There are some 20 domestic banks operating in Greece which are divided into two groups: commercial banks and specialised credit institutions.
The Bank of Greece (www.ethniki.gr) is the central (and largest) bank and monetary authority in Greece and is responsible for the supervision of credit institutions operating in the country. Other main banks include: Alpha Credit Bank (www.alpha.gr), the largest private bank; EFG Eurobank (www.eurobank.gr), the third-largest; Egnatia Bank (the Agricultural Bank, www.egnatiabank.gr); and Piraeus Bank (www.piraeusbank.gr), currently under expansion.
Several commercial banks are controlled to some extent by the state, although most are in the process of being merged with other banks or privatised. Most banks offer internet banking facilities which is a popular option in Greece.
There are also several foreign-owned banks represented in Greece, e.g. Barclays Bank, Citibank, HSBC, Natwest Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland, mainly in Athens (branches are rare in the provinces with the possible exception of Thessaloniki).
Greek banks are usually open from 8am to 2.30pm on Mondays to Thursdays and from 8am to 2pm on Fridays, although hours vary from town to town and even from branch to branch. Some branches in main cities and resorts have longer opening hours, which may include evenings and weekends. In small villages there may be a tiny bank office, open for a few hours a day or on certain days only.
If you need to use teller services, you must take your passport as proof of identity (many Greek banks prefer this to a residence permit) and should be prepared for a long wait (Greek bank queues move very slowly). In many banks, transactions are performed in two parts (to keep the maximum number of people in ‘employment’). A transaction involving a withdrawal must be approved or processed at one counter and then you need to queue to collect your money at the cash desk.
This article is an extract from Buying a Home in Greece.