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MOVING TO AUSTRIA

Reader question: Do I need to open a local bank account when moving to Austria?

If you are moving to Austria, can you keep using your home country's bank account or open an international one online, or should you really have an Austrian one?

Reader question: Do I need to open a local bank account when moving to Austria?
Online bank accounts are one of the things that make life easier for expats (Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash)

One of the first issues people face when moving into a new country is whether or not to open a new bank account in their new country or if they can use either their home accounts or international online accounts.

Even long-term foreign residents started asking similar questions once new companies started offering online bank accounts that were not necessarily based in Austria, but could be opened by any resident in the alpine country

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

These online bank options are great choices for foreign residents. They are simple to use, have websites and apps in several languages, and usually offer a free option, with no monthly fees regardless of income. Unfortunately, however, none of the major ones (N26, Revolut, or Wise) have accounts with local Austrian IBANs (International Bank Account Number).

Does it make a difference? For example, can people keep or open an international bank account while living in Austria, or do they have to open an account in a local bank?

Non-EU bank accounts

It makes a huge difference depending on whether your bank account is from an EU country. However, in all circumstances, you are allowed to keep the account open, have money in it and make transactions using it.

It is just necessary to remember that Austria taxes your universal income if you are a tax resident in the country. So any income or relevant transaction should be added to your yearly tax returns.

READ ALSO: Anmeldebescheinigung: How to get Austria’s crucial residence document

Still, keeping only a bank account outside the European Union and living in Austria will be next to impossible. Of course, it’s impractical when thinking about currency exchange, but most establishments and organisations will also not accept transfers from outside of the EU or make them.

So whether you want to pay for your rent or receive government assistance, it’s unlikely you’ll be allowed to do it via an international (non-EU) transaction.

What about an EU account?

Technically, having only a euro (but not Austrian) account is possible. The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is a European Union initiative to simplify bank transfers. All 27 EU members are a part of it, plus other countries, including the United Kingdom, Norway, and Switzerland.

The system allows for fast and secure transfers between the SEPA countries.

One of the agreement’s goals is to extend the freedom of movement in the European Union, allowing its residents to keep a single euro-denominated bank account and a single set of payment instruments.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get your €500 Kurzarbeit bonus in Austria

So, you can use your bank account in a eurozone country for everything, including receiving salaries and buying things, in Austria. This is why international and online banks such as Wise or N26 have their IBANs based in Belgium, Germany or Denmark but can be used all over the eurozone.

Does it work in practice?

In practice, though, there is something known as “IBAN discrimination“. This is when an employer or company refuses to accept your SEPA IBAN for euro payments or direct debits. This is illegal under the SEPA agreement but happens often.

It’s not uncommon to find stories of people who have tried to sign up for a service or utility, such as paying for a mobile plan, for example, but were denied because their IBAN identification, though it was from a euro country, did not start with AT – was not from Austria.

For example, on various Facebook groups of immigrants in Austria, it is easy to find people who had their payments denied because their bank accounts weren’t Austrian. “Always ask your employer if they accept your bank account. I had one that especially wanted an Austrian IBAN”, wrote one foreign resident.

What should I do then?

Since not accepting a SEPA bank account is illegal, you can complain directly to the company or employer. In some cases, simply mentioning that IBAN discrimination violates the SEPA agreement and showing the official documents (including article 9 of the SEPA agreement) is enough to solve issues.

However, it can get more complicated than that. For example, some outdated company systems won’t allow new customers or employees to be registered with a bank account from abroad – the “AT” option comes pre-filled and can’t be changed.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about opening a bank account in Austria

Or it may be simply too tricky to talk in German to the utility provider to explain SEPA rules or demand something from your new employer. It’s essential to know your rights, and in Austria, you can also file a complaint with the competent national authority, the Financial Market Authority (FMA).

Other things can be tried in the meantime. In some cases, for example, some gym memberships are possible to sign up to and pay upfront with cash. Another workaround is to use the bank account of a partner or someone you trust. Finally, there are many utility companies in Austria, so if one phone company won’t accept your IBAN, maybe another will.

Of course, these solutions are far from perfect but may allow you to keep your non-Austrian or international euro account.

If the headache is just too much to handle, or if you prefer the advantages of having a local bank where you can visit, you can also open an Austrian bank account and keep both.

Here is our guide on what you need to know about opening a bank account in Austria.

Member comments

  1. I hate to be picky, but N26, Revolut, or Wise are not banks, that’s why they have no IBANs.

    Nevertheless, Wise, from personal experience, is very useful and cheaper than any bank I know for moving money around, particularly with currency exchange (no, they don’t pay me to say that).

    1. Hi!

      What do you mean they are not banks? N26, for example, has had a licence for years and shows up in ECB’s list of supervised banks (though down there where the “less significant banks” are). Is there another place where I can check?

      I’ve also had good experiences with Wise (and N26 for that matter). I haven’t tried Revolut yet, but know of some people who have and use it as their main bank here in Austria.

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MONEY

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘Tax Freedom Day’?

People in Austria are working longer to finance government spending, leading to calls for a tax reform. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What is Austria's 'Tax Freedom Day'?

Anyone that lives and works in Austria will be aware that this is a high tax country. But what does Tax Freedom Day actually mean?

Here’s a quick explainer.

READ MORE: Over half of Austrians on financially shaky ground: survey

Tax Freedom Day is not a tax-free day

Tax Freedom Day (otherwise known at Taxpayer Memorial Day) is the date when the Austrian population starts working to fund their own pockets, rather than the government’s.

In 2022, it falls on Monday August 15th – one day later than in 2021.

Martin Gundinger, a Research Fellow at the Austrian Economics Center, said: “This means that the Austrian population works seven and a half months exclusively to finance government spending.”

Among OECD countries, Austria has one of the highest wage and non-wage labour costs at 47.8 percent. Only Belgium (52.6 percent) and Germany (48.1 percent) have higher costs than Austria, reports Kurier.

Non-wage labour costs refer to an employer’s expenditure on personnel, such as social security and insurance contributions.

READ ALSO: Where are energy prices going up (again) in Austria?

Calls to reduce the tax burden in Austria

As the Austrian economy feels the heat from the increased cost of living and rising interest rates, there are calls for the federal government to reduce labour costs in Austria.

Christiane Holzinger, Federal Chair of the Young Economy in the Austrian Economic Chamber, said: “Reducing the cost of labour is an essential factor for the workplace and business location – and right now it is the best recipe for an economic upswing.”

READ ALSO: When will you get your cost of living ‘bonus’ payments in Austria?

Likewise, Barbara Kolm, Director of the Austrian Economics Center, is worried that Tax Freedom Day could arrive later each year, which will further increase the economic burden on businesses and employees.

Kolm said: “Rising interest rates lead to higher burden to repay the debt. If there is no willingness for comprehensive reforms, Tax Freedom Day will be pushed back further.”

READ MORE: Vienna forced to dim street lighting and cancel some Christmas illuminations

Gundinger, from the Austrian Economics Center, is also calling for a tax reform in Austria.

He said: “Against the background of the rising inflation rate, a reduction in taxes – along with cuts in government spending – makes sense.”

“Decreasing taxes ensure higher productivity, and if more is produced, this has a price-dampening effect. In this respect, an urgent rethinking of politics is necessary, which is currently trying to counteract this with additional expenditure and special levies.”

Additionally, the New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) is calling for the expansion of state-funded childcare for all children from the age of one to allow more women to enter the workforce on a full time basis.

The NEOS also want to end cold progression (when the tax burden increases but income does not due to inflation) and reduce non-wage labour costs by 6.55 percent.

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