Banking in Poland
Contrary to common belief, the Polish bank system is a relatively modern and well-designed network of financial institutions offering a host of money-related services. In the past, before the 1990s, there were no private banks and the market was dominated by a few institutions offering highly limited services, including personal and business accounts as well as basic loans and deposits. Most of the population, however, kept their savings hidden at home, or maybe in safety deposit boxes if they could afford the fee. Today the situation is very much different.
Despite a number trials and tribulations related to the Polish bank sector in the early 1990s, involving a few cases of embezzlement or the like, the system has transformed to become stable and robust, with larger (such as Citibank) and smaller international and home banks offering the common financial products, such as personal and business accounts, deposit accounts, loans, mortgages, insurance, stock trading and Forex transactions, and many others. Bank customers are also almost always offered debit cards to go along with their accounts, with a growing number of credit cards issued too, to help customers deal with their everyday needs. The electronification of payments in Poland is a process which started a few years ago and continues to be well ahead of many leading world economies, such as the UK or the US which continue to use checks, for instance, and is an area which cannot be readily grasped by the innovative Poles who pay for groceries with their cell phones.
Many banks in Poland now offer the option to open an account (otworzyć konto or rachunek) online, simply by filling in a straightforward form analyzed by the bank which may later request additional documents to be provided. Accounts are usually opened within the same day, and funds (środki) may be transferred to such account within minutes, although the usual clearance time required is about 1 business day.
Setting up an account in a bank is also very straightforward, with attendants requesting that customers fill out an application form (wniosek o otwarcie konta/rachunku) and present a proof of ID, which in Poland is the mandatory personal identity card (dowód osobisty) issued to all residents aged 18 and over, although minors may also carry such IDs if requested by their parents. Foreigners will be requested to show their passports and provide a valid address in Poland to open an account. Standard fees (opłaty) will apply, although there are banks which do not charge these or waive them if you are an active card user.
Bank attendants will probably start asking about your financial preferences and offer you a debit card (karta debetowa) to go with your current account, or a credit card (karta kredytowa). They may also ask whether you would like to make a deposit with them, thus offering you a higher APR savings account (konto/rachunek oszczędnościowy) linked to your current account (rachunek bieżący). Should you wish to trade stocks, you may also be offered a trading account (rachunek maklerski). In addition, most banks will also offer you loans or overdrafts (pożyczki/kredyty) and a number of basic insurance products (produkty ubezpieczeniowe) to cover your needs.
Banks will offer access to your account (dostęp do rachunku) via a number of modern ways, including the Internet, mobile applications, or personal visits, and specific innovative banking services, such as the previously mentioned payments with cell phones (płatności telefonem komórkowym) or instant wire transfers (przelewy natychmiastowe). Once in possession of your debit card you are also free to electronically pay for your goods almost anywhere, with ATMs (bankomaty) also being easily available if you are in need of cash (gotówka), especially in larger cities. Do note, however, that checks (czeki) will not be issued or accepted anywhere in the country.