Opening a Spanish bank account
It’s easy to open a bank account in Spain, and there are many banks to choose from: Banco Sabadell (recommended), Santander, La Caixa, Catalunya Caixa, BBVA, Banesto, etc. Most of the banks that I visited didn’t have anyone who spoke English, although I originally managed to open an account with my basic Spanish when I first arrived here.
To open a non-resident’s account all you need is your passport, or your temporary NIE and photo ID. If you have official resident status you can open a resident’s account, and you will need your resident’s NIE (formerly called a resident’s permit: tarjeta de residencia). Resident’s accounts are better deals – better commissions and fewer charges, but there’s not much difference.
I’ve recommended Banco Sabadell to several people who have all given positive feedback on the helpful staff there, and the ease of opening an account.
If you can, I recommend that you open a bank account on one of your visits to Spain before you move. That way you can transfer money in advance of your arrival. Most rental contracts require your bank account to be mentioned, so it’s good to have this set up as soon as possible.
When opening a Spanish account, you will be asked for your address in Spain and a contact telephone number. My original choice was Catalunya Caixa, it seemed most appropriate for living in Barcelona. However, I found Catalunya Caixa expensive to use and with a high annual fee for their credit card. I eventually closed this account (there was a fee for closing it!) and moved to ING Direct, which I’m very happy with.
I’ve learnt that the Caixas (a Catalan word – Cajas in Spanish) tend to be expensive, and that the Bancos are more reasonable.
ING – Free Spanish Banking Online
If you speak Spanish, my recommendation is to open an account with ING – you can do this very easily online if you know some basic Spanish (there is no English language version of their Spanish banking website). ING have no bank charges, and you can do all your money transactions and view balances etc. online: www.ing.es. They also have a 24 hour help line (Spanish only) which offers a great service.
They currently have three branches in Barcelona which are open all day including Saturday. Most of the traditional Spanish banks only open their branches in the mornings.
They have two main options, a Cuenta Naranja which is a current account but needs to be connected to an existing account at another bank in Spain. You can open this very easily online and transfer money between the two accounts and therefore do any transactions needed online from the Cuenta Naranja, thus avoiding queues and charges in local branches of a regular bank or Caixa.
The second option is a Cuenta Nómina, which is an independent current account, however this can only be set up if you pay your salary into the account (nómina means wage). You can maintain it though even if you later cancel the payment of your salary into the account.
I see that ING have opened another account called Cuenta Sin Nómina, aimed at self-employed people.
I’ve heard lots of good comments about Banc Sabadell, including how easy it is to open an account with them and how helpful branch staff have been. A few years ago they took over Lloyds Bank International in Spain.
Banking in English in Spain
The Banc Sabadell website is in English and other languages, and they have a UK-Spain free and direct account which is focused on UK expats living in Spain. This Regular Transfer Plan account states that transfers from your UK bank will arrive within three days with no charges.
They also have a Prestige Care Account. With a quarterly charge of €24, you will have no other charges on transactions, credit card admin fees or cheque fees, and there is access to English internet and telephone banking.
Free banking for young people (between ages 13 – 25) is also offered.
Barclays Bank in Spain
Barclays in Spain now only offer corporate and investment banking.
Deutsche Bank have several branches throughout Barcelona, and the few that I’ve been into have had someone who speaks English. The Deutsche Bank Spanish website is also in English (as well as French, Spanish and German), and has a branch locator so that you can easily find the nearest branch to where you live.
They have online banking and telephone banking in English – as well as other languages.
Lloyds Bank International
Lloyds Bank International in Spain were taken over by Banco Sabadell (see above).
CitiBank in Spain was bought out by Banco Popular, and Banco Popular has since been taken over by Grupo Santander.
Moving Money to Spain
Moving money directly from your bank account to a Spanish bank account can incur large fees. You will be charged a commission on the exchange rate of Pounds Sterling to Euros, and also an administration charge, which can be very hefty – anything from £25 upwards. However, with a little knowledge you can save on these fees.
Money transfer companies
There are several companies who will transfer money internationally usually for a small administration fee. These companies charge a lower fee, but sometimes don’t give such a good exchange rate, so you need to carefully check both exchange rates on offer and fees charged.
However, here are my recommendations for transferring money overseas.
TransferWise offer a new an innovative way of transferring money into different currencies. Once you’ve opened an account, their system is very clear and easy to use online. Fees are low, currency exchange rates are good and transfers are fast.
TransferWise also offer what they call borderless account. So you can open a bank account with TransferWise and then add the currencies that you deal with to that account. One account can have several currencies attached to it. You can then accept payments to the account in different currencies. These accounts can be personal or business. They are then tied to a standard personal or business bank account where you can withdraw money to or add money too. It’s a very flexible system.
You can send a single payment or set up regular payments. You money is transferred from your bank account to a Currencies Direct bank account. Then Currencies Direct will transfer an equivalent amount from one of their overseas accounts to your bank account in the destination country. This way you avoid any banking charges for international payments – from both your issuing and receiving banks.
The service is also very speedy. As soon as Currencies Direct have received your payment, they will make the transfer. They have 11 offices in Spain, where they have been operating since 1999, so if you wish to, you can meet someone face-to-face.
The Currencies Direct website includes various tools to help you save the most on transfers, including a currency converter and rate watch/alert tool.
Key Currency is a money transfer company offering good exchange rates when sending money abroad. They are authorised by the FCA and don’t charge fees. You can get a free quote via their website and save money when sending money to another country. They offer personal and business accounts, and you can make single or recurring transfers.
You get currency exchange rates that usually beat the banks and zero fees.
Avoid Credit Card Commissions & Charges When Aboard
These card services help you save money on currency exchange fee and rates when travelling.
Transferwise are now much more than a currency transfer company. You can open a personal bank account, a business bank account and have a Mastercard debit card. The Mastercard is associated with your Transferwise bank account (called a borderless account) and has very low or zero fees for withdrawing cash when abroad and for making payments when abroad.
If you add funds in the currency of the country you’re travelling to, there is no charge to use your Transferwise Mastercard when in that country. You can add multiple currencies to your Transferwise account.
Your Transferwise account can be linked to another external account or debit or credit card, so that if you don’t have funds in your Transferwise account, they will be added when purchases are made.
Here is a summary of the charges:
- Free to pay with currencies in your account
- Free ATM withdrawals up to £200 a month
- Only pay a small conversion fee when you convert your money – typically between 0.35% and 1%
- Automatically convert your money at the real exchange rate
I have both a personal and business account with Transferwise, as well as a Mastercard, and now only use Transferwise to transfer between currencies. I recently used their Mastercard on a trip to Norway both when spending and to withdraw cash from a cashpoint. It all worked very easily, securely and cheaply.
FairFX Prepaid Mastercard
FairFX offer a Prepaid Mastercard which can be loaded with money before you travel. As Mastercards they are accepted worldwide, with the major difference being that you save on credit card charges when abroad, plus you get good exchange rates.
The FairFX Prepaid Mastercard can be purchased in either US dollars or Euros, or you can apply for an Everywhere card. With the Euro and Dollar cards there are no transaction fees for using the cards in their own currency. There is a small charge for withdrawing cash from an ATM on all cards.
You can load the cards with credit for free from other debit cards or by bank transfer. Keep tabs on your balance and top up online at the FairFX website or by using their app.
It’s a much safer way to travel than by taking cash, as the cards can easily be cancelled if lost or stolen. The FairFX Prepaid Mastercard can also be used when you’re at home to purchase items online from overseas companies, again avoiding transaction fees and poor currency exchanges.
movingtobarcelona.com is a partner of FairFX and therefore the standard card application fee is waived if you apply via this website. Simply click on the link below or the card image above:
The Halifax Clarity has 0% exchange rate fee worldwide and there are no charges for cash withdrawals, but you will be charged interest on the cash withdrawals even if they are repaid in full. The interest charged is reasonable though, and still makes this card the best on the market to use outside the UK for UK residents. Don’t use it in the UK – use it as your travel card – and repay in full every month.
Halifax Reward account holders currently get £5 a month if they spend over £300 per month, if they apply for the Clarity card.