging from 50 in 2005 to 195 in June 2015, with the trend expected to continue.