10 March 2007

Banking...the hard way!

Before we moved to Italy I had arranged our finances such that we can do everything we need by the internet, a bancomat (ATM) and/or a credit card. I have opened more than one account over the years on-line with out ever actually having to talk to someone, let alone meet someone face to face. In Italy banking just is not that easy.

We decided we should open an Italian bank account for some writing Valerie is doing and from what I had read from various sources this seemed like a rather straight forward process. I searched the internet for on-line accounts but with my limited Italian skills this created problems. I found one bank, BancaIntesa, that has accounts designed just for stranieri but they require a visit to one of their branches to open the account, which they seem to be the only bank that is not located in Ascoli. The Ufficio Postale has their own banking system but the account didn’t fit what I was looking for; plus we haven’t always had pleasant experiences at the Postale.

Here in Ascoli there is no shortage of banks from the cooperativa, risparmiare (savings) to branches of the national conglomerates like Banca di Roma and Banca Nazionale di Lavoro. I thought it would be best to start with one of the smaller institutions in hopes of getting better local service.

The cooperativa I went to had to make a couple calls and was not able to find out how to open a conto, or account, for stranieri like us; the account manager suggested we try one of the big banks in town. I then visited one of the big conglomerates who recently opened a new branch in nearby Piazza di Roma and when we went in to inquire about an account they were very helpful and accommodating but in the end said they too could not determine how to open an account for us.

It seems that in Italy bank accounts are classified by who you are: an Italian citizen, a foreign worker, a foreign student and then those like us who don’t fit in the other categories. Despite having money to put into the account, living in the city, having a codice fiscale (tax number) and our permessi di soggiorno we fell into a banking black hole. We just want to open a basic account to put some money in, we don't want take out a loan.

I tried one more of the big conglomerates and bingo, they were able to open an account for us. We had no new information that we didn’t provide the other banks but they just knew what needed to be done to activate an account. Unfortunately they are not the friendliest bunch in town so I will utilize their internet banking services as much as possible.

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