Banking in Spain

Banking in Spain is similar to that in most modernized countries.  With the computerized banking systems throughout the world, information and access flow easily and opening an account in Spain is very straightforward.

If you have recently moved to Spain and plan on staying for an extended amount of time or are planning to live here permanently, opening a Spanish bank account is a must.

For renting or buying a home, opening a business in Spain, purchasing a car or legal paperwork it is essential and in most cases a requirement to have a Spanish bank account.

Finding a bank in Spain to match an individual needs is very easy because there are so many choices. Modern banking in Spain has made it all automated with the click of a mouse; hence, for all who are new to the Spanish system have nothing to worry about.

The Ministry of Finance (Hacienda) is the primary overseer of the Spanish financial system, and the Banco de España is its source of monetary policy as well as the direct overseer of the banks.

The number of banks (both Spanish and foreign-registered) in Spain has considerably increased over the last few years due in large part to the fact that since April 1994, any European Union bank can open branch offices in Spain with little bureaucratic hassle.

At this time there are approximately 50 foreign banks in Spain and are present in most provinces and definitely in the larger cities and towns.  All the banks are full members of the Spanish clearing and payment system and, in general, can provide cheque accounts, cash and credit cards, and direct debit/standing order services, loans and mortgages.

There are two main types of banks in Spain, clearing/commercial banks and savings banks. Spain has over 80 saving institutionsBanking called “cajas”.

You will see many banks in Spain with the name “caja”: Caja Sur, Caja Mar, Caja Madrid, etc.

These are the most commonly used and the most similar to that of the building societies in Britain and savings and loans in the United States.

They also provide the standard bank services and products such as credit cards, debit cards and cheques just like the commercial banks.

Banking has become highly automated and electronic banking with Spanish institutions is regarded as the best in Europe, and their ATMs are among the world´s best.

Spaniards use electronic banking for almost everything, from receiving wages to scheduling monthly automated payments for just about everything.

ATM’s are plentiful throughout Spain and can accept the majority of major credit cards and debit cards from around the world.  The money you withdraw while you are in Spain will be given to you in euros.

This is the most practical and least expensive way to change currency.  Banks (as well as official currency exchange offices) in Spain charge high commissions to change money and the exchange rates are not usually to your advantage.

ATM’s offer the best way to exchange your currency for euros and will end up saving money and hassles of waiting in slow bank lines.

BankingNormal bank hours in Spain are from 8:30am/9am until between 1:30 and 2:30pm Monday to Friday and from 8:30am/9:30am until 12:00 or 1:00pm on Saturdays.

Banks in Spain are usually closed on Saturdays from June to September/October.

Local banks are always closed on national and local “fiesta” days…… which are more frequent than you would think!  So make sure and do your banking beforehand.

To discuss more on Banking in Spain, there are numerous types of accounts, below is a brief description:

A current account (cuenta corriente) usually carries a very low interest rate, if any. You can deposit and withdraw money freely and without fees.

A fixed deposit account (cuenta de imposición a plazo) will give you interest depending on the time period of the deposit and the amount deposited. These conditions can be discussed and modified often times.

A savings book account (libreta de ahorro) usually carries a very low interest rate (if any), but does give you a continuous written record of your account.

To open a bank account in Spain you will only need your passport or residence permit, and will be asked to fill out a form by the bank which will also set forth the bank’s general terms and conditions. Sometimes they may ask for a NIF/NIE number (a Spanish identification number), but generally a passport will suffice.  The local police station can provide this NIE number if it is required.

Non-residents may have any kind of account in a Spanish bank which a resident can have.

Residents, on the other hand, can only have a “convertible” account with a foreign-registered bank.

So, both non-residents and residents may have accounts in euros in any bank. Accounts in a foreign currency or “convertible” may be opened by non-residents in any bank, and by residents in any foreign-registered bank.


BankingTransferring Funds: There are practically no restrictions or formalities to transferring funds to and from Spain from other countries of the European Union.

However, if you want to make transfers to or from countries outside the European Union, consult your Spanish bank.

If you are to receive or send funds abroad by money transfer it is worth considering a specialist provider to avoid high commissions and transfer fees.

Cheques: The standard rules of cheque writing apply in Spain as they would in other countries.  Always write cheques in ball point pen, write the cheque to the person/business that is to receive payment and do not leave spaces which may be used for increasing the amount.

Guard blank cheques, destroy excess cheques, and never leave a blank signed cheque with anyone. Writing a cheque without funds in the bank is illegal.

Bank Statements/fees: Most banks are willing to send your statement to any address you specify, in Spain or in your home country.

The identifying number is the same as that on your cheques, with the first four digits giving the bank’s number, the next four digits the branch number, then two control numbers and the last ten digits are your account number.

Banks recommend that you use this entire number to avoid any confusion. In order to understand your monthly statements more clearly, below are a list of words used in reference to your account.

“Fecha del extracto” = date of the statement
“Hoja” = page number
“Saldo actual” = current balance
“Fecha” = gives the date of each transaction
“Oficina” = the identifying number of the transacting bank
“Concepto” = a word or code for the transaction (sometimes very cryptic, and sometimes explained on the back)
“Valor” = the date when a deposit will start receiving interest
“Importe” = the amount involved in the transaction
“Saldo” = balance after each transaction

Residents will have 25% of any interest retained by the bank against their Income Tax Declaration, which should (but may not) be reported to you by the bank at the end of the year in a statement to be included with your Income Tax Declaration.

The bank should also prepare a statement giving your average balance for the year, to be used in your Wealth Tax Declaration if you need to make one.

BankingStanding Orders (domiciliación): You can order the bank to regularly pay certain bills when they come due – local taxes, garbage collection, electricity, water, phone – by filling in a form supplied by the bank or the business billing you.

Both the bank and the billing business must be informed of this standing order.  You must make sure that you have sufficient funds to pay such standing orders or you may arrive at your home to find essential services shut off for lack of payment (often requiring a reconnection fee!).

Fees for these services differ between the different banks, so make sure to check them out beforehand.

Mortgages (Hipotecas): A resident or non-resident foreigner may take out a mortgage in Spain, including on State-subsidized housing (“VPO” or Vivienda de Protección Oficial).

However, the rules may differ slightly depending of your residency status. You may use Spanish or a foreign mortgage holder, and the mortgage may be in Euro or a foreign currency.

A resident may finance the totality of the value of a property. Interests on mortgages in Spain are low. Variable interest mortgages can be had at 3-4% per annum, and fixed interest mortgages from 5-7%.

If you want to take a mortgage with variable interest, the best reference for the variations is the I.R.M.H. (Indice de Referencia del Mercado Hipotecario) published by the Banco de España.

Transfer of Pensions: Some banks are still charging heavy commissions on transfers of pensions from abroad. Other banks do not charge on such transfer. It pays to find out the conditions offered by the different financial institutions.

The above information is a general idea about the functioning of Spanish banking system or banking in Spain.

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