The process of opening a Spanish bank account is fairly simple – no matter whether you are a resident or not. To be considered a resident of Spain you must reside in the country for at least 183 days in a year. In order to open an account as a resident you should arrange an appointment at your chosen bank, bringing with you a valid form of ID – for example, a passport – your Spanish Residence Permit and proof of address. It should be possible to open an account online, but it is almost certain that you will still have to provide the aforementioned documentation at a branch of the bank in person in order to activate the account.
To open a non-resident account (cuenta extranjera) you will need to provide a copy of your passport, along with a letter of reference from your existing bank and some recent bank statements. You will also need to complete a Declaration of Fiscal Residence (Declaración de Residencia Fiscal) form – which is a declaration that you intend to become a resident of Spain – and obtain a NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros) number before you can open an account. An NIE acts as a form of identity for foreigners in Spain, and can be obtained from police stations which have a foreign department. Spanish authorities are likely to check every six months that non-resident account holders are still non-resident. If you open a non-resident account and then move to Spain then it is vital that you notify the bank of your new ‘resident’ status. If you don’t then you risk having your account frozen. Due to Spain’s long-term popularity as an expat destination, particularly among Brits and other nationals from other EU member states, you may find that a bank in your home country offers link-ups to a Spanish bank account.
One major downside to banking in Spain is that it tends to be very expensive. There is no such thing as free banking in the country, and banks will charge you for many transactions – including using your debit card at an ATM machine; sometimes even if it’s at your own bank’s branch. Fees may be charged together as a single generic charge (flat rate) or separated – in other words a charge for each individual service. It is essential to find out from the bank exactly what you will be charged for prior to agreeing to open an account. Some banks are quite backwards about coming forwards regarding what their service will actually cost you – their websites do not tend to provide too much information – so you will need to ask questions.