Czech Bank Comparisons: 2011 Update

Czech Bank Comparisons: 2011 Update

Whether you’re working here or just need a place for the folks to send you money, you’ll probably need a bank account. Or maybe you’ve had the same Czech bank account for a while and are wondering what the other banks offer. Fear not, we think we’ve got most of the important bases covered.

Before we look at the individual banks, some general statements: In terms of charges and conditions for opening an account, not much has changed since our last update. The customer service was varied from convivial and pushy to confused and reticent. However, in all situations the person I spoke to tried to furnish me with the information I required.  There are some new additions to the list this year, though the banks themselves are not new.



***

Citibank
Branch visited: Revoluční 6, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (Citi Konto with balance under 500,000 CZK per month)

I was ushered into a private office at the back, where a very friendly banker went through their accounts. He presented two possibilities: Citi Konto and Citi Gold. Both brochures were in English, and the fees clearly presented.

For 299 CZK per month with the Citi Konto account, you get two free ATM withdrawals from Euronet ATMs, and incoming and outgoing payments are free provided they are online or over the phone. Online and phone banking is included in the price. However, there is a one-off payment of 250 CZK to establish the electronic signature for online banking. The third and subsequent ATM withdrawals are 19 CZK from Euronet ATMs. From other banks’ ATMs the cost is 39 CZK. There are no fees for the card. If your balance exceeds 500,000 CZK there are no fees with the account.

Website: 5/5. All the information is there and easy to find.

To Open an Account: You´ll need a passport plus another form of ID (e.g. a driver’s license, your permanent address, an address in the Czech Republic) and 1000 CZK.

***

Česká spořitelna (Expat Centre)
Branch visited: Rytířská 29, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges:  (World Class Package)

The Expat Center has returned to its former abode and this seems to mean a return to its former service. As soon as I appeared, the teller greeted me in English and invited me to sit down at her desk. (Pity, because the armchairs looked comfy.) Her approach was direct and no-nonsense. She recommended the World Class Package. For 390 CZK per month you get a debit card (Visa Electron), with no additional fees for ATM use or moving money in Czech crowns between accounts in the Czech Republic. A minimum of 1000 CZK should be kept in the account at all times. Admittedly, the fees are steep. However, it means that you are able to use the Expat Center services and all documentation is in English. There are cheaper options at Česká spořitelna, but these are not covered by the Expat Center.

Webite: 4/5. All the information is here and in English but it could be organized a little more clearly.

To Open an Account: For the World Class Package you will need you passport, permanent address and 1000 CZK.

 

***

 

ČSOB
Branch visited: Václavské náměstí 32, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (ČSOB Konto)

 

Even before I spoke to the teller, my impression was marred. A man took the seat by the teller where my number was flashing, bringing my total waiting time to over thirty minutes. On the ever-so-faintly bright side, the teller spoke competent English. She recommended that I open Aktivní Konto, which is 90 CZK per month. When I visited their website I found the cheaper Konto. For 50 CZK a month, you get two incoming and two outgoing payments for free, two withdrawals from ČSOB ATMs and account statements sent electronically (it’s an extra 10 CZK per month for a printed statement to be posted). The card is Visa Electron for 20 CZK per month, and it’s possible to obtain another for an authorized person. Additional withdrawals from ČSOB ATMs are 6 CZK. Withdrawals from other banks are 30 CZK. Foreign payments are 1% from a minimum of 150 CZK to a maximum of 1000 CZK.

Website: 5/5. As mentioned in the last update, the website is this bank’s saving grace for non-Czechs. The information is clear and easy to find, which is somewhat necessary given the quality of their face-to-face service.

To Open an Account: Passport (other documents maybe requested; the website doesn’t specify and the teller and phone operator were vague) and 200 CZK.

 

***

GE Money Bank
Branch Visited: Revoluční 8, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (Konto Genius Start)

The first available teller unfortunately couldn’t speak much English and directed me to his colleague, for whom I had to wait a little while. When I got to speak to her, she was friendly and recommended three accounts: Konto Genius Start, Konto Genius Active and Konto Genius. Optimal. The brochures were all in Czech.

The Genius Start seemed the best in terms of fees, which are 59 CZK. For an extra 26 CZK per month you are entitled to either unlimited incoming and outgoing electronic payments or unlimited withdrawals from GE Money Bank ATMs. The Genius Active is 129 CZK per month according to the brochure and 119 CZK according to the web page. No one I spoke to could explain the discrepancies between the brochures and the information online.

Website: 2/5 Apart from the fact the price list isn’t in English, it’s hard to tell what is current if we’re meant to believe the brochures.

***

ING
Branch Visited: Nádražní 25, Smíchov Prague 5
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (Savings Account)

I’ll mention this bank briefly because they only offer a savings account. I took a number and was served in about 5 minutes. The banker I spoke to had good English and could answer all the basic questions. He was also quite friendly. ING have no ATMs. The only fees for the savings account are the monthly and quarterly statements (50 CZK each). Annual statements are posted free of charge.

Website: 5/5 The information is there and in English.

To Open an Account:
Passport and another bank account.

***

Komerční banka
Branch Visited: Expat Premium Center, Štěpánská  42, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness: 
Customer Service:
Charges: (Perfect Account)

I went to the branch at Václavské náměstí 42 and was directed to the relatively new Expat Premium Center around the corner on Štěpánská. Unlike the largely impersonal feeling I got from around the corner, this office is a little more stylish with high ceilings and armchairs. One of the two tellers served me fairly quickly. Her English was fair and she was able to answer all my questions. Her approach was also very friendly.

She handed me a brochure in English, which set out in bullet form their accounts and what they offer. The fees, however, are not mentioned. She recommended that I take the Extra Account, which is 125 CZK per month. There is a cheaper option, which is the Perfect Account. It costs 49 CZK per month. You have the choice of Internet or phone banking. Two free Internet payments are permitted monthly. There is a 200 CZK annual fee for the electronic debit card, which is a Visa Electron card. 5 CZK is charged for withdrawing from KB ATMs. For every POS transaction, 5 CZK is deducted. The charge for using other banks’ ATMs is 35 CZK. Receiving payments from abroad is still 0.9% with a minimum of 225 CZK up to a maximum of 1095 CZK.

Website: 5/5. I would have to agree with Jacy. The website has oodles of info in English which was easy to find.

To Open an Account: You will need your passport and another form of ID (e.g. a driver’s license or birth certificate), your permanent address, and 300 CZK.

***


LBBW

Branch Visited: Václavské náměstí 40, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (5 for 50 Account)

After a short wait, I was able to speak with someone about setting up an account. I wasn’t given any information but the atmosphere was very professional. The teller recommended to me the “5 for 50” Account. This package is 50 CZK per month. The card is MasterCard Standard which is an extra 50 CZK per month. All ATM withdrawals are 6.5 CZK. They also have the FREE IQAccount, which I wasn’t offered. As the name suggests, this account has no monthly charges because most of the banking is done electronically. With this account you get a Maestro Card, which is 20 CZK per month.

Website: 5/5 All the information in English and is easy to find.

To Open the Account: Passport, permanent address, visa, and 500 CZK

***

mBank
Branch visited: Vinohradská 37, Prague 2
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (mKonto)

I tried to visit the branch at Anglická, but was told to go to the branch at Vinohradská because the teller would speak better English. I don’t think this was necessarily the case. In fact this proved to be the most trying communicative experience at any of the banks. Nor was I able to obtain a brochure in English.

The one account for people they offer is mKonto. As this is mostly an eBanking operation there are little-to-no fees, but I guess this is reflected in their customer service. Anyway, there is no monthly charge for the account or for the card, which is a Visa Classic. The first three withdrawals per month cost 9 CZK. Subsequent withdrawals are 35 CZK. These rates go down if you the total amount of monthly cashless transactions exceeds 2000 CZK, then 3000 CZK and lastly 4000 CZK.

Website: 3/5 The information is there but it’s mostly in Czech. What little is in English is not so helpful.

To Open an Account: You will need a passport, a mobile telephone with a Czech provider and an email address.

***

Poštovní spořitelna (“The Post Office Bank”)

Branch Visited: Prague GPO, Jindřišská 14, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges:

Some people might balk at the idea of dealing with the post office more than necessary. Surprisingly, the attendant who served me spoke fair English. She could at least answer the basic questions. Moreover, their Era account has one advantage. It is very cheap. The monthly charge is 34 CZK plus 8 CZK for the debit card, Maxkarta. ATM withdrawals from the Poštovní spořitelna and ČSOB ATMs are 5 CZK. From other banks its 26 CZK. Beyond that, the bank’s services are quite limited.

Website: 3/5 The information is there and it is clearly laid out, so even with rudimentary Czech language skills and/or a dictionary, you can follow it.

To Open an Account: Passport plus another form of ID, permanent address, and 200 CZK.

 

***


Raiffeisen

Branch visited: Václavské náměstí 43, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (eKonto with a balance under 20,000 CZK per month)

Initially, it looked bad. The woman at the front desk couldn’t answer my questions and wanted to set up an appointment for me with another banker. After insisting I just wanted information, one of her colleagues came over. The young guy was courteous, spoke very good English and was able to explain everything very clearly. He made notes in English on the Czech brochure he gave me, and set up a dummy account to show me what the charges would be. And he was just a trainee. If I have one minor complaint he did go for the hard sell, even though I said a few times I only wanted information.

Rather than offer a variety of accounts with different charges, Raiffeisen Bank has one account, eKonto, with the charges changing depending on how much money you have in the account. If your monthly incoming balance is under 20,000 CZK (i.e., you have less than 20,000 CZK deposited into your account in a given month), you will be charged 55 CZK for the month and 9.90 for the third and subsequent ATM withdrawals from each month. The first two withdrawals per month are free. Withdrawing from other banks’ ATMs costs 39.90 CZK.  If your incoming  balance is above 20,000 CZK, there are no monthly fees unless you have a foreign currency account. The ATM charges are the same except that withdrawals from ATMs of other banks cost 9.90 CZK.

Website: 4/5. Another straightforward web page. Raiffeisen offers one account and the information is pretty easy to find. I’m deducting a point because they don’t make the price list as prominent as other web pages. (Incidentally, it’s under ‘infoservice’ and then ‘information and online services’.)

 

***

UniCredit Bank
Branch visited: Václavské náměstí 53, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (Pohoda Account)

The teller at the front brusquely directed me to her colleague, who also spoke limited English. However, he was friendly and quickly provided me with printed information in the desired language. There were four accounts Pohoda, Praktik, Mozaika, and Komplet. Pohoda has the lowest monthly fee. For 65 CZK per month, you get a transaction record posted to you and a choice of one form of direct baking, either Online Banking, Telebanking, GSM Maestro Banking or Smart Banking. I would agree with the last assessment that Mozaika at 119 CZK doesn’t seem worth it since some are offered as part of Pohoda. The choice of card is Visa Electron or Visa with annual charge of 200 CZK a year. Withdrawals from UniCredit ATMs are 5 CZK. From the ATMs of other banks the charge is 30 CZK. Incoming foreign payments are charged at 0.9% with a minimum of 200 CZK and a maximum of 1500 CZK. Outgoing are also 0.9% with a minimum of 250 CZK and a maximum of 1500 CZK.

Webite:
5/5. Again, lots of information which is easy to navigate.

To Open an Account: You will need your passport, residency permit/visa, and 200 CZK.

***

Volksbank
Branch visited: Soukenická 2, Prague 1
Expat Friendliness:
Customer Service:
Charges: (Fit Konto)

I was able to speak with a teller straight away, who gave me the basic information and even went to the trouble of printing the whole brochure out in English. She recommended two accounts: Fit Konto and Styl Konto.

Fit Konto is cheaper at 39 CZK per month. You get the choice of Visa Electron or Mastro payment card. Both cost 20 CZK per month. Volksbank ATM charges are the cheapest at 3 CZK per withdrawal. Unfortunately, they don’t have as many cash machines in Prague as some of the other banks. However, you can use ČSOB and Poštovní spořitelna ATMs for 6 CZK per withdrawal. ATM withdrawals from other banks are 30 CZK. Incoming foreign payments are charged at 0.5% from minimum of 100 CZK to a maximum of 750 CZK. Outgoing payments are charged at 1% with a minimum of 300 CZK and a maximum of 1700 CZK.

Website: 5/5 All the information is there and easy to follow.

To Open an Account: Passport with visa, permanent address in the Czech Republic, no minimum deposit.

 

***

Final Analysis
While some banks offer great service in English, you may have to pay extra for the treatment. If you’re looking to cut fees, other banks offer accounts with a low (or no) monthly fees, but other services will be limited. If you’re looking for a place to store your money with a modicum of customer service, consider any of the inexpensive packages from the banks listed. What you save in monthly fees you may have to pay out in ATM charges.

Tips when Going in
While researching this I found a certain approach helped:

  • Know exactly in advance what you to ask.  A lot of details, figures and packages can be mentioned, so it helps to remember what you want to know.
  • Be politely pushy. Information is not usually offered unless requested and some banks will try to schedule meetings when all you might want is some figures. Tell them info is all you want.
  • Ask what different accounts are available. Chances are you’ll be offered the mid-price package.
  • Be prepared for some communication difficulty. Not all bankers are gifted linguists and are not used to dealing with English speaking clients. It doesn’t hurt to sometimes bring a companion who is conversant in English and Czech along, especially if you’ve just arrived.
  • Most important of all – don’t take the first account offered to you. Shop around.

Related articles: Cost of Living – 2011 Update


Ryan Scott

Ryan Scott comes from Australia and despite what you might think he doesn't mind the winters here. He keenly follows local politics but please don't ask him about the hockey.

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