Banking in Spain

by Barclays Wealth International on April 16, 2010

Moving to Spain?

Your guide to expatriate banking services in Spain

Introduction

Spain is the second largest country in Europe, after France. Spain has one of the highest ratios of bank branches per capita in Europe and offers its customers a banking system that is both modern and efficient, in addition to being well regulated.

The national language is Spanish, with English being widely taught in schools as a second language. The official currency used in Spain is the Euro, and as of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately 1.14 EUR to ₤1 GBP (pound sterling).

 

Banks

Central bank

  • Banco de España

Commercial banks in Spain

  • Banco de Andalucia
  • Banco de Sabadell Atlántico
  • Banco de Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA)
  • Banco Cooperativo Español
  • Banco Español de Crédito (Banesto)
  • Banco Pastor
  • Banco Popular Español
  • Banco de Sabadell
  • Banco Santander Central Hispano

 

Bank opening times

In general, banks are open from 9am to 2pm, Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. In major cities some banks will be open on Thursday evenings or Saturday mornings. In coastal resorts, banks are open on Saturday mornings in the winter.

 

Banking services in Spain

Most Spanish banks provide customers with a range of services, including both telephone and internet banking. Facilities such as standing orders and direct debits are also widely provided to account holders.

The branch network throughout Spain is extensive, catering for city, town and island residents. The majority of financial services provided by Spanish banks are available in both Spanish and English, and banks can invariably supply statements and documentation in both languages. Many of the banks also offer multi-lingual counter and telephony services.

The main types of bank account in Spain

The main types of account in Spain are:

  • Current/checking account (cuenta corriente) – Current accounts are primarily used for everyday banking needs, and most accounts offer a comprehensive range of services, including access to online banking and debit cards. Interest rates for current accounts are often low, but these accounts provide customers with the benefit of easy access to available funds
  • Savings account (cuenta de ahorro)Savings accounts typically offer higher interest rates, but may come with a limited range of banking services and access to funds held on deposit is often limited, and account withdrawals beyond a set limit are likely to incur interest penalties. Savings accounts are often supplied with a savings book, rather than a debit card
  • Deposit account (cuenta de depósito) Deposit accounts generally offer customers the highest interest rates, but access to funds in the short and medium term can be very restricted. Deposit accounts are often opened for a fixed period of time and at a fixed rate of interest. Funds can be accessed once the account has matured

These accounts may be offered by banks in a range of foreign currencies.

Offshore savings and bank accounts are often used in the expatriate community for long-term savings and tax planning. These accounts can be operated in a range of currencies, but you should seek independent advice before opening an offshore account.

 

Opening a bank account when you arrive in Spain

Non-residents of Spain

Opening a bank account in Spain is a relatively straightforward process for non-residents, providing you are able to produce the required documentation. You will need to provide a copy of your passport, along with a letter of reference from your home bank, and ideally some recent bank statements.

In most cases, banks will want to confirm with you every six months that you’re still a non-resident. If you do become a Spanish resident, you should tell the bank immediately.

Non-residents are required to submit a Declaration of Fiscal Residence (Declaración de Residencia Fiscal) form and obtain an NIE number before they open an account. An NIE number is a form of identity for foreigners, and can be obtained from a police station that has a foreigners department.

Residents of Spain

Bank accounts for Spanish residents incur fewer charges and offer customers a wider range of services.

To be considered a resident, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Live in Spain for at least 6 months in a calendar year
  • Use Spain as your base for a business or professional activity
  • Have a spouse and/or children under 18 who are permanent residents in Spain

Spanish residents must submit an annual tax return – the bank will provide the form for you to complete before submitting to the tax authorities.

Opening a bank account before you arrive in Spain

A number of banks will allow you to open a non-resident account before you arrive, providing that you can provide proof of identification. In such instances, you will need to provide the bank with proof of the original documentation when you arrive in Spain.

Opening an international account prior to leaving is a convenient alternative to opening a local account in Spain. In addition to international banking facilities, you can access a comprehensive range of services, including online banking, international payments and money transfer services, along with accounts available in a range of major currencies.

Your international account can be used throughout Spain, and is ideal for individuals travelling between international locations.

 

ATM facilities in Spain

Most ATMs in Spain offer multi-lingual instructions in various languages, and in addition to cash withdrawal services, offer facilities including mini-statements and bank transfers. Other ATMs will also allow mobile phone top-ups, and even the facility to buy cinema tickets. If you use an ATM outside of your bank’s network, then you may incur a service charge.

Debit cards are widely accepted throughout Spain, and in addition to cash withdrawals, cards can be used for making payments, providing that identification (such as a passport or driving licence) is shown.

Credit cards

Credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted throughout Spain, and most banks offer credit cards to new current account holders. You can also apply for a credit card independently using a different credit card provider, although the funds for this will need to be associated with an existing current account.

Money transfers to and from Spain

Banks provide a range of money transfer services, although these services are not part of the standard account features, and often incur a charge.

Currency regulations relating to the import and export of currencies are subject to change, so you should always check with the national bank for the latest details.

As of April 2010, there are no restrictions on the import or export of currency if you are travelling between EU countries.

However, if you are travelling to (or arriving from) a country outside of the EU, then a €10,000 EUR limit applies, and this must be declared at customs.

SEPA

Spain is part of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) initiative. This is a zone for the euro in which all electronic payments are considered to be domestic, thereby making them simpler and cheaper. The aim is that SEPA payments will become the dominant form of electronic payments, replacing all other payments within the zone by 2011.

Bank charges

Bank charges are generally higher in Spain than the UK. There may also be a yearly fee for having a debit card. Some banks offer special packages for non-resident customers, with reduced rates for fixed monthly or quarterly fees.

 

Banking in Spain – other information

How numbers are written

In Spain, full stops are used as separators in large numbers (i.e. 10 million is written as 10.000.000). Also, decimal points are indicated as commas, not full stops.

Spanish ombudsman

If you have any complaints or issues with a bank in Spain, you should write to the Banking Ombudsman at the Banco De España, using recorded delivery. The address is: Banco De España, Calle Alcala, 48, 28014 Madrid.

More information on banking with Barclays Wealth International

For further information about the benefits of opening an International Account before you move to Spain, you can speak to a specialist adviser at Barclays Wealth International by calling +44 (0) 141 352 3902.

Alternatively, find out more about the overseas banking services and expat banking that are available from Barclays Wealth International.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

mohammad June 28, 2012 at 8:30 am

I wnt to open an account , I'm living outside of Spain. what is the procedure ?

Reply

mohammad July 17, 2012 at 4:57 am

how to open offshore account

Reply

John October 11, 2012 at 11:55 am

I opened an account in Spain when purchasing a property, and was surprised to see that payments were immediately made out of the account without my knowledge or authority (or that of anyone else representing me)

According to the bank this is normal, and no prior agreement from the account holder is required for them to accept requests from third parties for direct debits to be set up and paid out, nor are they even required to explain or justify the payment to me..

Is this really the norm in Spain? Evidently I don't wish to entrust my money to a bank which thinks it can pay it out to anyone it chooses without checking with me. I have accounts in other countries and prior agreement for direct debits or other outward payments, even to public utilities (the above case does not concern a utility) is always required (I suppose the exception would be if assets were being siezed under a legal process).

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