Banks, currency exchange and credit cards

All banks operate throughout Finland; the largest ones are Osuuspankki, Nordea, Danske Bank and Aktia.

If you are an exchange student and only staying in Finland for less than a year, you probably don't need or want to open a bank account. However, if you are a full-degree student and staying for a longer or otherwise need to open a bank account, it's very important that you prepare the relevant documentation beforehand, especially if you come from a non-European Union country.

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During the last few years the EU has created stricter regulations for banks in all EU countries. It is therefore more difficult to open a bank account as an international student, especially if you are coming from outside the EU. Read carefully through the banking information letter that you received before your arrival and ensure you have the following documents with you:

  • Letter of reference from your bank in your home country (in English)
  • Bank account statements for three (3) months from your bank in your home country
  • Letter of acceptance from the university
  • Any scholarship notification that you may have

Once you are in Finland, you will need to have the following additional documents to open account:

  • Finnish identity code (you get this from registering at the Finnish registry office, Maistraatti, but please note that it may take up to 4 weeks so you should register at the first available opportunity to avoid any unnecessary delays)
  • Your address in Finland
  • Passport
  • Visa and residence permit (if applicable)

Opening a bank account (once you are in Finland)

Here are a few tips to open a bank account in Finland. These are only recommendations, and please note that practices vary between different banks. You should check the exact instructions from the bank of your choice well in advance and ensure you have the correct documentation when you attend your appointment. Osuuspankki and Nordea are the biggest and most popular banks among students and currently offer the best options also for students who will be in Finland for less than 6 months.

 More information
  • You should ALWAYS make an appointment at the bank where you want to open a bank account well in advance (to confirm the documentation that you need and ensure you get everything done at one go)

Nordea: (>Start banking with us), +358 20 70 000, Mon-Fri 8 am–6 pm

Osuuspankki: (>Private customers >Daily banking >Welcome as our customer), +358 10 253 1333, Mon-Fri 9 am-4 pm)

  • Opening a bank account usually takes ca. 30-45 min, so please make sure you have reserved enough time.

Please note: access to full online banking requires a separate registration with the police and may not be available for students staying less than 6 months. When you open the account, be sure to ask for:

  • Statements to be sent to you in English (other options: Finnish or Swedish)
  • Online banking facilities, if you qualify
  • The ability to use your ATM/debit card in shops, restaurants etc. (i.e. not just cash machines)
  • Charges attached to different services (these may accumulate quickly and have impact on your finances)

You will receive a bank card giving you access to virtually every cash point (Automatic Teller Machines, 'pankkiautomaatti' in Finnish) in the country. Apart from withdrawing cash you can also check your balance and, at some ATMs, pay bills. You can also pay bills at the bank in person, or online, if you have access to online banking. Check with your bank for details and charges.

Banks are normally open Monday–Friday from 9am to 4pm, but office hours may vary. Banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Cash points are open around the clock every day, and there are plenty of them. All banks have branches throughout the country. In addition, banks offer electronic customer service making it possible for you to manage your bank affairs over the internet.

Foreign currency can be changed at most banks in Finland as well as at many currency exchange offices in larger cities. It is worth changing large amounts at a time to avoid service charges. At FOREX offices you can change and buy currency. You can find a FOREX office e.g. at Helsinki Central Railway Station (Rautatieasema). You can check other locations through their website. Money transfers to and from abroad incur an extra commission fee, the size of which depends on the destination. Having a bank account here is not necessary for receiving money.

The major credit cards (Visa, Eurocard, Access, Mastercard, Diner’s Club, and American Express) are accepted throughout the country.

Budget tips

 Some budget tips for everyday life
  • For services such as haircuts, training colleges and some specific salons offer affordable options. For example:
    1) Helsinki Vocational College (Stadin Ammattiopisto in Finnish) located in Pasila: Customer service, tel +358 9 310 84311
    2) Private salon schools: Great Cut Academy located in Helsinki, Kalevankatu 30: tel +358 9 694 7142 or Unika located in Helsinki, Runeberginkatu 4: tel +358 9  693 1340
  • Student discounts: if you’re not sure, it’s worth asking "is there a student discount?" since there isn’t always information in English. Often there is a discount!
  • On transportation: The distance between the Otaniemi campus and the border of Helsinki in Lehtisaari is about 1 km (the last/first bus stop in Helsinki is "Lehtisaarentie") which means if you are willing to walk the 1 km from Lehtisaari, you would only need an "internal" ticket for Helsinki rather than a "regional" ticket. This does not apply if commuting to Otaniemi from Kamppi busterminal since the bus arrives to Otaniemi from another direction, leaving the border of Helsinki approx. 4 km away.
  • For finding a bicycle, furniture or other things try the Aalto Marketplace online forum and second hand bike shops around Helsinki.
  • There are several Reuse centers and second hand shops (kirpputori in Finnish) where you can find cheap furniture, kitchenware, clothers etc.
  • In Otaniemi Recycling center you can borrow a "Survival kit" with kitchen utensils if you stay in Finland for less than one year.
  • In case you’re hungry but aren’t on an Aalto University campus, you can eat at any student restaurant in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. For example UniCafe has many locations downtown, and you can check all the menus online.
    A tip for eating on the weekend: the restaurant at Ylioppilasaukio located in Helsinki, Mannerheimintie 3 B, is open on Saturday also.
  • For food shopping try exploring beyond the supermarket chain stores, for example in the Hakaniemi area, in Helsinki, there are a number of ethnic food shops offering an even wider variety of imported products at reasonable prices. Also, some supermarkets sell certain food products with 30% discount one or two days before their expiration date, marked with a bright sticker.

Monthly expenses

Download the Certificate of Required Funds if you require proof of estimated expenses while studying at Aalto.

See examples on typical monthly expenses:

Accomodation€250 – 450The rate for student housing. Renting from the private market is likely to cost from €600 upwards per month.
Transportation€25 – 50This is based on the cost for 30 days of unlimited travel for students (not including PhD or those over the age of 30) on public transit. The exact price mostly depends on whether you have to travel regularly between the Helsinki and Espoo regions (note that the Arabia and Töölö campuses are in Helsinki and the Otaniemi campus is in Espoo). Helsinki Metropolitan Area is very bicycle friendly! See Transportation section for more info.

€170 – 320

Estimate includes one average priced student meal per weekday and groceries/other food at €30–50/week.
Phone€20 - 40This is an estimated monthly price for a postpaid mobile phone subscription for local calling, texting and data transfer. A pre-paid phone card is often the easiest option, but you can also check into getting a postpaid subscription. Visit any mobile phone service outlets and discuss your options once you arrive.
Internet€0 – 30If you want internet access in your accommodation, the cost will depend on where you live and how many roommates you have to share the service with you. (Student) housing contracts often include internet service, so make sure you check before taking a subscription.
Sports€10 - 25

This is the estimated monthly price based on annual commitment at UniSports facilities. Private providers generally charge more but may also offer student discounts. For further details, see Sports.

Entertainment€50+Going out, eating out and socializing will have an effect on your finances even though many places offer student discounts.
Clothing€30 - 50You may need to buy some warm clothes and winter shoes etc. for the cold months if you are not used to winter at home.
Travel€50+Exploring the regional attractions and other cities is of course voluntary but still worth budgeting for, as it is relatively cheap with student discounts.
Miscellaneous costs€50 -100Your budget should also include funds for spontaneous activities, one-off payments and regular costs like haircuts.
Total€600 - 1200+

Post-arrival one-off expenses to consider

  • Hostel or hotel before your housing is available: you may need to stay in a hotel or hostel for a few days if you arrive before your accommodation is available, or you may be arriving without housing sorted out (not recommended!).
  • Deposit: you may be required to provide one or two (or even possibly three) months' rent as a deposit, especially if you are renting on the private market. HOAS requires a rent deposit upon accepting the housing offer.
  • Student union fee
  • Furniture, kitchenware and other household items