In nearly every bank in Prague, all it takes for foreigners to open an account is a passport and one other form of identification (such as a driver´s license). There may be some exceptions – the Expat Center at Ceska Sporitelna makes it even easier by only requiring a passport, and Citibank makes it slightly more difficult by requiring a third document showing an address in the Czech Republic – but generally, all you´ll need is a passport and one other I.D. You´ll also need an initial deposit (not a fee, just the amount you need to put into the account to start) to open an account at any bank. The initial deposit varies from bank to bank, but usually isn´t too much: the lowest I´ve seen is 200 CZK for some accounts at CSOB, the highest being 2,000 for most accounts at HVB. The Expat Center at CS (1000 CZK) and eBanka (500 CZK) fall somewhere in the middle.
Though I didn´t find anything special about the customer service or banking fees (which is another story – see the bank comparison link below) at eBanka, they should be singled out for making it exceptionally easy (or so it seems) to open an account. Right on their main web page (http://www.ebanka.com/) they have a link to ‘open an account´, which takes you to a form you can fill out and send to them electronically. Apparently, they´ll prepare your account and call you the next working day to set up an appointment where you can just sign a contract, after which they´ll “hand over your payment card.” Of course, all it takes anyway is a trip or two to a bank to set up an account (which you´ll want to do anyway to make sure they´re the bank for you), but if you´ve chosen eBanka, they´ve taken an extra step to make things easier. A note about debit or ATM cards: if you want one, make sure to check things out before opening an account; you´ll need to be ‘approved´ by most banks, and while you should receive your card in a few days to a week, banks are notorious for taking their time with things like this.
Which bank to choose? All banks have their plusses and (usually many) minuses. At most banks, you´ll generally pay a flat monthly rate as well as banking fees for every type of transaction you can imagine – the only exception being the Expat Center at CS, which eliminates almost all of the banking fees in exchange for a lofty monthly rate. For a comparison of banks – looking specifically at customer service, expat friendliness, and banking charges – please see my previous article here:
Just note that some charges (especially the monthly fees and plans) are continuously changing every few months or so, and customer service can be a difficult beast to assign a rating to, with a chance to encounter the good, bad, or ugly at any bank you may happen to visit.
Another question I often see is how to transfer money into the account – which, for most expats (at least initially), means how to transfer money from a foreign account into the Czech one. I wouldn´t really recommend any Czech bank for foreign money transfers, even if it means taking an extra step rather than transferring the money directly into your account. All Czech banks charge a commission on foreign transfers (usually right around 1%), their exchange rates aren´t always the best, and they´re known to take a longer time than necessary to actually get the money into the account.
Instead, for large foreign transfers (say, 50,000 CZK), I´d recommend a specialty foreign exchange center – NOT one of the foreign exchange stands that flood the streets of Prague 1, but an actual, official, exchange center, such as Aktiv Change. Just be careful with them as well, because you´ll need to change a certain amount of money to get the best rates (usually 50,000 CZK; 30,000 CZK for Aktiv Change). For transfers under this amount, if at all possible, I´d recommend using an ATM (bankomat) – this means, of course, you´d have to be taking the money out of your own foreign account using some kind of debit or ATM card. ATM rates are known to constantly fluctuate (and can´t always be verified ahead of time), but they are set to an international standard by the card issuers, and should be among the best rates available; you´ll have to pay a fee for using the ATM, but no commission, and you´ll immediately have the cash – which you can then deposit at your bank. For a small fee, of course.