If you’re planning to move to Andorra, one of the very the first things you’ll need to do is open a local bank account. Without one you won’t be able to submit your residency application, pay for utilities and so on.
Depending on where you’re from, banking in Andorra is a little different. In this guide I’ll walk you through what you need to open a bank account, the different banks to choose from, things to be aware of, and how to get your foot in the door.
Let’s dive in.
Andorra’s Four Banks
Founded in 1989, the Andorran Financial Authority (AFA) is responsible for Andorra’s financial sector. It’s their job to ensure that things run smoothly, all dealings are above board and consumers and investors are protected.
There are currently four banks in Andorra:
- Crèdit Andorrà
- Banc Sabadell d’Andorra
Previously there was a fifth, known as Vallbanc, and prior to that Banca Privada d’Andorra. This bank has changed hands a few times, and has now been absorbed by Crèdit Andorrà.
How Safe Are Deposits?
Before you open that bank account you might want to know just how safe and secure your money will be once you deposit it.
Andorra’s banking system has one of the highest solvency ratios in Europe. Highly regulated by the aforementioned AFA.
Banks have no choice but to operate in compliance with the organisation’s solvency and liquidity ratios.
It’s also worth noting that Andorra was admitted to the International Monetary Fund at the end of 2020.
This is largely due to the country’s efforts to level its financial playing field and align more closely with international standards.
As its 190th member, the Andorran government enjoys numerous benefits, including IMF policy advice, an annual review or ‘health check’ of its economy and perhaps most important for those with deposits here, access to IMF lending if needed.
Opening an Account
Unlike a lot of countries, you don’t need to be an Andorran resident to open a bank account here. That being said, the country’s banking system has upped its levels of compliance significantly in the last few years.
As a prospective client you must have all the necessary information and documents ready at hand.
The bank will want to know the origin of your funds and while they get to know you, will almost certainly want to understand at least a handful of transactions.
At a minimum, you’ll need to provide the following to have your account approved:
- Identity documents
- Proof of address
- Proof of income
- Proof of source of funds
This said, it’s not always as simple as walking into a branch and opening an account. Your experience will vary based on the individual within the bank that deals with your case.
If they understand your personal and business scenario, you have a far greater chance of getting an account opened. For this reason, it’s worth leaning on any friends or contacts to see if they can introduce you to someone who they trust.
Andorra’s banking sector has gone to great lengths to increase transparency and uphold international cooperation commitments. After being listed on financial blacklists in the past, the country was keen on changing the status quo in this regard.
In the past, banks in Andorra offered numbered accounts that did not disclose account holder names. These were especially popular with foreign nationals, as it allowed them to squirrel away funds without their government’s knowledge.
This all changed when Andorra, along with 100 other jurisdictions, committed to the Automatic Exchange of Information in 2014. Implementing the ‘Common Reporting Standard’ aims to combat tax evasion and ensure compliance.
This saw the removal of Andorra from the ‘Uncooperative Tax Havens’ list, along with Liechtenstein and Monaco.
As a result, financial information of non-residents is automatically shared with other jurisdictions.
Amongst other things, this means they have access to the account holder’s name, address, taxpayer ID and income. For company accounts, the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) is no longer kept private.
These changes have also led to the creation of Andorra’s tax system. Thankfully, this is a much simpler system to many larger nations, like Australia!
Accessing Your Money
You’ll have no trouble accessing banking services in Andorra. Along with online banking being widely available, you’ll find branches and ATMs (cash points) throughout the principality as well.
Something to keep in mind though, is that the more ‘remote’ villages will often only have one or two of the banking groups, as opposed to all of them.
If all you want to do is withdraw cash this isn’t a huge stumbling block, as all ATMs seem to work fine between the banks. Should you require in-person assistance you’ll have to drive to a parish that has your bank.
As a general rule of thumb you’ll find most banks are open Monday to Friday from 9-5 as well as on Saturdays from 9-12pm. Since they operate independently, it’s best to call ahead or check online to confirm their hours.
Something that might take some getting used to is the fairly limited online banking. Some banks are better than others in this regard, but in general you’re not going to blown away by the experience.
This said, most ‘features’ are available, and can often be done for you on demand via an email, phone call or WhatsApp to your banker.
Which Currency Is Used?
Although Andorra only officially adopted the Euro in 2011, the currency has in fact been in circulation since 2002. In 2014 a further agreement was signed, which now means Andorra can issue its own coins.
Your checking and savings accounts will be in EUR by default, but if you want other currencies are available. It’s not uncommon for you to get a USD account without asking.
Thanks to a booming tourism industry, you’ll find that it’s completely different to Spain. Most restaurants, retail shops and so on will accept American Express, Visa and Mastercard.
For newcomers to the principality this can certainly soften the landing.
What About Fees?
In my experience if something goes unsaid when it comes to fees, chances are they will be higher than you’re expecting.
That’s not to say that you can’t get some great deals with your bank, but it’s unlikely you’ll make it happen on day one.
As I mentioned earlier, banking in Andorra is all about relationships. With a great relationship you’ll be well taken care of.
Without one, it can go in any direction. Once again, I recommend finding a banker who you relate to, and will take care of your needs.
Final Thoughts You Can Bank On
For a small country, Andorra’s banking system is both robust and efficient.
Banks here aren’t as established as you might expect from one in a banking hub like Singapore or Hong Kong, but their operations are far larger than you might expect from a small country.
Take the time to connect with your banker, getting to know the system in the process, and you’ll find a solution that works for your needs.