If you’re an expat, banking and payments will be easier once you open a bank account in Spain. Discover how Spanish bank accounts and payments work here.
If you’re moving to Spain long-term, you will probably want to open up a Spanish bank account. Spain has a big expat community; as a result, there are many banks that cater their services towards expats. Opening a bank account in Spain is fairly straightforward, although there has been a tightening of regulations since the 2008 financial crisis.
This guide explains what is required to open a bank account in Spain. Sections include:
- Banking in Spain
- Do you need a bank account in Spain?
- Before you open a bank account in Spain?
- Types of bank account in Spain
- Bank accounts in Spain
- Choosing a bank in Spain
- How to open a bank account in Spain
- Banking services in Spain
- Managing your bank account in Spain
- Changing banks or closing an account in Spain
- Useful resources
With bunq, you can open your full bank accounts in just five minutes using nothing more than your mobile phone. You get real-time access to your account, instant payments and dedicated customer support available in English, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish.
Banking in Spain
Spain has an integrated and internationalized banking system. It consists of 141 current private banks (including around 80 foreign-owned banks), plus many regional cooperative and savings banks. The Banco de España is Spain’s national bank which also serves as the regulator for the banking sector. Read the Expatica guide to banking in Spain for a more detailed account of Spanish banking.
Do you need a bank account in Spain?
Having a bank account in Spain is not a legal requirement; it is possible to manage your finances from an overseas account. However, if you are a long-term resident in Spain, it may prove costly and complicated to operate your everyday finances. There are many things such as paying Spanish utility bills and getting a Spanish mortgage where it is beneficial to have a bank account in Spain.
Before you open a bank account in Spain
If you move to Spain without having opened an account, you can manage your finances from your overseas account. Spain accepts most major types of foreign bank and credit card if they are Visa, Mastercard or American Express. However, you may incur charges. See the Expatica guide to banking in Spain for more information. Many Spanish banks offer non-resident accounts, so it’s possible to set up a Spanish bank account in advance of your move if you’re worried about this.
Types of bank accounts in Spain
Spanish banks offer various different account types to customers. It’s worth shopping around to find the solution that best suits your circumstances. Some of the main types of bank account in Spain are:
- Current accounts – for everyday banking and financial requirements. Many banks will offer various different current accounts, some targeting specific groups of customers such as students or young people;
- Savings accounts – most banks will offer different savings options ranging from basic savings accounts to services links to investments in funds and shares. There are also many regional Spanish banks (cajas) that offer savings accounts;
- Digital accounts – you can now do all your banking online or from a mobile device as the main Spanish banks all offer online services and banking apps;
- Non-resident accounts – some of the main Spanish banks offer non-resident accounts aimed at foreign residents, although these are mostly Euro-based accounts
Offshore bank accounts
Expats in Spain may find that opening an international offshore bank account is the best way to manage their finances. This is particularly helpful for anyone who works abroad, spends a lot of time in more than one country, or frequently transfers money between countries.
Offshore accounts are located outside the holder’s country of residence and usually offer distinct advantages such as a wider range of cross-border services and lower taxation on funds.
Bank accounts in Spain
Spanish banks that offer accounts and services that are open to expats include the following providers.
One of Spain’s biggest banks, BBVA offers various commission-free accounts including a basic current account, a young blue account for people aged 18-29, and a payroll account for managing income. There is also a global banking app with mobile payments compatible with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay plus a range of debit cards, credit cards, and prepaid cards to choose from.
Products include the Key Account which offers a free translation service for foreign and temporary residents, the Expansion Account with free unlimited deposits and withdrawals (suitable for pensioners), the Primera savings account for young people, and the Higher Sterling savings account. There are also various low-cost international money transfer options.
Spain’s biggest bank offers a wide range of current accounts including a basic account, a classic account a young person’s account and a non-resident account. There are also several debit and credit cards to choose from and a downloadable banking app for those who prefer to manage their finances from their smartphone.
If you don’t want to open an account with a Spanish bank, there are a number of renowned international banks to choose from in Spain. These include:
- Deutsche Bank
There are also online and mobile banks that let you manage your finances remotely. These include:
Choosing a bank in Spain
When choosing which bank to open an account within Spain, think about what you want with regards to products and services and shop around to find the best deal suited to your requirements. There are a number of things you might want to consider, such as:
- costs – not many bank accounts in Spain are completely free but basic current accounts are usually low-cost. There may be a trade-off in terms of services available, though;
- range of services – if you think you may want to access loans, Spanish insurance, Spanish mortgages, or a Spanish pension plan at some stage, many Spanish banks offer these as well;
- ease of access – if you want 24/7 access to your account, then an online account or a mobile bank account in Spain may be the best option;
- English-speaking services – international banks in Spain are most likely to offer this, while the regional cajas will usually have only Spanish-speaking staff and Spanish-language information.
How to open a bank account in Spain
It’s best to visit the bank of your choice in person and request an account. Banks are usually only open 9am–2pm Monday to Saturday. Many don’t have English-speaking staff; either book an appointment with an English-speaker or bring a translator (a fluent friend will do) with you.
Accounts are typically opened almost immediately (within 1–5 days) with documentation and credit cards dispatched within two weeks.
You will typically need to provide the following:
- Proof of identity (e.g., passport)
- Spanish foreigner identification number (NIE) and certificate (número de identificación de extranjeros)
- Proof of address
- Proof of employment status (e.g., student card, employment contract, unemployment documentation)
Bear in mind that documents that aren’t in Spanish may need to be officially translated. If they’re from abroad, they may need to be authenticated using an Apostille stamp.
How to open a bank account in Spain from abroad
Many Spanish banks accept non-resident accounts, so it is possible to set up an account in advance of your move. As well as the standard documentation, you may have to prove that you are not resident by providing a certificate of non-residency (certificado de no residencia). To get one, you have to apply at a Spanish police station and the process typically takes 10 days.
As a result, this option is primarily useful for those who spend a significant chunk of time in Spain but are normally resident elsewhere. Some banks will do the paperwork for a nominal fee (around €15). You must inform the bank should you become resident, which is defined as spending 183 or more days per year in Spain or having a business or employment-based in Spain or a spouse or minor child who are resident in Spain.
How to open a digital or mobile bank account in Spain
Internet-only banks are typically only available for residents, although accounts from mobile-only providers such as bunq and N26 are available to anyone. If you have a bank account already and want to go mobile, all you need to do is download the mobile banking app which is available from the bank’s website. Opening up a mobile-only account usually only takes minutes and can usually be done from your smartphone. You will need to provide an address, an email address and a mobile phone number to link to your account. See this guide to mobile banking in Spain for more information.
How to open a business bank account in Spain
Most of the big Spanish banks offer business banking to both small and large businesses, including products such as loans and insurance. If you are starting a Spanish business or becoming a freelancer in Spain, you can check out the different account options on Spanish bank websites. As well as standard documentation you will need to provide a business address and, if you’re a limited company, may need to provide official company documentation and have at least two signatories on the account. Some accounts, especially those for larger businesses, may require minimum deposits and there may be extra fees attached to business accounts. Ask for upfront information regarding fees to avoid nasty surprises.
How to open a bank account in Spain for your children
Many Spanish banks offer accounts for children such as junior savings accounts. If you want to open up an account for your child, it’s best to do this at a Spanish bank branch; some banks allow you to do this online. The process is not that much different from opening an account for yourself. You’ll have to provide ID for both yourself and the child. Parents act as legal representatives of the child as account holder until the child reaches the age of 18, at which point they become the sole name associated with the account. The exact process and requirements will vary depending on the bank and the account.
What to do if you are refused a bank account in Spain
If you are unhappy with the way you have been treated by a Spanish bank, you can complain to the Banco de España which is the national bank that regulates banking services in Spain. You should bear in mind that most Spanish banks are private institutions under no obligation to offer an account, so you should only file a complaint if you feel you have been mistreated or discriminated against.
Banking services in Spain
Banks in Spain provide a similar range of services to banks in many other European countries, with many having diversified into other product areas. Beyond the range of current and savings accounts, you are likely to find services such as:
- Borrowing options such as loans and overdrafts;
- Credit and debit cards;
- International money transfers
See this guide to banking in Spain for more detailed information on banking services.
International money transfers in Spain
For international money transfers, there are alternative solutions to banks which could prove cheaper and more convenient, such as:
You can also use Monito’s online comparison tool to save on fees, obtain the best exchange rates, and find the cheapest option for your international money transfers.
Managing your bank account in Spain
You can choose how you manage your money and finances with Spanish banks. Many offer the full range of customer service options, including:
- Face-to-face banking – there are still over 27,000 bank branches across Spain so plenty of high-street options if you need to make a manual payment or set up a meeting to talk about taking out a loan. Not all bank branches have English-speaking staff so check ahead or travel with an interpreter.
- Online banking – you can enjoy 24/7 access to your account through online banking which is a key feature of most modern banks. Even services such as taking out a loan can sometimes be done without having to visit a bank branch these days, which customer services can sometimes be accessed via live chat on the bank website or through social media channels. See the Expatica guide to digital banking in Spain for more information.
- Mobile banking – banking via smartphone using mobile banking apps is becoming increasingly common and is the ultimate in convenient banking for today’s young customers. Mobile-only banks offer all their services through an app and don’t use physical branches at all. You can manage your funds, access services and make a range of payments all at the touch of a screen. See the Expatica guide to mobile banking in Spain for more details.
Changing banks or closing a bank account in Spain
Closing an account or moving your funds to another bank in Spain isn’t just a case of withdrawing all of the funds out of the account. You’ll need to make sure the account is officially closed. The best way of doing this is to visit your bank branch; take your passport or valid ID with you. Depending on the account you have, you may have to fill in and sign some forms. If you’re able to close the account down online, it’s wise to ask for confirmation from the bank that the account is closed. If you’re simply switching to another bank account, it’s best to open the new account before closing the existing one.
Before closing a bank account in Spain, also make sure that:
- There are no strings attached to closing the account before any particular time period. Some accounts that come with special offers may have a clause that the account needs to remain active for a minimum period, so check this first to avoid any penalties;
- You have no outstanding payments coming out of the account that will leave you with a negative balance. Cancel all direct debit and standing order payments on the account;
- You must also notify your employer or anyone else making payments into the account that the account is no longer in use.