Opening a bank account in Spain as an American: full guide

Gabriela Peratello

Spain is famous for its culture, cuisine and climate — and popular among tourists and expats alike.

If you’re moving to Spain to work, study, or for a prolonged period of travel, you might be wondering how to open a bank account in Spain from abroad.

This guide is for you. We’ll cover all you need to know about how to open a bank account in Spain for an American, including required documents and some top banks to look at.

📑 Table of Contents

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Can a US citizen open a bank account in Spain?

Yes. As an American you can open a bank account in Spain in a few different ways, depending on your situation. We’ll look at options in more detail in a moment. Normally you'll be able to choose between:

  • A non-resident bank account with a Spanish bank¹
  • A resident account in a Spanish bank if you have the right paperwork
  • An expat banking service from a global bank
  • An online or digital account from a specialist provider

Can a US citizen open a bank account in Spain with a USA address?

You can open a Spanish bank account with a USA address. If it’s important to you to have an account from a brick and mortar bank with Spanish branches, you’ll normally need to visit a bank in Spain with a Certificate of non-residency, which you can get from a Spanish police station.

This certificate comes with a fee, but acts as proof of your eligibility for a non-resident account.

Alternatively, use your US address to open a multi-currency account with a specialist online provider which offers account services and bank details in euros.

This can be cheaper, and far more convenient compared with setting up a non-resident account on arrival in Spain.

Get a EUR account 💰

Should I open a resident or non-resident bank account?

Spanish bank accounts from traditional banks are available to both residents and non-residents of Spain. Which suits you may depend on your situation — and of course, there are also online alternatives you may prefer, too.

Resident bank accounts tend to be more flexible and have more perks. On the other hand, if you’re new to Spain or do not plan to live there on a permanent basis, a non-resident bank account will be easier to open.

It’s possible to open a non-resident account and then switch your account once you obtain residency. To do this you’ll have to make an appointment at your local branch and take the necessary documentation with you.

Moving to Spain? Check out our guide on buying property while you’re there

How to open a bank account in Spain: step by step

To open a bank account in Spain you’ll usually need to visit a branch in person. It’s worth noting that banking hours may be fairly limited — especially in smaller branches.

Expect to need to schedule an appointment on a weekday, often during core banking hours of 9 AM to 2 PM.

In larger city branches and areas with large expat populations you’ll probably be able to find an English speaker — but it’s worth checking in advance, or taking a Spanish speaking friend if your language skills aren’t up to the task.

The exact process for opening your Spanish bank account will vary from bank to bank — but in general terms the steps will be the same:


Step 1. Research banks and account options to find one that suits you

Step 2. Double check you’re eligible for the account and gather the required documentation

Step 3. Visit a bank branch — you may need to make an appointment in advance

Step 4. Complete the required paperwork and show your documentation

Step 5. Your account will be verified and you’ll be able to start transacting — this may take a day or 2


Can you open a bank account in Spain online or from the US?

Some Spanish banks allow you to start the application process online, for both resident and non-resident accounts.

However, you’ll usually still need to visit a branch in person to show your documents, before you can get your account fully up and running.

This means in effect, it’s usually tricky to open an account with a traditional Spanish bank without being physically in the country.

As an alternative, look at specialist online providers which offer online and digital onboarding processes — these can often be more flexible as they’ve been designed specifically with online applications in mind.

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

The documents you’ll need in order to open a bank account will vary depending on whether you’re applying as a resident or non-resident.

Some banks may also require more documentation than others, so it’s a good idea to check your bank’s requirements ahead of time.

Opening a bank account as a non-resident

To open a bank account as a non-resident, you'll have to provide a set of paperwork which can vary depending on the specific bank. It’s common to need documents which can include the following:

  • Your valid, unexpired passport or national identity card (if you’re an EU citizen)

  • A document to prove your address, such as a recent bank statement or utility bill (less than 3 months old) or a certificate of non-residency (more on that next)

  • A document to prove your employment status (such as a payslip, tax return or a government letter confirming that you’re unemployed or receiving state benefits)

For the documents to be acceptable, you’ll have to get them officially translated into Spanish by a sworn official translator, called traductor jurado.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to find an official translation service and get your documents translated before you move.

Certificado de no residente / Non-resident confirmation

Some banks may also require a so-called ‘Certificado de No Residente’ — a letter that confirms you are a non-resident.

You can get this letter by going to a police station and showing your passport. Some banks may also offer to get this for you against payment of a fee (normally in the region of 15 EUR).

Different police stations have different responsibilities, so you should check ahead of time whether a police station near you offers this service.

Opening a bank account as a resident

The documents needed to open a resident bank account can vary. For basic account you may simply need a passport and a proof of residence — but for many accounts you’ll need the following documents:

  • Your valid, unexpired passport or national identity card (if you’re an EU citizen)

  • A document to prove your Spanish address (such as a lease, a recent utility bill or a recent bank statement

  • Your Spanish NIE number

  • Proof of your employment status (such as an employment contract, a student card or unemployment paperwork)

You should apply for your NIE first, as you’ll need it to do anything that requires an official process. This includes getting a job, renting or buying property, getting connected to utilities and paying taxes.

Can you open a bank account in Spain without NIE?

Yes. Some Spanish banks will let you open a bank account without an NIE number — although your options may be limited.

You can also consider online alternative providers which offer flexible euro accounts for Spanish residents and non-residents alike.

What's the best bank in Spain for Americans?

There are dozens of banks in Spain, all of which offer broadly similar products. However, the four largest banks are Bankia, BBVA, La Caixa and Santander.

This is what they each have to offer.

CaixaBank Bankia²

Bankia and CaixaBank merged relatively recently, to create Spain’s largest domestic banking group. If you’re an American in Spain and need international support including multi-lingual service online and in person, this may be a good choice.

The Hola Bank³ service is specifically designed for international clients, with web and support services across multiple languages including English. Here are some features to look out for:


  • Full range of account products and services including online banking
  • English language support and international products for expats
  • International mortgage and insurance products
  • Some branches have extended opening hours outside of summertime

BBVA⁴

BBVA is one of the largest multinational financial groups in the world — with a huge presence in Spain, as well as South America and beyond.

It’s got a long history of over 150 years, and serves over 74 million customers around the world. Unsurprisingly, there are a great range of products and services available from BBVA — here are some highlights:


  • Great website including comprehensive English language coverage
  • Fee free accounts, mortgages, loans, business accounts, and more
  • Digital first accounts for convenience
  • Basic banking accounts available without an NIE number⁵

Santander

Santander is another global banking giant with a huge presence in Spain and Europe, and a foothold elsewhere including Asia, North and South America.

In the US you may have heard of Santander from their consumer loan division⁶, although there are Sandander bank branches⁷ across some US states, too. In Spain you’ll find all the banking accounts and products imaginable under the one roof.


  • Resident and non-resident accounts plus banking for businesses
  • Expat banking services
  • Loans, mortgages, card products and more

Can a US Santander bank open a Spain Santander account?

If you already bank with Santander in the US, you may be able to get a Spanish Santander account more easily thanks to your existing relationship with the group.

Call into your local branch, or contact the support center to see if they’ll be able to help — the options may depend on your specific situation and account type.

Other Spanish banks

While one of the banks above is probably your best bet if you plan to settle in Spain permanently, it’s also worth checking out Sabadell, or some of the newer challenger online and digital bank services which are growing increasingly common in the EU and around the world.

Costs and fees of having a Spanish bank account

Even though the market is quite competitive, the cost of banking in Spain is relatively high compared to other EU countries.

Fees can also vary quite significantly from bank to bank and depending on whether you have a resident or non-resident account, so you should shop around for the best deal.

With that being said, you should expect to pay at least some of the following fees and charges:

Fee typeSpanish bank account costs
Account maintenance fee

Basic bank accounts may have no maintenance fees

Resident accounts may have a fall below fee if you don’t maintain a set balance amount

Non-resident accounts are more likely to have a monthly fee, which may be in the region of 16 EUR/month⁸

ATM charges

In network withdrawals are often free

Out of network and international fees will apply, including charges levied by the operator of the ATM rather than your own bank

International transfer fees

Fees can vary — non-resident accounts may offer lower transfer fees, but you’ll still have to pay an exchange rate markup and any applicable third party fees

Sending euro payments is considerably cheaper — or even free — compared to sending other foreign currencies


Send money to and from your Spanish bank account with Wise

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If you need to send money to Spain, you could save on bank fees by choosing Wise.

Wise international payments are arranged online or in the intuitive Wise app, with low, transparent fees⁹ and the real mid-market exchange rate.

That can mean you save significantly compared to using your normal bank — with a faster delivery time, too.

In fact, over 45% of low cost, secure international payments with Wise arrive instantly, with the vast majority being delivered within 24 hours¹⁰.

Lower fees, less time to wait, and an easier, more transparent service compared to your normal bank. What’s not to love?

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Sources:

  1. Santander — can a non-resident open a bank account?
  2. CaixaBank
  3. CaixaBank Hola Bank
  4. BBVA
  5. BBVA — basic account
  6. Santander Consumer USA
  7. Santander Bank USA
  8. Santander — non-resident bank fees
  9. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information
  10. The speed of transaction claim depends on funds availability, approval by Wise’s proprietary verification system and systems availability of our partners’ banking system, and may not be available for all transactions

Sources checked on 08.22.2022


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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