It covers payment methods and information on, banking systems, foreign exchange controls, and U.S. and correspondent banking.
Methods of Payment
Import financing procedures in Poland take place under seller-buyer terms. Popular payment mechanisms include payment against documents and electronic funds transfers. The safest method of receiving payment for a U.S. export sale is through an irrevocable letter of credit (L/C). Because most banks in Poland require the importer to deposit funds prior to issuance of a L/C, however, few buyers and sellers use this method due to its cost. The most popular payment mechanism is electronic funds transfer (SWIFT or wire transfers) as it is the fastest and cheapest way to transfer funds. Cash payment or down payments provide an extra measure of security for export sales. Leasing is a popular method of financing vehicles, heavy equipment, and other capital-intensive items. Both private and public insurance is available in Poland.
The following rating agencies maintain offices in Poland: EuroRating Sp. z o.o.; Moody’s Investors Service Limited, Polish Branch; Standard & Poor, Representative Office. The first agency appears on the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) list of registered and certified credit rating agencies. Fitch Polska SA merged with Fitch Ratings Ireland on May 31, 2020. The company has a branch office in Warsaw.
There are dozens of collection agencies in Poland among them KRUK SA and BEST SA. The major ones are listed in the Warsaw Business Journal’s Book of Lists.
Payment cards are commonly used, with debit cards constituting the majority. Both ATMs and commercial entities accept popular credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, Diner’s Club, and American Express) and payment cards (VISA Electron and Maestro). Poland is one of the strongest markets in Europe in mobile-payment technologies and leads in the number of contactless transactions. Almost 93% of all cards issued in Poland are contactless enabled.
The latest data show that the number of mobile and contactless payment users is constantly growing. In 2021, the number of payment cards in contactless payments increased by almost 2.6 million. Poles are interested in and willing to test new payment methods.
The enthusiastic adoption of online banking is playing a key role in the growth of Polish mobile commerce. Over 14 million Poles use mobile banking.
Domestic mobile payment system BLIK has been a Polish success story. The product was developed and is run by major Polish banks. It offers one-click purchasing, automated teller machine withdrawals, and peer-to-peer payments via smartphone.
Poland also has a successful home-grown instant payment clearing scheme, Express Elixir. It operates 24/7 and allows settling of transactions in near real time.
For more information about methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the Trade Finance Guide available at Trade Finance Guide.
Poland has a sound, non-discriminatory financial services infrastructure. The banking sector plays a dominant role in the financial system, accounting for around 70% of financial sector assets. The state owns several banks, but private banks control more than half of the banking sector. In recent years, the government launched a drive to increase local ownership of the banking sector through acquisitions of foreign-owned banks by state-owned banks, as a result, foreign banks’ share in total assets of the sector fell, from around 60% to around 45 percent. The country had 29 locally incorporated commercial banks in February 2021, according to the Financial Supervision Authority (KNF)—a decline from 50 banks six years ago. There are many cooperative banks (over 500), but collectively they account for a relatively small share of the market. All three types of banks offer a wide range of services to their customers. Lenders from EU countries are permitted to form branches in Poland or provide cross-border services under single-market rules.
Poland’s universal banking system provides deposits, loans, and securities trading services. State-owned bank BGK administers target funds (e.g., municipal development, road, housing, technology); it is responsible for the payment of the majority of EU funds granted to Poland; provides special credit services, including homeowner mortgages and guarantees to export companies; and issues bonds for financing infrastructure (road) project and various government programs mitigating negative effects on the economy (e.g., due to the COVID-19 pandemic or high inflation). BGK is an important part of the Polish Development Fund. BGK also supports SMEs with credit guarantees as part of the so-called de minimis aid program. BGK is also an important player in the Three Seas Initiative.
Popularity of online and mobile banking continues to grow, causing bank networks to shrink. All major Polish banks offer online services, from balance-cheque functions to cash transfers and deposits. Deposits and loans are available in the national currency, the Polish zloty (PLN), and foreign currencies. The Financial Supervision Commission (KNF) has restricted the availability of loans in euros and Swiss francs to minimize the banking system’s exposure to the exchange risk resulting from exchange rate fluctuations. Only individuals who earn salaries denominated in foreign currencies continue to enjoy easy access to loans in foreign currencies. Credit agreements require borrowers to provide data on their economic and financial standing. It is common practice when granting credit to require bank guarantees, drafts, or other forms of collateral.
Most Polish firms borrow from banks rather than issuing bonds or commercial paper. Despite rescue loans and guarantees offered in response to the 2020 pandemic-caused recession, loans to non-financial corporations slumped by 4.8% in 2020. They rebounded in 2021, rising by 4.1 percent.
Polish banks’ profitability started to recover in 2021 and into 2022 on the back of rising interest rates and the normalizing cost of risk, supported by a swift economic recovery from the pandemic. Overall, Polish banks made a profit of $2.1 billion (PLN 8.9 billion) in 2021 after a loss of $80 million (PLN 337 million) the previous year, according to KNF.
This sector holds adequate base capital: the KNF reports that Polish banks’ capital-adequacy ratio fell to 19.2% at end-2021, down from 20.7% at the end of 2020. Non-performing loans surged during the pandemic, to 6.8% of total loans at the end of 2020, but this had fallen to 5.7% by the end of 2021.
KNF oversees banks as well as other financial market entities. If an investor intends to exceed a 10%, 20%, 33.3% or 50% threshold in a bank, insurance company, mutual fund or a brokerage house, the investor needs to notify KNF of its plans. KNF then has up to 60 days to object to the investor’s acquisition plans if it believes that the acquiring company will not be able to guarantee stable management of the financial institution it seeks to acquire.
In mid-2022, Poland’s main interest rate reached its highest level (6.5%) since 2008 and, due to high and rising inflation, is likely to increase further.
Challenges that Polish banks face in 2022 include the impact of higher interest rates on economic activity, higher inflation, weaker consumer sentiment, and the unresolved problem of foreign currency mortgage exposures. Additionally, some new governmental proposals might be costly for the sector. The conditions for the functioning of Polish financial institutions are adversely affected by high macroeconomic uncertainty, a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The direct exposure of the financial sector to countries affected by war and sanctions is low.
The Polish government has not yet decided whether it intends to join the European Union banking union as a non-euro zone member.
For more information on the banking sector see the Financial System Section of the Investment Climate Statement.
Foreign Exchange Controls
The Polish zloty is fully convertible and there are no foreign exchange controls affecting trade in goods. Companies operating in Poland have free access to foreign currency, and there have been no failures of the banking system to provide hard currency on demand. Polish law allows repatriation of profits, including through bonds and securities.
Under the terms of its EU Accession, Poland is required to adopt the euro. The government has no fixed date for euro adoption, however.
U.S. Banks and Local Correspondent Banks
Major U.S. Banks
Citi Handlowy – Bank Handlowy w Warszawie S.A.
ul. Senatorska 16
Telephone: +48 22 657 7200
Bank BPH S.A.
ul. Pk. Jana Paubickiego 2
Telephone: +48 58 300 7500
JP Morgan Europe sp. z o.o.
Oddział w Polsce
ul. Jana Pawla II 19
Telephone: +48 22 441 9573
Goldman Sachs Poland Services sp. z o.o.
Plac Europejski 1
Telephone: +48 22 317 4000
Major Local Correspondent Banks
PKO Bank Polski
ul. Pulawska 15
Telephone: +48 22 521 6103
Bank Pekao S.A.
ul. Grzybowska 53/57
Telephone: +48 22 656 0000
Santander Bank Polska S.A.
Jana Pawla II 17
Telephone: +48 71 393 8888
ul. Prosta 18
Telephone: + 48 22 829 0000
ING Bank Slaski S.A.
ul. Sokolska 34
Telephone: +48 32 357 0096