Banking in Spain works largely the same way it does in other countries, as the Spanish banking system is fully integrated with international financial markets. Spain is part of the eurozone and uses euros as currency. If you're looking into expat banking in Spain, you should first know that there will be certain requirements for opening an account, which may include your NIE or passport, a work contract, monthly income, or other. After weighing the pros, cons, and requirements of the bank and accounts you're considering, you can make the best decision for your unique situation. Discover our tips and recommendations below:
Why do you need a bank account in Spain?
Having a local bank account can help with a number of things: storing and transferring money, depositing your salary, investing your earnings, applying for a mortgage, and much more. Read below to see the most common examples:
Many Spanish companies refuse to pay into foreign accounts and will require you to open one in Spain to deposit your monthly nominas. Landlords often ask tenants to pay their rent via direct deposit. Online services and subscriptions ask for payment via credit or debit card.
Although in some instances, Spain can be a cash-based society and you can get by without a bank account if you really have to, having a bank account in Spain will certainly make your life in the country much easier.
What factors should you consider when choosing a bank?
- Types of accounts: Are you looking for a student account, checking, or savings account?
- Mobile or online banking: Does the bank offer a mobile app or online banking options?
- Customer support: Are you able to go into the bank in person, get an appointment with your account manager, or even get a telephone consultation?
- Language support: Do they offer support and services in your language if you don't speak Spanish?
- Physical locations and cash machines: Does the bank have a physical branch and cash machines? Where is the closest branch location, since many operations must be done at that specific branch.
- Fees and commissions: What types of fees does the bank charge to open the account, maintain it open, deposit or withdraw money, make transfers between banks and internationally, etc.
- Loans and investment options: Are you considering asking for a loan in the near future? What types of conditions do they offer? If you're considering investing, do they have an investment portfolio?
Best Banks in Spain for Expats
Although there are a lot of options for expat banking, so we went to straight to the source and asked the expats themselves their opinions on the various banking options in Spain. Here's what they had to say:
"I like Sabadell because they are expat-friendly and seem to have branches everywhere. However, they have high fees for withdrawing cash at their ATMs. I would advise going with a bank that has a good online app because it's super useful for doing bank transfers and other operations without having to go into your physical branch. - Louise, South Africa
"I have EVO-it's mostly an online bank, but you can use any ATM in the Euro 6000 network without fees (this includes Caja España, Ibercaja, and Kutxabank, among others.) The app is great, it feels secure, and there's the assumption that a mainly online bank has better customer service online/via phone. I was able to open a free account (although I was required to give my US Social Security number). - Elyssa, United States
Openbank by Santander
"Openbank is an online banking platform with high security and zero charges. As long as you use your debit card once per month or receive regular deposits of 900 euros per month, your account will be free with zero charges. They also have 24/7 customer service and you don't have to go into their office to open an account. Openbank is owned by Santander, which means you can use any Santander cash dispenser." - Michel, France
"I decided to go with one of the bigger banks, BBVA, for a greater sense of security. Although I've heard great things about online banks, I thought BBVA might have more offerings than smaller, non-traditional banks. At BBVA, I was able to open my account with just a passport and work contract, and their online platform/app lets me easily manage my account, do transfers, and request a telephone consultation or appointments with my gestor." - Mary, United States
Cuenta ON by Bankia
"This is Bankia's online account and it has no fees. They have a good app that you can use to manage everything you need, and in English too". - Mohammed, UAE
More Options for Expat Banking in Spain
- N26: This bank is a 100% mobile platform using their app.
- Revolut: Mobile bank account with lots of features like money management, cryptocurrency, and international transfers.
- Santander: This is the biggest bank in Spain and has lots of options for accounts, loans, insurance, investment, etc.
- CaixaBank: Another one of the biggest banks in Spain, with a wealth of services and offerings.
As you can see, the banks in Spain that are most popular among expats tend to be online or mobile-based accounts, but don't rule out the "big banks" if you're looking for something with more traditional offerings and services.