When getting ready for your new life on the Costa del Sol, there are many things to think about; aside from the obvious perks of this kind of lifestyle, there are some practicalities to be taken care of too.
One thing we all have in common is that we need access to our finances. This is not usually a problem in your home country, but when you’re living abroad as a foreign national, there are likely to more steps to take and possibly a few things you’ll need to understand if you are to avoid hefty bank fees.
It is well known that the majority of banks will take as much money as they can manage to squeeze out of you in terms of fees, so it doesn’t make sense to be withdrawing from a bank based in your home country over a long-term period.
Although there are many transfer companies which will allow you to send money abroad at a more reasonable cost, this can still be time consuming and subject to changing fees and exchange rates. The most sensible option is probably the most obvious one: open a Spanish bank account.
Banking with Spanish Banks
Spain has more banks to choose from than any other European country, which in some ways is good; after all, you’ve got plenty of choice and rates and fees can be more competitive. On the other hand, it may take a little more effort to understand which one would work best for you,
There are ten major banks here in Spain, so the chances are that one of them will be able to offer you a suitable bank account, as a foreign national. Some of these banks are what is known as bancos (clearing banks), and these are privately-owned chains. Some are cajas (savings banks), which are owned by the state. The latter tend to be more involved with charities and projects for development of localities.
Some of the most popular Spanish banks are:
Banco Sabadel (Owner of Lloyds International Spain and TSB)
Banco Santander (The largest bank in Spain)
Banco Polular Espanol (Owner of 5 regional banks as well as Banco Popular Portugal)
BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria)
CaixaBank (Provider of the highest number of branches at over 6,600)
People who just need general banking services can open a cuenta corriente (current account) or a cuenta de alhorro (savings account).
There are a few things to consider when choosing a Spanish bank:
Can you find branches easily?
If you think that you’ll need to make financial transactions regularly, It might be an idea to bank with one of the larger banks, like Santander, who have branches and ATMs dotted all over Spain.
What will it cost you?
One of the first things we want to know when opening a bank account is what the fees and charges will be; this is especially true for those who will need to make international transfers and transactions regularly.
The fees levied here in Spain can be a little more than other places in Europe so it definitely wise to go through the full list of charges that will apply to the account you want. You can expect to be charged annual administration fee for your bank account, but this is generally no more than thirty euros.
You may find that you are charged for every type of transaction, in fact. Fees for international transfer can be extortionate, depending on the amounts you wish to transfer. In addition to this, and credit and debit cards may also incur fees. The same goes for account ‘add-ons’.
Don’t forget the ATM fees; Brits will be used to withdrawing their money for free almost everywhere in their home country, but this isn’t the case in Spain. If you use an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank’s network, you can incur fees in the region of four euros per hundred withdrawn.
What language do the staff members speak?
If you don’t speak Spanish, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, unless you’re planning to open an account in one of smaller villages (pueblos); the staff here may not speak English, so that is worth taking into consideration.
In the major banks and especially in the major cities and expat-friendly areas, many banking staff do speak English, so it shouldn’t be a big problem.
Another thing to note is that even though your bank is highly likely to offer internet banking, it may not offer the service in English. In fact, currently only BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) and Banco Sabadel provide internet banking in English.
How easy is it to open a Spanish bank account?
Both residents and non-residents can open an account, if they’re aged over eighteen and can provide some identification and address details.
Residents will need to provide their NIE document (issued for tax purposes) and non-residents will just need photo ID like a driving license or passport. Bear in mind that you will need to have obtained your certificado de no residencia from a local police station.
Banking with International Banks
If you prefer to stick with what you know, or you find that branches from your home country are available in Spain, you may wish to open an account with one of them here. This is easiest for Brits, who have the most banking options; here in Spain you can find Barclays, Halifax/Lloyds and HSBC (although the latter only have a branch in Madrid and Barcelona),
This may be a good option if you already bank with one of these in the UK; some banks let you transfer your funds from your UK account to the Spanish one without fees.
If you’re looking to bank with one of the biggest international banks here, Barclays may appeal; it has more than 400 branches (and offices) around Spain. However, in 2015 the Spanish side of Barclays was taken over by Caixa bank.
Halifax/Lloyds International has twenty-eight branches in Spain, some of which you can find here on the Costa del Sol; but similarly to Barclays, they did sell their retail banking services to Banco Sabadell,
You can also find Deutsch Bank and Citibank branches in many of Spain’s larger towns and cities, and both of these offer internet banking services.
Now that you know how to get your financial affairs in order here, you may be ready to start looking for that Costa del Sol dream home. Paradise Marbella have a few ideas for you… talk to us!