Foreigners, Spanish Bank Accounts and Money Transfers

By: Tim Ryan

What follows is information regarding VISA cards, transaction fees, on line banking advice, debit cards and other financial information concerning expatriates in Spain.

Upon going to open a bank account account in Spain one of the first hurdles you must overcome is that of the language barrier. It may well be that the cashier is a non English speaker and has not experienced opening an account for a foreigner previously. Certain information regarding set-up fees is not always provided accurately or followed through upon either. Having an interpreter with you can significantly reduce the frustration and hassle.

For foreigners, two types of bank accounts are usually available:

Firstly is that of a resident bank account. This allows you to set-up an account in either euros or any other current that your bank offers.

Secondly is that of a Nonresident bank account. This account is normally for those people who do not posses an NIE card and are originally not from Spain. The regulations governing Spanish banks nonresidents are allowed to own bank accounts in foreign currencies or euros. To open the account you must provide valid identification such as your passport or ID number from your country of origin. The main reason for doing this is because you have to hand over a percentage of the interest you earn on your account which is different depending upon your residential status. Usually about once every six months the bank confirms your residency status. Residents of course get the better deal.

Most utilities will be paid as a direct debit from your account although some landlords may request 'dinero negro' or more commonly known as cash in hand to avoid declaring their tax accurately.

It is definitely worth shopping around accounts or even considering keeping most of your money back home due to the fact that bank fees are relatively high in Spain. The usual type of fees often apply: per debit card, annual fees, minimum balances and so on. Typical fess of one of the larger banks, La Caixa for transfers into or out of an account are as follows: 0.5% from or to an international account, 0.25% from or to an international account unless it is in the same currency or 0.25% from or to a national non-La Caixa account.

For keeping track of banking records, bank books (known as Libreta) are usually offered but not mandatory. However Visa and Debit cards are of course the most practical and efficient.

Overall the Spanish banking system is very efficient and successful. Online banking is offered by the majority of banks and money transfers are also fast. American Citibanks do exist but the to transfer money overseas the money transfer fee is the same cost as if you were using a different banks account. It is however possible to open an account that operates in several currencies such as UK pounds, US dollars and Euros; however expect the normal baggage of fees to apply.

Finally if you are feeling conscientious a bank known as Caja spends their profits on more culture endeavors and not just to line the pockets of shareholders. Overall their are plenty of methods and opportunities to fit all budgets and requirements so as ever...shop around!

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