Sunday, August 12, 2012

Banking with Garanti

The Garanti bank logo.
I want to share an experience I recently had with my Turkish bank, Garanti. First off, I want to note that I do not bank with Garanti by choice. Since my employer directly deposits my salary to Garanti, I'm kind of stuck with them. Now, I know what your thinking: I could easily open an account somewhere else and transfer my salary from my Garanti account to the bank of my choice, but I don't want to go through that every month.

If you ask around, most folks will say that Garanti is a good bank and the fact is, Garanti is the bank of choice for many Turks. I haven't had to deal with them very much except for the occasional phone call and the initial set up of my account. For nearly a year I just had a checking account with a MasterCard debit card. Garanti offers excellent online banking in English and if you call Garanti on the phone, most services are offered in English.

A typical Garanti ATM.
One more thing you should know about me before I get into this story. Before moving to Turkey, I worked at one of the largest credit unions in the US for nearly ten years :)

I decided that I wanted to get a Turkish credit card. A lot of Turks I know pay for just about everything with their credit card and every year or two, they rack up enough miles to fly to Europe, for example. I wanted to take advantage of those benefits, too. I consulted with a former Garanti branch manager about getting a credit card from the bank. She said it was pretty straight forward. I needed to visit my bank branch with my passport and residence permit, sign a few documents and I would be on my way. As it turns out, it wasn't quite that easy.

A few months ago, I left work a bit early to visit the bank with all the required documents. Since it was during working hours, I was forced to go by myself without the help of a Turkish speaker. I figured that  I would easily be able to request a credit card by myself with my little Turkish and I would be in and out in a short amount of time.

So, I go into the branch, take my number and have a seat. I was ready to scrap the idea after waiting 30 minutes, but then my number was called. I sat down with the banker--who apparently was having a bad day--and expressed my interest in obtaining a credit card. I could tell she didn't really know what to with me as I am a foreigner and the rules for foreigners are different. She left her desk to consult with someone else for about 5 minutes, then she returned. She told me that since I am a foreigner, I am ineligible to have a credit card in my own name and that I would have to find a guarantor. I knew this information mustn't be correct, but since I couldn't explain that in Turkish, I left the bank--defeated.

About 4 weeks ago, I went back to the same branch, this time armed with my Turkish wife. We took a number, sat down, and was called to the rep about 30 minutes later. This time, the gal helping us was a different person who recently returned to work from maternity leave. Duygu explained that I wanted a credit card and that I had been in once before, but was told I needed to come back with a guarantor. The nice Garanti rep wasn't exactly sure of the process. At first, before calling anyone to find out, she said that since I was a foreigner, I was only eligible for a secured credit card. Then, she suggested Duygu get the card in her name and order a spare card for me. At that point, she decided to call someone to find out the exact process. It turns out that even though I am a foreigner, I am eligible for a credit card because my salary is deposited to Garanti!

After all the misinformation and all the waiting, I could get a credit card! The customer service rep went to the printer and picked up a stack of paper that I assumed was the card agreement. The stack was quite large--114 pages to be exact. She then instructed me to sign every single page of the card agreement! I was shocked...I thought she was joking because even as she instructed me to sign every page, she was laughing! She said Turks just need to sign a page or two, but foreigners have to sign everything.
This is the first 114 pages.

After signing 114 pages, she brought over 25 more pages for signing. Once finished, she said that everything would be submitted and I should get the card in a few weeks. Fast forward 3 weeks, and I've got my Miles and Smiles card.

So in the end, if you are a foreigner living in Turkey and your salary is being deposited to the bank, you can get a credit card. Just be ready for dealing with wrong information, long waits and in some cases, poorly trained staff.

My card finally arrives!


  1. Wow you are lucky. My salary gets deposited into Halkbank so my credit card is through them. They don't really offer any bonuses for using the card unlike Garanti. Happy shopping :)

    1. Miss Reaume, I originally only had regular debit card that deducts funds directly from my account. With my new credit card, I pay the balance in my online banking directly from my money account while accumulating points for air travel on Turkish Airlines.

      With my normal para card/debit card, I still received some kind of bonus, but it wasn't much.

  2. Ah the usual misinformation, the answer you get depends on who you ask :-) We moved some pensions here last year, seems we were the first people to ever actually achieve that! If you don't have a fixed salary deposited every month a lot of the banks here ask you to tie up the amount equivalent to your credit limit in a ringfenced deposit account, some people do it because the bonus points are so useful and some people who have been here a while bully their bank manager into waiving the requirement. I get by with a virtual card which I use for flight bookings and online stuff, that's pretty useful and I finally managed to get something free from my debit card points the other day, in Mudo, was very happy, only took four years.


    1. I'm happy to hear you were able to redeem your bonus points, Karen. I've used them for some time with my Garanti paracard, but I wanted to switch to the airline points. :)

  3. Does anyone know if the Garanti virtual card can be used for things such as booking airfare online on international sites? And if so, which sites have you had success with. I opened an account with Garanti a couple weeks ago, upon arrival to Istanbul, with the hope that I would be provided a credit card, but it seems rules have changed and I now need a work permit to apply for one. :-( I'm trying to find a solution so I can still do online shopping on international sites, while only having a paracard and virtual card. :)

    1. Hi Maria,

      I've never used the virtual card, but I imagine that it's specific purpose is for online transactions. You can always call Garanti and ask directly.

      With regards to the credit card option, a buddy of my recent switched to Is Bankasi and was offered a credit card with zero hassle when he opened his account. Maybe it's because his salary is deposited to Is....I'm not sure.

  4. I would like to ask for more details. Im an American living in Çorum. My salary is deposited into Halk Bank, they have given me the run around for 3 years. When I opened the account I filled out all the paperwork for a credit card. She never sent it in. Then tells me its not possible for foreigners to get a credit card. Yes I understand they just dont want the extra paperwork and its a hassle to learn all the procedures of their job. I have sense researched online and opened accounts at different banks. YapıKredit, she just plan flat out laughed at me, when I asked for a credit card. This week I finished opening an account with Akbank, and my application has been sent. But there is always something that will not be accepted by their computer system. At Halk Bank it was my TC number, which for some reason is not on my internet account and is holding me up from applying online. With AkBank it was my American SS number. They said no they want a tax number, I told them we dont have tax numbers in America. We are given one number that covers everything. Im at a loss here in Çorum. Do you have any suggestions, because they dont full know there job here.

  5. Hi there....sounds like the bankers over there don't know what they're doing. Unfortunately, I have only banked with Garanti (which for the most part was painless) and Is Bank. I have been with Is Bank for the last 3 years and am generally happy with them. When my old company required me to have an Is Bank account, I asked them for a credit card when I opened the account. They were more than happy to supply me with multiple cards. I have friend that also bank there and have had similar experiences with Is Bank. My advice to you would be to check into Is Bank and maybe take a Turkish person with you. Good luck!