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Barcelona - Banking

Opening a bank account in Barcelona is an easy process. You can either open a bank account immediately, before permits and registration is organised - in which case you will have a non-resident bank account - or wait until you are a registered resident, when you will be able to open a resident account. Even if you open a non-resident account, change this to a resident account as soon as you can to avoid high bank charges.

All you need to open a resident bank account is your NIE number (numero de identificacion de extranjero or foreigners' identification number). Many bank workers speak English, so it may be worth checking that you can communicate with at least one member of staff, or even better the manager, before choosing the bank and branch in which to open your account.

Many websites of Spanish banks can also be read and navigated in English, making online banking, bill payments, transfers and even international transfers, very easy to do yourself.

The following major Spanish banks have English websites:

BBVA www.bbva.es

Bankinter www.bankinter.com

Grupo Banco Popular www.bancopopular.es

Other major banks include Banco Santander and La Caixa. Your choice of bank may depend on its convenience for home and work, and availability of English speakers. Take a look at the websites for their ease of use too.

Spain also has a network of local savings banks, which provide the same services as regular clearing banks but have a more obvious social responsibility presence within the area. The local savings bank for Barcelona is the Caixa Catalunya.

There are three main ATM networks in Spain, Telebanco 4B, ServiRed and Euro 6000 and most ATM's allow you to change the language so instructions and requests are easier. Make sure your bank is a member of the network that you see most commonly around where you live and shop, as you will be charged for withdrawing money from a network that your bank does not belong to. Telebanco 4B is the most popular with the largest number of ATMs, followed by ServiRed and then the Euro 6000 network of savings banks.

Opening hours of banks in Spain are short, only mornings until 2pm in the summer (May to October), and then an additional one evening per week or a Saturday morning. It may be possible to find a bank situated in a large shopping centre that opens late all weekdays. This is very useful to sort out any problems outside usual working hours.

Most international banks are represented in Barcelona and the surrounding areas. Barclays has several branches Avenida Diagonal, 419, and Pg Gracia, 45. Citibank also has branches at Rbla Catalunya, 12 and Via Augusta, 128-132. Dutch international online bank ING also operates current accounts in Spain through its website www.ingdirect.es.

Although most current accounts are issued with a cheque book, these are very rarely used in Spain; most shops and restaurants don't accept them, preferring cash, debit or credit cards. It is also difficult to use foreign debit and credit cards that use the chip and pin system, as this does not yet operate in Spain. It is also advised to keep your bank account in your home country open for return visits.

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