How to open a bank account in Spain

Zorica Lončar
15.01.21
8 minute read

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

Before your move, you’re likely to have a huge to-do list to work through. But right at the top of your list of priorities should be to open a 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 difficult 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 cover everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Spain. We’ll look at the documentation required, the banks offering non-resident bank accounts in Spain and the fees you need to know about. So, let’s get started.

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

In order to open a bank account in Spain, you’ll need the following documents to hand¹:

  • A valid passport or other acceptable proof of identity
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of your employment status – such as an employment contract signed by your employer. Also acceptable are student cards, or unemployment documentation.
  • Spanish foreigner identification number (NIE) and certificate.

You’ll get your NIE when you get your Spanish Foreigner Identity Card². This is a document that proves your legal status to remain in Spain for more than six months.

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 stamp³.

How to open a non-resident bank account in Spain

The good news for newcomers to Spain is that you can take your pick from both resident and non-resident accounts. While you may get more flexibility and perks from a resident bank account, you’ll usually find that a non-resident account is much easier to open. You can always switch or upgrade to a resident account later on.

To open a non-resident bank account in Spain, you’ll need to follow the bank’s required procedures. You’ll need to complete all paperwork, and submit forms along with your documents (translated into Spanish).

One of the most common ways to start the process is in a branch of your chosen bank in Spain. Make sure you make an appointment in advance and request an English speaker (or bring a friend as a translator). If everything’s in order, your new account will usually be open and ready to use in as little as 1-5 days.⁴

Can I open a Spanish bank account online?

If you’re not in Spain or planning to visit anytime soon, you can open your new Spanish bank account online. It depends on the bank whether you can complete the whole process online, but many banks will require at least one in-person visit to a branch to hand over your documents.

If your Spanish is a little rusty, it can actually be easier to open a bank account in person. You can either bring along a Spanish-speaking friend or translator or ask for an English-speaking customer service representative. You’ll be guided through the process of opening your account, ensure you get all your details correct and ask any questions you need to.

Otherwise, you risk confusion and errors (not to mention a great deal of frustration) trying to complete your application on a clumsily translated form or website.

That's why it's important to remember that you aren't just limited to banks. You can also use specialist money transfer services like Wise to send and receive money all over the world, for low fees and the real exchange rate. You'll also get your very own local bank account details in EUR (SWIFT/BIC and IBAN).

Learn more about Wise

Can I open a Spanish bank account from the UK?

If you’ve not yet moved to Spain, you’ll need to know how to open a bank account in Spain from abroad.

There’s very good news on this front, as the Spanish banking system is known for being very accommodating to expats and newcomers. This means you should be able to open a non-resident account from the UK, although of course it does depend on the bank.

You’ll need to have all the required documentation in order, which may also mean an extra step to complete. Some banks may require a certificate of non-residency (certificado de no residencia).

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.

When you do eventually become a resident (living in Spain for 183 days or more a year, or having a business or employment in Spain) you must inform your bank.

Which Spanish bank is best for my needs?

The Spanish banking system⁶ is integrated with the global financial market, and regulated by Banco de España. There are around 140 banks to choose from, including mobile banks.

One of the best features of the Spanish banking industry for newcomers is how welcoming it is to expats and foreigners. In fact, it’s one of the easiest European countries in which to open a bank account as a non-resident.

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

Santander

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-residents⁷.

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.

BBVA

This is one of Spain’s biggest banks, popular due to its fee-free current accounts⁸. Both its Fee-Free Online Account and Young Person’s Online Account for students are open to both residents and non-residents.

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 over 6,000 BBVA ATMs in Spain.

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 accounts⁹ tailored to newcomers.

For non-residents, there’s the Key Account offering free debit and credit card transactions plus 10 free translations per year. For those starting a new life in Spain, there’s the Expansion Account. This everyday current account gives you free debit and credit cards, and no admin or maintenance fees when you deposit your salary.

CaixaBank

CaixaBank has a dedicated service for people moving to Spain, called the HolaBank Club¹⁰. This gives you access to complementary relocation services designed to make your move easier, including translations, help with paperwork, discounts and more.

If this sounds good, you can open a CaixaBank HolaBank Account¹¹ as a non-resident (or new resident). This gives you a free debit and credit card, free withdrawals at 9,600+ CaixaBank ATMs throughout Spain and automatic access to HolaBank Club services.

Other Spanish banks worth checking out

We’ve covered many of the major banks in Spain, including those that offer dedicated newcomer and non-resident accounts. Another worth looking at is Bankia, which has a basic Cuenta Fácil account along with a dedicated Cuenta Joven account for students and young people.

Many major international banks also have branches in Spain, such as Barclays, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and ING.

What are the fees?⁶

Banking in Spain isn’t the cheapest in the EU, but its market is quite competitive. You can expect to pay around €15–20 in annual fees for a current account, although it varies widely between banks. However, many offer fee-free basic and student accounts, particularly to non-residents. You may also be able to swerve account fees by meeting a minimum monthly deposit or account balance.

You’ll pay around €12–15 for a debit card and potentially more than €30 a year for a credit card with many Spanish bank accounts. Although again, it varies between banks – some offer free debit and/or credit cards with certain accounts.

If you want to withdraw cash at an ATM, this is usually free when using an ATM from one of the larger international banks.

The last important cost to consider when choosing a bank account in Spain is international transfer fees. This is a big one for foreigners living, working or studying in Spain, as it’s likely that you’ll want to send money home at some point.

Banks usually charge a fee to send money abroad, which in Spain can range from €3-15 if you’re sending less than €50,000.

And don’t forget about exchange rates, as banks are likely to apply unfavourable exchange rates to international money transfers. Think of these as ‘hidden fees’, which can make the transfer more expensive overall. There may also be fees charged by the receiving bank in another country.

A simpler and cheaper alternative – Wise

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 multi-currency account and you’ll only pay a small, transparent fee. Better still, you’ll always get the real, mid-market exchange rate. This makes your transfer as cheap as possible. In fact, it could be up to 8x cheaper than using a bank - and it’s just as quick, secure and reliable.

A Wise account is handy to have as an expat, as it helps you avoid expensive bank fees when sending money abroad. You can also use it to spend like a local without hidden fees, using your Wise debit card, 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 also find it extremely handy 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.

Get your multi-currency account today

Moving abroad is always hard work at first, as there’s so much to set up and arrange. But thanks to Spain’s newcomer-friendly approach to banking, setting up a bank account could end up being one of the easiest things to tick off your list.

After reading this guide, you should have a better idea of the process of opening a bank account in Spain. This includes the paperwork you’ll need, fees to watch out for and which banks are the best for new arrivals.

Buena suerte!

Sources used:

  1. Expatica - Spanish bank account

  2. Visa Guide - foreigner identity card

  3. Expatica - Spanish bank account

  4. Expatica - Spanish bank account

  5. Expatica - Spanish bank account

  6. Expatica - bank fees

  7. Banco Santander

  8. BBVA

  9. Banco Sabadell

  10. Caixa bank

  11. Caixa bank - financial advantages

Sources checked on 09-January 2021.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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