August 24, 2016 No Comments

Banking In Spain – The Basics You Must Know

Thinking about relocating to Spain? The first thing you must do is open a bank account. With a bank account activated, you will be able to purchase a property through the bank account as well as set up direct debit to pay for utilities and bills.

Before signing the contract to activate the new account, ensure you understand all the terms and conditions well. However, if the contract is not in English, you can request to have one drawn up. The majority of banks will have an English speaker on board, but this is not a given, and you may have to enlist the help of a translator. You may want to chose a bank with at least one English speaker available for easier transactions until you learn enough Spanish to converse yourself.

There are different types of accounts available to both residents and non-residents. The residential accounts provide more benefits and flexibility as opposed to the latter. Each bank has variety of accounts suited for each clients needs; e.g. Small businesses, pensioners, etc.

Some Spanish banks charge a service fee, which depends on the additional services you are receiving; for example domestic and foreign bank-to-bank transfers. Other banks do not have an account service charge, but will probably instill certain conditions. Some banks offer accounts for retired residents, with a free debit and credit card, cash back on utility bills and free domestic transfers, so before opening an account, do shop around.

To open a non-residential account, the following documents are mandatory;

  1. A valid passport
  2. Account opening money
  3. A copy of your UK bank statement
  4. Address of the property you wish to purchase in Spain
  5. Proof of your UK address

If you later become a resident of Spain, it is very easy to change your non-residential account to residential.

Spanish banks do not issue cheque books to their clients. Instead, all payments are made via debit and credit cards, or cash. An annual fee of approximately 30-40 Euros will be charged to the account holder for the annual fee of a Visa or MasterCard credit card. Gold cards (generally for higher earners) also have a higher annual fee.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, Spanish banks have regrouped, re-branded, refunded and modernized themselves. The five main banks in Spain are Santander, Banco Popular, BBVA, Sabadell Atlántico, and La Caixa.

Utility bills are automatically deducted from your debit card. It is important to keep your account topped up to cover these costs. Default can result to fines being incurred or your water, gas, or electricity supply being shut off. Depending on the company, utility bills are paid monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly.

Payments in shops, restaurants, and supermarkets can usually be paid via a debit or credit card swipe. If you are paying using a UK card, request to make the payments in euros instead of sterling because the exchange rate offered by the card company is always better than the shop’s Spanish bank. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most places. However, the American Express card is yet to be accepted in many establishments due to the additional charges that must be paid to Amex by the businesses.

Ensure to arrange with your bank before you go overdrawn money from your account. Most Spanish banks offer a facility to borrow up to 5,000 Euros to cover major expenses. However, these rates vary depending on the type of bank account you have, and whether you have a good credit record.

The larger Spanish banks have good online banking sites that make it easy to handle money from UK or Spain. You might also be assigned a personal bank manager to help ease your banking processes. Keep in mind that the queues to the counter can be very long, especially during morning and lunch hours. ATM machines are scattered everywhere in Spain. Look for machines that are your bank’s group as they do not incur a charge.

Spanish banking hours are mornings until 1-2 pm on weekdays. Some banks have different working hours during summer and winter and may not open for business on Saturdays. If you are thinking of opening a bank account in Spain, it is relatively easy. However, if you prefer a one-on-one meeting with a customer service agent, all you need to do is visit your nearest branch and request an appointment, and help will be provided.


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