Because of the currency instability, foreign currency holdings were prized in Turkey for many years. Even today, most Turkish banks will give you the option of opening an account in Turkish lira or a foreign currency.
The largest banks in Turkey are Yapı Kredi Bankası-Koçbank, Türikiye İş Bankası (Isbank), Akbank and Garanti Bankası. You are practically guaranteed to find a branch of one of these banks near where you are living, no matter what part of Turkey you call home. Garanti Bankası is notable in that it makes a concerted effort to offer English-speaking staff at most branches. Isbank, meanwhile, owns several European branches, which makes it a convenient choice for many EU expats.
There are foreign banks in Turkey as well, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC Bank, Citibank, and J.P. Morgan Chase. Of these, only HSBC operates enough branches to be truly convenient all over Turkey.
There are two major Islamic banks in Turkey: Turkish Bank and Türk Arap Bankası. These banks regulate their investments and some business practices according to Islamic law. This means that they will not charge or pay interest (faiz) on accounts or loans, nor will they invest in companies connected to pork, alcohol, or gambling. Because of these restrictions, Islamic banks have developed a unique mortgage system in which banks purchase houses and sell them back to purchasers at higher prices (which the purchasers then pay in instalments).
If you choose to bank with an Islamic bank, take a look at Islamic law as outlined by Al-Islam.org. It could save you some confusion!
Opening a Turkish bank account
In order to open an account you will first need to register for a Tax Number. (See the section on Tax Numbers in our Job Guide). Most banks will require that you have a residency permit before you can open an account in Turkish lira, but some may make exceptions for customers making larger investments. As with everything in Turkey, don´t be afraid to negotiate.
If you don´t have a residency permit and can´t charm the bank staff, remember that most banks will be happy to open you an account in euros, British pounds or US dollars. The disadvantage to foreign currency accounts is that they pay little to no interest.
Usually you will have to fill out an application form and present your tax number, at which point you´ll be issued an account.
You will probably want to open a current account first. Current accounts allow you to store and transfer money. Most support online banking, and you can arrange automatic bill payment for your telecom and utility bills.
You may also choose to open a savings account, but be aware that these accounts must remain open for a minimum of one month and that all interest earned is subject to a 15 % withholding tax. The interest rates quoted by your bank will usually include the withholding tax.
Most banks operate between 9:00 and 17:00, and during these hours you will have full access to all bank services. Turkish banks remain open during lunch hours, but you may find yourself waiting a long time for service if you choose to do your banking at this busy time of day.