Your complete guide to opening a Spanish bank account as a foreigner.
Opening a bank account in Spain
In this article we will discuss popular banks in Spain and possibilities for opening a checking or savings bank account (accounts for pensions or mortgage payments are a separate topic). A bank account in Spain is useful for keeping your cash in a secure place, to have savings, receive your salary (nomina), pay rent and utilities, have a cell phone plan and tackle various money transfers. As an expat, you will have to meet extra requirements for opening an account, but the conditions will be the same as for Spanish citizens.
Depending on where you are coming from (EU countries or not), what your job status is and the monthly income, the requirements will differ from bank to bank.
General requirements for opening a bank account in Spain:
You have to be 18+
Valid passport or national identity card (and a photocopy of it)
Valid Foreigner’s Identification Number (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros or NIE)
Spanish address confirmation (volante de empadronamiento, issued within the last 3 months)
Proof of occupation or status (work contract or payslip, student card, joint tax declaration for a non-working spouse, pension, unemployment benefit, etc.)
There are might be other requirements or exceptions from these rules, you have to check with your bank of choice, although very few banks have English-speaking staff. You can also contact us for a private consultation regarding your legal and economic situation in Spain.
Banking fees and charges
Many banks are embracing the trend of welcoming new customers with a free checking account and 0 comissions. However, you still need to be careful and shop around for the best conditions in the market. It is a common practice to oblige you to set up a certain monthly direct deposit or automatically pay a certain number of bills from this account. If you don not have a job, banks may require a deposit of at least 600 euros per month and a minimum balance of 2000 euros (these are the ING Direct requirements for cuenta sin nomina). If you do not meet the requirements, penalty charges will apply.
Most banks have account and card maintenance fees that are usually charged annually.
One thing to be extra careful about are the ATM fees. There are 2 bank ATM networks in Spain, SERVIRED and TELEBANCO. All banks belong to one of them. If you take cash from your bank´s ATM it is free, but if you withdraw cash from another bank in the same network you may be charged a commission of around 1.50 EUR, maybe not. And if you use ATM of a different network the commission may rise to 3 EUR per withdrawal. Keeping that in mind, make sure to clear this issue with your future bank to avoid paying the fees.
Some banks even offer packages for non-residents which may, for example, offer reduced rates for international money transfers.
List of banks in Spain
As in any other country there are domestic and foreign banks in Spain. Foreign banks have branches in Spain operating under their original name. But do not be confused here: even if it is a German Deutsche Bank or American Citibank – they are separate entities abiding the Spanish law and regulations. Those branches are only affiliated by name and will give you no special treatment if you have an account in the similar bank back home. You will still need to open a Spanish account and meet the requirements mentioned above.
Domestic banks were originally established here, although some of the largest banks in Spain have become international and opened branches abroad like BBVA and Santander. Local banks are divided in 2 categories: bancos and cajas (caixas).
Bancos are privately owned or public limited companies and are likely to be big national chains with a broad network of offices. They are also known to be among the best banks in Spain.
Major banks include:
In the meanwhile, cajas are state-owned and extremely local. Such small banks often have a limited presence, but they tend to represent the interests of a group of people, based on their profession or place of residence. As a rule, they are more socially aware and invest in local projects.
If it is important for you to stay mobile and have access to your bank account on the go, Spanish banks offer internet banking service as well. Some big banks like Bankia or Sabadell have successfully integrated a number of online operations to their traditional processes.
Other modern banks are more flexible in conditions and primarily web-based allowing customers to manage all their banking activities online. If you have a limited local income or not sure how long you will stay in Spain, then internet banking in your best bet. Best bank in Spain for online users is, undoubtedly, ING Direct: it has a very clean interface, friendly customer service and attractive design. Although EVO is a very close competition aiming at younger audience.
Online banks include:
Popular banks in Spain
About some banks you hear often in press and among people. The most popular banks include (in alphabetic order):
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA)
Barclays Bank S.A.
Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa (BBK)
Biggest Bank in Spain: Which One?
According to Forbes, Banco Santander is not only the biggest Spanish bank, but also scores number 10 among the biggest banks in the world. An impressive result given the slow but steady recovery of Spanish economy in the past years.
And if you need help choosing the best bank for your particular situation or need assistance with opening an account , we are at your service. Contact us to discuss your questions and requirements.