Banking, Money and Taxes in Turkey

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Turkey has a sound banking infrastructure with plenty of local and foreign options for expats to choose from. Turkish banks sometimes require expats to have a residency permit before opening an account, but if not in possession of the proper documentation it is possible to open an account in US dollars, British pounds or Euros – though do note that accounts opened in a foreign currency pay no interest.
picture of a bank teller
As an expat moving to Turkey on an employment package, you may be surprised to find that you generally don’t get to choose the bank you’d prefer to use. Rather, employers choose a single bank to work with, and employees are responsible for opening the appropriate bank account in order to receive payment.

Turkish currency

The Turkish Lira (YTL) is the official currency in Turkey. The currency is now fairly stable as Turkey has emerged from the rampant inflation that wreaked havoc on the country until 2005; Turkish Lira was about 1.5 million to the USD. Since stabilisation, the Turkish Lira has been re-valued void the six zeroes and has since continued to remain stable.

Banks in Turkey

Of the local branches, Garanti Bank is known for making a more pointed attempt at employing staff who can communicate in English and is often chosen by employers hiring foreigners for its attempt (though not necessarily successful) to cater to expatriates. Alternatively, Isbank owns several European branches and may be more convenient for expats relocating from the European Union (EU).

Foreign banks in Turkey include Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Citibank and J.P. Morgan and Chase, though only HSBC has enough branches countrywide to be optimal for use as a primary bank.

That being said, Internet banking services are provided by nearly all banks; local banks offer web pages in English as well as Turkish.

Opening a Turkish bank account

Opening a Turkish bank account is easy if you have a tax number. Once this logistic is squared away simply visit the branch of choice with your passport and with documentation citing your tax number, and fill out the necessary application form. It is also often required that expats have a residency permit, but like all good things in Turkey, this tends to be negotiable depending on the branch and the staff member’s mood.

In order to obtain a tax number, simply go to the local tax office with your passport.

Types of Turkish bank accounts

You can open either a current (checking) account or a savings account in Turkey.

Current accounts can be organised in either New Turkish Lira (YTL) or in any currency convertible in Turkey, including USD, GBP or Euro. There are no limits on the number of current accounts you have in different types of currency. Though you will only be able to withdraw money from the Turkish Lira account with your debit card.

Savings (depository) accounts allow expats to earn an interest on any money deposited at the end of a designated savings term. However, if you do not wait for the end of the savings term and withdraw your money in your account before the term ends, no interest is paid to you and you only take back the principal. Interest rates tend to be around 16 percent.

Bank hours

Most banks operate between 9am and 5pm. Turkish banks remain open during lunch hours, but this tends to be the busiest time of the day and queues can be long .

ATMs and credit cards in Turkey

There are ATMs in most malls and in several points around cities where the Turkish Lira, as well as foreign currency, is available.

Visa and MasterCard are commonly accepted in Turkey, including for home delivery where the delivery person will bring a portable machine.

Personal cheques, however, are not commonly accepted in most places, and banks do not routinely issue cheque books.

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