Opening a bank account in Germany

Two tips to remember when banking en Espanol

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Former Spanish expat Stephanie Mazier delivers two helpful hints to make banking woes in Spain a little less annoying.

As French person, when I arrived in Madrid for the first time and had to open a bank account I found some difficulties. It wasn’t so much opening an account, that was quick and painless (I only needed my passport). But managing my account and payments started to be quite different.

Opening hours
I faced two main differences that really changed the way I dealt with money in Spain: First were the opening times of the bank offices. I still cannot understand why the offices are open to the public only from 8.00 to 14.00.

It is impossible to find a bank open in the afternoon. That means that you have to plan out your schedule very well, and also have flexibility at your work. How can you manage it? The first (and easiest) thing is to be an early bird and go to the bank office before work.


Another option is to choose a bank office close to your work place. This way you can stop by go quickly without wasting time in transport. Hopefully, you can find several banks on many corners of the streets in your town.

In the last few years there I chose the best option: online banking. Most of the banks now offer online banking options, but beware of services not always at an ideal quality.

Cash only, yes really
The second big difference is the use of “cash only” widely spread, which means a low chance of using your debit and credit cards. In many bars, restaurants and even retail shops, cash is only accepted.
So what happens? You spend your time looking for a cash dispenser. There are plenty of them along the streets, but you still have to choose the right one.

And not all of them will be suitable for your bank card. The Spanish banking system has two different card systems: Servired and 4B. Every bank applies to only one system in order for their customers to take cash for free.

Thus, if you use the other system, you will have to pay a commission fee of up to two or three euro. My tip? Watch for the signs above each cash dispenser to choose the one where you can withdrawl money for free.

Stéphanie Mazier is a globe-trotting connoisseur from France who has lived in Spain and the Netherlands long enough to know the frustrations of banking abroad.

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3 Comments To This Article

  • Dylan posted:

    on 26th March 2012, 12:26:29 - Reply

    What a totally out-of-date and misleading article.
    There are plenty of banks that open in the evening such as ING, ServiCaixa, Santander, Barclays, etc.
    The 'cash only' comment is completely without basis, everywhere, even small bakeries now have the means to charge via debit card.
    This is 2012 - it must have been some time since you last lived here.
  • Juan posted:

    on 31st March 2011, 15:30:01 - Reply

    In southern Madrid there is one bank with several offices that open in the afternoon until 20 o'clock. Its name is Novanca. Don't forget if you live in this area.
  • Dvora posted:

    on 25th March 2011, 12:21:53 - Reply

    I've lived in Spain since 2001 and have moved twice, so I've used three different banks, all of which are open one afternoon each week (usually Thursdays). The only places I have found that don't accept credit cards are bakeries. Otherwise, I can use mine in supermarkets and most, if not all shops, assuming my purchase is at least the minimum required, which is usually about 20 euros.