My mother likes to joke that these days it is easier to rob a bank in the UK than it is to open an account with one!
Fortunately, this is not the case at all in Georgia. Even for foreigners, the exercise is easy, quick and costs next to nothing.
Firstly you need to decide which bank to open an account with. While there are dozens of banks in Georgia, two stand head and shoulders above the others in terms of stability and the number and branches that they have across the country. These are Bank of Georgia and TBC Bank. Both of these companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange and have very large amounts on deposit.
Personally I chose TBC after checking out feedback on various forums from expats regarding which they considered to be the better option. TBC came in slightly ahead of Bank of Georgia – but only by a very narrow margin – and so I imagine that the service offered by both banks is almost identical.
To open an account, you will need to visit a branch in person – it’s not possible to open an account from outside the country. But the only document that you need to bring is your passport, which the bank will need to take a copy of. They will ask for a home address, but this does not need to be inside Georgia. As the postal service in Georgia is notoriously unreliable, the bank will not be sending anything to your home address in any case.
Unlike most international accounts for foreigners, the bank will not require a minimum deposit in order to open the account. Fees for operating the bank account are very low – just a few Georgian Lari per month – the exact amount depending upon which particular bank you decide to use and the level of service offered by the account. I opted to pay a little more per month in order to obtain fraud protection insurance. I thought it was worth the peace of mind after reading about large corporations constantly getting hacked these days.
The only payment that you need to make at the time that you open the account is a small payment in order to obtain a debit card, which can also be used to withdraw funds from ATMs both inside Georgia and around the world. The bank offers a choice of either a Visa or Mastercard. Both banks offer mobile apps for mobile banking as well as internet banking – so you can track your funds from anywhere in the world.
The entire time that it took to open the bank account took under thirty minutes.
Because of the problems with the postal service, your debit card will not be sent by post. Instead, it will be sent to any branch of your choosing and should be ready for collection late afternoon the following day.
The bank account that you will open is actually three accounts in one – one each for GEL, USD and EUR. If you wire funds into your account in either USD or EUR, then the funds will remain in that currency until you want to convert them. The TBC ATMs in Georgia actually allow you to withdraw funds in USD as well as in GEL.
All bank accounts in Georgia use the international IBAN format, which makes it simple to transfer to transfer funds into the account without all of the hassle of working out the SWIFT/BIC Codes. Funds sent into the account arrive remarkably quickly. Every time that I have tried it to date, the funds have arrived late the following working day.
If you have opened a company in Georgia, then the principles are exactly the same as above for opening a personal account. You just need to show your company documents together with your passport.
In summary, opening a bank account in Georgia as a foreigner is a remarkably simple exercise compared to most countries in the world.