Money, Money, Money! Affordable Mallorca’s guide to banking in Spain.
Setting up a Spanish bank account, can feel like heading into the abyss. With your brain operating at the speed of light, whirring with questions and panic over which bank to choose! Fear not! Affordable Mallorca is here to help, with our comprehensive guide to banking abroad- we promise that it’s not so hard!
Resident and Non-Resident #
The most vital difference is whether or not you are looking to set up an account as a resident or a non-resident. This difference is ultimately decided by the time that you spend in the country; as anyone working and residing for a period of over three months should legally apply for resident status.
Setting up an Account as a Non-Resident #
For those of you who have holiday homes here on the island, or are looking to rent long term, but not make Spain your permanent home, then this is the option for you!
As with any financial process, there are certain documents that the bank will require, in order to create your account. Firstly, they will need a valid passport or identity card (only applicable to EU citizens) followed by proof of address (bill or bank statement) and proof of income (payslip or a government letter to state that you are unemployed and receiving benefits).
It is vital that all your documents are sworn in by an official translator (traductor jurado) as they must be in Spanish (and correct Spanish, no Spanglish exceptions!) in order to be accepted by the bank.
Certain banks may also require the Certificado de no Residente (certificate of non-residency) these are available from your local police station (obtained by showing your passport) or potentially the bank may offer to get the letter on your behalf, although this will be for a fee of around 15-20€. It is worth checking in advance of your appointment whether your bank or police station offers these services, as you may have to travel a little further afield to obtain them, if not.
Resident Account #
Before opening a resident account, you must have obtained your NIE number, as you will need this for all official processes (banking, doctors, work etc..). Following this you will be asked to present the following documents:
- your valid passport or identity card (EU citizens only)
- proof of your Spanish address (rental contract or utility bill)
- proof of employment status (work contract or pay slip)
- and of course your NIE number.
With all of these documents present, the process should be as easy as pie!
What if I Don’t Speak Spanish? #
This is the worry on all of our minds when we move abroad, or begin dealing with finances abroad. If you are concerned that your Spanish is not good enough to complete the process, I strongly recommend taking a bilingual friend. Or paying for the services of a translator. It is far better to complete everything correctly, until your language skills are up to scratch! Alternatively, many banks do have English (and German or French) speaking staff, although this does depend on the bank and the location of the bank; so if you’re in any doubt take my advice and hire/bring someone- it’ll make the process stress free!
Which is the Best Bank For Me? #
Here in Spain we have four main banks- BBVA, La Caixa, Bankia and Santander. All four are reputable and well known across the country and neighbouring Balearic Islands; but choosing the best for your needs can seem a tad tricky!
BBVA is a brilliant banking choice for residents and non-residents, and also incredibly popular with the younger generation due to its BBVA Blue offers (cards for 18-29 year olds).
It’s app and website are written in perfect English making everything clear and easy to follow, and they have banks across the entirety of Spain, so you can always pop in and query anything you're unsure of!
Both the BBVA online and BBVA Blue Online accounts refrain from charging a monthly fee, and withdrawals from BBVA ATMs are also commission free; meaning your money goes further!
La Caixa offers a basic yet effective account for non-residents. Although this account is basic there are perks such as legal advice in your own language, 2 hours of free emergency services (plumbing, locksmiths etc…) and a free interpreter via telephone (which is unlimited!).
As a resident there are multiple accounts to choose from, each offering different services. From the Cuenta Estrella, which has no monthly fee and also offers you a free TV or tablet if you deposit your salary; to the Cuenta Corriente Joven (aimed at 18-26 year olds) there really is a product for everyone.
On top of the basic account options there are also business accounts available that offer 2 credit cards, and 10 free transfers per month, as part of their deal!
Bankia offers a basic account that includes a free debit card upon registration, and the ability to apply for an online account as well. They also offer an account aimed at young students (14-26) which has no monthly fee attached to it; meaning our youngsters can get saving!
Although offering more basic packages than its other competitors, Bankia does also have a business account that earns variable interest each month.
Any fellow Brits will have heard of Santander, and it’s fair to say that the Spanish products are almost identical to those offered by the British division of the bank.
Offering specific accounts for businesses and students, as well as the famous 123 Account, which allows the customer to claim cashback of up to 3% on various bills and interest on balances of 3000-15,000€- it is a brilliant bank to choose.
However, it must be noted that Santander is targeted almost solely at residents, meaning that their website offers no English translation; so this really isn’t the best option for those of you who don’t speak the lingo just yet!
With Spanish banking you do encounter your fair share of fees, and whilst they’re not extortionate, it’s nice to know how much they are and what they’re for!
Withdrawing money from your own bank’s machines is usually free, although withdrawing from other banks or generic ‘TeleBanco’ machines will cost somewhere in the region of 2€ per withdrawal.
A large number of banks offer free transfers for their non-resident account holders, although this is usually capped at a maximum number of transfers that can be made per month; and often you can only send up to a certain amount before incurring charges.
If having to make an international transaction via your resident account, expect to be charged anywhere between 1.50€- 3.50€ per transaction. This can occasionally occur when transferring between two Spanish accounts, so be sure to read all the T’s and C’s of your bank beforehand.
OPENING AND MAINTENANCE FEES
Although certain banks offer free products and perks, the majority of the time you will be expected to pay a monthly maintenance fee. This fee is purely for ‘holding’ a bank account and can be anywhere in the region of 8€ (and upwards) each month. There is no set price, so this is completely dependent on your bank.
Occasionally you will be asked to set up your account with a minimum deposit, or pay a small ‘opening fee’ in order to activate your new account; again this is dependent on the bank so rules and regulations will vary.
Changing Times in the World of Currency #
Banking is evolving at a rapid rate, and the way in which we save and spend our money is changing constantly. In the modern world there are three main competitors changing the way we bank, and for those of you (like me) who find it a little bit scary; we’re here to make it seem a little less terrifying- and open your eyes to a new way of banking!
Transferwise allows you to send different currencies, without incurring horrible charges! Set up by two friends, who experienced the predicament of being paid in one currency, but needing to pay bills in another- this multi-million-pound business is enabling people from across the globe to manage their international finances with ease!
The N26 card eliminates menial fees that can cost a lot of money over the course of your holiday. With free payments in any currency, no withdrawal fees at ATMs (Black and Metal card users, standard users pay 1.7%) and a real time exchange rate, you really are getting more for your money! This card is revolutionising the way you spend abroad; with all the security of a Mastercard issued from any other bank. The standard N26 is free to sign up for, the Black N26 cost 9.90€ per month and the metal 16.90€ per month. Each card offers different perks and bonuses to suit the customer.
By Zoé Holmes
9 September, 2019