How to open a bank account in Spain?

If you move to Spain for a long term, whether to study or work, you will probably need to open an account with a local bank. But do not worry that this will not be a very difficult task. Spain has a large expat community and, as a result, there are many banks that provide specific services to that group. In other words, opening a bank account in Spain is quite simple, even after the 2008 crisis, when some stricter rules were imposed.

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Banking services in Spain

Spain has an integrated and internationalized banking system. It comprises 141 private banks (including around 80 foreign banks), in addition to many regional cooperative and savings banks. Banco de Espana is the country’s national bank, also acting as regulator of the banking sector.

Banking services in Spain

Do you need a bank account in Spain?

Having a bank account in Spain is not a legal requirement; you can manage your finances from an overseas account. However, if you are going to spend years there, the most practical (and also cheapest) solution is to open a local bank account. This will facilitate important activities, such as paying utility bills and obtaining a Spanish mortgage.

Before opening a bank account in Spain

If you move to Spain without opening an account, you can manage your finances in your account abroad. Spain accepts most major types of foreign banks and credit cards if they are Visa, Mastercard or American Express. However, you may be charged for some transactions. Many Spanish banks offer non-resident accounts, so it is possible to set up a bank account in the country before you even travel there.

Types of bank accounts in Spain

Spanish banks offer several different types of accounts to customers. It is worth looking for the solution that best suits your circumstances. Some of the main types of bank account in Spain are:

Current accounts: for daily banking and financial needs. Many banks offer several different checking accounts, some targeting specific groups of customers, such as students or young people.
Savings accounts: Most banks will offer different savings options, from more basic accounts to service links and equity fund investments. There are also many Spanish regional banks (cajas) that offer this type of account.
Digital accounts: it is also possible to do all your banking services online on a mobile device, because in addition to digital banks, the main Spanish banks offer online services and banking applications;
Non-resident accounts:some of the main Spanish banks offer non-resident accounts for foreign residents. But beware: most of these accounts are based on euros.

What are the most common bank fees?

Although much of the Spanish banking system is very similar to the Brazilian one, it may be that the fee collection structure is slightly different. So it is important to read all the details of the contract. Generally the most common services charged are as follows:

Monthly service fee

Although there are some bank accounts with no monthly fees, most banks charge a fee of around 6 euros per month and this amount may increase over time. Other accounts do not require payment of a service fee under certain conditions, such as the direct payment of your salary there. Premium accounts charge higher monthly fees, but offer a variety of benefits, including some free international ATM withdrawals and discounts on services such as travel insurance and car rentals.

ATM withdrawals

Most Spanish banks offer free withdrawals from domestic ATMs, but it is usually necessary to operate at a bank in the same network. For withdrawals abroad with your Spanish card, you will probably pay a fee if your bank is not part of a global network or if your account is basic.

International money transfers

If you want to make a payment from your Spanish bank account to an account held in another country or currency, you can expect to pay a fee. Transfers to other euro area countries are usually cheap or even free. However, making a transfer to a country with a different currency can cost around 35 euros for the operation! In such cases it is important to observe the initial fee charged and the exchange rate that will be applied. If the exchange rate used is low, this can significantly increase the total cost of the transfer.

Banco Santander headquarters

Major banks to open a bank account in Spain

These are the main Spanish banks that offer accounts and services open to foreigners:

BBVA

One of the largest banks in Spain, provides several accounts without fees, including a basic checking account, an account for young people between 18 and 29 years old and a payroll account for income management. It also offers a global banking application with mobile payments compatible with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay, as well as a variety of debit, credit and prepaid cards.

Banco Sabadell

The products offered by this bank include a main account with a free translation service for foreign and temporary residents; an expansion account, with unlimited free deposits and withdrawals (recommended for retirees); a specific savings account for young people and another for higher transactions. There are also several low cost international transfer options.

Santander

Spain’s largest bank (and also the best known internationally) offers a wide range of checking accounts, including a basic account, a classic account, a youth account and a non-resident account. There are also several debit and credit cards to choose from and a downloadable banking app for those who prefer to manage their finances from a cell phone.

Bankia

Bank with excellent account options, including Cuenta Facil, the most basic checking account, which includes a free debit card. The application process can be done online. There is also Cuenta Joven, aimed at people between 14 and 26 years old and which has no monthly fee.

If you prefer to open an account with a foreign bank while living in Spain, some good options are banks Barclays, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and ING. There are also 100% digital banks such as bunq (Dutch), N26 (German) and Revolut (English).

How to choose the best bank to open your bank account in Spain?

When choosing which bank to open an account in Spain, think about what you are looking for in terms of products and services and try to choose the best account according to your needs. These are the main factors you need to consider:

Costs: few bank accounts in Spain are completely free, but basic checking accounts are generally inexpensive. However, there may be some trade-offs in terms of services available.
Range of services: if you think you may want to access loans, insurance, mortgages or pension plans at some point during your stay in the country, many Spanish banks also offer them and it is interesting to check this out before making your decision.
Ease of access: if you want 24/7 access to your account, an online account or a mobile bank account may be the best option.

How to open a bank account in Spain?

Before closing any contract, the ideal is to visit the bank of your choice in person and request an account. Banks are usually open from 9 am to 2 pm, Monday to Saturday. If you do not speak Spanish, it is interesting to take a translator (a friend fluent in the language will do!) With you.

Accounts are usually opened at an interval ranging from 1 to 5 days and all documentation, as well as credit and / or debit cards, are sent to the account holder in about two weeks.

What documents are required to open an account?

You will normally need to provide:

  • Proof of identity (for example, passport)
  • Alien identification number (NIE) and certificate
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of employment status or studies (eg student card, proof of enrollment, employment contract, unemployment documentation, etc.)

Remember that documents that are not in Spanish may need to be officially translated and, if they are foreign, they must be authenticated with a stamp.

How to open a bank account in Spain while abroad?

Many Spanish banks accept accounts from non-residents, so it is possible to set up an account before you move. In addition to standard documentation, you may need to prove that you are not a resident by providing a certificate of non-residence. To get one, you need to apply to a Spanish police station and the process usually takes 10 days. This option is especially useful for those who spend a significant amount of time in Spain, but usually reside elsewhere. Some banks will do the paperwork for a nominal fee (around € 15).

How to open a bank account in Spain while abroad

How to open a digital or mobile bank account in Spain?

Typically, 100% digital banks are only available to residents, although accounts from mobile providers, such as bunq and N26, are available to anyone. If you already have a bank account and want to go mobile, just download the banking application, available on the bank’s website. Opening an account for mobile devices only usually takes a few minutes and can be done directly from your smartphone. You will need to provide a home address, an email address and a mobile number to link to your account.

Managing your bank account in Spain

You can choose how you will manage your money in Spanish banks. Many offer a wide range of customer service options, including:

Face-to-face banking services: there are more than 27,000 bank branches across Spain, so if you need to go to one of them in person, you probably won’t have any problems.
Online banking : you can enjoy 24/7 access to your account through online banking, which is an essential feature of most modern banks. Sometimes, even services like borrowing can be done without the need to visit a bank branch through the live chat function on the bank’s website or through social media channels.
Mobile banking services: banking services via smartphone applications are becoming increasingly common and are especially popular with young Mayans.

And to close the account?

Closing an account or moving your funds to another bank in Spain is not just a case of withdrawing all funds from the account. It is necessary to ensure that it is officially closed. The best way to do this is to visit your bank branch. Take your passport or valid ID with you. Depending on the account you have, you may need to complete and sign some forms. If you are able to close your account online, it is recommended to ask the bank for confirmation of closing the account. If you are simply switching to another bank account, it is best to open the new account before closing the existing one.

Before closing a bank account in Spain, it is important to check:

  • If there are no restrictions associated with closing the account before any specific time period. Some accounts that come with special offers may have a clause that they need to remain active for a minimum period; therefore, check this first to avoid fines.
  • If you don’t have any pending payments coming out of your account that will leave you with a negative balance. Cancel all payments by direct debit and standing order.
  • If you must also notify your employer or anyone else who may be making payments on the account that it is no longer in use.