To make your banking and payments easier, we’ve compiled an in-depth guide to the best Spanish banks for expats and understanding how Spanish bank accounts work.
June 7, 2021 — 12 min read
Spain has a large community of English-speaking expats. And considering that the country welcomes foreigners with open arms, who wouldn’t want to shift there and enjoy the exotic, continental climate?
If you’re seriously thinking of moving to Spain, keep in mind that you’ll start spending money and paying for things before you even arrive in the country. Having a place to keep your funds and manage your payments is crucial, so you should know about the best Spanish banks for expats to make your banking and payments easier. Many banks in Spain offer services aimed at expats and their needs, and opening a bank account there is a pretty straightforward process.
Our guide will help you understand the basics of the banking industry in Spain, what types of accounts you can open there, what banking services you can expect from the best Spanish banks for expats, and how you can open a bank account in Spain.
We’ll also tell you how to send money to Spain from overseas, so keep reading!
Luckily for you, the banking system in Spain is totally integrated with the global financial market. Spain has a range of state-owned, private, cooperative, national, regional, and international banks you can choose from.
However, ever since the 2008 housing crisis, many Spanish regional banks have either shut shop or merged with other, bigger banks.
Right now, though, the Spanish banking industry is thriving, with banks operating from more than 27,000 branches throughout the country. Banco de España regulates the banking industry in Spain by way of being the country’s central banking authority.
Because they are a member of the Eurozone, Spain’s official currency is the Euro (€ or EUR). As of May 31, 2021, the mid-market exchange rate of the Euro is 0.82 against the US dollar (USD) and 1.16 against the Pound Sterling (GBP).
Spain uses 7 different Euro notes (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 EUR) and 8 different coins (1 and 2 EUR, as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents).
Often, you won’t find smaller Spanish stores accepting Euro notes over €100 EUR, so it’s best to keep small change handy.
It’s not legally necessary to have a Spanish bank account. You can manage your finances just as well from your overseas account, even after moving to Spain.
But if you’re making the move for the long term, getting Spanish mortgages and paying your utility bills in Spain from your overseas bank account may get costly before you know it, particularly if you’re exchanging from a volatile currency.
To make things less complicated for you, it’d be better if you opened an account in Spain, so you can manage your money in euros and not need to worry about international payments.
Services provided by Spanish banks vary from one bank to another, but most of them offer the following:
Savings and investments. Many banks in Spain have options like investment funds, stock exchange investments, and pension plans.
Current accounts. For your everyday financial and banking requirements, Spanish banks offer various current account deals, including debit and credit card options
Mortgages. If you meet the prerequisite criteria, you can avail of both fixed-rate and variable mortgage options at some of the main Spanish banks.
Insurance. You can find health insurance, life insurance, home insurance, and other insurance options for expats at many banks.
Loans and overdrafts. Many Spanish banks provide lending options for payroll advances, vehicle purchases, home renovations, and other things.
Business banking. Besides banking services for individual clients, banks in Spain offer business banking facilities for Spanish businesses, including borrowing, insurance, investment, and accounting.
Savings accounts. Many Spanish banks, including regional ones (cajas), offer a wide range of savings options for expats. These options include investments in shares and funds, as well as basic savings accounts.
Current accounts. Different current account packages at some Spanish banks are tailored toward young people, students, and other specific groups of customers.
Digital accounts. All the large, well-known banks in Spain have now come up with their own banking apps and online services, making it easier for you to do all your banking from your mobile device.
Offshore bank accounts. If you work abroad, frequently transfer money between countries, or spend much of your time in more than one country, you may want an international offshore bank account. This account is outside the country where you’re residing and offers lower taxation on your funds, various cross-border services, and other such unique advantages.
Non-resident accounts. You’ll find some of the main banks in Spain offering non-resident accounts targeting foreign residents. Most of these accounts are Euro-based, though.
Types of bank accounts. Do you want to open a savings account, checking, or a student account as an expat?
Language support. If you aren’t fluent in Spanish, then multilingual bank staff members, bank websites, and contracts may be the deciding factor for you. The bank you choose in Spain should be able to offer services and support in your language, or at least in English.
Easy to open bank accounts. Go for a Spanish bank that doesn’t make you feel like you’re busting a gut just to open a bank account.
Online or mobile banking. Does the bank come with online banking options or a mobile app?
Customer support. The bank should make it easy for you to get a telephone consultation or book an appointment with your bank account manager.
Bank fees and commissions. Take note of all the fees the bank charges for opening and maintaining your account, transferring money between banks across Spain and internationally, and allowing you to deposit or withdraw your money from the account.
Investment options and loans. If you want to ask for a loan further down the line, what sorts of loan conditions do the Spanish offer? Does the bank have an investment portfolio, in case you wish to invest?
Expat services. Big national and international banks in Spain offer packages catering to expats, such as non-resident accounts and international money transfer options.
There are plenty of commission-free accounts to choose from on BBVA, including a payroll account for handling your income, as well as a basic current account.
Plus, if you’re residing in Spain after making the move, and you’re aged 18-29, you can open the Online Account for Young People (provided you’re a new BBVA customer). It’s another commission-free account, offering you a free Aqua Debit Card, along with a free year of International Student Identity Card (ISIC).
Opening this account with 2 holders means that each of them will get an Aqua Debit Card for free.
BBVA’s global banking app also offers mobile payments compatible with various prepaid cards, debit cards and credit cards, together with Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay.
Bankia is one of the largest and the best Spanish banks for expats. There isn’t any minimum balance requirement, and you can spend up to €1,500 EUR ($1,828 USD) daily using your bank card.
The daily withdrawal limit from Bankia ATMs across Spain is €600 EUR ($732 USD) without any commission charged.
Unlike many other banks in Spain, Bankia offers services in both Spanish and English, so opening an account with Bankia shouldn’t be a problem if you can’t speak Spanish.
If you’re looking for a traditional bank in Spain with a touch of the modern, Evo Banco would be the right choice.
Thankfully, this bank provides a fast and easy process of opening an account, so you don’t have to jump through hoops like you do at some other traditional banks in Spain.
However, you can avail their online banking services in English only if you can to find your way past their official website’s homepage, which is in Spanish.
N26 is a wholly virtual international bank, allowing you to manage your account through an amazing mobile app. You can withdraw money using an ATM up to 3 times per month for free.
The app also presents your expenses with statistics to help you understand where and how you’re spending your money, so it’s a kind of expense-tracker.
Moreover, the N26 bank specialists offer you support round the clock in 5 different languages - English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian.
Account maintenance fees. For opening and maintaining your account, banks in Spain charge an average annual fee of €40 EUR ($48 USD) and above.
Debit and credit cards. Some Spanish banks may charge a small fee to maintain your debit or credit card, typically €12 EUR - €15 EUR ($14.64 USD - $18.30 USD) per year.
ATM. Your bank’s going to charge a fee if the cash machine you’re using isn’t linked to the bank. This fee is likely to be at least €2 EUR ($2.44 USD), although it varies from one bank to another.
Money transfer fees. If you transfer money internationally using your bank account, every transaction you make will usually cost €3 EUR - €15 EUR ($3.66 USD - $18.31 USD), if the amount is less than €50,000 EUR ($61,012 USD). Any larger amounts will incur a fee of €30 EUR ($36.61 USD) or more.
To open your first Spanish bank account with one of the local banks, you’ll need:
A valid national identity card or passport
Your Spanish tax number or NIE (Número de Identificación del extranjero)
A document confirming your address in Spain, such as a Title Deed or a utility bill
Documents to prove your income, like tax returns, your payslips, or statements from your bank account in your home country
Naturally, this list may vary, depending on the bank you choose. According to the laws in Spain, some nationalities may need to provide more documentation than others.
Note that if your documents aren’t in Spanish, you might need to have these officially translated. The Spanish authorities may require these documents to be authenticated with an Apostille stamp if they’re from overseas.
Several traditional banks may also ask you to physically visit the bank and sign a contract for opening an account with them. Once you sign the contract, the bank will open your account within 1-5 working days and send out bank cards in a couple of weeks.
You can also open an account with a digital bank in Spain, but you won’t find English sign-up instructions on many Spanish online banking websites.
Both small and large businesses can avail of business banking, including loans and insurance products, from most of the big banks in Spain.
Apart from standard documentation, you’ll have to provide your official company documentation and your business address. In case you’re opening a business account for a limited company, the account must have at least 2 signatories.
Keep in mind that business accounts may come with extra fees, so be sure to ask for fee-related information straightaway to steer clear of any unpleasant surprises.
Some business bank accounts, especially those for large businesses, may also need you to make minimum deposits.
If you’re being paid as a freelancer in Spain or you’ve got a Spanish business, you can visit the official websites of Spanish banks to find out their different account options.
You’ll need to provide the Bank Identifier Code (BIC) or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) code and the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) of the receiving bank. This may lead both the sending bank as well as the receiving bank to charge fees, though, and hefty ones, at that, if it’s a transfer across currencies.
To transfer money from overseas in a more convenient, cost-effective way, you can use online international money transfer services like Xe.
For example, if you’re transferring money from the US to Spain using Xe, you’ll need to:
Enter the amount you’d like to send to Spain and the currency you want to exchange to get a quote.
Add your name, Spanish address, and your Spanish bank account details. If you plan to send more transfers in the future, you can save yourself as a recipient for quick access later.
Select your payment method and enter your payment details. You can pay by bank transfer, card payment, or direct debit.
Double-check that you’re satisfied with the amount, rate, account details, and payment date, and confirm your transfer. We’ll take it from there.
Most of our money transfers to Spain complete within 1-4 business days, though many complete within 24 hours. Occasionally unpredictable factors may delay the process, but we will notify you by email if there are any delays, and you can track the money transfer online and in our app.
Let your new bank account do what it does best—keeping your money safe. If you want to transfer money to Spain from abroad, log in to your Xe account or sign up today.
All currency conversions mentioned are based on the EUR/USD mid-market exchange rate on May 31st, 2021.