Istanbul Basics: Opening a Bank Account in Turkey

There are several reasons why residents of Istanbul need a Turkish bank account – the most obvious being that it is required for most residence permit types. Besides that, it is always handy to have a bank account for e-transfers, direct deposits, and just for generally avoiding carrying large amounts of cash. Although the process may differ depending on the bank, this guide will help you know what to expect and will give you a breakdown of the possibilities.

opening a bank account in turkey 2Which bank to choose?
First things first, which bank should you open your account with? Try to find a place with a location near your home or work. Some banks will have a person who can communicate in English or another second language. You should also decide if you want to work with a state-owned (Ziraat Bankası, Halk Bankası, Vakıflar Bankası), privately-owned (Akbank, Yapı ve Kredi Bankası, Garanti Bankası, etc), or foreign bank (Citibank, HSBC Bank, ING Bank, etc). There are advantages and disadvantages to all three types; for example privately-owned and foreign banks might have account fees, but state banks may be harder to find in your area. Moreover, your place of work or study may have a specific bank they are associated with and prefer you to sign up with that bank. Keep in mind, if you are not a native Turkish speaker, or near fluent, the bank may redirect you to a different branch that will have a copy of an English banking contract, since they are not legally permitted to let you sign a contract you do not understand.

Collect all the necessary documents
After you decide which bank you would like to work with, you should go and ask which documents they require, as this can vary depending on the bank. But generally, you will definitely need your passport, a tax ID number (vergi numarası), and in some cases, proof of residency.

Tax Number
To obtain a tax number, simply find the nearest tax office (vergi dairesi) online, and go there with your passport. Tell them “vergi numarası başvurusu yapmak isterim.” They will take a photocopy of your passport, give you some paperwork to sign, and then turn over to you a piece of paper with your tax number.

Proof of Residence
This step is not always necessary, but may be asked for. There are a few options you have here (keep in mind, it is best to confirm this with your specific bank): you can obtain a notarized version of your rental agreement; a utilities bill sent to your address and in your name; a notarized agreement of undertaking responsibility by someone living in the same address; or you could try any official document that has your name and address on it.

Make an appointment with the bank
With all your documents in hand, visit the bank and ask for an appointment to open a bank account. They may take you right away, or give you an appointment later on in the week. Once everything has been approved, they will mail you your bank card with your name on it in two weeks, or if you prefer, you can try to ask for a card right away. However, if you choose this option, your card may not have your name embossed on it.

Did we forget any details that may be useful for others? Please let us know in the comments…

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Sharon Mizbani
Sharon was born in Tehran, grew up in Toronto, and now lives in Istanbul. She is currently an exchange student at Boğaziçi University, with an M.A. from the University of Toronto. Nothing gets Sharon excited like a good conversation about the water supply history of the Ottoman Empire, which happened to be the topic of her M.A. thesis. On her downtime, she enjoys running through the 6ix with her woes.

1 COMMENT

  1. Tax number? No problem. Passport? You’ve got one of those. But getting the proof of residence isn’t that easy. From my understanding here is the problem. Many banks want a utility bill before you can open an account. But you can’t put the utilities in your name without a residence permit. And you can’t get a residence permit without a bank account. See how it goes round and round. I went to 6 banks and got 6 different requirements. TEB bank even told me that my tax ID is no good if I don’t have an active work permit. Btw, that is horse-poop. Your tax ID is active forever. Ziraat Bank said they would open an account if I deposited $7200 but I couldn’t touch the money for 3 months. So, I spoke to a friendly attorney and they found a bank that would accept a notarized lease agreement… which I have. But none of the other 6 banks even mentioned a notarized lease agreement. Welcome to Turkey. 😉

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