Whether you are planning to relocate to Spain, are already living in Spain or are considering of buying a property in this sunny country then sooner or later you’ll need to set up Spanish bank account. In order to help you get through this process smoothly, this article contains some guidelines for anyone who needs to open a bank account as a foreigner.
Opening a bank account in Spain is relatively easy although we advise that before choosing your bank and branch, make sure that there is at least one English speaker who could help you go through the steps that need to be taken.
Resident or non-resident bank account in Spain
You can either open a bank account as a resident or non-resident. In order to apply for a resident bank account, you need to live in Spain for a longer period. To be more specific, you should be based in Spain for more than 183 days per annum, work in Spain or own your own business in Spain. This means that if you are in Spain for a short period, or are considering of buying a Spanish property – you’ll have to apply for a non-resident bank account. If you do want to live in Spain for a longer period and are not a resident yet – a non-resident account can always be converted into a resident one. Generally, non-resident accounts attract higher fees. The resident accounts are more flexible and have logically a greater number of benefits.
When applying for a resident or a non-resident bank account, the documents that need to be presented might sometimes change from bank to bank. For example, some banks do require more paperwork than others. Therefore, it would be recommended to check the needed requirements beforehand.
It is possible to apply online for a resident bank account, and in some cases, also for a non-resident bank account. Either way, you have to visit a branch and meet a customer representative to hand over your documentation. It might be a better idea to just speak to someone face-to-face at the branch you have selected if you are not familiar with the Spanish language. Some banks have their website in English, but it can be confusing and translated badly. Thus, opening a bank account in person helps avoiding possible misunderstandings. Bringing a Spanish-speaking friend is probably a quicker and better idea.
Requirements for opening a non-resident bank account in Spain
When applying for a non-resident bank account, you generally need the following:
- A valid passport or a national identity card from your country of origin;
- Proof of address (utility bill, bank statement, rental contract, etc.);
- Proof of employment (employment contract, payslip, pension, student card, etc.).
Moreover, the bank may also request a certificate of non-residence (certificado de no residencia). You will be able to obtain this document at a local police station. This process will normally take around 10 days and will cost around €15.
Requirements for opening a resident bank account in Spain
If you are opening a resident bank account, you will normally need these documents:
- A valid passport or a national identity card from your country of origin;
- Proof of residence in Spain (recent bank statement, utility bill, a lease, etc.);
- Your NIE number ;
- Proof of employment status (employment contract, student car, unemployment paperwork, etc.).
Banking fees in Spain
Compared to other European countries, the cost of banking in Spain is relatively high. Fees do vary significantly from bank to bank. While some banks do offer free products, most banks in Spain charge a fee for servicing your account. For example, banks can charge an annual fee for administration of the current account, domestic and bank-to-bank transfers, etc. We recommend to take time to get a good picture of the fees and charges each bank requires before choosing your bank.
Here is a list of common fees that you should be aware off:
- ATM fees: apart from getting cash out of your own bank – a charge is always applied for using an ATM that is operated by another bank. Rates may vary;
- International banking fees: if you are regularly transferring money in and out of Spain, you should check the fees each bank charges for this kind of service. Some banks do even charge you for receiving transfers;
- Opening account fees: opening an account can cost you monthly, yearly or a one-off initial payment. Again, this varies from bank to bank.
- Credit card fees: Some banks do charge a monthly fee, whereas some charge you a one-off fee per transaction.
Spanish banks with an international presence
There are a numerous banks in Spain and they are all controlled by the Bank of Spain (Banco de España) in Madrid. Some examples of Spanish banks with an international presence are Santander, BBVA, Caixa, Sabadell, and ING Direct.
Santander is the biggest bank of Spain. You might be already familiar with this bank since they also have branches in the UK. The Spanish Santader products are similar to the UK accounts. For example, the 123 account, which is virtually identical to the UK product, gives you up to 3% cashback on selected bills. Moreover, it gives you 3% interest on balances between €3.000 and €15.000. Santander has as well tailored accounts for both students and businesses. Though, the Santander accounts are mainly targeted at residents. If you want to apply online, there is no English translation therefore, you will need to visit your local branch in person.
With BBVA you can easily apply for a resident – or non-resident account. BBVA has fee-free accounts and their website is written in good English. This of course makes it easier to understand and navigate. The two main accounts of BBVA are BBVA Online Account and BBVA Blue Online Account. Looking at the names, it is possible to apply for these accounts online although, you first need to register as a customer, showing your documentation. Thus, you won’t be charged a monthly fee and will receive a visa debit card free of charge. This bank has also specialised business banking facilities and products for self-employed people.
La Caixa has a basic non-resident account that has complementary services to someone new to the country. For example, it includes legal advice in your language, 2 hours of free emergency services (such as electricity services) and they will provide you with a free interpreter service via telephone. In case of a resident account, there are various; For example, the ‘Cuenta Estrella’ has no monthly fee and you will be provided with a free credit card. In addition, if you use the account to deposit your salary, you’ll get a bonus – such as a free tablet, TV or smartwatch. Regarding student accounts, there is a free account that can be opened and is called ‘Cuenta Corriente Joven’. There are also convenient business accounts, such as ‘Cuenta Commercio’ or ‘Cuenta Negocio’ for self-employed people.
Sabadell is Spain’s fifth biggest bank. Sabadell is a good bank for when you want a non-resdient bank account. The ‘Key Account’ of Sabadell is made specifically for non-residents and you’ll be given a free visa credit and debit card. What is also good to know is that outgoing transfers within the EU are free if the amount is less than €50,000. In addition, you’ll receive 10 free translations per year for documents that are 500 words long.
ING Direct is popular among young expats and have a very straightforward process to open an account. You can apply for an account online and are immediately able to open an account with an IBAN number. A courier will then visit your house within a few days to provide you your debit card. You’ll just give him a copy of your identification documents- thus, it is very popular for the easy opening process. Moreover the ING Direct web and mobile interface is high quality. An example of a current account that is commission free is called ‘Sin Nomina’ – if you keep a balance of 2.000 in your account. Having a job in Spain, there is also the option of opening the ‘Con Nomina’ account, also being commission free.