Opening a Bank Account in Spain - Best Spanish Banks for Non-Residents

In this guide we reveal all the pitfalls when opening a bank account in Spain for both residents and non-residents. The documents you need and common banking fees.
In addition to the pleasant climate, delicious food, and affordable real estate, Spain can boast of a developed banking system. There are many large private banks that are ready to work with non-residents and issue loans at loyalty rates of 2% per annum. Now in Spain, as well as throughout the world, there is a tendency to merge small banks into larger ones. The internal policy of leading financial organisations is also changing, as bankers increase the requirements for customer identification and the assessment of their solvency — especially when it comes to foreigners.

Customers frequently ask our consultants: How do we open an account in a Spanish bank? What is it for and what documents are needed? Which Spanish banks can we trust? In this article, we answer these popular questions on the topic.

1. Everything you need to know to open a bank account in Spain

If you are planning to buy housing on the secondary market of Spanish real estate you will have to open an account at a local bank anyway, as resale property in Spain can only be purchased through a bank. These are the rules. New housing can be purchased by transferring money from abroad, with money from a bank in your country able to be transferred directly to the developer's account. But this is not the case for a mortgage! If you need a mortgage loan, then your path still lies through the Spanish bank. In addition, taxes and utilities will also have to be paid from your Spanish account.
Bank
Competition in the banking sector in Spain is at a high level, with around 150 active private banks in the country (about half are institutions with foreign participation).
Most of the main foreign banks operate in Spain; supported cards are Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

Differences between resident and non-resident bank accounts

An account in a Spanish bank can be opened by both residents and non-residents. The account for non-residents is suitable for the majority of foreigners who do not live in Spain most of the time, but plan on making deals there. Most likely, you will need this type to purchase real estate in Spain. It is possible, after receiving the residence permit, to change the type of your account — it is enough to provide documents on the new status to the nearest branch of the bank.

The non-resident bank account

If you do not have a Spanish residence permit, this also has its advantage: you do not pay tax on the funds on your deposit. Watch however, as some places will have an additional fee for managing the account. And there are certain banks that do not issue credit cards to non-residents.

Non-residents will also have to renew their Certificado de No Residente every two years (we will talk about this document below), otherwise the bank may close your account.

The resident's bank account

Previously, options for residents were considered more flexible in providing customers with additional services. Today, in most banks, all accounts are standardized. The differences are not significant, and the main difference is in the set of documents required.

2. Documents you will need

To open an account in a Spanish bank it is necessary to prepare certain documents.
Set of documents to open a bank account
Different institutions can have different requirements and may ask for some additional papers — clarify this before you start the process.
Despite the presence or absence of residence status you will need:
1
Valid passport or another photo ID.
The second is relevant for EU citizens. But, again, it is best to be sure about it before you are put on the spot — some institutions have been known to not accept, for example, a driver's licence.
2
NIE (Numero de identidad de extranjero).
This denotes the identification number of a foreign citizen. We recommend getting this document first, because it is used in Spain to carry out any financial and legal procedures related to the payment of taxes; it is also used for paperwork when moving, filing a tax return, receiving salaries, official permits, driver's licence, etc. The identification number will begin and end with a letter, followed by seven digits (like this: A-1234567-B). It is important to know that the NIE is strictly your personal number, which is assigned once, and is not transferable. You can apply for an NIE at the local migration service at your place of living in Spain, or at the Spanish Consulate. This document isn't necessary for non-residents, as it may be replaced by a certificate of a non-resident, but in the context of buying a property, it is necessary.
3
Employment confirmation (for example, a reference from work or student ID).
Also, if we are talking about buying a property this implies a large amount of money. So, get ready to prove where this money comes from. To do this, you must bring a certificate from your country. This may be a document on the sale of previous housing, a certificate of inheritance, savings that were made over a long period, receiving social benefits, and so on.
Do not forget that in Spain, as in most countries of the world, the age of adulthood is at 18 years. If you are younger then 18 you will not be able to open an account. Another important point is to make sure you translated text from your native language into Spanish, otherwise they will not be accepted.
The translation should not be made in free artistic form, but should be done by a jury official translator, which in Spain is called traductor jurado. Again, you can find this person in Spain or at the Spanish Consulate in your country. Currently, traductor jurado services are priced at around €40 euros per page. A total of about €300 will have to be spent on document translation for a single transaction.

Additional documents for non-residents

Foreigners also require an additional document — Сertificate of a non-resident. As the name suggests, this is a certificate proving that you are not a resident. To get this document, go to the nearest Spanish police station and show your foreign passport. Attention! Some police stations in different regions of Spain have different schedules and powers. Therefore, it is important to ensure that there is a specialist in your station's department authorized to provide such documents.
However, if you do not want to go to the police and spend time on questions, some banks will do it for you. This will cost an additional fee; the cost varies depending on the bank and the region where it is located, but is usually around €15.

Additional documents for residents

A person who has a residence permit in Spain must stay in the country for most of the year, at least 183 days (with the exception of Golden Visa holders). Otherwise, the migration service reserves the right to refuse renewal of the documents that allow you to be a resident. Therefore, when opening an account, a resident will be asked for a document confirming the valid residence address in Spain.

The confirmation can be a rental agreement or a certificate of payment for electricity, gas or other utilities (for a period not older than three months). An extract from another bank about paying taxes or other transactions will also work.
It is advisable to take a Spanish-speaking friend with you, as it is difficult to call the inhabitants of Spain great masters in the study of the English language — especially in small and medium-sized cities. You want to ensure that you and the bank representative understand each other perfectly.

3. How to open a Spanish bank account online

More and more banks in Spain, and around the world, are developing online services and providing the opportunity to apply to open an account online. In this case, at a certain stage, you still have to go to the nearest branch or meet with a representative of the bank to transfer the documents (or transfer paper via courier). Large banks, such as CaixaBank, Santander and BBVA, provide online services.
How to open a Spanish bank account online
Along with traditional banks that actively explore Internet space, mobile banking is gaining weight in the market. Some institutions work exclusively in this industry, and only online.
The pioneer of this industry is the N26 bank. Another leader in this area is Revolut and bunq. Online banking is popular with foreigners who want to make deals at a distance and young people who are used to living through smartphones. In this case, the whole bank is held within the application on your phone.

Users of online banking have access to their account in 24/7 format, so they can request a balance and perform operations at any time. If you need the assistance of a consultant, you can also contact the specialist via mobile phone through the bank's social networking page. As for security, it is carried out using fingerprints, voice recognition or photos. Mobile banks also provide reliable encryption and instant account freezing. Either way, we encourage you to observe digital literacy and protect your personal data.

4. Bank charges and fees

Costs for using banking services in Spain are estimated to be slightly above the EU average. At the same time, they may differ significantly among themselves depending on the bank itself, the region, the type of account and other factors; therefore, it is better to clarify this nuance in advance.

Fees for opening and maintaining an account

Most banks charge you a fee only for the act of opening the account. In some places, you will also be asked to make an initial deposit in order for the account to work. Some banks will also have a fee for account maintenance. This is charged to the owner no matter how much money is in the account and how many operations are performed. The average fee in Spain is about €8 a month.

Transfer fees

Today many Spanish banks cooperating with foreigners offer free money transfers from a client's account in his home country to Spain (and vice versa) without commission. But we recommend you read the agreement carefully and pay attention to the small font: sometimes the bank sets a limit on the number of free transfers, after which there is a restriction on the amount of transfers or a commission charge.

There are also transfer fees between different Spanish banks. It is usually €1.5 or €3.5 + a percent of the amount transferred.

ATM fees

If you use your bank's ATM cash withdrawals will be free. But if you are using a different bank's ATM a commission fee is waiting for you, most often €2 per transaction. So before choosing a bank, it's best to take a walk around the district and make sure that there are suitable ATMs near your house.

Credit card fees

As in the case of opening an account, some banks charge for issuing a credit card or set a price for monthly service. Also, remember that not all banks issue cards to non-residents. And there are still institutions that send out cards by mail, so if you need a card immediately, this won't suit you. Card payments in Spanish stores are made with a chip and a pin code. If you make a payment with a foreign card, you may be asked whether to make a transaction in the currency of your home country or in euros. We advise to always choose the euro in order to avoid incurring a loss due to the exchange rate.

5. What is the best bank to meet your particular requirements

Today in Spain there is the so-called "Big Four" of the top banks in the country. Each of these provides different types of accounts for different categories of citizens and various needs.

Bankia

Bankia was created in 2010 through the merger of six private banks, but in 2012 the Spanish government took control to save the institution from bankruptcy during the crisis. There are many branches throughout Spain, as well as in some countries in Europe, China and the United States. The main office is in Madrid.

The most common type of account in this bank is Cuenta Fácil. Cuenta Joven is suitable for young people (under 25) — holders of this account receive a free youth debit card and are exempt from commissions. And if you are going to do business in Spain, pay attention to Cuenta Negocio.

BBVA

One of the oldest, and most powerful, banks in the country, BBVA has been operating since the mid-19th century. It has settlements in more than 30 countries of the world, and in Mexico and Latin America it occupies a leading position in the market. The headquarters are located in Bilbao.

BBVA offers its customers a Fee-Free Online Account, the ability to choose the option for young people (18-29) or even open a special account for storing and accumulating salary. It is believed that this bank has a good mobile application; at this link you can download the version for Android; at this one, for Apple.

La Caixa

Also known as CaixaBank or simply Caixa. Financial group La Caixa, according to various estimates, is included in the top 3 among the banking sector in Spain. Popular among foreigners with headquarters based out of Barcelona.

In addition to standard offers, there is a family account, Cuenta Family, with free service and bonuses for transfers between relatives, and Cuenta Pensión Family Sénior, for older couples with pensions from €600 per month.

Santander

Santander was founded in 1857 in the capital of Cantabria. It is the largest bank in Spain and a significant financial group by international standards (in different ratings it is ranked in the top 20 and top 50 banks in the world). It has more than 14,000 branches, about 200,000 employees and 144 million customers all over the world. Repeatedly recognised as the most influential and reliable bank in Spain, Santander is headquartered in Santander.

Popular among the bank's customers is Cuenta 1l2l3, which provides you with up to 3% cashback for selected categories of purchases, as well as 3% for a balance of 3,000 to 15,000 euros. Santander also has many offers for students (including foreign ones) and businessmen.
Of course, this is not all banks in Spain. There are smaller, but still reliable, institutions in different regions of the country, which have long been operating in the market. Some recommendations are Bankinter, IberCaja, and Sabadell, to name a few. Spain also has branches of famous European banks, for example, the Dutch ING and the German Deutsche Bank.

6. Conclusions

If you have read this far, we must say thank you for your time and attention. Before concluding, we want to touch on one more thing: agency VirtoProperty cooperates with the largest banks in Spain, meaning you can contact the Spanish banks through us.

What would you do this for? We have experience in the Spanish real estate market. With our help, you can save time, effort and money. Even if you speak Spanish, are familiar with the market and feel confident, when you personally contact the bank you may still find yourself treated as a strange and incomprehensible contact. But when you contact the bank through us you will be qualified as a client of VirtoProperty. All issues will then be resolved as quickly and effectively as possible, increasing your chances of getting a loan.
It also makes sense to approach a bank through an agency if you need a mortgage. How much can you claim? What is the payment term to choose? Which is better — a fixed rate or a floating rate? You can find out the answers to all these questions BEFORE you travel to Spain to view the properties.
We will help you to know exactly the amount you can count on, and alleviate other conditions (for example, usually after sending the documents, a Spanish bank takes up to two weeks to resolve).

Our consultants are ready to help you prepare a set of documents and pass it to a Spanish bank. If you have any questions, feel free to ask a specialist!
For more information please contact the managers of our agency. It is our pleasure to assist you on a way to your dream!

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