Having a bank account is pretty much vital in Sweden, especially as Sweden goes more and more towards becoming a cashless society. However, it is unfortunately often the case that banks deny newbies (and others) a bank account for sometimes rather flimsy reasons. If this happens to you – this is what you can do.
What are your rights?
You have the right to get a bank account unless the bank can present “special reasons” to deny you. This also applies to saving accounts, which are accounts where you can save money, but you cannot connect a card, a bank giro or an Internet bank.
Even if you do not have a Swedish social security number, a Swedish address, come from outside the EU or if you have a protected identity, you still have the right to open a debit account and (in most cases) a savings account.
However, a bank must be able to check your identity or your application will be denied.
You must be able to identify yourself.
- You can identify yourself with a valid Swedish identity document, such as a passport, national identity card or BankID.
- You can also identify yourself with a Swedish driving license.
- If you do not have a Swedish identity document, you can identify yourself with a valid foreign passport or another photo ID that shows your citizenship. It must be issued by an authority or another authorized issuer. Please note that the bank may request that you provide additional documents.
- If you do not have a valid identity document, you should be able to show who you are and your citizenship with other documents from an independent and reliable source.
Identification for foreign students
If you are a foreign student you need to be able to identify yourself as above. But in addition, you will need the following:
- A residence permit or visa (does not apply to EU citizens).
- An admission notice from the university showing the duration of the education.
Important to know
- You don’t have to speak Swedish, but if you are not able to manage in Swedish, you need to bring someone who can help translate – this includes English speakers as it is not a right to be able to communicate with bank staff in English.
- You must have a clear purpose with the account.
- You must be able to answer questions about yourself, the origin of your money and your transactions. This is due to “Law (2017: 630) on measures against money laundering and financing of terrorism” which requires the bank to acquire such customer knowledge.
- A BankID is not a legal right and it is up to the bank itself to decide if they will offer you a BankID or not.
- Your bank account can not be used by someone else unless there is a specific agreement with the bank.
Why would a bank deny an application?
Particular reasons for denying an account may be, for example that:
- the customer was previously dishonest to the bank,
- there is suspicion of money laundering
- there is a risk of the bank promoting criminal activity by offering an account.
- according to general advice from the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, the bank should not refuse you to receive an account solely because of a payment complaint.
What do you do if you are denied a bank account?
If you are denied a bank account and feel that the bank has made a mistake in their denial, you can do the following.
- Ask to have the refusal in writing with the reason for the refusal clearly stated. There should also be information on how to proceed.
- Contact the complaints department at the bank that refused you. There are different names for this and as most Swedish banks have limited information in other languages than Swedish, you will have to do a search in Swedish. Go to the webpage of the bank and search for one of these “kundombudsman”, “klagomål” or “kundklagomål”. There is usually a form you can fill in.
- If you are still not happy with the response, you can contact the National Board for Consumer Disputes (Allmänna reklamationsnämnden, ARN). They have a form on their website, however, the form is in Swedish only – so you may need to use Google Translate or get the help of a Swedish speaker.
- Finally, you can make a complaint to the Swedish Financial Supervisory Agency (Finansinspektionen). Finansinspektionen does not take action in individual matters but can take action against a financial institute who is repeatedly breaking the law.
Finally, if you need further advice, you can contact Hallå Konsument, who is a section of the Swedish Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket). They can answer your questions in both Swedish and English.