Banks In Spain: Bank Account Options For Expats

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You will see familiar banks in Spain, such as Barclays and Santander. However, they aren’t affiliated and are entirely separate. If you have an account with Santander or Barclays in the UK, you’ll still have to open a new, separate account in Spain.

How to open a bank account in Spain

A lot of Spanish banks charge a fee for servicing your account. Some fees can be quite high, especially when it comes to domestic and foreign bank-to-bank transfers. Make sure you are informed about all the charges that may be applied to your transactions.

Opening a non-resident bank account in Spain

If you want to open an account before you become an official resident in Spain, it will be a non-resident account (Cuenta para No Residentes), and to do this you will need a Certificado No Residente. 

The procedure to get one is the same as obtaining your NIE certificate: you have to fill in the EX15 form (you can Google it and print it out), pay the amount due to the bank and then obtain the form from a local police station. 

Alternatively, you can let the bank do it for you. For this you will need to sign a form giving them permission to act on your behalf. It costs about €15, and might take longer than doing it yourself. 

Once you have the certificate you can go along to your bank with the following documents:

  • Certificado No Residente;
  • Your passport;
  • Your Spanish address and proof of it (a recent utility bill);
  • A document proving your retired status (such as S1 form, for example).

Banks that open a non-resident bank account without asking for the NIE

If you’re in urgent need of a Spanish bank account, but haven’t obtained your NIE yet, there are a number of banks that allow you to get a non-resident bank account with the minimum paperwork required: Banco Sabadell, Caixa Bank, BBVA, Santander, Bankia, Banco Popular.

Converting your Spanish non-resident bank account 

When you obtain your Certificate of Residency, you can give the bank a copy of the certificate and a utility bill in your name, and they will then change the account to that of a resident.

Opening a resident bank account

A non-resident bank account in Spain is a good temporary solution. However, if you are moving to Spain to live there on a permanent basis and need an account for day-to-day spending, then a resident account (Cuenta para Residentes) is the right way to go. 

A residents’ account is less costly and may give you more flexibility.

To open a resident’s account, you will need:

  1. A valid, current passport or national identity card if you’re an EU citizen;
  2. A document that proves your address in Spain, such as a utility bill that is less than three months old, or a recent bank statement from another Spanish bank;
  3. Your NIE number;
  4. Proof of your employment status (such as an employment contract, a student card or unemployment paperwork) or proof of your retirement status.

Opening a bank account in Spain online – mobile-only banking option

If you want to easily manage your money, payments, transfers and multiple currencies, then branchless, mobile-only banks might be the perfect solution for you.

These banks offer low fees, prompt and efficient customer service, quick and no-fuss opening of an account, advanced safety features and many more enticing perks.

They also feature real-time payment notifications, meaning you receive an alert every time there is activity on your account. This not only makes it easier to keep track of your spending, but you can also immediately spot if someone’s using your account fraudulently.

Some of them go even further and offer an opportunity to open a bank account in other countries without proof of address. This is very useful when you are planning your relocation abroad. 

In addition, they offer several wallets of different currencies (including crypto and gold), and quite often promise to save customers a hefty amount of money on currency exchange. 

The most popular mobile-only bank accounts are Borderless Account from TransferWise, DiPocket, Revolut, LeuPay, N26.

With most of them you can set up a bank account with Spanish IBAN on your mobile phone in minutes. You will need a smartphone and some valid ID, which will allow you to verify your identity either through a quick video call or with photos. 

Spanish bank accounts for pensioners

Some banks offer accounts for retired residents. They usually come with free credit and debit cards, cashback on utility bills (Santander offers a cashback scheme on your expenditure), and free domestic transfers. Opening such accounts can help avoid or reduce high bank charges. So, if you are interested, it’s worth researching and shopping around.

International bank account

If you retire abroad and receive at least part of your investment or pension income in sterling, you will feel the effect of currency fluctuations on your income.

Currency fluctuations, especially in the sterling-to-euro value, impact many British expat retirees. If you are one of them, an international, multi-currency bank account might be what you need.           

There are quite a few banks that offer qualifying customers a single-currency account or multi-currency accounts held under one single account number – known as multi-currency bank accounts. 

Such accounts offer you the following advantages: 

1. If your income is paid in one currency, but you have bills and liabilities in another currency, you can manage transactions within the one bank account.

2. Charges for moving money between currencies are usually reduced if you bank in this way. 

3. You may be able to do fee-free international transfers to other account holders with the same bank, depending on the terms and conditions. 

4. You get one bank statement covering all transactions, movements, exchanges and currencies within your multi-currency account.

5. Multiple accounts can be costlier than one single multi-currency account.

6. An international bank account is a good idea if you retire to a nation where you only pay tax on the money you remit into that country (e.g. Malta, under its retirement programme). By holding the rest in an international bank account, you can keep it safe from taxation.

7. An international bank account is also a vital tool in other, legal tax solutions (for example, protecting your wealth from inheritance tax). For this, however, you need to seek professional advice.

The advantages offered by international bank accounts depend on your personal circumstances and are not suitable for everyone. Our guide to Banking, Saving & Investment Abroad can help you understand whether an international bamk account can be a good option for you.

Keeping your UK bank account open

In many cases, when you move to Spain, it makes a lot of sense to keep your UK bank account open. 

You will need your UK account if you have financial ties with the UK.

Perhaps you intend to keep your UK house and have outgoings for it, or you rent properties and your tenants need you, as a landlord, to have a British bank account to pay rent into, or you want to keep receiving your UK pension into your UK bank account.  Whatever the reason, a UK bank account could still be a useful option.

Do make sure that you’re allowed to keep your account open once you move abroad. Some banks have issues with overseas account holders. If this is the case with your bank, look at other options.

Santander, for example, just ask their customers to update their address and sign up for online, mobile and telephone banking before moving abroad.

You might find useful:

  • The Expat Guide to UK Pensions Abroad – detailed information about your state, workplace and private pensions when you retire abroad; your options, tax implications and opportunities if you transfer your pension pot abroad or leave it in the UK;
  • Living in Europe After Brexit: What You Need To Know – resources and information on how Brexit can affect your retirement abroad and how to get ready for it.
  • Visit our homepage for a comprehensive range of Retirement Abroad guides.
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