If you are planning to move to Spain, opening a Spanish bank account is an important step in setting up your new life.
Having a local bank account will allow you to manage your finances, pay bills, and make purchases with ease. It is also necessary for paying certain bills and taxes in Spain. In this article, we will explore the steps involved in opening a bank account in Spain, including what you need to know about Spanish banks and alternative banking options.
Is a Spanish Bank Account Necessary?
Expats in Spain tend to be distrustful of Spanish banks because of their unfair charges, the language barrier and money being deducted from accounts without any explanation. Because of this, you may be wondering if you'll really need a Spanish bank account.
While you could get away without one, it is highly recommended that you open one for several reasons.
Most utility companies (i.e. electricity, phone, internet) will only take direct debit payments from a local bank account. Of course you could just pay the bills each month but it's convenient to be able to forget about these things and not run the risk of having the electricity disconnected.
Also, it's handy to have at least one non-internet account with a physical branch that you can go into in case of an emergency when your card stops working or if you need to withdraw a large amount of cash in one day.
Which Banks are Best for Expats?
If you are an expat in Spain, there are several banks that are known to be expat-friendly. These banks typically have English-speaking staff and offer a range of services specifically designed for expats. Some of the most popular banks for expats include Sabadell and La Caixa.
These banks have a physical presence, with branches located throughout the country. The downside is that their accounts come at a cost: the traditional banks tend to charge monthly or quarterly fees to those who don't have their salary being paid in each month. It's sometimes possible to avoid these if you transfer a certain amount of money into your account each month, and this is often down to the discretion of the branch manager, so it's worth asking.
In recent years, there has been a rise in internet banking options, including ING and Openbank, which don't have any of the annoying fees that the traditional banks charge. If you speak at least basic Spanish it's worth looking into these options, but unfortunately they don't have much in the way of English-speaking support.
What is Needed to Open a Spanish Bank Account?
Although some of the traditional banks will allow you to open a non-resident account with only a passport, most banks will need you to have at least a NIE (a Spanish tax identification number). Certain banks, such as ING, will only allow you to open an account if you are a resident.
You may also be required to provide proof of income and/or employment, depending on the bank. It is a good idea to contact the bank you are interested in opening an account with to find out what specific requirements they have.
What Alternatives are there to Spanish Bank Accounts?
In addition to traditional banks and online banks, there are also internet accounts with international banks such as N26, Revolut and Wise which are useful to have as an expat.
N26 is based in Germany and is the only one of the three which offers a Spanish IBAN to residents of Spain, which is a great way to get around the problem of paying taxes and bills by direct debit. It has an easy-to-use app and a super-responsive online chat service.
Revolut is a Lithuanian bank which offer accounts in Euros, British Pounds and US Dollars, which is ideal for exchanging money when you need it. Although the Euro account has a Lithuanian IBAN, the British Pounds account has a UK account number which is useful if you need an account with a British bank.
Wise, formerly TransferWise, offers a borderless debit card and account, allowing you to hold and transfer money in multiple currencies, including in Euros. They offer a competitive exchange rate, usually better than Revolut, and low transfer fees. Wise is a good option for expats who frequently travel between countries or who need to send money back to their home country.
Even if you are nervous about keeping your money in a Spanish bank account after hearing horror stories from fellow expats, it's convenient to have at least one local account which you can use to pay bills and taxes. If you have a basic understanding of Spanish, there are some great internet-only options (ING or Openbank) or you could go for an N26 account, a German bank who offer a Spanish IBAN.
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