I needed a banking account to keep my scholarship, in Euros, only for certain amount of time. In the end I decided for Swedbank and I know I did not do a mistake.
At the beginning a lot of friends told me there is no reason to open a bank account in Latvia since all shops, major cafés and pubs accept cards. However, you still need some coins and/or banknotes for bus tickets or magazines (soon to be changed as well). I got an information that my scholarship will be given only in EUR which automatically took my Czech accounts out of play – they are in CZK and comission is imbursed for transfer from EUR.
I wanted to put my money into one of international banks (Latvian private bank Parex was taken over by state two weeks ago due to possibility of insolvency) so I went to local Swedbank branch. It took me 14 minutes to wait in queue and 16 minutes to have my account open. Altogether 7 signatures were needed (including a 3-page survey because I am considered non-resident). And what did I get?
- multi-currency account
- internet banking working immediately
- debit card, in 2 days (!), first year for free, then for 14 EUR
- possibility to have ISIC card with chip to serve as payment card also
- withdrawals in local currency for free even if I don’t have LVL
- same with payment in shops
I was very positively surprised by the speed of the card issuing and short time needed for opening the account itself, even without any online registration in advance. I can fully support choosing this bank for local keeping your money during stay in Latvia.
UPDATE 29.11.08: I got my payment card today, it’s embossed and obviously it is possible to pay through internet. Easy..