International Online Banks
You can also consider using one of the growing online banks. Businesses like Ipagoo and Transferwise can provide multi-currency accounts with access to banking services, including the use of ATMs in different countries. You should consider what you need from your bank and look closely at the fee and price structure of each option to check it works for your likely usage.
Non-resident Spanish Bank Accounts
It is possible to open a Spanish bank as a resident or as a non-resident and a number have special services for expats. Although you can do this before you move to Spain, it may be easiest to do this while you are in Spain and you can generally pick up your debit or credit cards, PIN and cheque book within a week or so of completing your application.
You will need to provide your passport (or National ID card if an EU citizen), a utility bill or bank statement (less than 3 months old) as proof of address and proof of your employment status (payslip, tax return or official letter confirming you are unemployed or receiving pension or state benefits). If not in Spanish they will need to be translated by an official translator (traductor jurado).
As a non-resident you may also be asked to prove that you are non-resident. This will involve obtaining a certificate of non-residency (certificado de no residencia). Although some banks will do the paperwork for you, this can take 10 days to arrange through a Spanish police station and will generally only be worthwhile if you spend significant periods in Spain each year, but remain resident outside the country. Many banks do not require this and so you can consider trying a bank where this is not a requirement.
If you spend more than 183 days a year in Spain or are employed or have a business in Spain you become resident in Spain and will need to advise your bank. You will then be able to open a resident bank account which may have better terms.
Resident Bank Accounts
It is possible to open a bank account online, but, especially if you do not speak Spanish, it may be better to do so in person at the bank. Many branches of Spanish banks do not have English-speaking staff, so it is worth seeing if you can book an appointment with an English-speaking member of staff or take a translator with you (either a Spanish-speaking friend or one of the freelance translators available)
will do) with you. Accounts are typically opened almost immediately (within 1–5 days) with documentation, cheque books and credit cards dispatched within two weeks.
You will typically need to provide a passport or national ID card (if an EU citizen) as proof of identity, proof of your Spanish address (a recent utility bill or bank statement or your lease), your Spanish NIE number (número de identificación de extranjeros) and proof of your employment status (employment contract, student card or paperwork showing you are unemployed or retired). Any documents that are not in Spanish will need to be officially translated and may need to be authenticated.
You should obtain your NIE number before opening a resident bank account (see Applying for Residence in Spain [LINK] for details on how to obtain your NIE number).
It is fairly quick to set up an account and it generally possible to obtain the documentation, cards and cheque books within two weeks.
Banks in Spain
There are a large number of businesses providing banking services in Spain. The main banks are:
- ING Direct (Spanish only)
- Banc de Sabadell (website available in English)
- Banco Popular (Spanish only)
- Santander (Spanish only apart from welcome page)
- BBVA (website available in English)
- La Caixa(website available in English)
It is worth shopping around if you have the time, as the fees can vary significantly. A monthly maintenance fee is common and, although cash withdrawals from the banks own ATMs is generally free, there will be charges for using other banks’ ATMs. There are also often special offers available and fees can be waived if you meet different criteria (eg. paying your monthly salary into the account) and so the cost will vary according to when you are opening an account.