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Opening a bank account in Spain

Opening a bank account in Spain

Having a Spanish bank account is a great idea if you’re going to spend time either earning or living in Spain. The good news is that there are lots of great banks to choose from and all of them have a range of suitable accounts that will fit your individual needs. You might need to do a bit of investigation leg work first, but it’ll be worth it when you can easily pay for that first sip of cerveza. 

The 5 simple steps to opening a bank account in Spain:

  1. Get familiar with the banks and their practices.
  2. Figure out if you need an account, and if so, what type of account you want.
  3. Pick a bank and banking product wisely, considering your long term objectives.
  4. Prepare your documents.
  5. Apply online or in person.  

Step 1: An overview of banking in Spain

There are lots of banking businesses in Spain and they’re all safely under the umbrella control of the government-run Bank of Spain in Madrid. You can rest easy knowing that they are centrally regulated and obligated to provide a fair service. 

There is a bit of bureaucracy involved in opening a Spanish bank account and banks in Spain make their money from charging opening and maintenance fees.  But nonetheless, it will make accessing your cash cheaper in the long run and give you a leg up if you want to borrow.  

Step 2: Do I need a Spanish bank account?

Opening a bank account in Spain is a good idea if you want to rent a property, get a Spanish mortgage or receive your salary from a Spanish employer. Even if you’re only working a summer season, it will save you having to pay excessive exchange rates and bank charges.

Step 3: Choosing a bank and the type of account you want.

Bankia, BBVA, La Caixa, Santander and Sabadell are the biggest banks in Spain. Many of them have specific accounts for non-residents that offer debit cards. Some offer credit in the form of cards or overdrafts, but it’s unusual.  

The market is quite competitive but opening and maintenance fees still vary between brands and account packages, so it’s worth shopping around. 

Many banks offer a limited number of low cost or free international transfers. If you want to move money between your home country and Spain, compare the normal rates for international transfers as this might save you money in the long-term. 

It’s also worth checking if there is a percentage-based commission for exchanging money between two Spanish accounts. 

If you’d rather speak English, hunt down a branch near your new home that advertises English speaking staff. Also, check out their network of ATMs as each bank’s own branded cashpoints won’t charge you withdrawal fees. 

If you intend on travelling a lot, it is possible to get a borderless multi-currency account, but you will still have to pay the mid-market exchange rate.

Step 4: What do I need? 

Once you’ve chosen a bank and a convenient branch, you need to get your documents in order. You might be asked to provide any or all of these items: 

  • A Passport or another internationally recognised proof of identification document. 
  • Proof of employment in the form of a payslip, tax return, or benefits/pension letter.
  • Proof of address, usually a bank statement or utility bill. If you’re applying for a Spanish resident’s bank account, this will have to show a Spanish address. 
  • An NIE number, Certificate of Non Residence, or a Spanish Residency Card. All of which can be easily obtained from the local Spanish police station. These can usually be handed in up to 15 days after you opened your account – but check with your chosen provider. 
  • Contact details i.e. an email, mobile phone and correspondence address.

If your documents aren’t already in Spanish, you’ll be asked to have them verified by a sworn official translator called a Traductor Jurado, who can sign them off on behalf of the bank. You might even be able to find one in your home country, depending on where you live.  

Step 5: How do I apply? 

Some Spanish banks will let you apply online but you will eventually need to go into your branch and meet with a customer representative in order to get your documents checked.

If you decide to become a permanent Spanish resident, let your Spanish bank know as soon as possible. They will need to officially change your status and it could also be beneficial because residents’ bank accounts offer better services and additional perks. For more information about buying a property in Spain including finance, download our How to buy in Spain guide. To find out about borrowing from a Spanish bank, take a look at our How to get a mortgage in Spain guide.

Have you ever opened a bank account in Spain, either before or after you moved there? How did you find the experience?  Would you be willing to share your story of moving to Spain with us, either as a guest blog or via our podcast series?  Please do get in touch if so, we’d love to hear from you.

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