On Czech Banks. Which ones are best for foreigners? Which ones have the lowest fees? Which ones have apps in English? All the info you need to get started.

If you’re new to Prague and are wondering about opening a local bank account, there are plenty of options and all offer varying levels of service just like back home.  So let’s begin by thinking about what specifics you may be looking for.

START WITH YOUR NEEDS

What type of services do you need from your bank? Maybe you plan to stay for a while and want to open a checking and savings account.  Maybe it’s as simple as wanting a bank that won’t charge for using different ATM’s around the city… or a branch with English speakers. Maybe you want bank that works with Apple Pay.  Do you need a way to get money back and forth to the states without getting hit with exorbitant foreign transaction fees?

PARTNER CONTENT

Suffice to say that whatever you’re looking for in terms of services, you’ll definitely be able to find a bank here that suits your needs. So let’s start with the basics:

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT?

First let’s look at what most banks will (or may) require in order to open a new account:

  • Two official identification documents, including: ID card, birth certificate, health insurance card, passport, proof of address, driving license or employee identification card.
  • If you’re a student and want to establish a student account, the bank will require a certificate of study or visa for the Czech Republic.

In addition to these documents, you’ll need some sort of initial deposit. The initial deposit varies from bank to bank, but it’s usually between 200 and 2,000 crowns (CZK). To be clear, this isn’t a fee.  It’s the first deposit to your account.

Even as a foreigner, as long as you have two of the documents listed above, you should have no problem opening a bank account. Some local banks like EquaBank for example, will even allow you to begin the process of opening an account online just to save you a bit of time.

You start by filling out a form on their website.  They’ll then begin to prepare your account and call you (generally within a day) to set an appointment.  You’ll then go in to one of their branches to complete the process of signing the contract, make that first deposit, and officially open your account.

LIST OF LOCAL BANKING INSTITUTIONS AND SOME DETAILS ON EACH

So what are your choices? Like any other major city around the world, Prague has a ton of choices when it comes to banks. Some are local, some international. One or two may even be familiar to you if you’re from the US. Here are your options for local, Czech-based banks:

Česká Spořitelna (https://www.csas.cz/en/personal-finance)

  • 14 local branches
  • 100+ ATMs throughout the city
  • Products: Various
  • Free accounts to students up to two years after their graduation
  • Children’s accounts
  • An expat centre designed for foreign clients
  • Communications in English, French, and German.
  • Uses Apple Pay

ČSOB (Československá Obchodní Banka https://www.csob.cz/portal/people/accounts/premium-account)

  • 39 local branches
  • 48 ATMs
  • Products available for expats: Plus Account – Free withdrawals and payments for young people up to 26 years-old without any conditions.  When depositing just CZK 10,000 every month even adults have no account fees.

Equa Bank (https://www.equabanking.cz/IBS/)

  • 42 local branches
  • 100+ ATMs (Equa allows you to use other bank’s ATMs for free)
  • Products available for expats: Online banking in English, English app, English-speaking customer service reps.  Contactless payment MasterCard. Gold card with benefits for 89 crowns/mo. Free transition from your original bank. Possible to open the account online.

Expobank (https://www.expobank.cz/en/)

  • 9 local branches
  • 9+ ATMs
  • Products available for expats: Current Account Expo Active (2 contactless payment cards, incoming domestic payments free of charge, cash collections from all ATMs in the Czech Republic free of charge), Savings Account.

Komerčni Bank (KB – https://www.kb.cz/en/)

  • See website for more information.

Fio Bank (https://www.fio.cz)

  • See website for more information.

Mbank (Does not appear to offer web-based services in English).

Moneta Money Bank (https://www.moneta.cz/web/en)

  • See website for local branches
  • See website for ATMs
  • See website for Products
  • Website in English
  • App-based account management

AirBank (https://www.airbank.cz) does not appear to offer English-based services.

International Banks or banks that have international partners:

Unicredit Bank (https://www.unicreditbank.cz/en/obcane.html#home)

  • See website for more information.

Sberbank (https://www.sberbankcz.cz/en/?sc_lang=en)

  • See website for more information.

Raiffeisenbank (https://www.rb.cz/en)

  • See website for more information.

Citibank (https://www.citibank.cz/czech/home/corporate-banking.htm)

  • 3 branches in Prague
  • 3 ATMs
  • Accounts available: Citi® Premium and Citigold
  • Cards available: Citi Life, Citi Classic, Citi CSA MasterCard World, Citi Gold, Citi BILLA, O2 Citi Classic, Shell MasterCard from Citibank and Citi Broker Consulting

I started my time in Prague as a KB customer, but after a year I must tell you that I was incredibly frustrated – not just with the overall service, but with the fact that they literally charge for almost everything.  Of course, this is only the opinion of this writer, but… You know the phrase “there’s an app for that”?  I felt like KB’s motto should’ve been “there’s a fee for that.”  Need a second ATM card? There’s a fee for that.  Higher number of ATM withdrawals per month?  There’s a fee for that. Using your card to buy something? There’s a fee for that. And it’s not just KB. Banks in this country love their fees.

ON BANKING FEES

Many Czech banks will charge you some sort of flat monthly fee for your account (generally somewhere between 30 to 50 CZK which isn’t that much, but you should be aware of it), and they may also charge a fee for your debit card (anywhere from 150-200 crowns for the first card and up to 450 crowns annually if you need an additional card!).

There may be an ATM fee (often between 6 and 9 crowns for one of your bank’s machines but more for use of another bank’s ATM!)) and some banks may even charge a small fee for transactions! Lost your debit card?  At some banks you can expect to pay as much as 2,000 crowns to have it blocked and a replacement card can be an additional fee.

It’s definitely worth your time to research banking fees, since they can vary greatly. The good news is that some of the banks listed above now offer zero-fee accounts.  Just make sure to ask questions and read the fine print (some, for example, have a cap on purchases each month or the amount of times you can withdraw funds).

FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I moved to Equa after my unpleasant KB experience and I’ve been pretty satisfied.  Their customer service is top-notch,  The app is in English, very well laid out, and easy to understand.  They’ll even send you notifications for each purchase so you’ll know exactly how much you’re spending as well as when and where you spent it.  The one downside for me is that they’re not yet connected to Apple Pay.

There’s another potential downside to Equa which is that, since Equa does not operate any of their own ATMs but borrows from all the other banks, there is no way for you to make deposits unless you go to a local Pošta (Post Office) to do so… which can be harrowing for a non-fluent Czech speaker as most postal employees here do not speak English.  Not only do they not speak English, but like postal workers in general, they seem to usually be pretty unhappy as a baseline and watching you fumble around with Google translate on your phone isn’t likely to improve their mood.

I noted this was a “potential downside” as you’ll quickly learn that Czech’s don’t really use checks.  Your payments (unless you’re a teacher picking up private lessons for cash) will come via direct bank transfer which is super convenient and, likewise, when you make a payment for something like rent, for example, this is also generally done via bank transfer, so your need to physically deposit money here should be minimal if at all.

SOME OTHER THINGS TO KNOW

When you first get here from abroad, you may find yourself thinking that this is the cheapest city in the world. After all, the Czech crown tends to hover between 22 and 24 to the dollar… so if you’re coming from the US, your money expands… but wrap your brain around using the crown as fast as you can.  

So many expats who had truly planned to stay simply run out of money.  The reason?  They spend a lot of time enjoying the local bars and activities but all the while using their foreign currency and, before long, they’ve wiped themselves out and have to go home… usually with a plan to regroup, save up, and return… though few make it back.

If your work here is on the lower end of the income scale (think teaching), this is more important than ever. Even on a teaching salary, you can live pretty comfortably here and even manage some travel (Prague is a great jumping off point due to it’s central location), but starting to train your brain toward Crowns is key.

BACK TO TRANSFERS

If, as mentioned before, you intend to use USD (or some other foreign currency) while you’re getting set up here, you’d be best served by using a currency exchange service rather than a bank as you’ll likely get a much more favorable rate and you won’t get hit with high exchange fees.  The service most frequently used by expats here seems to be TransferWise (https://transferwise.com) and in all my years here I’ve only ever heard positive comments about the service.

Finally, if you’re thinking about applying for a Czech credit card… forget about it.  Firstly, Czech’s aren’t big fans of credit… and while you may apply for a loan even as an expat, credit cards aren’t really a thing here.  If you see one in the wild from a Czech bank, the person using it is likely a Czech citizen or Permanent Resident… but again, even for those people, a credit card is rare.

IN CLOSING

So there you go. A solid round-up of the Czech banking scene. Now all you have to to is dig in, do a bit of research, and get banking. You’ll get set up in a flash! And remember, keep repeating this phrase: “I earn Czech crowns. I earn Czech crowns. I earn Czech crowns.”

Shaun O'Banion

Shaun O'Banion

Shaun O'Banion is a Gotham Award-winning independent film producer, writer, and teacher who has been living and working in Prague since 2015.
Shaun O'Banion
About Shaun O'Banion 20 Articles
Shaun O'Banion is a Gotham Award-winning independent film producer, writer, and teacher who has been living and working in Prague since 2015.