The banking system in Spain

Banking in Spain
Updated 2023-07-23 11:11

Moving to Spain to start a new life involves a lot of planning, paperwork and patience. Your to-do list could run for miles. One of the most important and straightforward tasks is opening a bank account in the country. Spain has a very well-established financial sector with various types of accounts and financial products. You'll be spoilt for choice. 

Types of bank accounts in Spain

Two types of bank accounts are available for foreigners in Spain: resident and non-resident accounts. The process to open either account is relatively simple, provided you have all your documentation ready. This article covers all the basics you need to know about opening a bank account in Spain.

How to open a bank account in Spain

To open a bank account in Spain, you will need the following documents:

  • Proof of identity such as your passport or national ID card;
  • Your foreigner identification number (N.I.E.);
  • Proof of employment status (such as employment contract, payslips, student card, and pension statement);
  • Proof of address in Spain or, equally, your local residency registration (empadronamiento) may be helpful.

Many banks will ask you to visit a branch to open a bank account, but if this is not possible, you can probably set up an account online.

Good to know:

You don´t have to open a Spanish bank account to live, work or study in Spain, but going without one can present some challenges. For example, you´ll need an account to pay your utility bills and to receive your wages.

Opening a non-resident bank account in Spain

When opening a bank account in Spain, you can take your pick from resident and non-resident accounts. To open a non-resident account, you will need your valid passport, a document to prove your address and a document to verify your employment status. Some banks may also require you to present a Certificate of Non-Residence, a letter that confirms you are a non-resident. 

To apply for a non-resident certificate, go to the nearest police station and submit a copy of your passport. You will then be called to collect your certificate within 15 days. Once it is issued, you can open your bank account, which will be immediately activated. You can find more information about the Certificate of Non-Residence on the website of the National Police.

If you later become a Spanish resident, remember to tell your bank so they can upgrade your account. 

Bank transactions and charges in Spain

The cost of banking in Spain is relatively high compared to other countries. Free banking is rare. Fees can also vary markedly from bank to bank. Most current accounts will incur maintenance fees which can be around 20 to 50 euros or more per year. If you use your bank account to transfer money, you could be charged, and you will also pay a fee if you use a cash machine not linked to your bank. Charges are also levied on international transactions, but your bank may offer to do a set number of these for free or at reduced rates.

Opening an online bank account in Spain

Opening an online bank account as an expat in Spain can be convenient for those who prefer to manage their finances digitally. Here are some of the steps involved:

Choose a bank: Several online banks in Spain offer English language services and cater to expats. You can research and compare the features of different banks to choose one that best fits your needs.

Check eligibility: Depending on the bank, there may be eligibility criteria that you need to meet to open an account. This may include proof of residency, a valid identification document and a minimum deposit amount.

Apply online: Once you have chosen a bank and verified your eligibility, you can apply for an account online. Usually, this involves filling out an application form and providing personal information.

Verify identity: To prevent fraud and comply with regulatory requirements, banks may ask you to verify your identity through video calls or in-person appointments.

Complete account setup: After verifying your identity, you will receive confirmation that your account has been opened. You may need to activate your online banking services and set up any necessary security measures.

Opening an online bank account as an expat can give you access to various financial services, including wire transfers, debit cards and savings accounts. However, it's important to research the fees and charges associated with each service to ensure you get the best deal.

Navigating the Spanish banking system

Spain's banking system may differ from what you are used to, but with a little knowledge, you can easily manage your money. Whether opening a bank account, transferring money or paying bills, these tips will help you navigate the Spanish banking system:

  • Research your banking options before moving to Spain;
  • Choose a bank with your native language support if needed;
  • Open a Spanish bank account as soon as possible;
  • Set up online banking and mobile apps for ease of access;
  • Obtain an NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) before opening an account;
  • If you can, avoid using international bank transfers due to high fees;
  • Consider using a currency exchange service for better rates;
  • Shop around for competitive interest rates on savings accounts;
  • Request a debit card with no ATM withdrawal fees in Spain;
  • Keep a record of all financial transactions to avoid confusion and errors.

Banks in Spain

The banking sector in Spain comprises several large banking entities such as Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, as well as many smaller provincial banks.


When choosing your bank in Spain, it is worth researching and comparing account features, monthly fees and ATM cash withdrawal and transaction fees. You might want to consider opening a borderless account when looking at your options.

With a borderless account, you can hold and manage multiple currencies in one place, which can help you avoid high exchange rates when transferring money between different accounts

Borderless accounts also often come with advantageous exchange rates, low fees and user-friendly online banking platforms. These make managing your finances simple and stress-free. And since these accounts are designed for international use, they tend to have features like easy money transfers and customer support to help you navigate financial systems in your new home country. 

Good to know:

Like other countries, Spain is experiencing an increase in the number of individuals opting to pay for goods and services through contactless cards, mobile devices and Smartwatches.

Bank opening hours in Spain

Regular bank opening hours in Spain are Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. Some banks open up for a few hours one evening a week and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m.

Useful links:

Banco de España

List of banks in Spain

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