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Banks in Spain


Banks in Spain

All residents and non-resident foreigners with financial affairs in Spain must have a foreigner’s identification number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero/NIE). This is similar to the fiscal number (Numero de Identificación Fiscal/NIF) all Spaniards have (and which is the same as their identity card and passport numbers). An NIE works as identification and a kind of tax number. Without an NIE, you won’t be able to purchase property, open a bank account, arrange credit terms or use temporary employment agencies. When you buy a property, you must apply for an NIE, which is required when the property is registered in your name.

Your NIE must be used in all dealings with the Spanish tax authorities, when paying property taxes and in various other transactions. Anyone placing money or assets in deposits or other forms or receiving credits or loans in Spain must give his NIE to the bank within 30 days of the operation. A bank cannot issue a cheque against a deposit without reporting your NIE and must report to the authorities any activity where an NIE hasn’t been provided. Banks and individuals can be heavily fined for non-compliance with the law regarding identification numbers.

Banking hours are normally 8.30 – 13.30

Write cheques ONLY in ball point pen or ink – (NEVER in pencil or in a typewriter with erasable ribbon!)

Write cheques only to a Named Person or Business that is to receive the payment – and not to “al Portador” (to bearer).


Choosing a Bank

It is quite usual to find that the products offered by banks, and in particular the tariffs they apply, vary significantly

When choosing a bank, take the following into consideration:

Location: the closest branch may not necessarily be most suitable. For example, the closest branch may not have English-speaking staff or ATM service, while these services may be available at a branch in the next town. In some small villages branches have extremely limited opening hours.

Distribution: it can be beneficial to choose a bank with a strong presence in Spain as most banks charge a commission for using ATMs that are not a part of their ATM network; choosing a small regional bank with only a few local branches may make immediate access to banked money an expensive exercise. Some local banks may also opt out of pan-European international payment initiatives, meaning that international transfers would be more expensive to process.

Telephone/Internet banking: almost all banks in Spain now provide these services; some also provide them in English. There are a few that offer Internet-only banking services, although these are only available to Spanish residents.

Statements and other documentation: some banks offer the option of receiving bank statements and other related paperwork in English.


Types of Account

The 3 main types of account are:

Current/checking account (cuenta corriente): the most typical type of account for undertaking essential, day-to-day banking activities. The interest rates for current accounts that remain in credit are usually quite low, if they pay any interest at all.

Savings account (cuenta de ahorro): offer higher interest rates, but with a limited range of banking services and/or limited access to money, particularly at short notice.

Deposit account (cuenta de depósito): as with savings accounts, these are aimed at customers who want to earn a higher rate of interest on their money, but this type of account does not permit day-to-day banking operations.


Current Account Numbering Standard

All bank accounts in Spain follow a specific numbering convention. The account details will always appear in this format on bank statements and other documentation.

Entity (entidad) = The bank with whom the account is held. Always four digits
Branch (sucursal or oficina) = The number of the branch where the account is held. Always four digits
Control Digit (Dígito Control, or D.C.) = An internal bank code. Always two digits
Account Number (número de cuenta) = The personal account number. Always ten digits

1234 1234 12 1234567890


English-speaking Staff

If you’re not planning to learn to speak Spanish or feel that Spanish banking language is beyond you, you may wish to base your choice of bank on the availability of English-speaking staff. Banks in resort areas and in large cities usually have at least one member of staff who speaks English, although you shouldn’t count on this. Banks in towns and villages in rural areas generally don’t have English-speaking staff. When choosing a bank, it’s also a good idea to ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations (or otherwise) and if after a while, you find you’re not happy with your bank, you can always open an account somewhere else!