Estonia prides itself on it's great infrastructure, ease of access and Entrepreneurial spirit. It's easy to run a business here except for one hurdle - the banks - why is banking here so difficult and which bank should you choose?
When I started my business it was easy to find almost all of the information I needed - it took me one day to register the company and a couple of days more to research and apply for the correct licenses. The banking however was quite the opposite experience.
Each of the big banks offered a little data with a lot of marketing spin, but not the full picture of their services. What's worse, is they all offered different, incomparable information.
Sure Swedbank would tell you about their Apples and SEB had a page about their Oranges. Co-op even decided to show off their Bananas. But try to find information about Swedbank's Oranges for comparison and you were out of luck.
I took matters into my own hands and sent the same email (with bulletpoint questions) to SEB, Swedbank, Coop and LHV, asking about their Business accounts.
- What does it cost to open an account?
- What is the monthly fee for account and debit cards after any introductory period
- Whats the usual fee for making a payment (to Netherlands and domestic)
- Are there a number of free transfers per month?
- What interest rate does the account attract when it has a positive balance?
- Are there any charges for online banking?
- Are there any charges for making cash deposits?
For the TL;DR: Eventually I chose LHV bank. Swedbank seemed expensive and Coop showed disdain and incompetence (I would recommend avoiding them completely)
Here's how the exchanges went:
SEB took a week to answer. They sent back answers to my questions, but had fees even to open an account. Here is their letter:
Thank you for your letter regarding account opening.
For opening an account for your company, the board member of this company should visit our office with identification document. You can find all our branch locations and opening hours on our homepage
The service fee for non-resident persons incorporated in the European Economic Area member states is 100 Euros. The service fee for non-resident persons incorporated outside the European Economic Area member states is 400 Euros.
You can also submit an application for account opening in advance, After that you will be contacted by our office for further details.
I would also like to turn your attention to the fact that in case of legal persons the most important aspect to be considered before account opening is the business connections to Estonia. If there is none, the probability of acceptance as a customer is not very high. The decision on account opening is always made by the office, therefore I am unable to give you any confirmations beforehand.
All the other necessary contracts, including Internet Bank, debit cards, express notification service etc, can also be made in the office. We offer different business client plans, which are free of charge during the first year after account opening. These plans include a certain number of European payments, limitless internal payments, debit cards an current accounts.
Monthly fee for bank account is 1 Euro. The service fee for MC Business debit card is 1,50 Euros.
The service fee for European payment is 0,38 Euros. The service fee for cross border payment with shared charges is 6 Euros. The service fee for cross border payment without charges to beneficiary is 26 Euros.
You can make payments as much as you need to make. There is not limit for making payments per month.
Unfortunately we do not have any interest rates for bank accounts.
We do not charge any fees for Internet Bank.
The service fee for cash deposit (except coins) in our bank office is 0,4% of the amount, min. 3 Euros.
The service fee for cash deposit in SEB Estonia ATM’s up to 4000 Euros in a calendar month per client with debit and/or credit card is free of charge.
The service fee for cash deposit in SEB Estonia ATM’s if the amount exceeds 4000 Euros in a calendar month per client with debit and/or credit card is 0,3 % of the deposited amount.
I hope I could help and wish you all the best.
Verdict: Probably Avoid for Business
Swedbank also took about a week to answer, however their answers were incomplete and overall my research led me to believe they were the most expensive option:
Thank you for your message via internet banking.
Service fees for a company are:
Opening bank account: Fee of enhanced due diligence measures 200 euros
Monthly fee for account: 0
Monthly fee for debit cards after any introductory period: 1.50 euros per card
Domestic and european payments service fee: 0,38 euros
Payments between Swedbank Estonia accounts: 0,16 euros
There are no payments free of charge after introductory period
If there is a positive balance on the account the annual interest rate is 0,01%
There is no service fee for having internet banking agreement
There is service fee for cash deposit at our branch in person and via BNA
Please find full price list on our homepage
Verdict: Strongly Avoid
Coop didn't even both to respond until I sent a second letter two weeks later. At which point they did not read it and instead sent me this rude garbage:
Thank You for Your letter.
Please be informed, that we open bank accounts only for companies registered in Estonia now. If the company or the representative of the company is a non-resident of Estonia, we do not open an account.
With best regards,
Coop Pank AS
When I replied again, they completely ignored me.
Besides their customer service rudenss, their website was the worst, their online services are the worst and their pricess weren't very competitive.
LHV's answer was a bit more marketing-heavy than the others (redirecting me to prices on their website) and I didn't feel it answered all of my questions.
At first it turned me off of using them, however when I did revist the costs theirs were the cheapest and what finally won me over was that they were happy to to have an email back-and-forth answering my questions until I was clear enough to be satisfied, Here's their first response:
Thank you for your interest in opening a bank account with LHV Pank.
To have an account in LHV Pank you need to have some kind of connection with Estonia through partners, customers or someone similar. Also, you need to fill in the application form and specify other essentials.
Unfortunately e-Residency or opened legal entity in Estonia does not give you an opportunity to open an account in our bank, you need to have some kind of connection with Estonia some other way.
The opening of the account is decided in committee and this may take weeks. We will look through your application and then inform you about our decision. Once your application has been approved, we will be ready to welcome you at our client office in Tartu ot Tallinn. You have to visit one of our offices for identification and signing all the necessary documents as we can't offer account opening on a remote basis.
Please fill the form on our website if this has not already been done. After it send us via email a copy of your passport and filled application which is attached to this email.
Additional information about bank cards and internet banking can online. The full price list you may see LHV Pank price list and terms for non-residents from 01.11.2018.
Business client debit cards monthly fee is 2 euro and our card selection you can find here.
Transfers in euro within the EEA are free of charge and there is no limit to the number of transfers.
Our Internet bank is free of charge.
There is no charges for making cash deposits and cash withdrawal from LHV ATMs are free of charge + 0.3% of the amount that exceeds 3000 EUR per month.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Looking forward to your reply!
Hopefully this information allows you all to make your own better-informed decisions when you start your own businesses. Good luck!