Exchange students get bank accounts nowadays only if they really need them. Getting online banking services has also become more difficult than before.
When exchange students arrive in Finland for the first time, they have a suitcase full of luggage and a head full of questions regarding money. How will I pay my rent with my German bank account? Where do I get cash to go to the Stammtisch parties?
Tutors take their international tutorees to the bank soon after they arrive in Finland. There, the process starts with working out if the student really needs a Finnish bank account. Students coming from an EU country usually don’t get one since, with the current IBAN and SEPA -payments, bills can be payed just as well from any bank in the area.
Drawing money out of the ATM can get costly, though.
”That depends on the deal between the bank and the company which takes care of the ATMs. Drawing money with our card is free, but doing that with some exchange student’s card might not be”, sales manager Mari Huuhka from Nordea, Jyväskylä says.
If an exchange student gets an account, the next logical step would be applying for online banking.
But that is not so easy. Banks have tightened their conditions for giving out the net bank access codes. Because of that, fewer and fewer exchange students can pay their bills online at home.
The reason for this is the short time an exchange student spends in Finland. Getting online banking usually takes 2-3 months. For many, that is too long.
”Even Finns rarely get their net bank access codes immediately. Because the regulations are tight even for Finns, they have to be that for foreigners as well. Because of that, we cannot give out the codes, even though we were able to do that a few years ago”, Huuhka says.
According to Huuhka, the reason for the strict regulations are security matters, for instance with regard to identifying the person applying for online banking.
”We do not make things more difficult deliberately. But the bank needs to know its customers well”, Huuhka says.
In practice, then, the exchange students have to pay their bills through their home bank’s online services or with a bank card. For instance Nordea has payment terminals where it is possible to pay bills with Visa Electron.
It is, of course, also possible to pay bills at the bank counter. That costs 5 euros, though.
For students coming from outside of the EU, accounts are almost invariably opened if the student so wishes.
”Nevertheless, everybody coming from farther away do not even want to open an account because they stay for such a short time”, Huuhka says.
Nordea cooperates with the university in opening bank accounts for foreign students. The university delivers the bank information about the students who will be needing a Finnish bank account for instance because of a scholarship or some other type of a grant. Scholarships are not paid to foreign accounts.
”Then everything is ready when the student comes to check his or her account”, Huuhka explains.