Citadele Bank (Latvia)

Financial Security Advice for War Refugees Entering Latvia

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Citadele’s experts have put together a list of things for Ukrainian residents to bear in mind when arriving in Latvia and planning their everyday services.

Attempts to use this situation for financial gain have unfortunately also been made in Latvia, both by retailers and on social media. Several scamming schemes have been uncovered targeting both those attempting to help, and the asylum seekers themselves. This includes cases where refugees have received a false offer of free accommodation, before being asked persistently for increasingly large amounts of money. Bear in mind that a large amount of financial and material help has been donated in Latvia to help Ukrainians, so those asking for money should be considered particularly carefully.

Citadele Bank has put together some advice for those who have just arrived in Latvia from Ukraine.

Open an account for free

Latvia’s largest banks are offering to open bank accounts for Ukrainian war refugees for free, without taking the data processing and analysis commission fee that would have previously applied. If you are in a situation where you are being asked for money to open an account, be careful and consider the alternatives. You can open an account at any bank service centre, bringing your Ukrainian passport with you.

Cash exchange from Hryvnia to Euro is limited

If you have Ukrainian Hryvnia in cash, you can exchange a limited amount at Tavex currency exchange points in Riga. One person can exchange up to €50 worth of Hryvnia by showing their Ukrainian passport with a recent stamp from a border crossing or showing refugee status. If you wish to transfer the Hryvnia in your bank account to a Latvian account, you must complete a currency exchange transaction first.

We suggest paying by card with retailers and service providers. In line with the Bank of Latvia’s statement, we also suggest making use of the extensive support offered by the government, local council and the public, and not spending your savings where possible.

Potential technical issues when paying by card

Visa and Mastercard payment cards issued by Ukrainian banks work in Latvia for payments and cash withdrawals from ATMs, but there may be problems if, at the time of withdrawal, the bank who issued the card cannot authorise the payment, for example, if internet access is disrupted in Ukraine. Citadele Bank does not impose any additional commission fees — if fees are taken, then the issuing bank is responsible for this in accordance with their price list.

If someone insistently requests cash, involve a mediator

Those offering refuge usually communicate on practical matters, including various financial relief measures or other resources, via governmental or council institutions or through charity organisations. Therefore, if you find yourself in a situations where, for example, hotels or guest houses wish to speak with you about making payments, particularly in cash, and they do not state what specifically you are being charged for, you should call the Society Integration Fund on their 24-hour phone lines: +37127380380; +371 80000800, or seek assistance on the official ukraine-latvia.com website.