How to open a Spanish bank account for non-resident English teachers in Madrid
How to open a Spanish bank account for non-residents and an explanation of some basic Spanish banking terminology.
When you come and take your TEFL course with EBC in Madrid, you will need to open a bank account. Here’s how you do it.
How to open a Spanish bank account – introduction
Before we go any further into how to open a Spanish bank account, one thing must be fully understood.
Madrid and Spain are no different to any other city or country in the world. There are domestic banks and foreign banks. The big Spanish domestic banks like BBVA and Banco Santander are also international. On the flip side, some of the local branches are from foreign banks like Citibank from the USA.
The one thing that you must remember is that regardless of the name above the branch, all banks in Spain are Spanish and must abide by Spanish financial regulations.
As mentioned above, you will find Citibank and other foreign banks in Spain but THEY SEPARATE ENTITIES AND ARE ONLY AFFILIATED BY NAME. This means that if, for example, you are a Citbank account-holder in the USA, Citibank Spain will NOT honour your account conditions in the USA and you will have to open a Spanish bank account as though you were a brand new customer.
Do not blame us, this is the way the system works.
How to open a Spanish bank account – finding a bank
Banks are banks all over the world. They all have different commissions, etc.
When you choose a bank where you would like to open a Spanish bank account, do some research.
The big banks like BBVA and Santander usually charge a lot of commissions.
If you know someone locally who can give you some advice, that is the best thing to do.
The Madrid state government (“La Comunidad de Madrid”) in conjunction with the bank, La Caixa, promotes special offers for people through the “Carne Joven” (young person’s card) program. The card is valid until you are 31 years old.
That’s one thing about Spain that is very different. People in Spain have the longest life-span in Europe. I’ve heard people get told, “65, todavía eres joven.” (65, you are still young.) and it was said in total honesty.
How to open a Spanish bank account – preliminary work
Unless you are a Spanish resident, you will have to open a Spanish bank account as a non-resident.
You are allowed to open a Spanish bank account as a non-resident. It is perfectly legal in Spain but some banks, especially the big ones, will ask you to show a “Certificado de no residente“. This is a letter that states that you are NOT a resident of Spain.
The requirement for this letter is random, so it is best to ask the bank where you would like to open a Spanish bank account whether or not they need you get one.
If they do and you like the bank because it has good conditions, you have to get the letter from a “Policia Nacional” police station. OH NO, NOT THE POLICE! Do not worry, the letter only states that the police have seen your passport, it is valid and therefore you are not a resident of Spain. The letter does not get filed away for future use by immigration.
The responsibilities of each “Policia Nacional” police station vary at random so do not be surprised if you are told to go to a another police station to get the letter.
As of the time of writing this blog article, getting the letter is free but reserve a few hours for getting it because getting anything from a police station is a slow process in all countries. Spain is no different.
If you want to ask your bank if you need the letter, ask “¿Tengo que presentar un certificado de no residente?” (Do I have to present a non-resident letter?)
EBC has a special agreement with a Spanish bank where they will open an account for you without the need for a non-resident letter. And NO, we do not get a commission!
How to open a Spanish bank account – step 1 choose your account
When you go to open your Spanish bank account make sure you have your non-resident letter (if required), your passport and a photocopy of the identification page of your passport.
There are two basic types of account
- passbook savings
- checking account aka current account
There are other types of accounts as well but unless you want to buy a house or take out a pension plan they are not worth mentioning.
When you open a Spanish bank account there are forms to fill out and you will usually have to put a small amount into the account. Usually ten Euros is sufficient.
If you are lucky, there will be someone in the branch who speaks English. If not, bring someone you trust who speaks Spanish. If you study with EBC, we can go with you if you do not speak Spanish.
Savings account – Cuenta remunerada
As its name suggests, you get some interest on your account. It is common for this type of account to have a passbook. When you deposit or withdraw money, the book gets physically updated. This is a savings account but the interest you get will be small.
Checking or Current Account – Cuenta corriente
This is a standard checking/current account. There may be commissions for deposits, withdrawals and a maintenance fee. Some banks offer free checking but they will ask for a minimum balance, usually of at least 500 Euros, to be maintained at all times.
How to open a Spanish bank account – step 2 ATM/cash cards
Believe it or not, Spanish banking is sophisticated. As a Brit who has also lived 10 years in the USA, I have to say that the Spanish banking system is better than the USA and the UK.
Almost all banks issue ATM or cash cards for savings and checking/current accounts.
READ THIS CAREFULLY OR YOU WILL PAY COMMISSIONS.
Spain has more than one ATM network. Your bank will be on one of them. It does not matter which one it is as long as you follow these guidelines.
ALWAYS get your money from an ATM that is on your bank’s network.
ALWAYS ask your bank if they charge commissions if you use an ATM on your bank’s network but it is for a different bank.
To explain. There is a network with a brand name SERVIRED. Bankia and BBVA both use SERVIRED. If, for example, you have an ATM card from BBVA and use a BANKIA ATM because it is also SERVIRED, will you get charged a commission? ASK YOUR BANK ABOUT ATM COMMISSIONS.
How to open a Spanish bank account – step 3 internet banking
You will more than likely get free internet banking. The Spanish internet banking services are usually very good and stable. They are trustworthy.
How to open a Spanish bank account – step 4 credit cards
IMPORTANT: Your ATM/cash card will probably have either a VISA or MasterCard symbol on it. This means that you can buy things with the card BUT the charge is not put to credit. The charge is directly debited from your checking or savings account.
It is highly unlikely that you will be given a credit card when you open your account. If you are given one, the limit will be a joke, for example 100 Euros. Like all other countries you have to build up a credit rating before they will trust you with a credit card.
Almost all credit cards have annual maintenance fees and high interest rates.
If you get a credit card it will be either a VISA or MasterCard.
All cards in Spain use chip and pin technology.
When you use a credit card you will have to show some photo id and key your PIN into the card machine. It is very rare for people in Spain to sign for a credit card payment. Almost all credit card transactions ask for a PIN.
How to open a Spanish bank account – step 5 checks aka cheques
If you open a “cuenta corriente” you can ask for a check/cheque book if you want to. You will probably pay extra for it.
It is almost impossible to pay for anything in a store with a check/cheque. They are generally only accepted by people who know and trust you.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES write a check/cheque without the funds to cover it because 1) you will pay A LOT when it bounces and 2) if you fail to honour it you, will have even worse problems as writing an uncovered check/cheque is an offence in Spain.
Some extra banking vocabulary when you open a Spanish bank account
Account – cuenta
Check/Cheque book – talonario
Credit card – tarjeta de crédito
ATM/cash/debit card – tarjeta de débito
ATM/cash machine – cajero automático
Overdrawn – en descubierto or en cifras rojas
Commissions – comisiones
Statement – extracto
Internet banking – banca por internet
Branch – sucursal
to make a deposit – ingresar
Money – dinero
Cash – efectivo
Coins – metálico
Bills/Bank notes – billetes