A short guide to banking

By Mariana Ganea
The banking system in Romania is made up of the National Bank and credit institutions, banks and financial non-banking institutions. Most of the banks in Romania are controlled by foreign lenders. A list of banks that are active in Romania can be found at the end of this article. Credit institutions from Romania are generally universal banks which offer a wide range of products and services.

The largest banks in Romania by volume of assets are BCR, with about 20 percent of the local banking market, followed by BRD Societe Generale, with 13 percent, and Banca Transilvania, with 8 percent, according to data from the end of 2012. CEC Bank, UniCredit Țiriac Bank, Raiffesen Bank, Volksbank, ING Bank come next, followed by Alpha Bank and Bancpost. After the 2013 takeover of RBS’ retail portfolio by UniCredit Țiriac Bank, the rankings are set to change before the end of 2013 and following the print date of this guide.

Most banks in Romania offer savings and/or current accounts in lei, Euro, USD and other currencies on various maturities with fixed and/or variable interest (including negotiated interest), escrow accounts, term deposits, mainly in lei, Euro, USD and other currencies, from overnight to 18 months, as well as Certificates of Deposits. They also offer loans, refinancing loans, loans for personal needs, mortgage loans, restructured loans, credit lines, housing loans, as well as the first house loan, which is backed up by state guarantees for first time home owners.

The most common credit cards issued by Romanian banks are Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron, American Express. The current bank operations provided are bill payments, transfer of funds in foreign currencies and lei, direct debit and standing orders, payments in local and foreign currency, buying and selling currency, money wires, payment orders, cheques (in lei and foreign currency), travel cheques, invoice payments, custody and/or depositary services. The majority of Romanian banks offer remote banking services, including Internet banking, phone banking and banking by text message.

Banking in Romania is quite easy. To open a current/checking account, you’ll need only an ID card if you are an EU resident or passport if you are from outside of EU. Usually, the current account comes with the debit card. Most of the banks issue MasterCard or Visa cards but if you want you can find also American Express.

Most of the banks operating in Romania (domestic or foreign bank offices) offer internet, mobile and phone banking services. Most packages offered by banks usually contain the remote banking products and services. You could look first at one of the biggest players on the market and their fees and offers (BCR, BRD, Transilvania, Raiffeissen, CEC, ING Bank) before making a decision.

Coming to savings, banks operating on the Romanian market offer a lot of term deposits at various maturities for lei, Euro, USD and other currencies, some investment products (pension funds, bonds), treasury products (trade and FX transactions), asset management products (mutual funds) and, in two or three cases, gold-investment (BCR, Pireus Bank). To open savings or investment products you may need to prove the source of your income.

During your stay in Romania you may face some cash flow challenges or you may find something to buy for which you need some cash. Most of the banks offer credit cards or cash loans if you are Romanian resident and you can prove a regular income. If you want to buy properties in Romania, firstly you should consult a lawyer to make sure you have all the legal knowledge necessary about property transactions.

If you don’t have enough time to spend at the bank counter you can appoint an authorized person to represent you. However, you must make sure you specify for which banking transaction/s you give the authorized person permission to represent you because, if you don’t, he/she could have rights for all type of transactions and you could lose control of your funds.

Several banks have packages aimed at expats, which usually combine the most sought after services. For example, Credit Agricole Bank launched a package mid-2013 which offers certain discounts to foreigners, such as a 75 percent discount on international payments, multicurrency facilities, free internet banking and a free extra debit card, among others.

Banks active in Romania: Alpha Bank, Carpatica, Creditcoop, Banca Comercială Feroviară, Italo Romena Bank, Banca Românească, Banca Transilvania, Bancpost, Leumi Bank, Bank of Cyprus, Banca Comercială Română (BCR), Bloom Bank, BNP Paribas, BRD Societe Generale, CEC Bank, Citibank, Credit Agricole Bank, Credit Europe Bank, Eximbank, Garanti Bank, ING Bank, Intesa San Paolo Bank, La Caixa, Libra Bank, Marfin Bank, Millennium Bank, Nextebank, OTP Bank, Piraeus Bank, Porsche Bank, ProCredit Bank, Raiffeisen Housing Bank, Raiffeisen Bank, Romanian International Bank, UniCredit Țiriac Bank, Volksbank.

Mariana Ganea holds a PhD in Economics and she has worked in banking and financial training for 15 years. She is currently a freelancer, an authorized trainer in soft skills & financials, an evaluator and communication consultant. She was a senior training consultant, banking researcher and associate professor. She studied economics, finance and banking, communication, sales, NPL, coaching and transactional analysis. She is passionate about education, writing and reading, travel, history, politics, cultural events and photography.