Open a business account in Europe

Tarah Ren
Freddie Larkins
Last updated
November 17, 2023

As the world continues to become more and more connected, the opportunities to take your business global are more accessible than ever. Perhaps you’re looking to branch out into the European market or are set to relocate and set up shop in one of the many countries the continent has to offer. Either way, you’ll need to open a business account in your target country

In this article, we will answer the following questions about opening a European bank account:

  • What details will you need to open an account?

  • Is it absolutely necessary to have a local business account?

  • And what are the differences between choosing to open an account with a traditional bank compared to digital alternatives like Wise or Revolut?

Together, we’ll dive into these questions, helping you navigate the landscape of European banking so that you can make an informed decision. Whether you’re eyeing up an account in Euros or any other European currency, we’ve got you covered.

Legally speaking, do I need a business account in Europe?

Whether or not you’ll need a business account in Europe will vary from country to country and largely depends on your business structure.

For example, if you’re looking to open or expand your business in Spain and are setting up a Sociedad Limitada, a common form of a limited company, then you’re required by law to open a business bank account.

This step is required after receiving your tax code, where you’ll have to deposit a minimum of €3000 in share capital. However, if you’re an ‘autonomo’ (a freelancer or self-employed individual), then the legal requirement to open a business bank account doesn’t apply.

If you’ve got your eyes set on France, similar rules apply, and individual entrepreneurs can enjoy an exemption from having to legally open a dedicated business bank account for their professional activities.

However, if you’re self-employed but have a turnover that surpasses €10,000 for two consecutive calendar years, then opening a business bank account is a requirement.

Similarly, all capital companies are also obligated to open a bank account upon registering their company to deposit their share capital. It’s good to note that while a business account is mandatory to create a company, it’s not mandatory to keep it.

It’s important to stress that whether or not you’ll need a business account in Europe will depend on the specific laws of the country you’re operating in, even if that country is within the European Union. For that reason, researching the regulations is essential.

What details do I need to open a business account in Europe?

While specifics will vary from country to country and bank to bank, there are several common documents you’ll need to open a European business account. You’ll typically need:

  • Proof of ID: This could be a valid passport or a national ID card.

  • Proof of address: A utility bill or rental contract that shows you live in a European country is usually enough.

  • Business information: Some banks will require details about your business, such as registration details, articles of incorporation, and how you plan on using your account.

  • Information on key individuals: This might include information about directors and shareholders.

  • A reason: Some European countries will require you to have a valid reason for needing an account, and you may need to provide evidence to support these claims.

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of countries for some more context:

Switzerland: Bare essentials include proof of identity and complete personal information about you and any other business owners. Swiss banks may also ask questions about the nature of your business, registration details, and future business plans.

Germany: While non-residents can open a business bank account, German banking rules are a bit more stringent due to their banking regulations. Additional hurdles to navigate include credit history checks as well as a certificate of company registration, and a business plan.

Remember, additional documents like income statements or tax numbers might also be requested, so if you’re missing any paperwork, take the time to get yourself organised or explore banks with more flexible requirements.

Do I need to be a European resident to open an account?

European Union states also allow non-residents to open business accounts; however, eligibility criteria apply and specifics may change based on the bank and its regulations.

As a foreigner, you should be prepared to provide identification documents like a passport from your home country and proof of address alongside other potential additional requirements.

Does my business need to be based in Europe to open an account?

The complexity of international business banking often leads to entrepreneurs wondering if their business needs to be based in Europe in order to open a business account.

As with many aspects of European banking, the answer depends on the specific country in question.

In Estonia, for example, it’s a prerequisite for applicants’ businesses to have direct ties to the country.

This means you’ll need to explain how the business activity, owner or management of the company is connected to Estonia.

Belgium requires documents confirming the company’s registration within its jurisdiction, while Spain’s requirements lean more towards job creation, meaning you might need to demonstrate how your new business venture will generate employment opportunities within the country.

Therefore, even if your business doesn’t necessarily need to be based in Europe to open an account, most countries require some sort of presence within the country, the specifics of which will depend on each country’s individual laws and regulations.

How long will it take to open a European business account?

As the world embraces more and more digital solutions, the timeline for opening a European business account has shifted from a potentially lengthy process to an impressively quick one.

However, it’s important to note that the duration can vary significantly depending on the provider, your chosen account, and the specifics of your application.

With digital alternatives such as Wise, Revolut, and Airwallex leading the fintech revolution, opening a business account can take just a few days or even hours. Their quick and efficient processes often streamline applications, which makes setting up a business account considerably faster and easier.

Traditional banking institutions, on the other hand, can take a bit longer. Depending on the bank and the business account you go for, this process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Because the time frame can vary so much, we strongly recommend doing your homework and researching different providers to understand their processes and asking about their timelines directly. This will provide you with a more accurate estimate, helping you to better plan for your and your business’s financial future.

How much will it cost?

Before starting your European business adventure, understanding the associated costs is instrumental in making informed decisions. From monthly fees to international payment transactions, costs can quickly add up, so let’s dive into some typical fees you’re likely to encounter:

  • Monthly fees: These are relatively standard and are charged to cover the administration and maintenance of your account. For example, Spain’s Santander Legal Persons account charges a quarterly account maintenance fee of €90.

  • Transaction fees: A staple of many business accounts, each credit card transaction often incurs a fee that will vary between banks.

  • International payment fees: these are usually levied on international transactions and currency exchange.

  • Cash deposit and withdrawal fees: These fees may apply to cash deposits and withdrawals, especially exceeding specified limits, which could affect businesses dealing with cash.

  • Wire transfer fees: Some banks may charge wire transfer fees if you need to send money to another bank. In Poland, the Millennium Biznes Online account has a 1 PLN fee for online domestic transfers in PLN to other banks.

Keep in mind that not all business accounts are the same. In France, approximate yearly costs for banking services include €30 for account maintenance, while some digital alternatives and online banks offer fee-free options.

Are there companies that can help me set up a business account in Europe?

Various agents are available to help you not only set up a business account in Europe but also set up and establish your entire business, including registration, taxation, and compliance.

These companies can be incredibly valuable to some entrepreneurs.

They specialise in finding suitable banks and accounts and ensure your business complies with European laws and regulations.

While this does involve an additional cost, the investment is worth it and often pays off in terms of saved time, especially for companies with complex models or ownership structures.

One option is Xolo, which specialises in providing business setup, contracting, invoicing, accounting, taxation, and compliance solutions.

Xolo Leap helps you to establish and launch a fully remote EU business thanks to Estonian e-residency, complete with an Estonian company (OÜ), integrated business banking, tax reporting, and even payment gateway integrations.

Another great resource is Open A European Company, who offer a wide range of services, including company formation across more than twenty European countries, business consultancy, and banking support.

They help clients navigate the difficulties of opening European bank accounts thanks to their understanding of local banking regulations as well as connections with major banking groups, such as HSBC and Barclays.

What protections are available for business account deposits in Europe?

The European Union makes safeguarding deposits a priority, with protections available for business account deposits through the European Banking Authority’s Deposit Guarantee Scheme (DGS). The DGS ensures that all deposits up to €100,000 are protected throughout the whole of the EU.

Additionally, the European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS) provides an even more robust level of insurance across the European area.

Designed to reduce vulnerability to financial shocks, the EDIS ensures that depositor confidence doesn’t rely on a bank’s location alone, reducing the link between banks and national sovereign states.

The EDIS also applies to deposits below €100,000. That means that when a bank faces insolvency, the EIDS and the DGS step in, either paying out deposits or financing their transfer to another bank.

Each European country also has its own deposit scheme. For instance, Germany’s compensation scheme of German banks (EdB) compensates up to €100,000 or €500,000 in certain cases in the event of a bank’s insolvency.

In Italy, two deposit guarantee schemes exist, the FITD and the Depositors’ Guarantee Fund (FGDCC), which also protect deposits up to €100,000 per depositor, per individual bank.

Europe offers reliable protection for business account deposits, providing you peace of mind as a business owner. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your chosen bank to confirm the details of the specific scheme they provide.

Business accounts in Europe: 3 high-street picks

Santander (Spain)

Santander offer the Legal Persons Account, aimed at both residents and non-residents. Designed with convenience in mind, this account facilitates the easy management of your business operations, whether through online or mobile banking.

Millennium (Poland)

Millennium Bank offers two main business account options designed to cater to the unique needs of sole traders, partners in civil-law companies, and small businesses.

  1. Konto Mój Biznes account

  2. Biznes Account

Bank of Ireland (Ireland)

Bank of Ireland offers three distinct business accounts designed to cater to the unique needs of businesses.

  1. Business Current Account

  2. Small Business Packages Account

  3. Business Agri Package

Digital alternatives: Wise, Airwallex, Revolut and Starling

In today's dynamic business environment, digital banking alternatives such as Wise, Airwallex, Revolut, and Starling can offer a fresh perspective.

These providers redefine cross-border transactions with accounts designed for efficiency, ease, and affordability - key assets for businesses operating internationally.

Let’s explore their unique features and benefits.

Wise Business Account

  • Add funds to your account in 20 currencies, including EUR, AUD, GBP, USD, and more.

  • Comfortably keep and manage over 50+ currencies.

  • Enjoy an attractive interest rate of 2.83% on your EUR balances.

  • Withdrawals up to 200 EUR per month per account are free.

  • Convert your funds into EUR and use them to make payments in Europe and beyond.

  • Accept EUR payments from any bank account worldwide without incurring fees.

  • Enjoy all of the benefits of the mid-market exchange rate.

Airwallex EUR Global Account

  • Receive a set of European account details for sending and receiving payments in EUR.

  • With Airwallex, you can hold funds in multiple currencies, providing the freedom to create a global payment network.

  • Benefit from interbank FX rates and a low conversion fee of just 0.5% or 1% above the interbank rate, which means less spending when you bring back funds.

  • Their accounts are free to open and manage, with no sign-up or monthly fees.

  • Domestic and batch transfers are free of charge.

Go to Airwallex

Revolut Business account

  • Free-tier business account. No monthly fees, pay only for what you use and receive local EUR account details (SEPA) for efficient EEA payments. Ideal for businesses just starting out or those looking for simple banking solutions.

  • Free transfers to Revolut accounts and IBANs for global transactions. Enjoy fee-free international payments within your monthly allowance on selected plans.

  •  Make fee-free local payments within your plan's allowance, with a €0.20 fee per transaction for anything over this.

Go to Revolut

Starling EUR account

  • Euro business account: For just £2 a month, hold, send, and receive euro payments seamlessly. Ideal for businesses dealing with European suppliers, contractors, or customers.

  • Currency conversion: Conveniently convert euros into pounds or vice versa. A competitive exchange rate and transparent 0.4% conversion fee ensure no unpleasant surprises.

  • Single debit card: Use one card to manage both your EUR and GBP business accounts. You can specify the source of your EUR card transactions in the app.

Go to Starling

Conclusion: consider digital alternatives

At the end of the day, how and where you choose to open a business account is completely up to you.

While established high-street banks have traditionally been the go-to option, the industry is rapidly evolving, and digital providers such as Wise have quickly become great alternatives for entrepreneurs.

These innovative providers bring a fresh approach to banking and can offer a competitive edge in today’s increasingly digital financial landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I open a business account in Europe with bad credit?
Do I need a business account in Europe?
How are deposits protected in Europe?
Things to consider when weighing up business accounts