As an expat trying to find your feet in Spain, it can be daunting trying to understand how to go about opening a bank account. This article aims to provide you with a good basic understanding of how to open an account, which documentation is required and the kinds of facilities on offer by the major banks in Spain.
When you live in Spain, as in any other country, you will need a bank account in order to undertake everyday transactions such as paying bills, setting up standing orders and transferring money. But which is the best bank in Spain for expats to provide you with the kind of services you have been accustomed to in your home country?
Well firstly, it's important that you understand that there are two different types of banks, "Bancos" and "Cajas". There are approximately 50 Bancos and 120 Cajas all over Spain, but what is the difference between the two?
Cajas de Ahorros - are state owned, are an integral part of the "local community" and often invest in local social projects. They generally bear the name of the Spanish region in which they operate and will normally have more branches and ATM'S in that region as well.
Bancos - are privately owned institutions and are usually co-owned by shareholders. These are commonly named after the founder of the institution.
You'll generally find you get a much better service using a local Caja rather than using one of the larger nationwide banks.
What Documentation do I Need to Open a Bank Account in Spain?
There are two different types of accounts, a Resident Account (Cuenta para Residentes) and a Non Resident Account (Cuenta para No Residentes). Which one is for you depends on whether you are a 'resident' or a 'non resident' in Spain.
For those who were born in Spain, you will need to provide your DNI documentation. As expats are not born in Spain, they will have an NIE number as Opposed to a DNI number, which will need to be shown along with photographic identification such as a passport.
You may also require further documentation such as your passport, proof of address, empadron and/or proof of employment status.
As with all bureaucracy in Spain, always go armed with as much documentation as you can to be on the safe side.
Resident Account - Cuenta Para Residentes
There are a few different ways that you can be deemed resident in Spain.
You will be classed as a resident if you spend 183 days or more per year in the country.
Another way, is if you use Spain as the base for a business or professional activity or also if you have a spouse and/or children under 18 who are permanent residents in Spain.
Non Resident Account - Cuenta Para No Residentes
Anyone applying for the non-resident account needs to prove that they are a non-resident. To obtain such proof, you need to go to the main police station (Direcciòn General de la Policia) with your passport and a full photocopy of your passport and apply for a "Certificado de No Residencia" (a certificate of non-residency). This has to be done in person and you will have to return to the police station after 10 days to collect the signed certificate.
If you don't want to do this, you can leave the entire procedure to your bank, all you need to do is sign a form giving them permission to act on your behalf. They generally charge about 15 euros for this service and although it saves you going to the police station it is a much slower procedure that could take up to several weeks.
Many banks these days don't insist on non-residents providing them with the certificate, but they are still obliged to check your residency status every two years. This is mainly for tax purposes. As a non-resident, you are not required to pay certain taxes.
What Different Kind of Accounts are There?
Current Account - (Cuenta Corriente) - This account is generally used for day to day banking and direct debits (Domiciliaciones Bancarias). They usually give very little or no interest at all.
Savings Account - (Cuenta de Ahorros) - With this account, you are usually issued with a savings book (Libreta de Ahorro) rather than a ATM/Debit card. You normally receive a better interest rate, but you may not be able to get your hands on your money at short notice.
Deposit Account (Cuenta de Depósito) - This account is very much like the savings account. It has limited services, but you do get a better rate of interest.
Will I Get an ATM/Debit Card?
With a current account you do get a ATM/Debit Card but not with savings account.
You will find that nearly all ATM machines (Cajeros) give you instructions in English. Be careful when withdrawing cash, as you can be charged if the ATM you are using isn't on the same network that your bank is a part of.
You will be asked to collect your card from your bank when it arrives and this usually takes 10 days. You will then be given a PIN number that you can change if you wish at the ATM.
Most shops, businesses, restaurants etc in Spain accept debit cards as they do in the U.K and other European countries.
Do Spanish Banks Offer Direct Debit Facilities?
Yes, but they work differently from some other countries. Where you normally have to sign to allow money to be taken from your account, in Spain, you simply give them your account details!
It is also really important to know that if you cancel a service that is linked to a direct debit, you must also cancel the direct debit with your bank, either online or in person. If you don't do this, the money may continue to be paid.
Will I Get a Cheque Book?
Cheque books (Talòn de Pago) are no longer automatically issued to you when you open an account. Many Spanish businesses will not actually accept cheques for fear of them bouncing.
If you do want a cheque book, you will need to request one from the bank.
Can I Make International Transfers From My Account or Accept Money From Abroad?
Yes. International transfers and domestic transfers are treated alike and can be done from your branch or if you have internet banking, online. One difference though is that when you are sending or receiving internationally, an IBAN number is required.
How Much Does it Cost to Open a Bank Account in Spain?
You can open an account with as much or as little money as you wish, as there is no set minimum amount required to open an account.
What Hours do Spanish Banks Operate?
Bank opening hours have traditionally been:
Do Spanish Banks Offer Internet Banking?
Yes, most banks in Spain now provide you with very good internet banking service. Some also offer internet banking in English.
Will the Staff be Able to Speak to me in English?
Some banks are aimed at English speakers more than others, so if your understanding of the Spanish language is minimal, do your research first. Cajamar and Sol Bank are just two of the many banks that offer banking services in several languages, including English. Obviously, if you live somewhere where there are many expats, for example the Costa del Sol or Costa Blanca, you are more likely to find banks that offer their services in English.
Will I be Provided With a Credit Card?
Credit cards can be applied for when you open a bank account. You can also apply for a credit card from other banks but you must have a current account so the bank knows that payments can be made.
It's also worth noting that some banks will only provide Spanish residents with credit cards.
Do Spanish Banks Give You a Monthly Statement?
Yes, Spanish banks do give you monthly statements and if you have internet banking you can look at your account details and transactions there as well.
Some of the main Spanish Bancos and Cajas are
- Cajamar - https://www.cajamar.es/en/comun/
- Unicaja - http://www.unicaja.es
- La Caixa - http://www.lacaixa.es/
- Sol Bank - https://www.bancsabadell.com/en/
- Banco Santander - http://www.bancosantander.es
- Bank Inter - http://www.bankinter.com
- Catalunya Caixa - http://www.catalunyacaixa.com/Portal/en
Best Spanish Banks For Expats In Spain?
Most if not all of the banks above are worth a try. Most Spanish banks will have English speaking staff availalble within their branches, especially on the coast and in areas where there are more expat residents. From personal experience, Cajamar and Sol Bank have always been very good.
Private Health Insurance in Spain
For a great range of health insurance policies for expat's in Spain, please see our current range of expat health insurance products.
Image courtesy of The Guardian