It was written on 13 June 2017. The law and practice in Turkey change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.
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This guide looks at the banking system in Turkey, and how you can choose a good bank to use. It covers both domestic banks and international (offshore) banking.
Banking is an important part of the Turkish economy. The sector is made up of a mixture of state-run banks (usually specific to a certain area, e.g. agriculture) and private banks.
Foreign banks in Turkey were rare until relatively recently, but the government liberalised the rules in the 1980s, opening the floodgates. Today there are around 50 international banks in Turkey.
The institution charged with regulation of banking in Turkey is the BDDK - the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency. The Capital Markets Board of Turkey also holds some power. Both agencies are meant to ensure fairness and protection for depositors and investors. This web page has a more thorough list of their responsibilities.
The TBB - the Banks Association of Turkey - protects the rights and interests of the banks themselves.
There are many domestic banks operating in Turkey: most are owned by foreign banks but some remain under Turkish control: Is bank, for example, is owned by the Social Democratic Party (CHP – the party founded by Kamal Ataturk); Vakif Bank is owned by the government and both Ziraat Bank and Halk Bank are Turkish controlled.
Istanbul-based Türkiye İş Bankası is the largest bank in Turkey by Tier 1 capital, with US$10.4bn of core capital. It is closely followed by Akbank, which has US$9.6bn and Türkiye Garanti Bankası, which has US$9.3bn.
Profits at Turkish banks have historically been high, hence the acquisitions by foreign banks, but the country's lenders are now bracing themselves for the impact of regulatory measures aimed at curbing consumer lending.
All offered a full range ‘high-street’ banking services for the private and business customer in Turkey. None offer investment banking.
All the high-street banks offer debit and credit cards.
There is no offshore banking industry in Turkey, but people living in Turkey often use the services of offshore banks based in other jurisdictions.
Following a series of bank failures and closures, all the banks operating in Turkey have, since 2000, been subject to the supervision of the Bank Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK). It is very strict and the system seems to work well.
Any money you have deposited with any of the high-street banks in Turkey will be protected if the bank goes bust. The maximum protection will be TRY100,000 (£22,000/€25,000/US$28,000) per customer in the bank. This means that whether Mr and Mrs Smith have one account or several in the bank, the limit is TRY100,000. If, however, they had accounts in several banks they would be covered to TRY100,000 for each bank.
Anybody, Turkish or foreign, resident or not, can open a bank account in Turkey. You will need:
To produce proof of your identity and address to satisfy international money laundering regulations. The proof of identity will be the original or a certified copy of your passport and the proof of address will be original ‘official’ bills from the likes of your utility company, the tax department of the place where you live, etc.
A Turkish tax number
Your father’s & mother’s names and your mother’s maiden name
For US citizens, there are further formalities to comply with US law.
All the high-street banks offer internet banking.
This a an arrangement for finance that is available and often used in Turkey.
A shop will promote the facility.
You pay by credit card, with payment of the full price by instalments over six, nine, or 12 months. The shop receives immediate payment, funded by the bank.
This website cannot advise you about the strengths and weaknesses of the various banks in Turkey. However, if you are going to be living in Turkey, or if you have a holiday home there, there are four very practical considerations that will help you decide which bank and branch might best suit your needs. This assumes that you do not have a strong preference for one bank or another on other grounds.
Choose a bank that is located near to your home or in a place you visit regularly
Choose a bank where there are (preferably several) members of staff who speak your language
Choose a bank which provides internet banking services in your language
If it comes to a tie-breaker, choose a bank where there is easy parking!
These considerations tend to be far more important than a marginal difference in interest rates or banking terms, especially as the best bank today is likely to be overtaken by another bank next week.
Turkish people tend to favour government owned banks as they feel they are safer and more thorough. However, interest rates tend to be more competitive in the other banks.
A 'normal' expat banking in Turkey is unlikely to have any major issues. Most highstreet banks - as is the case the world over - are largely the same. Choose one that you're comfortable with, and that has members of staff you can communicate with!
|Turkey Country Guide
Essential facts and figures about Turkey
|Regulatory and Supervisory Authorities
A list of regulatory authorities in Turkey, along with their responsibilities.
|Banking in Turkey: History and Evolution
An academic paper (PDF download)
I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.Başak Yıldız Orkun 13 June 2017
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