What are the best Georgian Banks for Expats? The answer depends on a variety of factors. For many, the answer is simple: Bank of Georgia or TBC. These are the two largest banks and are often the first, and only, stop for foreigners opening a bank account.
However, every bank in Georgia (the country) has the right to deny bank account opening and is not required to disclose why. So, if you have problems opening a personal or business account, then you may need to go with one of the smaller banks. We’ll discuss both the major and minor banks in this article. We also discuss options for business accounts in a lot more depth in our other article, here.
The banking system in Georgia is considered to be fast and efficient. However, there are few myths that need to be busted. When it comes to dealing with expats and foreigners, banks are sometimes hesitant to let them open a bank account or receive money from overseas. This is especially true in terms of business bank accounts. For personal accounts some resistance may still be met if you cannot provide all of the relevant documents that they ask for to show your sources of wealth and satisfy anti-money laundering laws.
Requirements to Open a Personal Bank Account
The bank has the right to request documentation from you. Relatively speaking, however, opening a bank account in Georgia as a non-resident is easier than it is in most other countries. Documents you will need:
- Georgian phone number.
- Application form (provided by the bank).
- Documents that prove your sources of wealth and satisfy anti-money laundering laws. This could be anything from contracts to foreign bank statements.
- For US passport holders only, information about your IRS account in order to satisfy FATCA requirements.
Surprisingly, (at the time of writing), banks do not require any proof of a residential address.
If adequate documents are provided, you can normally open an account on the spot. Business account requirements are much more complex. Some more information on business accounts are here.
The Big 2 Georgian Banks
Overall there is very little to separate the top two banks. They offer similar products and services. They both have nationwide coverage. Customer service is at a similar level. Opening procedures are also very similar.
Bank of Georgia/ & Solo
Bank of Georgia (BoG) is one of the top two banks in Georgia. You will find high street branches across the country, with many in Tbilisi. ATMs are also readily available, even in some smaller rural towns. Walk into any branch to open an account.
It’s hard to find what options you can’t have with BoG: They offer Mastercard, Visa, and American Express cards, all with different options. There are two options for both Mastercard and Visa: Standard and Gold. The cost for both depends on the validity: the “Standard” one costs 40 GEL for one year and 100 GEL for two years. For the “Gold” card, the cost is 110 GEL for one year and 150 GEL for two years.
Bank of Georgia also offers an American Express Reward Card. The cost of the card is 40 Gel for 3 years of validity, and it offers several discounts in places that have POS terminals of BoG.
There are two types of business cards in BoG: Cash Card and Business Card. The Cash Card is a MasterCard which has both “Silver” and “Black” card options. What makes the difference between them is the daily cash withdrawal limits: Up to 5,000 GEL for the silver and 10,000 GEL for the black. The cash card costs 20 GEL per year.
The second option is the “Business Card”, which offers both Visa and MasterCard options for your organization. With this type of card it’s possible to have an account in GBP as well. The price of the card is 85 GEL for one year and 110 GEL for two years.
BoG also offer a high-end service called “Solo” (Solo Premium Visa or Mastercard/American Express). It costs 220 GEL per year if paid in advance, or 22 GEL per month (264 GEL/year). Their reasonable annual fee comes with a host of benefits, including a personal banker who can assist you remotely with many banking activities, so you don’t have to visit a branch. Solo status also offers a higher withdrawal limit, and a Priority Boarding Pass including access to VIP Lounges in 60 airports around the world.
In order to get Solo status, a bank account in BoG has to show a monthly turnover of 3,000 GEL or more for several months, or a fixed deposit at the time of opening of around 25,000 GEL. After an account owner completes the application for Solo membership, they will be contacted by the bank within 2-3 days and assigned a personal banker in the closest branch of Solo Lounge.
TBC & TBC Concept
TBC is the other top bank in Georgia. Just like BoG, you will find branches nationwide, as well as ATMs. Opening an account can be done at any branch.
TBC offers several options for opening a personal bank account. One of their most popular options, because of its low commission fee, is “TBC Subscription”, a card program which offers three different plans (costing 2, 5, or 10 GEL per month, or 20, 50, or 100 GEL per year if paid at once). All of them include basic banking services. They differ on the maximum amount of money that can be withdrawn from ATMs as well as the commission fees charged. The 10 GEL option plan includes a DG pass for authorizing secure transactions.
TBC also offers a “Digital Card”, or a Visa Gold type card. It costs just 1 GEL per month and can be used for all basic operations, like paying in shopping centers, doing e-commerce, or withdrawing cash from ATMs. A second option they offer is the debit card “Mix”, which can also be used for most everyday needs. In sum, the main difference between these cards is in the details between their commission rates and/or the maximum amounts of purchases and withdrawals allowed, so be sure to check which card is the right fit for your needs.
What about business accounts? Those have larger cash withdrawal limits than personal accounts. TBC offers two types of business cards. The first one is the “Business Card” for which you can choose between the Visa Classic or MasterCard Standard options. The annual service fee is 150 GEL, or 75 GEL for startups whose registration period does not exceed 6 months.
“Business Platinum” is one more account service from TBC for businesses, by which they can perform bank transactions in Georgia as well as abroad. This type of account uses Visa and the service fee is 50 GEL monthly or 500 GEL for a whole year.
In 2020, TBC launched TBC Concept for high-end customers (Visa Platinum/MasterCard World Elite card holders), that includes a high withdrawal threshold of cash from ATMs with 0% commission, discounts, and cashback in numerous hotels and luxury shops in Georgia, and concierge services for non-banking related services like flower delivery, booking a hotel, and purchasing airline tickets.
TBC Concept has two packages: Digital and Premium. To use the Digital package, the bank account has to be active (i.e., several transactions per month), but there is no specific threshold. It costs 120 GEL per year and includes the extended online banking options and offers mentioned above.
To get the Premium package (240 GEL per year), a bank account either has to show a turnover of 3,000 GEL, a solid money deposit, or a loan from TBC bank. The Premium package offers the additional service of a personally assigned advisor who is available over the phone and via email (no need to visit the bank). This advisor helps to optimize your bank operations and gives you detailed information about current products and offers. Both Digital and Premium customers are entitled to use Concept space (Tbilisi, K. Marjanishvili Street #7) for their business meetings/conference calls, for a reduced fee. Prior reservation of the premises is required.
In 2021, TBC Bank launched their “Payment from Abroad” system, which makes it possible to pay online with a foreign bank card for various services including utilities, mobile and internet connection, and for State services of the Republic of Georgia (i.e., tickets and fines, etc).
Other Banking Options In Georgia
Liberty Bank has the biggest chain of branches within Georgia and is the third largest bank in the country. It’s the bank through which the government is paying pensions and salaries to public workers.
Liberty also offers several personal account options with both Visa and Mastercard, including Mastercard Standard and three different Visa cards: Classic, Gold, and Platinum, based on which service you use. The validity for all the cards is 4 years. The price of the cheapest service is as low as 1.50 GEL per month, and for the next two options is 4.50 GEL and 14.50 GEL per month, so regardless of the package you choose, it’s clear that using Liberty’s card is one of the cheapest options.
They recently launched the “Liberty Wealth” program, a private banker service similar to Solo or TBC Concept. This new service is designed for expats and international business owners because it includes global/international privileges for its holders, and features the Visa Infinite Card as well. Unfortunately, there is currently not much information about fares or other details on their website.
ProCredit Bank Georgia is part of the international ProCredit group of banks, which operates mainly in Eastern and South-eastern Europe. Procredit bank is mostly focused on local small & medium-sized enterprises. They have no premium package, but three different services to open a business account. They cost 30/75/100 GEL per month respectively, and each package includes some additional services at no extra charge.
Basisbank is a member of the Hualing Group (a Chinese Investment group). A foreigner with a Georgian residence card can open a personal bank account here with no restrictions, but a person without residence will encounter more steps.
BB offers both Visa and Mastercard options for personal bank accounts. They have two Visa and two Mastercard options as well. The price of Visa “Classic” is 15 GEL per year. The fee is much higher for Visa “Gold”: 150 GEL for the first year and 100 GEL for the second year. The price is 15 GEL per year for Mastercard “Standard” as well but if you want Mastercard “Platinum”, the price is even higher than Visa’s: 250 GEL per year.
Unlike other banks in Georgia, Basisbank also offers UnionPay cards, which may be more valuable for those who conduct transactions mainly with China. Just like Visa and Mastercard, they have two cards with different prices: 150 GEL per year for the “Gold” and 500 GEL for the “Diamond”.
Along with all of the other banks listed above, the main difference between these cards is in the commission fees and daily withdrawal limits.
They also have a private banker service named “Unique”, which includes a premium visa card with higher limits on cash withdrawal at ATMs, and insurance services as well. Basisbank even created an app just for their “Unique” service users.
This is the Georgian branch of a Russian financial group – VTB Group. They offer Private and Premium bank packages which provide comfort-oriented services, such as private bankers and insurance packages.
VTB offers three types of business cards with an issuing fee of 10, 30, and 75 GEL respectively. All card options are valid for two years, but they have different daily cash withdrawal limits and other limitations. For example, the “10 GEL card” features only the cash-in function, and the “75 GEL card” is the only one which offers a multi-currency account.
VTB also offers business internet banking services. Along with standard options, it also offers local and foreign currency transfer assistance.
When it comes to personal accounts, VTB offers Visa-type cards, but unlike most of the other banks listed above, you can have an account in Russian Rubles as well, which may be a priority for some. The one-time cost for their Visa Debit card is 10 GEL, and the monthly commission is as low as 2 GEL. VTB also offers the Visa Debit “Instant” option at the same price, for a card that will take care of your everyday needs.
Cartu Bank was established by the Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, and 100% of the shares are owned by “Cartu Group”. As a rule, Cartu is for “big players” only. They are oriented on “superior quality and exclusive financial services”, and they ask more in terms of fees as well. Cartu Bank offers VISA/MasterCard Business and Business E-card cards with a fare of 120 GEL per year. Conversion commission for international transactions is 2% for Visa cardholders and free for those with MasterCard.
Internet Banking is one more service from Cartu Bank which may be interesting for expats. It’s a remote service that allows you to conduct banking operations from across the world, such as account control and both internal and external transfers. Cartu offers “Standard” and “Full” internet banking services. The main advantage of the “Full Internet Banking” service is that you can make transfers in both Georgian and foreign currencies worldwide. You can even make a direct treasury transfer. However, you will need a one-time authorization code to use these services, which requires you to use their DG Pass service at an additional fee, ranging from 5 to 40 GEL.
Cartu offers several cards for personal bank accounts, including both Visa and Mastercard types, including prestigious options like “Mastercard World Elite” and “Visa Infinite” which have exclusive offers like Georgian concierge service and discounts. The price for both of them is 20 GEL per month.
Ziraat Bank Georgia
This is the Georgian branch of a leading Turkish bank, of which 100% of the shares are owned by the Republic of Turkey. It’s convenient to transfer money to and from Turkey within this bank, to keep a deposit account in Turkish Lira (should you need it), as well as in GEL, USD, or EUR. It also features an internet banking system, “Bank Client”, which allows the client to manage accounts and perform transactions without visiting the branch (there are only 4 in Tbilisi, and one each in Batumi, Kutaisi, and Marneuli).
45% of Terabank is owned by The Dhabi Group, a business group from the United Arab Emirates. They mostly operate in retail banking and offer different Visa/Mastercard cards.
Other Minor Banks Rarely Used By Foreigners
- Ish bank
- Finca bank
- Pasha Bank/Re bank
- Credo Bank
- Silk Road bank
What will I need to provide to open a personal bank account?
Documents that will be requested:
- Declarations regarding your income and other financial information.
- Some proof verifying where your income originates from (i.e., employment contracts, etc.) may be requested in some cases.
- For US citizens, any details required by FATCA will also be requested.
If you want to know more about business bank accounts, please see our full article here.
Why would a bank refuse to let me open a personal account?
Anything suspicious that may arise during the application stage can be enough to warrant a rejection.
Why would a bank refuse to let me open a business account? And what are the options to improve your chances of approval?
Because banks do not have to disclose their reasons for rejecting or approving accounts, it can be hard to say exactly what makes the difference. Some important factors to consider include:
- What are your sources of wealth? Can you prove the legitimacy of your wealth?
- Where do your payments come from? If all or most will originate from outside Georgia, you are more likely to get rejected.
- Currency of funds. If you want an account in a currency other than GEL, that can increase your chance of rejection. This is a more common issue with business accounts, rather than personal accounts.
- Your business model. Complex or suspicious business types that are not familiar to bank employees may be rejected more frequently.
If you want to know more about business bank accounts, please see our full article here.
Will my account get frozen if I try to send large sums of money?
It has been the case that amounts exceeding $1,000 USD have sometimes been frozen in the past. Once you go above $10,000, the risk increases. That said, many people have managed to consistently send & receive large amounts over and over without issue.
The reason a deposit gets frozen depends on a host of factors. This is a non-exhaustive list to consider:
- The actual amount being sent.
- The frequency of large sums being sent.
- The type of bank account (business or personal).
- The origin of the funds. Especially if coming from an offshore jurisdiction.
- The purpose of the funds. Salary? Business service payment? Transfer of personal money for a real estate purchase? Each comes with a different level of risk.
- Whether or not you pre-arranged and planned the arrival of the funds with your banker, along with documents proving the legitimacy of the funds.
Getting your funds cleared will typically involve going to your bank with documentation proving the origin and legitimacy of the funds. The banks still have the right to refuse receipt of the funds.
If you need assistance with your tax, business, banking, real estate or residency matters in Georgia, then book a free consultation with us.