If you intend opening a business, studying, working or becoming a resident in Spain then it will be practical to open a bank account. In fact, if you will be receiving payments and/or have outgoings then you should seriously consider opening a bank account.
Today opening a bank account in Spain is a fairly easy process compared to many other countries however there are still certain security issues you will be required to deal with.
Non-residents and residents
A non-resident – Typically those who spend a lot of time in Spain but who are resident in another country. A person who spends fewer than 183 days per annum in Spain, anyone spending more than this number of days in the country is required to become a tax paying resident.
A resident – Those with a fixed address in Spain and who pay Spanish taxes.
Requirements to Open a Spanish Bank Account
- Passport: OR National Identity Card as proof of identity.
- Certificate of non-residency: If you are a non-resident you will need to provide a certificate of non-residency or certificate de no residencia. You can apply through a Spanish consulate or if in Spain you need to apply at your local police station. If you apply within Spain the process should take about 10 days. If your application is through a Spanish Consulate the process will take longer. So be sure you apply for your certificate in plenty of time.
- Resident’s card: If you are a registered resident of Spain you will need to produce your resident’s card: your NIE. Card
- NIE: You need to apply for you Foreigner’s Identification Number – numero de identification de extranjeros.
- Certified documents: As most of your documentation will not be in Spanish you will need to be a certified Spanish translations.
- Proof of home address: You can use a utility bill for this or a certified letter from your bank.
- Proof of Employment status: you will need a certified copy of your employment contract or unemployment documents. If you are a student you will need your student card.
Bank Charges in Spain
Selecting a bank means you should really shop around as charges do differ according to the region as well as the institution.
Usually banks charge an annual fee for administering a current account (cuenta corriente) and can vary from €15 to €30 per annum. You need to also check the charges for debit and credit cards (tarjeta de débito, tarjeta de crédito). Also check on charges on savings accounts (cuenta de ahorros) and the cost of cheque books.
Many people are a little taken aback when they see the number of charges on items which back home are free so be aware that you will come across charges you are not familiar with. Most ATMs carry withdrawal charges.
The major banks in Spain have websites but there are some whose pages are available in Spanish, but if you go through your search engine there is usually the option to translate the pages. Banks in Spain fall into two categories: Privately owned banks or bancos and those which are government owned or cajas, which literally translated means pay office, or pay desk).
When to open your Bank Account in Spain
If you are not already living in Spain it is advisable to open an account when you visit before your move, so that you are able to transfer funds ahead of your arrival. Most property contracts including rentals require the name of your bank in Spain and details of your Spanish bank account.
Opening a Non-resident Bank account
You will need your NIE number at most banks, but there are some that allow you to open an account while your NIE application is being processed. If you do not as yet have an NIE number you will need to present your passport to open an account.
Opening a Resident Bank account
Resident’s accounts offer slightly better commissions and fewer charges than Non-resident accounts but the difference is marginal.
Top Banks in Spain
BBVA (Spanish pages only – search engine translation possible) – A traditional bricks and mortar bank – If you prefer to go the traditional route then BBVA and Sabadell have a good reputation among expats.
BBVA and Sabadell allow you to open your bank account while you residency application is in progress and both offer English service.
Banco de Sabadell
Banco de Sabadell (website covers English plus 5 other languages)
Sabadell took over Lloyds Bank International in Spain, and they have an excellent reputation for helpful staff and for making the opening of an account easy and fast, especially as they offer a UK to Spain free and direct account for UK expats living in Spain, this is a Regular Transfer Plan account guarantees that any transfer of funds from the UK will be available to the customer within 3 days of transfer, and the good news is there are no charges for these money transfers.
Another product is their Prestige Care Account which does carry an annual charge but no further charges on transactions, credit cards or cheques and there are the options of internet and telephone banking.
If you would like your children to hold their own bank account they offer Free Banking for young people between the ages of 13 to 25.
Banco Santander (Spanish only so search engine translation – but not a good option for transferring money from and external account)
Santander Internet Banking (in Spanish only)
Santander purchased an online bank – Patagon Internet Bank (Argentina) and changed the name to OpenBank. This online banking option does offer a free account. This ‘Cuenta Sin Nomina’ online account has no requirements in terms of deposit amount or minimum balance.
Another account type offered by OpenBank is the ‘Cuenta Nomina’ which offers a 1% cash back on any bills you pay through this account.
Interest on OpenBank accounts – No interest is paid on current accounts but savings accounts offer 2% interest on the first 3 months.
ATM withdrawals – there is no charge if you use the Santander named ATMs, but there is a charge if you withdraw from your account at another bank’s ATM. As the charges change from time to time it is advisable to check on the charge.
ATM Deposits there is no limit on the number of free deposits at the Santander named ATMs.
ING Direct – Free Online Banking in Spain
You will need to have basic Spanish to work with this website
ING-Direct has no bank charges and its online pages allow for online money transactions and you can view your balances. There is a 24 hour helpline but in Spanish only.
Bank accounts: There are three main options
- A Cuenta Naranja – current account, but this needs to be linked to another Spanish Bank where you have an account. So transfers would be between the two banks, but money transactions from your cuenta naranja will save you bank charges and having to stand in a queue at the regular bank.
- A Cuenta Nómina – an independent, current account, but this requires you to deposit your salary (nómina) into this account.
- A Cuenta Sin Nomina – a current account for those who are self-employed.
EVO – A competitor of ING this offers a great account option for young people with its Cuenta Joven and if you are over 28 then the Cuenta Intelligente. Both can be opened with just a passport ID.
To open the Free EVO – Cuenta Intelligente account you will need to have a set amount that you deposit each month into the account and pay at least 5 bills a month from the account.
To open the Free EVO – Cuenta Joven account you need to be between 18 and 28 has the same benefits as the Cuenta Intelligente but no annual fee and no prescribed requirements as to deposit and payments.
In both cases there is a fee for closing the account.
Evo website is in Spanish but there is an English option for online banking.
Recommendations are that EVO is a great option for small amounts of Euros if you need to put it somewhere safe and be able to access your money easily at an ATM while you are in Spain.
BARCLAYS – 600 branches in Spain with English speakers available to help you in most branches. Their online banking facility, with an English translation, is available 24hours a day.
Accounts with Barclays have a stipulated minimum balance after the first 6 months of a new account.
DEUTSCHE BANK – Barcelona. Deutsche Banks has English speakers in most branches in Barcelona. Their website offers English, French, German and Spanish and a bank locator.
Online and telephone banking are available in English
CitiBank España has a website in Spanish so basic Spanish is necessary, but they do have an English language log-in which leads to banking online in English, but you will have had to open your account first at the bank itself.
Citibank – offers two main accounts – A current and a savings account.
This bank also offers free international transfers from one Citibank to any other Citibank across 26 countries, but if you need to maintain the free facility you must maintain a minimum balance of €2,000.00 in your account.
Send Money to Spain
Moving money from an external account into Spain can be extremely costly, not only will you be charged bank fees to do so, but you will also be charged a commission on the exchange rate of Pounds Sterling to Euros as well as an administration charge of £25+.
If you want to avoid all these fees and charges then it is worth considering Money transfer companies as their fees are usually confined to a small administration fee, but watch out for their exchange rate.
Money transfers companies
If only banking requirements are limited and will not be on a daily basis then Skrill provides a convenient alternative. You can purchase a prepaid card linked to the account and you can choose from their four operating currencies, USD, EUR, PLN and GBD.
There are additional features offered to customers who use their card a lot and are considered to be high turnover clients. Such clients are offered premium membership and are then elevated to VIP status with additional services made available to them such as: multi-currency accounts, a security token and loyalty points.
PayPal – You will need to open a PayPal account in a name other than the name of your account, but it must be a legal name – perhaps the name of your spouse or one of your children if they are over 18 or you can use the name of a trusted member of your extended family, or even that of a trusted friend. The account is held in the name with a linked email address. Money can then be transferred to the PayPal registered email address of the account holder. Then you yourself must open a PayPal account in your own name and register with your email address.
One of the PayPal accounts must then be linked to a current account in Spain. Money can then be paid into this account either direct from an external bank account or with a credit card.
Currencies Direct – offer competitive exchange rates and no fees or administration charges and their service is fast and efficient. They have 11 offices in Spain so you can make arrangements with them face-to-face on the visit when you set up your Spanish bank account.
Currencies Direct allow for single one-off payments or regular payments. You transfer your money to Currencies Direct stipulating the account in Spain the money is to be transferred to. Currencies Direct then transfers the same amount from their account into your account in Spain – In this way Bank charges at home and in Spain are avoided.
Avoid Credit Card Commissions/Charges in Spain
For people from the UK
My travel Cash – this gives you a prepaid option. The card is used like any credit card the only difference is the money is already in place and you are not spending on credit, and there are no charges incurred when using it outside the UK. It can also be used to withdraw cash from an ATM. The card is chip and pin protected and a Lost/Stolen phone line.
There are no commissions or other charges. If you buy online you get a discounted internet exchange rate which makes an online purchase well worthwhile.
How this works: You buy a prepaid card. You can buy is a specific currency or you can purchase a multi-currency card. You choose the amount you want to prepay and order the card before you travel. But be careful and check the exchange rate on the day you will be purchasing your card – you can find the prevailing exchange rate on the My Travel Cash website.
Halifax Clarity – Ideal for travel, no charges for cash withdrawals but interest is charged even if the withdrawal is repaid in full. There is no exchange rate fee. There is a bonus payment into your card if you spend in excess of £300 per month.