In 2001, following decades of systemic financial instability, chronic inflation, stratospheric interest rates and wild runs on the currency, the banking system snapped and Turkey suffered its own banking meltdown. Several institutions went to the wall and people lost their shirts. The authorities acted quickly and decisively. The banking sector was consolidated and reformed. As a result of this, and other important structural reforms, Turkey has gone from basket case to power house in only 10 years. Nowadays, Turkey’s banking system is competitive, robust, well-capitalised and admired internationally. Turkey has survived the current global financial crisis relatively unscathed.
Due to relentless devaluation, like the Italian Lira of old, Turkish money used to be counted in millions. In 2005, the Turkish Government lopped off the zeros and introduced the New Turkish Lira. It was no longer necessary to place your thumb over the last three zeros to make sense of what you were spending. After a period of transition, the New Turkish Lira is back to being called the plain old Lira.
The Lira is available in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 notes. The 1 Lira coin consists of 100 kuruş and coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 kuruş. In 2012, a new symbol was introduced to represent the Turkish Lira.
Turkey has a large network of ATMs. In fact, the Turks love their ATMs so much they’re often to be founded huddled together in rows. As well as withdrawing cash, you can check account balances, pay bills and make transfers. Some ATMs will charge (particularly if your ATM card is issued by a different Turkish bank). Using a credit card to withdraw cash will usually incur an even higher charge (typically around 3% of the amount plus a fixed fee). Visitors from abroad can use most Turkish ATMs though withdrawals will invariably incur a fee by the Turkish bank, their own bank or both. In major tourist areas, some ATMs also dispense dollars, euros and/or sterling.
Banks in Turkey are generally open from 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Many banks provide internet banking services (in English) that are accessible 24 hours per day, and also operate telephone banking services (also in English but the quality varies) that offer extended opening hours, right through to a full 24 hour service.
Turkish banks offer a wide range of financial services (for residents and non-residents) and most of the larger banks also offer business and corporate banking services. Personal (or ‘retail’) services include:
N.B. In most Turkish cities and coastal resorts, services are provided in English, though the quality of this service can vary from bank to bank and location to location. Bank charges also vary from bank to bank.
To open a bank account in Turkey, you will need to provide proof of your identity and have a Turkish Tax Number (relatively easy to obtain from the local tax office – more here). Some banks may ask for additional documentation, particularly if you are interested in investment products. In these cases, you will typically be asked to provide proof that you live in Turkey (residence permit, rental contract, utility bill), or that you own a property in Turkey by providing the title deeds (Tapu). You will also need to register a mobile phone if you want to access on-line banking services.
By Jack Scott, author of Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam move to Turkey, a bitter-sweet tragi-comedy recalling the first year of a gay couple in a Muslim land.