How to open a bank account in Spain as a British expat?

Gert Svaiko

Planning to move to Spain? It’s easy to see why – the country offers beautiful sunny weather, amazing food and exceptional quality of life.

As you prepare for your move, you’re likely to have a huge to-do list to work through. But right at the top of your priorities list should be to open a Spanish bank account. This shouldn’t be too difficult if you have the right paperwork. Spain has a large expat community, so many banks cater their services to non-residents and newcomers.

It isn’t compulsory to have a Spanish bank account if you live, work or study in Spain, but life can be tricky without one. You’ll need a way to get paid by your employer, and to pay your bills and everyday expenses.

In this guide, we’ll run through how to open a bank account in Spain. This includes the documents you’ll need, the best Spanish bank accounts for non-residents and expats alike, and how to get started.

We’ll also show you a smart alternative to a bank account from the money services provider Wise - the Wise account, which lets you manage your money in 40+ currencies in Spain, the UK and worldwide.


Table of contents

Do you need a bank account in Spain?

It isn’t absolutely essential to have a Spanish bank account in order to move there, nor is it a legal requirement. You may be able to manage without one, and you can always make use of multi-currency solutions such as the Wise account to send, spend and receive money.

But you might find that day-to-day life in Spain is a little more complicated if you don’t have any kind of local current account.

Paying taxes, rent and bills can be more of a headache, as can getting a mortgage and getting paid by your employer if you’re working. Even things like signing up for a mobile phone contract can be trickier without a bank account.

Can you use your UK bank account in Spain?

Whether or not you can carry on using your UK account while moving to Spain all depends on your bank.

Major UK banks such as Barclays have closed the accounts of British people living overseas in Europe.¹ It’s all to do with Brexit, with regulations requiring banks to have separate authorisation in every EEA country they operate in.

There are some exceptions, such as for UK Crown employees and people who are only planning to live abroad for less than 6 months. ¹

Other banks aren’t affected by the change in regulations after Brexit. International bank Santander, which also happens to be Spanish, says it will continue to service accounts when the holder moves abroad.² So if you’re an existing customer, it should be no problem to simply carry on using your account in Spain.

An important thing to bear in mind though is the currency. If you’re using a UK bank account, it’ll likely be denominated in GBP. You’ll be spending in EUR while in Spain, so you could lose out when it comes to currency exchange.

So, it could be a better idea to close down your UK account and get a fresh start, opening a Spanish bank account when you arrive.

📚 Read more: Can you keep your UK bank account when moving abroad?

Can you open a bank account in Spain as a British expat?

Yes, Spain and its banks are pretty welcoming to foreigners, new arrivals and expats. This makes it pretty straightforward to open an account as an expat.

You can even open a non-resident account at some banks, enabling you to have a Spanish bank account before you’ve even moved there.

Can you open an account as an international student?

A number of banks in Spain offer specialist accounts for students, and you can apply as an international student.

One of the best options is the Young Person’s Online Account at BBVA, which is fee-free and offers everyday banking services.

What documents do you need to open a bank account in Spain?

In order to open a bank account in Spain, you’ll usually need the following documents to hand

  • Proof of identity - such as a valid passport.
  • Proof of address.
  • Proof of your employment status.
  • Spanish foreigner identification number (NIE) and certificate.

It’s important to note that all documents will need to be translated into Spanish before they can be accepted. You’ll need to use an official translator known as a traductor jurado, and have your documents authenticated with an Apostille stamp.

📚 Read more: How to get a digital nomad visa in Spain?

Proof of identity

Your UK passport is the best form of photo ID you can provide, and it’ll be accepted as proof of identification by all Spanish banks.

Proof of address

Whether or not this needs to be an address in Spain depends on whether you’re opening a resident or non-resident account. You’ll need to check with the bank for what specific proof you’ll need, but recent (within the last three months) utility bills are usually accepted.

Proof of employment status

You may also be asked to prove your employment status, or your student status if you’re heading to Spain to study. An employment contract, a letter from your employer, official unemployment documentation or an unconditional acceptance letter from your university should all be acceptable forms of evidence.

Spanish foreigner identification number (NIE)

The Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE) is an official ID number for all foreign residents and non-residents living in Spain. It’s needed for things like paying taxes, registering for social services, buying a property with a mortgage and of course, opening a bank account.⁴

You need an NIE if you’ll be staying in Spain for more than three months.⁴ So, it’s an essential for anyone working, studying or retiring in Spain, or staying permanently.

As a non-EU national, you’ll get your NIE on a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) card.⁴

There are three different ways you can apply for your NIE:⁴

  1. Make an appointment at your local immigration office (if already in Spain)
  2. Apply via the Spanish embassy or consulate (if still in the UK)
  3. Use e-residence services, who handle the application for you - all you need is your passport.

If applying yourself, you’ll need your passport, two passport photos of yourself and proof of address. You’ll also need to pay the admin fee of €12 EUR. Again, your documents will need to be translated into Spanish.⁴


How to open a bank account in Spain as an expat?

The recommended way to open your new Spanish bank account is to visit a branch of your chosen bank. You can either just pop in or make an appointment in advance, making sure to take your ID, NIE and other documentation with you.

It’s worth pointing out though that not all branches may have English-speaking customer service representatives on hand on the day. So, it could be worth making an appointment and requesting it. Alternatively, you can bring along a Spanish-speaking friend or translator.

Just remember that Spanish banks tend to close earlier than UK ones, with standard opening times being 9am to 2pm, Monday to Saturday.³

On the day, you’ll be guided through the process of opening your account, ensuring you get all your details correct and asking any questions you need to.

The good news is that your account should be opened pretty quickly, in as little as 1-5 days. Although it can take longer for your account details and cards to arrive.³

Can you open a Spanish bank account online as a non-resident from the UK?

If you’re not in Spain or planning to visit anytime soon, you may be able to open a non-resident Spanish bank account online.

It all depends on the bank and its processes for non-resident applicants. Many banks will require at least one in-person visit to a branch to hand over your documents and verify your ID.

Some banks may also require a certificate of non-residency (certificado de no residencia).³

You can get a certificado de no residencia from a Spanish police station. It usually takes around 10 days for your certificate to come through. However, it’s worth asking whether your chosen bank can complete the process for you, for which they may charge a fee of around €15

📚 Read more: How to start a business in Spain?

Best Spanish bank accounts for non-residents

If you’re starting your search for a Spanish bank account, here are a few of the major banks to consider:


UK customers will already be familiar with Santander, as this Spanish bank has an established presence in many countries including the UK.

The accounts on offer are virtually the same as in the UK, but your best bet to start off with is the Cuenta Mundo account for non-residents.

This Santander current account is tailored to newcomers, offering everyday banking services including free debit card withdrawals at Santander ATMs in Spain. You can also manage your account using the Santander app. However, it does have a monthly maintenance fee of €16 EUR.⁵

There’s also the Santander account, which has no monthly fees for the first 6 months, if you’re between 18-28 years old or if you meet other conditions.⁶

What’s more, the Santander website is available in English.


BBVA is one of Spain’s biggest banks, popular due to its fee-free current accounts. Two of the top choices are its Fee-Free Online Account and Young Person’s Online Account, although both are only available to people living in Spain.⁷

The main benefit of these accounts is of course, the fact that there is no monthly fee to pay. But they also come with a fee-free debit card, no pay-in requirements and free use of BBVA ATMs in Spain.⁷

The BBVA website is also available in English, which is handy.

Banco Sabadell

One of the largest banks in Spain, Banco Sabadell is extremely welcoming and helpful to new arrivals. It has a dedicated Welcome Service offering advice and information as you settle into Spain, accompanied by a couple of current accounts tailored to newcomers.

For non-residents, there’s the Key Account offering free debit and credit card transactions plus 10 free translations per year.⁸ However, this has a fee of €160 EUR a year.⁹

For those starting a new life in Spain, there’s the Sabadell Account. This everyday current account gives you free debit and credit cards, and no admin or maintenance fees if you’re between 18 and 29 years old, or have other products with the bank.¹⁰

Like the other Spanish banks on our list, the Banco Sabadell website is also available in English.


CaixaBank has a dedicated service for people moving to Spain, called the HolaBank Club. This gives you access to complementary relocation services designed to make your move easier, including translations, help with paperwork, discounts and more. It can also help you get your NIE.

If this sounds good, you can open a CaixaBank HolaBank Account as a non-resident (or new resident). This gives you a free debit and credit card, free withdrawals at over 12,000 CaixaBank ATMs throughout Spain and automatic access to HolaBank Club services.¹¹ However, there is a rather hefty account maintenance fee of €140 EUR a year.¹²

As you’d expect, the Caixa Bank website is available in English.

Other banks and alternatives worth looking into

There are also a number of neobanks and alternatives available in Spain, such as:

  • N26
  • Revolut

Other alternatives worth looking into are providers like Wise and Monese, which don’t have banking licences in Spain but offer many of the same features as a bank account. This includes sending and receiving money.

What are the banking fees and costs in Spain?

Just like in the UK, there are some fees and costs to look out for when banking in Spain.

These vary between banks, and you should check the small print before signing up for an account. But here’s a roundup of what to expect:

Transaction/fee typeTypical fee
Current account - monthly fee€0 to €240 a year⁹
ATM cash withdrawal€0 to €0.65¹³

(Usually free at your own bank’s ATM)

Getting a debit card€0 to €50 EUR a year¹²
Domestic payments (i.e. within Spain)Usually free
International payments (i.e. to the UK from Spain)Around 0.70%¹²

Is there a free Spanish bank account for non-residents?

Unfortunately, most non-resident bank accounts in Spain come with fees. These range from around €140¹² to €160⁹ EUR a year, with additional fees for debit cards.

Wise – An international alternative to a bank account

If you need to send money back home from Spain, or whizz it across to a friend in another country, there is an alternative to using your bank.

Open a Wise account and you’ll only pay a small, transparent fee to send money in more than 40 currencies (including in GBP and EUR). Better still, you’ll get the fair mid-market exchange rate for every transaction and your transfers are always secured.

A Wise account is also handy to have as an expat, as it helps you avoid expensive bank fees when spending money abroad. You can use it to spend like a local in Spain and over 150 countries worldwide without hidden fees using your Wise card or connecting your Wise card to Google Pay or Apple Pay.

And you can open an account in advance of your move to Spain, so you’re not left without a payment method while you’re waiting for your new bank account to be opened.

You’ll find the Wise account extremely useful when it comes to sending money to Spain to cover moving costs and other expenses. Moving is often expensive, but this could save you a bundle on many unavoidable international payments.

Sign up with Wise today 💰

Sources used:

  1. Barclays - Living outside the UK
  2. Santander - Brexit and Santander
  3. Expatica - How to open a Spanish bank account
  4. Expatica - ID numbers in Spain: NIE, DNI, NIF, and social security
  5. Santander - Cuenta Mundo for non-residents
  6. Santander - Santander account
  7. BBVA- Accounts
  8. Banco Sabadell - Welcome
  9. Banco Sabadell - Fee Information Document
  10. Banco Sabadell - Sabadell Account
  11. Caixa Bank - HolaBank Account
  12. Caixa Bank - Fee Information Document
  13. Banca Sabadell - Information on ATM fees

Sources last checked on date: 08-Mar-2024

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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