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Spain - Banking

Everyday banking for the average person in Spain is broken down into two types of institutions: bancos and cajas. Bancos are public limited companies or privately owned and are usually found in the form of national chains, widely found. Cajas have the local touch with an emphasis on ethics, trust and a more sociable approach to their customers. They are owned by the state with some cajas consisting of many branches over a region and others only a sparse amount. Both bancos and cajas are easy to find locally with over 170 financial institutions located over the country. ATMs (cajeros automáticos) are also frequent throughout Spain and with 24 hour accessibility. To withdraw euros for your travels they take Cirrus, Citibank, American Express and VISA cards. The main local banks in Spain are Banco Popular, BBVA, La Caixa, Banco de Sabadell, ING Direct and Santander.

The following are four frequently used banks by expats which offer free current accounts with debit cards.

Banco Mediolanum
Store locator
Website (In English)
Email: Info@mediolanum.es
Phone: (+34) 932 535 400

This bank is online only though it has 600 consultants or ‘Family Bankers’ who are assigned to each client as their manager and point of contact. There are also offices clients can visit. Ensure you have a banker which speaks English and they can help you with any queries. Expats often choose the Cuenta Unica current account with the necessity that the client pays two bills from that account or sets it up as direct deposit. In the first 6 months of having the account the interest rate is 1.8%. Your Residency card is necessary to open this account. Internet banking is not yet in English, but online translation tools can help.

ING Direct
Store locator
Website (Requires English translation tool)
Phone: (+34) 901 020 901 or 91 206 66 55

Available accounts are Cuenta Sin Nomina whereby the individual pays a €600 deposit with the same amount being paid in monthly plus a minimum balance of €2000. Alternatively, the Cuenta Nomina account can be opened with no minimum balance but a direct deposit is in place. The accounts don’t have interest rates on them, but there is a Cuenta Naranja savings account which does. The accounts are a great idea for expats who are residing in Spain already and have their residency card as this is required to open an account. Online banking is not in English but ATMs are widely available.

Evo Banco
Store locator
Website (English translation required)
Phone: (+34) 910 900 900

Offers Cuenta joven for individuals aged from 18-28 years of age where the individual can open this current account with no annual fees. Offers Cuenta Intelligente account for individuals over 28 years of age if 5 bills are paid via this account through immediate payment or direct debit. If the accounts hold more than €3000 then a 1.5% interest is applied and 0.5%. Expats can go into the branch to set either account up with just a passport. The accounts are a great idea for expats who are residing in Spain and have their residency card as this is required to open an account. Online banking is in English.

When it comes to UK and US banks in Spain although they share the same bank name you will find they operate almost entirely differently to your home bank so don’t go in expecting the same service.

UK and US banks operating in Spain are as follows.

Barclays Bank plc (corporate and investment)
Store locator
Email: spain.corporate@barclays.com
Phone: (+34) 91 336 07 79
Range of corporate advisory services, banking and investment accounts for corporate, government and institutional clients

CitiBank España
Store locator
Phone: (+34) 91 538 41 00
48 branches throughout Spain. The bank offers free international money transfers from a Citibank account to another in any of 26 countries. English online banking. Citibank offers both savings and current accounts used by expats.

HSBC (specialising in corporate customers)
Store locator
Phone: (+34) 91 4566 100
Specialising in corporate banking for enterprises and institutional investors

Generally, banks are open from 8.30am- 1.30pm/2pm from Monday to Friday depending on each branch of bank and the location. City and town located banks may have longer opening hours whilst more remote banks may not open in the afternoon.

The accounts offered in banks vary due to your status so you will either be applying for an account as a resident or non resident. When opening a bank account the individual will need to go to the bank and conduct the procedure in person. If you aren’t confident in your Spanish skills and if the members of staff don’t have an English speaker on site, book an appointment with a consultant who speaks English. Once you are face to face with a consultant you can show your paperwork for your resident or non resident status as found below.

Resident Account (Cuenta para Residentes)
Resident Accounts for those who have a DNI number or NIE see lower fees charges on their account and consequently the client is able to open their account in a foreign currency or in euros. Photo identification will be needed to show upon opening an account (Passport) and bring along documents such as an Empadronamiento, proof of address, your NIE and evidence of employment status.

Non Resident Account
Fees for opening and maintaining a Non Resident Account are higher than a Resident Account and every 2 years the bank will run a check to see if you are still a non resident. Those applying for this account need to visit the local police office with their passport to hand and make an application for a certificate of non residency (Certificados de No Residencia). Once it has been completed in around 10 days time, the individual returns to the station to collect it. It is then presented to the bank. It should be a fast and easy process just be aware that you understand the terms and conditions of the account you are opening ie. the bank charges, fees or deposits necessary. Cheque Books are not issued automatically so if you do wish for one, request it. Almost all banks charge a fee each year which covers administration costs for current accounts. It usually amounts to €15–30.

Generally, personal banking accounts come in the following types.

Savings Account (Cuenta de Ahorro) is an account with limited access to your money but higher interest rates than other types of accounts. There may be more charges for additional account holder. Comes with cheques/cheque books.

Deposit Account (Cuenta de Depósito) is a useful types of savings accounts which are similar to ISAs whereby the customer doesn’t use the account like a normal savings account but has a sum of money in there earning high interest. They cannot easily access or withdraw the funds with immediate effect.

Current/checking account (cuenta corriente) is the most common account for everyday use. Current accounts don’t have a great deal of interest, if any at all.

Credit cards and debit cards can be used in ATM machines and for transactions in most hotels, restaurants and shops. Credit cards are being accepted and used more and more in retail shops too. Cheques are generally not accepted tender. When carrying out any transaction such as at an ATM or shop make sure any charge is in euros and not in your home currency as this can cost more. The phrase 'Quiero pagar en euros, por favor' (I want to pay in euros please) can help. Contactless is an up and coming payment system with Spain in the top 3 countries in Europe to use this method. Android Pay and Apple Pay are rare. Be realistic, cities will have far more developed payment methods and acceptance than tiny villages. Cash is often commonly used by tourists and locals particularly in rural areas.

Banking in Spain is generally considered to be efficient and accessible in day to day exchanges. ATMs have received some negative press for making money by offering to charge the user in their home currency (for example GBP) meaning the fees will be higher and reliant on the ATMs own currency conversation.This is known as Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). It is advised to always select euros whilst in Spain.In recent years the preferentes scandal saw Banco Popular stand accused of lending customers money and then using these funds to buy shares for the bank; the bank which has amounted a large amount of debt itself.

Expats applying for an overdraft or loan need to be a resident of Spain with their resident card, bank statements, employment status, residency status and potentially their NIE to hand. Banks also look at your credit rating so do bring along evidence from your home country and if this isn’t accepted you’ll need to do a Spanish credit check instead. With loans, a guarantor is almost always required and the bank manager will require a business plan when the customer requests a commercial loan. The bank will also require examples which show that the business which the customer is requesting a loan for has already been making some money, which understandably isn’t always possible. Usually as non residents do not have evidence of income they will not be considered for applying for an overdraft or loan.

It is possible for both non residents and residents to request a Spanish mortgage. Check out the Spanish Mortgages and Legal Support website to check out the options.

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