Banking in Sweden for international residents

plant growing out of a cup of European currency
Growing your money in a foreign country is easier said than done – Photo: Micheile Henderson/Unsplash

If you’re new to Sweden and feeling overwhelmed by how to best direct your finances here, you’re not alone. With Sweden being a largely cashless society, and unfamiliar apps such as BankID and Swish popping up everywhere, it’s understandable that there is a learning curve. 

And with mortgages, pensions and even salary all being dependent on being able to access and manage your money, it’s something that needs to be figured out as early on as possible. Here we’ve gathered some of our best resources around managing your finances as an international resident in Sweden.

Opening a Swedish bank account

As an international resident in Sweden, a Swedish bank account can be very useful. Once you have a bank account you can receive your salary in Swedish kronor and get a debit or credit card that allows you to make purchases without paying currency exchange fees. In fact, most employers in Sweden will not pay you in a foreign account.

Some bank accounts come with additional benefits such as travel insurance and fee-free withdrawals abroad, which come in very handy to international residents. These international perks are important to look into when making a decision about which bank and account type to go with.

While opening a bank account as an international resident isn’t particularly difficult, you do need to know what you’re doing. All of the details, from bank opening hours to the paperwork you need to bring with you, can be found in our primer on setting up your first bank account in Sweden

While you don’t need a personnummer (personal identification number) to open a bank account in Sweden, you will need it in order to sign up with BankID and Swish, which are both fairly essential to life in Sweden. So as soon as you have a personnummer, check out our guide to these (and other) essential apps.

Opening an international bank account

International banks have become more and more popular in recent years as the world becomes more connected and global. An international bank can be a good solution if you move frequently, travel often or will only be staying in Sweden for a short while.

International banks generally offer their services completely online, so you can avoid having to go into a branch for account set-up and any other routine services. This is an advantage over choosing a Swedish bank where you will almost certainly have to go in person to set up your account.

Since international banks are geared towards the world travelers among us, they tend to offer low or non-existent fees for ATM withdrawals abroad, low or non-existent currency exchange rates, and perks such as travel insurance, medical insurance while traveling and multilingual customer support. Most international banks operate in euros but allow you to make payments in your own currency for free. 

One caveat with only having an international account is that in order to get paid by a Swedish employer you will likely need a Swedish bank account.

International money transfers

Transferring money abroad is a staple of expat life. Whether you’re sending money to friends and family back home, trying to move funds from an old bank account or anything else, using a money transfer service can be cheaper and easier than relying on bank transfers. So how do you know which company you should go with?

Popular money transfer services such as Transferwise, Currency Fair and OFX all have their pros and cons. When you’re researching the option that works best for you, it’s a good idea to think of the amount of money you plan on transferring, how often you plan on making transfers, and which currencies you’d like to transfer between to figure out the likely fees you’d end up paying. Also keep in mind that some services have an upper transfer limit.

Some international bank accounts allow for inexpensive money transfers as well, so keep this in mind when you’re shopping for a bank account.