Banking in Sweden

Moving to a new country means getting a new bank account – well, at least for some of us it did.

Sweden has a lot of banks when you search Google, but the main ones are probably Swedbank (or a regional alternative), Handelsbanken, Nordea and SEB.

A caveat in Sweden with a lot of banks is that you need a Swedish ID (personnummer) to even get near opening an account, this is because everything in Sweden basically runs on this 1 number, but in return you get access to some great little apps that make your life a lot easier.

Having said that, for new expats who are awaiting their personnummer, there are banks that will allow you to open an account without one.

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BankID

BankID is an e-identification service that is issued by banks in Sweden, Finland and Norway. It enables companies, banks, organisations and authorities to both identify and enter into agreements with people. BankID is likened to an ID document that is comparable to passports, drivers licenses and other identification documents.

Everyone can get BankID, but you need a personnummer. Most banks use BankID and in 2019, it’s estimated that BankID was used on almost 4 billion occasions.

The concept is simple, the customer identifies themselves by entering their details, which allows the customer to ‘sign’ or approve documents from their smartphone, or even their computer.

You can get BankID in a number of ways;

  • Mobile BankID
  • BankID on file (computer)
  • BankID on card (smart card & reader)

BankID meets all current legal requirements and meets banks’ own high standards of internet security.


Swish

Swish is an amazing (and free) little app that is used here in Sweden.

It was launched in 2012 by six major banks in Sweden – Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Länsförsäkringar, Nordea, SEB and Swedbank and Sparbankerna. Swish works in cooperation with Bankgirot, the Central Bank of Sweden and is a member of the European Mobile Payment Systems Administration.

Swish is a smartphone based app that works on iPhone and Android, and allows the user to “swish” money to another person in real time. The recipient receives the funds immediately and can spend it how they want.

Swish is connected to your bank account and phone number, so having a Swedish bank account and phone number is key.

While Swish was first intended for use by individuals, it’s now used by many flea markets and businesses alike. The use of a QR code allows people to pay for items in stores, or entrance fees to exhibitions etc all in seconds, with a confirmation screen shown.

BankID is used to confirm transactions on Swish, so having a valid BankID is also required.

Prior to Swish, cash based payments used to be the main way people would pay for items, however Swish has quickly taken the crown.

Speak to your bank about setting Swish up for you to be able to use.


Handelsbanken

This is probably our top pick as they also offer English language web and app services. You will need your national ID (best is passport) and be prepared to make a couple of visits to your local branch. The staff are really helpful, and their English is pretty good. They take your information and send it off to the head office who then authorise the opening of the account, and you pop bank into branch to finalise the paperwork. In most of our cases, the next day our bank cards (bankkort) were ready to be picked up in the branch.

Things you should know:
  • Until you have your personnummer, you will not have full functionality of all the normal banking privileges Swedes do.
    • We’re talking, BankID, Swish etc
  • Your registered address will be the address on your British passport, so this is where your bank mail will go.
    • We didn’t have a problem with this, however we are sure if you say you have moved, you can use your Swedish address and they will confirm it another way.
  • You should ask the staff member who you’re dealing with about having your new bank card sent into branch, this way it’s not got to make the long trip back to the UK only for you to get someone to send it back to you – or it not get delivered at all!
  • Some local branches are only open a couple of days a week, but branches in larger towns are open all week (M-F).

Ready to set up a Handelsbanken account, or just read more? Find your local Handelsbanken branch here.