Best banks in Hungary - a guide for expats and students (2022)

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If you're a newly arrived expat or student in Hungary and you're looking to set up a bank account for personal or business use, you're probably wondering what your options are and what you'll need to do to get it sorted.

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Our favorite bank in Hungary - Granit Bank

Granit Bank is one of Hungary’s most modern banks, operating a ‘digital first’ policy. What that means is that almost everything (including opening an account - but only if you’re Hungarian) can be done online or via their mobile app.

They also have some of the lowest fees amongst Hungarian banks, with no monthly fee on their standard personal account, so long as you receive at least 230,000 HUF into your account per month or keep a balance of at least 150,000 HUF.

To open an account, just visit their office in the WestEnd shopping mall in Budapest.

What are the main banks in Hungary?

Hungary has a diverse range of banks to choose from with many of the bigger banks having hundreds of branches all over the country. Some of the major ones include:

What to consider when choosing a bank?

One thing to consider is the fees that banks charge. If you're from the UK in particular where free cash withdrawals are the norm, you'll be in for a shock. Almost everything you do in relation to your bank account costs - ATM withdrawals, over-the-counter deposits, even changing your pin number.

The law entitles residents in Hungary to the first two cash withdrawals per month of up to 150,000 HUF for free - but past that, you'll pay a fee. And that fee will be much higher if you take cash from an ATM not owned by your bank. So, take a look around your neighborhood when choosing a bank.

If you're needing to transfer money abroad, particularly outside the SEPA countries, then that's going to cost you a lot as well.

Past that, if you don't speak Hungarian, the bigger banks might be a safer bet as they are likely to have a higher number of staff that speak English.

How to open a bank account in Hungary?

Opening a bank account online, or while outside of Hungary is practically impossible - especially if you're not Hungarian.

Instead, visit your local branch (and try to avoid doing it during the morning rush or close to closing time). Prepare for a wait while they find someone with extensive enough English to help you out. Or you can take someone who speaks Hungarian with you to speed up the process.

As a foreigner, all you'll need is your passport or national ID card and, if you're from outside the EU/EEA, a valid travel document or visa. You'll also need a local phone number and address.

Expect the process to take around 30mins or more. Each bank has several different types of accounts, so it's best to inform yourself as best as possible before you go in.

All the major banks have web and mobile apps, most with English versions. So, once your account is set up, you should be able to do everything else going forward online.

Can I use Wise as my bank account in Hungary?

Wise (formerly Transferwise) started life as a money transfer service, but now operates almost like a bank, with the ability to create local bank accounts in a variety of currencies including GBP, EUR and USD.

Wise have also started offering local HUF accounts, complete with a unique local bank account number (although the account is technically based in Belgium). You’ll also get an IBAN starting with HU.

This can be used the same as a bank account from any other Hungarian bank - including to receive your currency.

Wise also issues debit cards you can use to spend and withdraw both your HUF and any other currencies you have. It’s possible to withdraw EUR from some banks in Hungary, but not USD.

Can I use Revolut as my bank account in Hungary?

Revolut is another popular financial app that’s now a licensed bank (via Lithuania). Like Wise, you can get local bank account details for GBP, EUR, and USD.

They used to offer unique local HUF bank details as well, but since April 2022, they’ve been discontinued due to restrictions from the Hungarian government.

You can still carry a HUF balance in your Revolut, top it up via debit card, and transfer HUF to your account, however, this can now only be done via a SWIFT transfer to a Lithuanian IBAN (beginning with LT).

I'm a US citizen, will I have problems opening a bank account in Hungary?

You may have heard stories of US citizens being refused bank accounts in Hungary and other countries around the world. This all stems from the FATCA regulations - a set of US laws that require banks all over the world to report back to the IRS with information on any bank accounts owned by US citizens and permanent residents abroad.

The regulations have been controversial and required costly process changes for banks everywhere to be able to meet them. While anecdotally, some banks seem to have turned US customers away in the past, this no longer seems to be the case, and all major banks in Hungary will accept US citizens as customers.

There will usually be a box to tick when signing up. You’re also legally required to give your social security number. It’s not possible to open an account unless you do.