An Expat’s Guide: how to open a bank account in Spain
Expats take note: read this guide to discover how surprisingly easy it can be to open a bank account in Spain.
7 min read
Let’s face it, moving abroad comes attached with the longest to-do list, ever. Getting all the paperwork sorted, learning the language, finding somewhere to live… You’re going to have plenty to think about when you move to Spain, even before you start thinking about your finances.
Opening a Spanish bank account might sound like yet another difficult task, but it really shouldn’t be too hard. Whether you’re here to study or work, here’s our guide to talk you through the process for a simple way to open a bank account in your new home.
What are the types of bank account in Spain?
A great place to start. There are two types of bank account that you might be considering: a resident account and a non-resident account. As the name suggests, resident accounts are for people living in Spain, and non-resident accounts are for people living abroad who may still wish to have an account there.
A non-resident account might be the right choice for you if you’re buying property in Spain, but won’t be living there most of the time. If you’re actually moving to Spain and intend to open an account for day-to-day spending, then a resident account is the right way to go, even if you’re not Spanish by nationality.
These are the key types of bank account you can expect to come across:
- Cuenta bancaria o Cuenta corriente (current account) – this is the standard, everyday account that you’ll use for the basics.
- Cuenta de ahorros (savings account) – this is where to put your savings, to gain a little extra interest on your money.
- Cuenta de depósito (deposit account) – this is like a savings account, but with fewer options for accessing the money: it’s for funds that need to be held securely.
- Cuenta nomina (salary account) – this account is specifically designed to receive your paycheck from your employer.
As you can tell, accounts tend to have very specific purposes in Spain, and some people hold more than one based on their requirements. The question is, which one(s) do you need? That will depend on your circumstances, and what’s on offer from your bank of choice, but certainly: make sure you’ve got a cuenta bancaria.
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How to choose a bank account in Spain
Spain has many traditional banking institutions, as well as newer, digital banks. Which type of account you choose is ultimately up to you, but you might want to consider the following factors in doing so:
- How easy it is to open the account
- Do they have banking services in English? (Or other languages, if you’re not a fluent Spanish speaker)
- What are the fees?
Here’s where it pays to do your research. You should be able to find out all of the above by checking the pages of the banks themselves (of course), and comparison sites.
How to open a bank account in Spain
Now that you’ve been introduced to the types of resident account (and you’re ready to open one yourself) here’s an overview of how to get your Spanish bank account set up:
- Open the account once you are already living in Spain. It sounds obvious, but it’s really easier to do this once you’re already here. Unlike finding jobs and apartments, this isn’t always a process you can do ahead of time, since you’ll likely need to include details such as your home address in the country.
- Have your documents ready (see “What do you need to open a bank account in Spain?”, below.)
- Choose your bank if you can find an English-speaking service, or alternatively, make use of digital banking to avoid language barriers. (For instance, N26 is available in five languages).
- Once you’re registered, you’ll need to wait a few days to receive your account details and card in the post. Again, it helps if you’re already in the country for this!
How to open an online bank account in Spain
If you’re already too busy with the chores of unpacking, looking for work, studies, language classes and drinking sangría, you might well want to consider a digital bank account, which can be opened in just a few minutes from your phone.
With N26 you can set up a bank account with Spanish IBAN on your mobile phone in minutes, without any paperwork, or Spanish-speaking skills at all. You just need a compatible smartphone and some valid ID, which you use to verify your identity straightaway in a quick video call or with photos.
How much does it cost to open a bank account in Spain?
In Spain, as in any country, the cost of bank accounts can vary considerably. On average, bank fees in Spain are higher than average compared to other European countries.
These costs can include regular maintenance fees, and you might even have to pay an account opening fee as well. There are sometimes discounts on this for the very old and young.
Types of bank account fees in Spain
With a standard bank account, you might find yourself facing the following sorts of fees:
- Maintenance fee – this could be charged monthly, quarterly or yearly.
- Credit/debit card fee – there might be an additional charge, simply for owning one of these cards.
- Cash withdrawal fee – check with your bank provider to see if there’s a cost for using ATMs. You might be charged if you use an ATM that’s outside your bank’s ATM network.
- International transfer fees – if you’re likely to be sending money back and forth between countries, some banks charge variable fees for this.
Of course, not all banks will charge all of these fees. It’s definitely worth shopping around to find a competitive offer. With N26, there are no monthly maintenance costs, you’ll get up to 5 free ATM withdrawals per month and with TransferWise integrated into the app, you can typically save much more than with a standard international bank transfer.
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What do you need to open a bank account in Spain?
Again, the requirements to open a bank account in Spain varies per bank. As we mentioned above, as long as you’re legally resident in Spain, N26 doesn’t need to see proof of address, so it’s one less piece of paper to worry about.
With many traditional bank accounts, you might need to show proof of some or all of the following:
- ID, such as a passport.
- A valid Spanish address.
- Your Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE) – this is the code that proves you’re officially registered in Spain.
- Proof of your employment status – a student card if you’re a student, a contract if you’re employed, or some official documentation to confirm you’re unemployed.
Of course, this is just the requirements for a resident account. If you’re opening a non-resident account, you’ll likely have to prove that you’re not a resident with documents from your actual country of residence.
At what age can you open a bank account in Spain?
With the exception of an account your parent or guardian signs off on, the minimum age to be able to open a full bank account in Spain is 18 years old. Bring your official ID to prove this (or with a digital bank like N26, simply show this to our verification team in the app.)
For opening a bank account at N26, you must be at least 18 years old and it is not possible for parents or guardians to sign up on your behalf.
How much does it cost to cancel a bank account in Spain?
If you’re likely to want to close your bank account at some point, it’s worth finding out how easy it is to do so and if there are any fees involved. It can be surprisingly complicated and with traditional banks often involves even more paperwork. Depending on the bank account in question, there might be fees attached to the process. Exactly what they are will vary from bank to bank, but for full flexibility, a mobile bank like N26 let’s you set up your account in Spain and continue using it in euro currency, anywhere in the world.
Don’t let the banking stop you from making the most of your first few weeks and months in Spain! If you can find an option that works for you, then opening a Spanish bank account should be as easy as *uno, dos, tres.*
To take the stress out of expat living, our series on all things relocation, An Expats’ Guide, aims to help you land as smoothly as possible in your new life in Spain. We’ll be breaking down the mysteries around getting your new life on track when it comes to banking and finance.
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