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.
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.
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 is unlikely to last for much longer given all the pressure from large countries. If anything, it could be a trap in the event Georgia suddenly starts sharing information and reveals an account you thought was safely hidden. 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.
- Bank accounts must be opened in person in Georgia. If you want to open one remotely, it must be done through an agent. Banks don’t accept direct, remote bank account openings.
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.
Unless you use an agent, you have 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.
If you can’t travel to Georgia for whatever reason, or just want to save time, my partner in Tbilisi, Georgia offers remote bank account opening services. CLICK HERE to find out more.
*a consulting session is a discussion about your portfolio and objectives. It does not constitute legal, financial, tax or investment advice.