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How to open a bank account in Norway as a foreigner

One of the most important things you need to do as a new expat is to open a bank account. In Norway this is not always as easy as it should be. Here’s what you need to know.

If there’s one thing that seems to frustrate newcomers more than anything else, it’s getting their finances in order.

Banknote of 1,000 Norwegian Krone with the flag of Norway.Banknote of 1,000 Norwegian Krone with the flag of Norway.

International money laundering regulations mean that opening a new bank account when you’re new to a country is much more complicated than it used to be.

Opening a bank account as a foreigner in Norway is possible, but it takes some planning, some paperwork and, most importantly, time.

DNB says it can take “4-6 weeks” for someone new to Norway to become a customer. So make sure you maintain full access to foreign accounts when you first move to Norway.

Why is it difficult to open a bank account in Norway?

Opening a bank account as a foreigner is a major challenge in any country due to the ‘Know Your Customer’ regulations.

Banks are obliged to verify the identity of their customers and, of course, to manage risks. This means that without a permanent address, a full national identity number and a verified source of regular income, you will be in trouble.

To make matters worse, the banks have a different policy, and not all staff seem to be aware of this. I have also seen many accusations of racism from non-EU citizens on various expat Facebook groups.

Danske Bank building in Oslo, Norway.  Photo: Danske Bank.Danske Bank building in Oslo, Norway.  Photo: Danske Bank.
Danske Bank building in Oslo, Norway. Photo: Danske Bank.

That’s why I contacted several Norwegian banks to find out what their official policy is when a foreigner wants to open an account.

Norwegian banks to consider

This article is not about recommending a specific bank as there are so many factors to consider. What is best for one person is not best for everyone. Most foreigners use one of the following banks when they first move to Norway.

DNB: DNB Bank is part of Norway’s largest financial services provider and offers a full range of services for private, corporate, business and private customers. There is a comprehensive online banking system available in the browser and in a range of apps, with good English translation.

Noordea: Nordea Bank, originally launched in Denmark, is now one of the largest banks in Northern Europe. It offers a full range of services and products for private customers, including checking and savings accounts.

Reserve bank 1: A group of regional savings banks in Norway. Some individual SpareBank 1 banks offer current accounts, including SpareBank 1 Østlandet, which covers Oslo and Eastern Norway.

General requirements for Norwegian bank accounts

The first essential requirement for opening a bank account is having a valid passport for identification. This is mandatory. Becoming a bank customer without a valid passport is only possible for asylum seekers and refugees.

Norwegian krone banknotes in hand.Norwegian krone banknotes in hand.

In addition to a valid passport, bank customer applicants require a valid residence permit. If the applicant does not have a national identity number, a D number (temporary ID number) is also required.

Applications usually start online. If you visit a bank branch, it is unlikely that you will be able to start your application there. Not that there are that many banking violations in Norway these days!

Once the online application has been processed, applicants must meet in person at a bank branch to present their passport, prove their identity and further complete the application. You will probably need to make an appointment for this.

Once you become a bank customer in Norway, you can open a checking account and a savings account. You can also apply for BankID, an essential digital identity solution for anyone living in Norway.

International banking services

The world of banking and financial services has changed enormously in recent years. Many online tools and services exist to make life easier for those of us who live and work in multiple countries.

If you sign up for Wise or ValutaFair using the links below, Life in Norway may receive a small commission, but at no cost to you.

Sensible: I’m a big fan of Wise, formerly known as TransferWise. A large portion of my business income is earned in US dollars or euros, so I use Wise to convert the money into Norwegian kroner at much lower rates than any bank offers. It’s super simple.

CurrencyReasonable: One of many services that allow you to transfer between currencies and accounts cheaper than at your bank. ValutaFair can save you a lot of money when you move to Norway for the first time.

Revolution: Millions of people use Revolut, an online-only international bank that has revolutionized multi-currency banking. Physical cards, savings accounts, international transfers and online investments are among the features these days.

Credit cards and loans in Norway

When you arrive in Norway again, you cannot get a credit card. All banks require applicants to live in Norway for at least one year. Basically it’s based on having one complete tax return, which can mean you need to have lived here for up to two years before filing.

If you have a full annual tax return, are over 18 years old and have a full-time job, you should be good to go. Learn more about the credit card application process and some of your options here.

It’s a similar story with personal loans, although the proving period of your “Norwegian financial life” is even longer. It is best not to apply for a personal loan unless you have lived in Norway for at least 3 to 5 years.

Have you recently signed up for a bank account in Norway? I’d love to hear your experiences and tips in the comments.

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