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Spain is a beautiful country, with a rich history, a wonderful culture, and interesting customs. The truth is, it also receives thousands of tourists, international students, and other international imports every year, looking to explore, study, or relocate. This country offers some of the best living conditions, which, matched with the affordable living costs, beautiful beaches, and fantastic weather, make Spain a highly attractive destination.

In this article, you will find the proper instruction on banking in Spain, how to open a bank account in Spain (and if you need to open a bank account if you are not moving to the country permanently).

Banking in Spain

Banking in Spain is quite comprehensive and it is well-integrated in the international financial system. Considering the international community in Spain, including residents, tourists, and students, is quite large, Spain has invested in a wide range of financial institutions that cater to the needs of everyone, including English-speaking communities. In Spain, you can find state-owned, private, international, as well as cooperative and mobile banks. This ensures a flexible and efficient banking system which can accommodate different needs and preferences.

Bank of Spain (Banco de España) is the central banking authority in Spain, which is the authoritative figure of the Spanish banking system. Although Banco de España has branches in all of Spain’s provincial capital, it is headquartered in Madrid. The two main types of banks in Spain are those that are private/publicly owned (Bancos), and those that are owned by the state (Cajas). In total, there are more than 165 different banks in all of Spain, with the key ones being Santander, BBVA, La Caixa, and Bankia.

Currency in Spain

The currency used in Spain is the Euro (€), so for expats coming from other Eurozone countries, the currency should not be a problem. For those coming from the UK or US, pounds and dollars are usually not accepted, meaning you will have to exchange your currency and use the currency used in Spain, meaning the Euro (€). Currently, 1 US Dollar exchanges for 0.85 Euro, while 1 GBP equals 1.11 Euro. 

ATMs in Spain

ATMs in Spain are usually not a problem for international students or expats, especially in the main cities and towns. You will likely make do with cards like Visa, Mastercard, and Maestro, while many machines also accept Amex Cards. It is important to know, however, that some ATMs in Spain have withdrawal limits up around 300 EUR/day, and you will likely have to pay withdrawal fees up to 3 EUR or less for foreign cards or if you are using a different ATM rather than your bank’s.

Do I Need a Bank Account in Spain?

The big question! The answer to this question largely depends on how long you will be staying in Spain. For example, tourists who are only visiting the country will not necessarily need to open a bank account in Spain, especially if they are staying for shorter periods of time. However, the issue changes for those who plan on staying longer in Spain or even relocating permanently in one of the Spanish cities and towns. 

International students, for example, are also not necessarily obliged to open a bank account in Spain. But, one would advise them to do so. This is because it will be easier to pay rent, buy electronics, or even make other minor purchases and handle money. Using an account from back home, as an international student in Spain, will cost more (especially in withdrawal fees), and using cash might be challenging and not the safest option for your money. 

As an expat who is looking to move to the country permanently, you are highly advised to open a bank account in Spain. You will find that it is easier to have your banking institution located within the country, fees will be more affordable, and it will be much more worth it and convenient in the long run. Besides, Spain has a simple and comprehensive banking system, which is accessible to all, so opening a bank account here should not be an issue.   

What Kind of Bank Accounts Are in Spain? 

The banking system in Spain has a few main types of bank accounts which are highly relevant in the process of learning how to open a bank account in Spain. First, bank accounts in Spain are divided into residents and non-resident accounts. As the name suggests, those who do not have residential status in Spain will only be able to open non-resident accounts. The instructions on how to open a resident bank account in Spain as opposed to a non-resident bank account vary slightly. 

Resident and Non-Resident Bank Accounts 

Banks in Spain offer both, resident and non-resident accounts, which differ from one another in the range of services or commissions. For example, a resident bank account in Spain will have a wider range of services, the interest rates will be higher, and the commissions typically lower. A non-resident bank account, however, will have fewer services and the fees will typically be higher. How to open a resident/non-resident bank account in Spain and the requirements are explained in detail below.

The three main types of bank accounts you can open in Spain are:

  • Current/Checking Bank Account: This is the bank account you should open in Spain in order to make use of the different daily banking activities (paying rent, receiving an income, making purchases, etc.) Checking accounts in Spain are typically cheaper than other accounts.
  • Savings Bank Account: Through this type of account, you will be able to make use of different savings options. However, the interest rates are higher and there’s a limited range of banking services through a savings account in Spain. 
  • Digital Bank Account: Digital bank accounts or digital banking has become quite common nowadays. You have the option of doing all of your banking online from your smartphone. 

How to Open a Bank Account in Spain?

The process of opening a bank account in Spain depends on the type of account you want to open, the banking institution you are opening your account with, or your residential status (whether you are a resident of Spain or not). In the following sections, you will be able to find everything you need to know regarding how to open a bank account in Spain as an international as well as the documents you will need to open a bank account. 

How to Open a Non-Resident Bank Account in Spain?

Non-residents are considered people who spend 183 days (6 months) or even less in Spain within a year. The title also includes people who do not have a spouse/dependants who are residents of Spain. Also, individuals who do not use Spain as the base for their business or professional activity are also considered non-residents. However, you will not be required to pay any tax if you open a non-resident account in Spain.

The documents you need to open a non-resident bank account in Spain are: 

  1. Your valid/unexpired passport.
  2. Your national identity card (for EU citizens).
  3. Proof of address in Spain, such as a utility bill (less than 3 months old) or recent Spanish bank statement. 
  4. Proof of employment status (a payslip, tax return, or government documents to prove you are either unemployed or receiving a state pension).
  5. Certificate of non-residency (Certificado de No Residente) or proof you are not a resident of Spain. You can get this at a Spanish police station by showing your passport. 

How to Open a Resident Bank Account in Spain

In case you are eligible for a resident bank account in Spain, you can directly open one. These types of accounts are typically more flexible as well as more affordable. In case you obtain residency status during your time in Spain, you may switch your non-resident bank account to a resident account in no time. 

The documents you will need to open a resident bank account in Spain are: 

  1. Your valid/unexpired passport.
  2. Your national identity card (for EU citizens).
  3. Proof of address in Spain, such as a utility bill (less than 3 months old) or recent Spanish bank statement. 
  4. Your Spanish NIE number (Foreigners’ Identification Number).
  5. Proof of employment status (an employment contract, student card, or unemployment papers).

How to Open a Bank Account in Spain Online?

If you have not entered Spain yet but are planning to do so in the near future, you might be wondering how to open a bank account in Spain online or how to open a bank account from the US (or anywhere abroad). The truth is, you may open a bank account in Spain online, however, you are advised to wait until you actually get to Spain to open it in the bank branch in person. This is so you can avoid any misunderstandings regarding account type, fees, or services. 

If you still want to open a bank account online, simply head over to the website of the respective bank in Spain, and follow the instructions or opt for a digital banking institution, such as N26, Revolut, or Transferwise. 

How to Open a Bank Account in Spain for International Students? 

In order to open a bank account in Spain, as an international student, you will have to wait until you arrive in the country. International students in Spain will get their Spanish NIE number, whether they are from the EU or not. This means you will be able to open a resident account in Spain. Keep in mind that many Spanish banks only offer resident accounts for non-EU students who have a long-term visa (longer than six months). 

To open a bank account in Spain as an international student, you should follow the above-mentioned process of opening a resident bank account, or non-resident account if you are staying for less than six months. However, at the end of your stay, you should make sure to cancel your bank account before returning to your home country, if you do not plan on using it again. 

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Bank Account in Spain? 

Financial matters and fees vary from one banking institution to another, meaning you are expected to find certain banks with lower/higher fees. In order to open a bank account in Spain, some banks might ask that you make a minimum initial deposit, meaning pay an ‘account opening fee’ which will activate your account. However, this is usually the case when you are opening a bank account in a foreign currency and not Euro. 

Some of the costs associated with a bank account in Spain include: 

  • Maintenance fees: Banking institutions will charge a monthly/annual fee for account maintenance, which is typically 8 EUR/month or more.  
  • ATM fees: If you withdraw money from your bank’s ATM, you will usually not be charged any money. In case you use another bank’s ATM, you might be charged up to 2 EUR/transaction. 
  • Transfer fees: If you want to send/receive money internationally, transfer fees usually go up to 15 EUR for amounts larger than €50,000. Larger amounts will require higher transfer fees. 

To transfer money abroad, there are also alternate cheaper options available, such as Transferwise, which always uses the mid-market exchange rate, with a low-cost transfer fee. It has become quite popular when it comes to international money transfers. 

Which Are the Best Banks in Spain?

Spain has thousands of banking institutions, each offering different services, accounts, and fees. Some of the best banks in Spain for expats and international students include:

1. BBVA Bank Spain

The BBVA Bank in Spain is one of the best banks to keep in mind when opening a bank account in the country. As the second-largest in the country, this bank also offers non-resident bank accounts for expats in Spain, while providing simple-to-use services through its mobile app. Its online banking services are top-notch, be it for money transfers, transactions, or other payments. 

2. Santander Bank

One of the largest financial entities in Spain, the Santander Bank Spain group, is highly efficient and comprehensive in its services and solutions. Santander Online Banking makes banking accessible everywhere, even from your phone/computer screen, through which you can open new accounts or transfer money among others. It offers low commissions, English-speaking staff, and a lot of security, which is great for non-residents of Spain who open a Santander bank account.

3. Bankia Spain

With an English-speaking staff and professional services, Bankia Spain financial group proves to be a great option for internationals in Spain. Apart from the fact that its online services are largely efficient and practical, this relatively new bank, created in 2010, offers suitable solutions and advantages for non-residents. You can apply for an account online and meet with a manager for the documents afterwards.

4. La Caixa Bank

La Caixa Bank is one of the largest banking groups in the country, with a history dating back to 1904. This banking group now encompasses more than 13 million clients, who benefit from the numerous range of services, including its current account for non-residents, which is basic and efficient, with numerous complementary services for those who are new in Spain.

Things to Consider When Opening a Bank Account in Spain

After getting the proper information on how to open a bank account in Spain and heading towards your journey, there are some things you should keep in mind for a smooth experience. 

Here’s what you should consider when opening a bank account in Spain:

  • Fees. Different banks will charge different fees and that is a given. This is why you should make sure to shop around before deciding on a specific banking institution. Choose the option that is more affordable to you but also consider the bank’s other services and whether they comply with your needs. Sometimes the cheapest/most expensive option is not the best choice for you. 
  • Bank Location. The bank location, as well as the distribution of its branches, is necessary to consider when opening a bank account. You want a banking institution that is accessible whenever you might have any issues.
  • Customer Service. This is also crucial, only because customer service is important when it comes to getting the right set of information and avoiding any misunderstandings. As an expat in Spain, you might not speak the language proficiently, so choosing a bank with English-speaking staff would be a great plus. 
  • ATM Distribution. Most banks in Spain do not charge fees for transactions in their own ATMs, however, you will be charged a fee if you use a different bank’s ATM. This is why you should also see whether the bank you are considering has accessible ATMs, so you will not have to spend money for each transaction.

Spanish Banking Glossary

If you are not proficient in the Spanish language or would simply like to understand the banking lingo better, find a Spanish banking glossary just below: 

  • Bancos = Banks
  • Cuenta = Account
  • Cuenta Corriente = Current Account
  • Cajas De Ahorros = Savings Banks
  • Saldo Contable = Account Balance
  • Saldo Disponible = Balance Available 
  • Cuenta Para Residentes = Resident Account
  • Cuenta Para No Residentes = Non-resident Account
  • Código Cuenta Cliente = Account Details 
  • Número De Cuenta = Account Number
  • Oficina = Branch
  • Extracto = Statement
  • Traspasos = Transfers
  • Tarjeta = Card
  • Seguros = Insurance
  • BIC – ‘Bank Identifier Code’
  • IBAN – ‘International Bank Account Number’
  • Spanish NIE Number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) – An identification and tax number in Spain also known as ‘Identification Number for Foreigners’.

FAQs 

Some of the most commonly asked questions regarding how to open a bank account in Spain include the following:

1. Do you need money to open a bank account in Spain? 

How much money do you need to open a bank account in Spain? Well, initially, you will typically not need any money to open a bank account in Spain since the procedure is free of charge and you will usually not be required to have a minimum deposit either. However, this counts if you want to open a bank account in Euro (€). If you want to open a bank account in a different currency, you might be required to make an initial minimum deposit, depending on the banking institution. 

2. What do you need to open a bank account in Spain? 

To open a bank account in Spain, whether you are a resident or non-resident, you will need the following documents: 

  1. A valid passport.
  2. A national identity card (for EU citizens).
  3. Proof of address in Spain (recent utility bill or recent Spanish bank statement).
  4. Proof of employment status (a payslip, student card, contract, tax return, or government documents to prove you are either unemployed or receiving a state pension).
  5. Certificate of non-residency / ‘Certificado de No Residente’ (for non-resident accounts). 
  6. Spanish NIE number (for resident accounts).

3. Can I open a bank account without NIE? 

Yes, you will be able to open a bank account in Spain without your Spanish NIE number (Foreigners’ Identification Number). However, you will not be eligible for a resident account but only a non-resident account (which typically has fewer benefits and higher fees than resident accounts).

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