Michael Wheatley, 55, nicknamed Skull Cracker, was arrested in Tower Hamlets, east London, on Wednesday, after allegedly raiding the Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, of £18,350.
He appeared at South East Surrey Magistrates' Court in Redhill charged with robbery, possession of an imitation firearm and being unlawfully at large.
Prosecutor Darren Matravers said Wheatley carried out the robbery after going missing on May 3 while on temporary licence from Category D HMP Standford Hill, Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
Wheatley spoke only to confirm his name during the five-minute hearing and was remanded in custody to appear at Guildford Crown Court on May 29.
His alleged accomplice, Kevin Perry, 53, is due in court charged with assisting an offender, perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods.