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Complete Guide on How to Open a Bank Account in Spain as an Expat

There are many reasons why you might want to open a bank account in Spain. You might be purchasing a holiday home, studying abroad, or moving to the country permanently. If this is the case, you’ll be pleased to hear that opening a Spanish bank account as a non-resident isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Spain‘s banking industry is very welcoming to expats and foreigners. Out of all European countries, it’s one of the easier to open a bank account as a non-resident. 

If you want to know more about the process of opening a non-resident account and more about the Spanish banking system, then you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we cover:  

  • The types of Spanish bank accounts available to expats 
  • What to consider when choosing a bank 
  • The best banks to open an account with as a foreigner 
  • The costs and fees involved when opening a Spanish bank account 
  • Opening a student bank account in Spain 

Types of Spanish Bank Accounts

To find out which bank account will best suit your needs, you should consult your bank to ensure you’re making the correct choice.  

There are two main types of bank accounts that you can open in Spain:

  • A residents account (for people who live in Spain) 

A residents account is ideal if you’re moving to Spain permanently and need an account for daily spending. A resident’s bank account provides more flexibility than a non-resident account. 

  • A non-residents account (for people who live abroad) 

A non-resident bank account could be the right choice if you’re buying property in Spain but will not be living there most of the time. A non-resident’s account provides less flexibility and perks but is easier to open than a resident’s account. 

When opening a bank account, you can choose one of the following options: 

  • Cuenta bancaria o Cuenta corriente (current account) 

This is a standard account that you can use for everyday spending such as bills, grocery shopping, and going to restaurants. 

  • Cuenta de ahorros (savings account) 

This is an account specifically for keeping your savings in since it gains more interest than a standard bank account. 

  • Cuenta nomina (salary account) 

This bank account provides a place for your employer to send your paycheck to.  

  • Cuenta de depósito (deposit account) 

Similar to a savings account, this is a bank account for collecting a sum of money for funds that need to be held securely. The main difference is that are fewer options for accessing your money. 

Some Things to Consider When Choosing a Spanish Bank

  • Do they offer translators or have English-speaking staff? 
  • Do they offer mobile banking if you prefer banking through a mobile phone? 
  • Do they have a good range of ATMs and local branches? 
  • What are their banking fees? 

Best Spanish Bank Accounts for Expats

Luckily in Spain, there are many great bank branches that offer accounts and services beneficial to non-residents. We’ve listed some of the most popular choices with non-residents below. 

  • BBVA Bank Spain 

BBVA is one of Spain‘s biggest banks. It’s popular for its fee-free current accounts (the Fee-Free Online Account and Young Person’s Online Account for students) which are available to both residents and non-residents. These also come with a fee-free debit card and no pay-in requirements. With a BBVA current account, you’re also able to use over 6,000 BBVA ATMs in Spain free of charge. BBVA operates in over 30 countries and offers easy-to-use services through its mobile banking app. 

  • Banco Santander 

English customers will already be familiar with Santander. As the largest bank in Europe, it has a leading position in Spain and is a reliable choice for expats as they have a high number of English-speaking workers which should make banking easier. Many of their services such as opening new accounts and making money transfers are available through online banking or via their banking app.  

  • Sabadell Bank 

Banco Sabadell is one of the largest financial organizations in Spain. For non-residents, they offer a ‘Key Account’ with free debit and credit card transactions plus 10 free translations per year. For expats, they offer an ‘Expansion Account’ which gives you free debit and credit cards, and no admin or maintenance fees when you deposit your salary. Another advantage for non-residents is that Sabadell has a professional team of English speakers, and their contracts and policies are also written in English. They also offer a range of online banking services.  

  • Bankia 

Bankia is a relatively new bank that opened in Spain in 2010. There is no minimum balance requirement and no commission on transactions. Accounts can also be opened online and many of their services are available online too. If users need to go into their local branch, many of their staff are English speaking which is helpful for expats. Bankia offers a basic Cuenta Fácil account along with a dedicated Cuenta Joven account for students and young people.

  • Caixabank 

Caixabank is a relatively young bank that was founded in 2011, however, it operates the largest number of branches in Spain with more than 15 million account holders throughout the more than 5,000 branches. It also offers first-rate online banking services which are especially useful for those who do not live in Spain full-time. 

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Bank Account in Spain?

The cost to open a bank account any bank fees will vary from bank to bank. Many banks do offer fee-free accounts and student accounts with discounts. You can usually expect to pay around €15–20 in annual fees for a current account in Spain. You’ll also usually have to pay around €12–15 for a debit card and €30 a year for a credit card. Cash withdrawals at the ATM are usually free. 

Money Transfers & International Transfer Fees

The main cost to be aware of when using international banks is the fees you will be subject to when making international money transfers through your bank. Whether you’re living, working, or studying Spain it’s likely that you’ll want to send money overseas between bank accounts at some point. It’s important to remember that when making transfers with your bank, these transfer fees are usually expensive on top of unfavourable exchange rates. There may also be fees charged by the receiving bank in another country.  

It’s a good idea to explore other options that use your bank for money transfers, such as using a currency specialist like Halo Financial who can devise a bespoke strategy for getting the best rates on your international transfers. 

All Spanish bank accounts have 20 digits. For standard money transfers, you’ll need the IBAN code (the letters ES followed by 2 digits and your bank account number) and for international transfers, you will need the SWIFT code of your bank. 

What Documents Do I Need to Open a Spanish Bank Account?

There are certain documents that you will need to provide to open your Spanish bank account. The documents you need to provide will depend on the type of account you wish to open; however, the requirements are usually similar from bank to bank.  

When opening a resident account, you will typically be required to provide: 

  • Your passport, national identity card, or other valid identification 
  • Proof of address in Spain (utility bill or bank statement) 
  • Proof of your employment status (employment contract or student card) 
  • Your Spanish foreigner identification number (NIE number) or Número de Identificación de Extranjero 

The same documentation is required for a non-resident bank account however, you will also need to provide a ‘Certificado de No Residente’. You can get this from either your local police station in Spain or request your bank to provide one for you. 

Remember that your bank may require your documentation to be translated into Spanish. To do this, you will need to use an official translator known as a traductor jurado. 

Opening a Student Bank Account in Spain 

Many banks will offer student accounts to non-residents and many of the major Spanish banks will have branches on university campuses. As an international student, you will have to wait until you have arrived in Spain to open a bank account and you will need to provide your student card as proof of your student status. International students will be provided with a Spanish NIE number which will allow you to open a resident account in Spain. 

Best Ways to Send Money Abroad – FAQs

Yes, foreigners can open a bank account in Spain. You will need to provide your passport or valid identification, proof of address, proof of employment, and your NIE number to open an account. 

For a current account in Spain, you can usually expect to pay around €15–20 in annual fees, €12–15 per year for a debit card, and €30+ per year for a credit card.  

Yes, you can open a Spanish bank account online depending on the bank. Some banks will allow you to complete the entire process of opening an account online however other banks will require you to visit the branch to hand over the necessary documentation. 

It is fairly straightforward to open a bank account in Spain, as long as you have the necessary documentation (proof of identity, proof of address, proof of employment, and your NIE number). Accounts are typically opening within 1 to 5 days and can be used once you’ve received your debit card or credit card in the post. 

The minimum age to open a bank account in Spain is 18 years old.