The Spanish banking system is quite developed and has integrated itself into financial markets all across the globe, providing world-class services for both businesses and individuals. The central bank that oversees Spain, Banco de España, works within the modern guidelines enforced by the Eurozone to ensure that their monetary system is secure and efficient.
Any country’s banking system is reflective of how well their economic and business sector can perform. With nearly all of Latin America taking interest in the unique culture and marketplace Spain possesses, it’s no surprise that there are over 9,000 foreign companies investing in Spain– that number continues to grow.
If you’re a businessman, an expat, or a student or trying to open a bank account in Spain, you’re in the right place.
How to open a bank account in Spain
Both non-residents and residents can open a bank account in Spain. Although, the perks that come along with a resident’s account are much more favourable. Here’s how to get set up:
If you’re a non-resident of Spain, you’ll need to provide the following documents:
- Passport/National Identification Card (NIC is appropriate if you’re a European citizen)
- Proof of address: this can be your most recent utility bill or pay stub
- Proof of employment/student status: this can be any official government document that proves you’re employed/a student and receive some sort of income, i.e. tax returns, pay slips, etc.)
- Certificado de no residencia: This is a document that proves you’re legally verified as a non-resident and you must submit it to your bank with 15 days of its activation. You can receive this form from most police stations upon presenting them with your passport– mind you, not all stations do this so it would be worth your time to call in advance to see if they provide this.
In order to open an account in Spain as a non-resident, you must be over 18 years old. They don’t offer youth accounts to non-residents. It’s also worth noting that some banks don’t offer certain features, like overdraft or a credit card. Be sure to look into this, should you need these facilities. All of your documents must be converted into Spanish by an officially registered translator in order for them to be accepted. If you don’t have access to a translator, it would be beneficial to go to the branch in person and work it out with theirs.
If you’re trying to open a business account in Spain, you’ll need to furnish the following documents:
- National Identification Card
- Proof of company address: banks statements, utility bills, etc.
- Proof of employment: tax return, pay stubs, student card, work contract.
- Número de Identificatión de Extranjeros (NIE)
In order to open a business account in Spain, you need to be classified as a resident. Although, not all residents of Spain actually live there. You are considered a resident if:
- You are present in Spain for at least 183 days out of the year,
- Own a business in Spain, or
- Have a spouse or a child (any kind of minor) living in Spain.
Can I open an account online or in person?
It’s possible for non-residents to open an account online; however— regardless of who you are or where you live— you’ll eventually need to meet with someone face-to-face in order for them to process your documents and officially activate your account.
Which bank best suites my needs as a business/individual?
We’ve put together a list of the most popular banks in Spain, although, there are many other banks that could potentially better suit your needs depending on your circumstances.
Banco Santander is— by far— Spain’s largest bank, with total assets reaching a stellar 1.444 trillion euros as of 2017. The bank has expanded its operations into Europe, Asia, South and North America, and was categorized as 37th among Forbes Global 2000 article for biggest public enterprise in the world. This bank offers great accounts for businesses (especially large enterprises) as well as for students, although— they limit their services to residents only.
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA)
With a very large global presence, providing for over 72 million clients in over 30 countries across the world, it’s no surprise that Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria is a bank in Spain that many people trust. BBVA specifically caters to businesses and self-employed individuals within the young-adult age range, offering some great financial facilities for non-residents and foreigners… Some of their excellent features include a fee-free account, a free Visa Debit card, the ability to apply for an account online (and their website is in perfect English), and a courier who comes to you directly to pick up the necessary documents to open your account. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
Established in December 2010, this bank is the fourth largest in Spain and is the result of the merging of seven regional banks. This bank is quite popular and offers some useful accounts for students in particular, including a Cuenta Facil, which is a current account that comes along with a free Visa Debit card. You can apply for this account online. Then they offer a Cuenta Joven, which is essentially the same thing as a Cuenta Facil account but targeted towards those between the ages of 18 and 26. There are no monthly or annual fees for having this account and you also receive a free Visa Debit. Lastly, they offer an account called Cuenta Negocio, which is a basic business account that collects interest on a monthly basis.
If you’re a foreigner, an expat or a businessman who is not familiar with Spain, this is the bank for you. They offer specific accounts for each of these purposes, such as a Hola Bank Living Solutions Account, which is aimed towards non-residents and provides legal and financial advice in your respective language. This also comes with two free hours of emergency services for such things as plumbing or electricity issues, and unlimited access to a free translator via telephone. They also provide a Cuenta Corriente, which is a basic chequing account with the perk of a free Visa Debit card for a year. They have the same account for students, Cuenta Corriente Joven, aged 18 to 26. With regards to business accounts, they offer two separate kinds: Cuenta Commercio, which is aimed towards larger businesses with ten free transfers per month, two credit cards, as well as free and unlimited cheque deposits. Then they have Cuenta Negocios, which is similar but designed for self-employed individuals.
Banking Fees & Charges
ATM Fees: Something that most people overlook when getting hooked up with a bank is the fact that if they’re not within convenient access of ATMs or branches. The cost of taking out cash is much higher and adds up quickly when you don’t have access to your respective ATM. That’s why it’s important to think about where your business/home resides in relationship to your bank, to determine whether or not the bank of your choice is conveniently located.
Foreign Exchange Fees: Something to be aware of is the fact that, when transferring money to your Spanish bank account, banks entertain currency exchange rates that are high. Banks introduce something called a hidden markup; this is when they provide you with a rate that is less favourable than the real market rates. For example, a bank may give you a rate of $1 CAD to .78 EUR, when the real rate is in fact 1 CAD to .80 EUR. Therefore, if you were to transfer $100 CAD to Spain, your account would only be receiving 78 EUR as opposed to 80. They keep this difference for their own profit, not to mention they also charge additional service fees for sending your money overseas. A good way to determine if a bank’s rates are too high for your liking is by Googling the real-time market exchange rate, and calculating how much money you’re losing in comparison to other offers.
International Transfer Fees: When you send money to Spain, it’s worth noting that most banks will charge you inconvenient fees, such as a stagnant flat fee (per transfer) or a fluid percentage deduction. To avoid losing money from these fees, pay attention to how much you’re losing when the transfer is said and done. For example, say you’re trying to send $1,000 CAD to Spain and you’re going through a bank that has a flat fee of $15 per transfer. Say you’re set up with another bank on the side that charges a 2 percent cut instead of a flat fee. It would be more cost-efficient to use the bank that has a flat fee as opposed to one that subjects your payments to a shifting per cent deduction; you would be paying only $15 from your $1000 payment, whereas, with a 2 percent deduction, you’re losing $20. Some banks may even apply both of these fees, so beware. You can read more in detail about what to avoid when making international transfers here.
An even better alternative to banks and their fees is getting started with an independent platform that sends money overseas with more favourable, customer-oriented product. A company like REMITR facilitates business transfers from Canada to Spain to a $5 flat fee, regardless of the amount you choose to send. By registering with REMITR to make your business payments, you’re guaranteed no additional service fees, no percentage cuts, and the best exchange rates. If you’re an individual sending money to Spain, there’s no service charge whatsoever when you send money with REMITR.