You want to open a bank account in Finland when you move here. But it is a real pain in the A$$ for foreigners. First of all, you need to go to the bank physically, and the Corona situation isn’t helping. Secondly, it can take weeks or even months to get the bank account up and running. You need those Euros to buy stuff such as furniture, groceries, and Finnish beer. Using the bank card from your home country will incur currency exchange costs. To add insult to injury there are some things you can only pay via bank transfers like rent. In addition, you don’t want to bring too much cash to Finland because the card is the king in Finland.
What if there was a way to have an active bank account before you even moved to Finland? I will show you how to do that step by step using Wise. Let’s go.
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What is Wise (aka TransferWise)?
Why is Wise awesome? First, you can create an international Euro bank account for free. Secondly, you can send money to your Euro bank account with the cheap best face and the easiest way. Thirdly you can also start using your Euros in Finland with no hidden fees by using the Wise debit card. There are no subscription or sign up fees. You only pay a small commission when sending / exchanging money and you will see it advance. So, in short, it will save you time, money, and stress. I’m going to show you how it works.
Step 1: Create a free account
Get started by clicking the register button on the top right corner. Creating the account is free. You can use Google, Facebook, Apple, or just your email address. Note that Wise has a very good mobile app, too. For this tutorial, I will be using the web version.
Step 2: Create a EURO account + balance
The first thing we want to do is create the Euro account. You can do that by clicking “Open an account” on the left, and then you can choose the currency. There are two types of accounts. You can select an account with or without details. With details means that it’s basically like a bank account with bank numbers and addresses and everything.
Accounts without details are just balances you can hold currencies on, like Argentinan Peso. In our case, we want to open a Euro account. Choose it, and it will tell you that your account comes with SWIFT & IBAN. Click confirm. Note that you need to verify your identity to use the accounts with details when doing this for the first time. This is because of the KYC (know-your-customer) policy. This is a prevalent thing when it comes to money.
Now your account should be ready to use. You can click to view the details. As you can see, the address is in Belgium, not in Finland. What does this mean? It’s not a problem because, in Europe, we have this SEPA system (Single Euro Payment Area). SEPA allows you to send money between SEPA countries at a low cost and very fast. Even if the account is located in Belgium, you can use its funds in Finland.
Step 3: Add EURO to your account
Next we need to add euros to our account. How do we do that? There are a few ways depending on where you are located. The easiest is to open another balance with details. For instance, let’s say that I’m an American who is about to move to Finland. I can open USD (US Dollar) currency account in the same way we did for Euros. Once that is done, I can send US Dollars from a US bank account to the Wise US Dollar account by using these details. To add USD to Wise USD account, click the “Add” button and follow the instructions. You can also do a manual bank transfer using the bank details.
Once the USD arrives, you can convert those to euros on Wise. I created a USD account, and now I have $10 here. Then by clicking “Convert,” I can convert them to EURO. Wise takes a small fee, but the exchange rate is the real mid-market rate (the rate you would see on Google). Once everything looks ok, click continue and badabim badabum, you have euros! Good stuff!
If your home country’s currency account is not available with details, you can try the second method. Go to your EURO account and click “Add”. You get a list of currencies you can add EURO with. For example, if you’re from Brazil, you can choose Brazilian Real and go from there. Again, Wise will take a small fee.
If your currency is not listed here, you can use the third method. Go to your EURO balance and open the details. Click Outside EU & SEPA. Now, you can do a manual bank transfer from your home country’s bank to your EURO account. Make sure to check if your bank charges any fees for international transactions. It takes around 4-5 business days for the money to arrive.
Step 4: How to spend EURO after arriving to Finland?
Let’s say that I’m that American dude moving to Finland. I have just arrived and want to start using Euros, for example, at the grocery store. You can do that with the Wise debit card. You can order it by clicking the card from the menu. In my case, I have actually ordered the card already. So I cannot show it exactly, but it’s straightforward with a few clicks and filing your address. There is a low one-time cost to order the physical card (in Finland, it was 8€) but no monthly or annual fees. The Wise card automatically uses the money on your balances. When you have Euros topped up and go to a grocery store here and pay with this, it will actually use the Euro balance you have on. Pretty good stuff, right?
The physical card delivery can take a few days or weeks to get, so you want to make sure you’ll get it before setting off to Finland. However, there is more. You can also get a Wise digital card if you scroll down the card page. The idea of the card is exactly the same, but it’s only available digitally. The good news is that the digital card will be available instantly when you apply for it, and you don’t have to wait for the physical card to arrive. You can start using it right away.
You can put the card to your Google / Apple pay and use the contactless payment to pay for stuff at point-of-sale or when buying things online. In Finland, you can use contactless payment literally everywhere. The use of cash is decling all the time and people like to pay with cards.
Step 5: Paying invoices in Finland with Wise
You’ve found your first rental apartment in Finland, but you still haven’t got your Finnish bank account, and now you need to pay the deposit (usually 1-2 months’ rent). In Finland, you always have to pay that via bank transfer. You cannot use a card or cash to do that. Again, we can use Wise to tackle this problem because Wise allows you to make bank transfers.
Start by going to Recipients => Add recipient. (You can also do this from the “Send Money” option). Then you fill in the details & bank info of the recipient. Let’s say if your landlord was a private person, then you would just choose “person.” If it’s a business like SATO (a company doing rental business in Finland), for example, you just choose “Business” and then you would just fill in the rest of the info.
There are a few transfer types you can choose from. The Wise account transfer is the cheapest in most cases. You can review all the details before paying. TransferWise will take a small fee, but It’s not much. Remember to put your reference number (viitenumero) from the invoice because that’s how the receiver identifies whether an invoice is paid or not. Click confirm and continue. You can still change the payment method in the final screen if you like.
You can also choose the “International” payment if your currency is available. A cool thing is that you can actually compare the prices between different service providers. Wise is pretty much always the cheapest option. There are quite a few ways to facilitate the payments, so which is the best? It depends on your location and if your currency is available with details. You can compare them and see which is the best.
Conclusion: Do you even need to open a bank account in Finland?
Can you just use Wise and not open a Finnish bank account at all? If you move to Finland permanently, I recommend using Wise until you get a Finnish bank account. And when you do, you can use Wise to send money to your Finnish account, for example, from your British bank to your Finnish bank through Wise. You will save with currency conversion costs. You can also use Wise to send money to our parents back home if you want.
If you’re moving to Finland soon and want to learn more tips & tricks, click here to out my free Move to Finland Masterclass.