I’ve written previously about Georgia and real estate opportunities in its lovely capital Tbilisi, but this is my first post exploring bank account offerings there. Opening a bank account in Georgia is definitely worth your consideration. It’s something that I have done myself, and that I am very happy with.
The Republic of Georgia is not a destination you would think of for offshore banking. It is still under the radar, and is in many ways superior to traditional “offshore” banking island destinations because it is a “real” country with a diversified and productive economy. It isn’t an “offshore” banking destination, but rather an “onshore” one.
Banking in Tbilisi, Georgia is primarily a Georgian affair, but banks make it easy and user-friendly for non-residents to open bank accounts there. It is also possible to open bank accounts remotely as long as you are not a US person (US citizen, green card holder, or US resident). Details on how to open an account remotely can be found here.
If you’re read my article on 9 reasons to open an offshore bank account, you will understand why I believe having a banking option outside of your country of residence is so crucial, especially in times of turbulence.
The Pros of opening a bank account in Tbilisi, Georgia
- Switzerland-caliber service without having to deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you deposit enough money for the premium service, you will be assigned a private banker.
- You can open an account with just $1,500 though I would recommend depositing at least $10,000 to get access to the premium service.
- Generally lower fees compared to Western Banks. For the premium service, you’ll be charged $90 or less per year. I can’t think of many banking destinations worldwide that offer a private banker for such low deposits and minimal fees.
- No capital controls – you can send money anywhere, as long as it is not on a sanctions list.
- Great app-based and online banking. You can make large, international transfers on your phone. You just need to send the appropriate documents to compliance when requested. Typically your private banker would send you an email or even just a WhatsApp message.
- Generally well-capitalized banks. Some are even listed on the London Stock Exchange.
- Possibility of getting debit cards, Visa & Mastercard Gold credit cards, and even American Express credit cards. If you’re North American, don’t expect amazing credit cards like you have back home. For all other mere mortals these credit cards are just fine.
- You can get Priority Pass (airport lounge access) at a discounted price.
- American citizens, residents and green card holders are accepted as well in spite of FATCA.
- No need for proof of address to open an account. In most banks nowadays compliance will ask for one or two proofs of address such as utility bills, which can sometimes be hard to procure for people in some countries.
- You’ll get an IBAN and can hold USD, EUR, GBP, and GEL in multicurrency accounts.
- The interest rates on GEL are high (10%+) but it’s a very volatile currency. I wouldn’t want to hold too much of it. The deposit rates on the USD and EUR are also higher than they would be in North America and the EU.
- Georgia does not share information under the Common Reporting Standards (CRS) rules, which means Georgia will not automatically share your Georgian bank account information with your government. It’s nice for privacy, but will change in 2023 as Georgia has commited to joining the CRS. When you are legally expected to share your banking information with your country of residence, then do so. If you don’t like it, then move somewhere else.
Cons of banking in Georgia
- The risk of conflict in the region; Russia and Georgia had a brief war a decade ago, but it barely impacted banking. But nevertheless, in a world of heightened geopolitical tension, I would not put all of my life savings in Georgia. Some exposure is fine, but I would diversify for sure.
- The risk of capital controls if the fiscal and current account situations were to worsen in the country
Should you open a bank account in Georgia?
It depends on your particular situation. If you are looking for solid Plan B banking, and in many cases even primary offshore banking, then Georgia is a great option.
If you want to open a bank account for free then you must to go to Tbilisi, Georgia to open the bank account. The trip alone is worth it. Tbilisi is absolutely gorgeous, though you should avoid winter unless you want to go skiing in the nearby mountains.
The food is delicious, the wineries stack up against their French counterparts, the people are friendly and the history rich. Be prepared to eat a lot of meat.
I only mention Tbilisi, but you can also open your bank account in Georgia in cities such as Batumi or Kutaisi. There is a lot to see in Georgia. The landscapes are breathtaking, and Georgian Orthodox churches are in a league of their own.
Multiple options to open a bank account remotely
If you plan on mostly using you bank account to stash cash or to use for transfers in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, then Georgia is a great option using this remote account opening service run by Germans living in Georgia.
If you are a US citizen, green card holder, US resident or primarily want an account to make transfers within the Americas, then Panama is probably a good option. It’s also an interesting place to stash some cash. But I would avoid Panama if I lived in Europe because of all the compliance nightmare that having a Panama bank account can cause in the EU.
Other articles on Georgia:
- The Real Estate Investment Market in Tbilisi, Georgia
- 9 reasons to get Residency in the Republic of Georgia
- One of the Best Structures for Digital Nomads: The Sole Proprietorship in the Country of Georgia
Available services in Georgia:
If you want to discuss your internationalization and diversification plans, book a consulting session* or send me an email.
*a consulting session is a discussion about your portfolio and objectives. It does not constitute legal, financial, tax or investment advice.