Opening a Spanish bank account: how to do it?

Of course, you tell everyone that you live in Spain on love, sun, sea and beach. But admit it, every now and then you need to tap some flaps too. If you are on vacation, you can easily withdraw money with your Belgian bank card. However, as soon as you buy a property under the sun, and thus regularly breathe Spanish air, a local bank account will come in handy. This can be either as an official resident or a regular visitor. Below we explain the different possibilities. And we explain exactly what you need to open a Spanish bank account.

Why is a Spanish bank account useful?

When you withdraw money in Spain with your Belgian bank card, you usually pay commissions to the bank that manages the machine. With a Spanish bank card, you can bypass that cost. At least if you withdraw money from ATMs of your own bank, at other banks you still pay.

A Spanish bank account also makes it easier to pay fixed costs, such as gas, water, electricity, TV, internet, telephone subscription and taxes, with a direct debit. National transfers are faster. Spanish insurers you can often only pay with a bank account from the country itself. Of course, you can also use your bank card to pay in supermarkets or stores, or while shopping online.

Opening a Spanish bank account as a non-resident

Perhaps you do not stay in Spain often enough to be registered as a resident. Or have you not been there long enough to qualify. In that case, some banks may still allow you to open an account as a non-resident. While the banks will charge you more than when you open an account as a resident, on the other hand, you will not pay taxes on the money in the account.

What do you need to open a Spanish bank account as a non-resident?

  • A valid identity card (EU) or passport.
  • A document proving your Spanish address. For example, this could be a bill for electricity or gas that is no older than three months. However, an extract from another Spanish bank also qualifies.
  • Proof of employment. Think of a paycheck, an assessment notice, or a government document that shows you are unemployed or retired.
  • A certificado de no residente. This certificate can be obtained from the local police station, which normally issues it after ten days. Please note that not every office provides this service. Your bank can also arrange it for you through a power of attorney, but it will cost you about 15 euros.

Opening a Spanish bank account as a resident

If you are officially residing in Spain, you can open an account with any Spanish bank without any problems. Such an account gives you more flexibility and banks charge much less if you are a resident. Especially when you receive your salary or pension in that account every month. As soon as it is possible, you can easily convert the bank account from the previous point to this one if you wish.

What do you need to open a Spanish bank account as a resident?

  • A valid identity card (EU) or passport.
  • A document proving your Spanish address. A gas bill with your name on it, for example.
  • Your NIE number. In another blog post, we explain in full detail how to apply for such a NIE number.
  • Proof of employment, such as a paycheck, a tax assessment notice, or a government document that shows you are unemployed or retired.

What are the options?

In Spain, there are two systems that coexist: savings banks and banks. This dates back to the 17th century, when both the church and wealthy families began lending money to Juan with a hat. The remnants are respectively the savings banks(cajas de ahorros) and banks (bancos) of today.

Cajas are owned by the government and vary by region. They often invest in local projects. Banks, on the other hand, are private. Small banks sometimes manage to provide a more personal service to their loyal customers. On the other hand, they don’t always have offices all over the country. A choice for one is not intrinsically worse than for the other.

In principle, you can go to any bank, but with some you bump into a bureaucratic tangle from which you cry out an eyeball. Not for nothing is Spain a top performer in terms of bureaucracy. Especially if you are not yet fluent in the language, it may be smart to choose a bank that caters specifically to foreigners. Then you can manage your financial affairs in English. Because it might be witty for a beginner in Spanish to order an unfamiliar dish from a menu. But when it comes to money, you better make sure you understand everything.

Some large, well-known banks include Banco Santander, BBVA, Banesto, Sabadell and Banco Popular. An international bank like ING is also present in the Spanish market.

What are the costs associated with a Spanish bank account?

It is not really complicated to open an account in Spain, but it is best to compare the conditions of the different options. A lot of banks have a hand in charging extra for each service. Even for things that are simply free in Belgium. And the cost is higher than in other European countries.

With some banks, even just for having an account, you pay between 15 and 30 euros a year. Withdrawals from ATMs other than those of your own bank also cost money, between 0.50 and 3 euros each time. So it pays to do the comparison and choose the option that is most beneficial in your situation.

Some useful terms

  • Bank ATM = cajero automatico
  • Savings account = cuenta de ahorros
  • Current account = cuenta corriente
  • Mortgage account = cuenta hipoteca
  • Credit account = cuenta de tarjeta de crédito
  • Payroll account = cuenta nómina
  • Domiciliation = domiciliación bancaria
  • Debit card = tarjeta de débito
  • Credit card = tarjeta de crédito



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