Banking in Bulgaria is reliable and convenient, though it is not free
According to existing EU legislation, anyone who is a resident in Bulgaria is entitled to open a “basic payment account”. This account would facilitate most of the standard transactions: making deposits, withdrawing cash, as well as making and receiving payments.
Customers are expected to show proof of identity in the form of an identity card or passport. Once armed with a bank account, customers have their money protected by the Government-backed deposit protection scheme up to the value of 196,000 BGN.
Bulgarian national bank has the exclusive right to issue banknotes and mint coins. The most widely used coins are the 1 lev and 2 leva (approximately 1 euro). Banknotes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 leva. A quick way to convert from EUR to BGN is to multiply by 2.
Mind the fees and charges
Banks may charge different types of fees including an account setup fee, monthly maintenance fee, cash withdrawal fee, and interbank transfer fee. Potential customers should be made aware of all such tariffs and fees. This is known as the “fee information document”.
In addition to a new bank account, the bank may offer a debit card and internet banking. Internet banking is often cheaper compared to traditional in-branch transactions. The prerequisite for this online facility would be access to a mobile phone number.
A debit card can be handy, and it is widely recognised for payments in shops, cafés, and restaurants. Most banks would charge a small fee for every cash withdrawal from an ATM. In addition, all debit cards have daily and weekly limits to the maximum amount one can withdraw or spend.
Top 3 Bulgarian banks
Most banks in Bulgaria are subsidiaries of bigger European banks. For example, Unicredit Bulbank is owned by Italian Unicredit, DSK Bank is owned by the Hungarian OTP and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB for short) is owned by the Belgium KBC. They all offer savings accounts, as well as personal loans, mortgages, and sometimes even insurance. A well-known Bulgarian insurance provider DZI is also part of the KBC group of companies.
DSK Bank has the highest number of branches 306 (down 7 from Jan 2022) and ATMs 813 (up 14) in the territory of Bulgaria. Next, Unicredit Bulbank has 189 branches (down 13) and 705 ATMs (down 17), while UBB has 154 branches (down 13) and 689 ATMs (down 86).
Below you can find two bank accounts with more affordable fees:
- UBB payment account with basic features -> Latest news for UBB online banking customers as the transfer fee within the same bank has dropped from 0.39 to 0.35, as well as from 0.79 down to 0.70 for money transfers to another bank, starting from the 24th of January 2023! The withdrawal fee from their ATM has gone up to 0.20 BGN 🙁
- Unicredit general transactions payment account
Alternatively, sending money from your bank account is easy with Wise (former TransferWise).
- Wise offers bank transfers in most currencies directly to BGN (Leva) bank account.