Have you finally arrived to Tallinn? Congratulations! Now it’s time to fill your fridge and get all the stuff you need to make yourself feel at home. In this new series called The Tallinn Service Guide we will give you information about where to find most of the things you need to live a happy life in your new hometown.
Internet banking is used almost universally in Estonia, and it is not hard to see why when you start using it and realize how easy it is. This service was something relatively new to me as I come from a country where internet banking is such a nightmare to use and many places don’t take payments with cards, so I was used to paying in cash for almost everything.
That’s why I was so shocked when I had just arrived and asked an Estonian girl how to get to the nearest bank to make a payment in cash (my rent) and she replied “uhm, banks don’t take cash here”. Turns out she was wrong and some of them do (but charge a comission of about 3 euros per deposit), but her answer goes on to show that Estonians just don’t use cash anymore and prefer internet banking or debit/credit cards.
Unfortunately, most banks charge around 200 euros to open a bank account to non-EU students without an Estonian ID (my wild guess is that the reason is related to taxes, but I can’t say for sure), so until you get your ID, you’ll have to either use cash or make international money transfers. But once you get it, go to any of the banks in the list below (the biggest ones in Estonia) and you can get an account in 30 minutes.
The Estonian branch of this Swedish bank has many offices all over Tallinn. I have an account with them and so far the service I have received has been good. To open an account, go to one of its offices and they will take your data from your ID; once that is done you can order a debit card from their website. You don’t even have to leave your home for that! After a couple of weeks your card will arrive to the Swedbank office of your choice for you to pick it up. There’s an option of getting a debit card which is also an ISIC (student) card; that is a good deal because if you order it before October 31st it is for free, so I’d take that offer if I were you :).
Along with Swedbank, this Swedish bank is one of the biggest in Estonia and also has many offices in Tallinn. According to another one of the ambassadors, the service they offer is also good and you have to follow the same steps as with Swedbank to open an account with them. They also have the ISIC card and you can order it online for free until November 6th. There really isn’t a significant difference between Swedbank and SEB, so choose the one your heart tells you to choose ;).
Yes, most of the financial services offered in Estonia are owned by the Swedes because Nordea also belongs to our Scandinavian neighbours. Nobody I know has an account with them so I can’t really give you a review on their services, but they are also a big bank (they lend their name to Nordea Concert Hall, after all 🙂 ). The only problem is that they don’t have an ISIC card and none of their offices are close to TUT.
If you are unsure about which bank to choose, go through their webpages and see what they have to offer, especially when it comes to fees for cash withdrawals abroad or at their branch offices.
A special form of banking: Transferwise
One of the most successful startups to have been born recently in Estonia is Transferwise, a company that allows you to make cheaper international money transfers than banks. I have never used them but I have a couple of friends who have told me the service is as good as they claim. If you need to receive money from your parents to be able to pay your rent (like me 😦 ) or if you get a job in Tallinn and want to send some money back home (fingers crossed!), Transferwise might be the best option to do so. They don’t support all the currencies in the world yet, but have a look at their webpage to learn more about their service and how it works.