I opened an account with UniCreadit Bank WebsiteUniCreadit for both immigration and renovation purposes.
It is easier to pay D.I.Y Shops, Supermarkets and Direct Debits with a UniCredit Debit Card rather than exchange GBP into HUF all the time.
Before you even begin to look for a property (offline/online), actually find a property (offline/online), view a property (in person) or even pay a deposit towards a property you should be thinking of ways to transfer thousands of GBP from the UK into Hungary in order to pay bank and property deposits, lawyer fees, language interpreter/translator fees and final payment.
Until recent times the buyer and seller of a property would meet in a lawyer's office to sign a property contract whereby the seller would hand over the title deeds once they had counted out the buyer's money. This was because cheques books did not exist (and still do not) and because not everyone had a bank account; especially when they were being taxed for having one!
These days a similar system still operates but everything is computerised and recorded whereby the buyer and seller now use an estate agent and lawyer. Estate agents were not used years ago due to the high commissions they charged, but these days they are widely used and trusted; just like in the UK. Although this new system will not prevent you from counting money in front of a lawyer, estate agent, seller and other witnesses, it still raises the question of 'how you get money into Hungary'.
If you are an EU Citizen travelling from one EU Country to another EU Country there is currently NO limit on the amount of money you can bring into the destination EU country. However, if you are an EU Citizen or otherwise travelling from a non-EU country into an EU country with money exceeding €10,000 (Euros) you must declare that money and prove it is yours.
Even if you are an EU Citizen (i.e. British) it might not be feasible to bring large amounts of money over the border. If your property is £40,000 for example it would mean multiple money trips, possibly via multiple people; in turn, expensive flights. You might also need some kind of “proof of money transfer” evidence in terms of receipts for the taxman.
Although a Hungarian bank account is not needed for the purpose of transferring money, it is better to How To Open A Hungarian Bank AccountOpen A Hungarian Bank Account; especially if you need receipts for tax purposes and/or need to set up a direct debit later for whatever reason(s).
As a "Foreigner" you can NOT open a Hungarian bank account unless you live or work in Hungary. Or put another way, until you have an address card or property contract. Without these how are you going to transfer your money? And in what amounts?
If you have a Hungarian partner you could transfer your hard earned money into their, or one of their relative's or friend's, Hungarian bank account. However, there is a certain element of trust in this scenario. On one hand you hear of people falling in love whereby their partner of a short relationship ends up robbing them of their savings while on the other hand "You have to trust someone sometime". Not so easy if £80,000 is at risk!
UK Santander currently charges £25 on any foreign/international transfer amount via IBAN and Swift Code. So this option could be a useful alternative.
One solution is transfer your money into your lawyer's Hungarian Escrow Bank Account.
An escrow account is basically a sub bank account that a lawyer sets up for you (the client), within their law firm's/company's bank account, for usage and purpose of your property needs only. Meaning, the lawyer can only use money you deposit into that sub bank account (escrow account) with your consent and for your property needs only. They can NOT use it for their own personal use.
You might say the lawyer's escrow account seems the best option for you (the client), as it is a regulated account, but this is only good if you can trust the law firm/lawyer. They could easily run off with (fraud you of) your money, especially if they see 31,200,000 HUF (£80,000) as a life-changing amount; worthy of risking a prison sentence. Obviously, lawyer should be trustworthy, but.....
If you decide on this option you need to check the lawyer's credentials first. A good place to start is the Lawyers WebsiteLawyers Network website, which is equivalent to the UK website SRA WebsiteSolicitors Regulation Authority. If a lawyer is listed on the Lawyers Network they should be safe enough to use, but do not take my word for it; go and do your own investigations.
If you do not know anyone or do not trust anyone in Hungary to deal with your money transfer, you could rent a hotel room with a safe deposit box inside it for example, and then travel to/from the UK and Hungary in order to bring over 4 x £5,000 for example. This is risky, but you may have no choice as you do not know anyone you can trust in Hungary. Obviously, if the property you are buying is more than £20,000 you should trust and use the lawyers escrow account for example.
Although I had only known Tünde for 9 months by the time I was ready to buy a property in Hungary, and with the whole property process, country and language being new to me, I knew instinctively I could trust Tünde and her family in terms of exchanging my GBP into HUF via the local Bureau De Change while I was in the UK. At one point Tünde and I took over £5,000 each in order to pay off the property total.