Opening a Bank Account in Spain
A bank account in Spain can be opened by both a resident and a non-resident of the country. The purposes of opening can be completely different: to receive a salary or pension on the account, to link utility bills and a contract phone to the account, to pay taxes in Spain from the account (for example, the annual real estate tax IBI, transport tax or income tax for non-residents IRNR, to purchase real estate in Spain in a mortgage, etc. Spain may also be required for businessmen and investors planning to engage in entrepreneurial activity. You can find out more about this on the Investments in Spain page.
It would seem that such a popular service should be provided by all commercial banks in Spain without exception with speed and ease. In fact, the situation is such that most banks are reluctant to meet foreign customers, especially citizens of non–EU countries.
In the years since the country emerged from the crisis, the requirements for third-country citizens have become incredibly tougher. There is an explanation for this:
first, banks have learned a lesson from the situation of avalanche-like non-repayment of mortgage loans by foreigners;
Secondly, banks diligently adhere to the European anti-money laundering policy.
All this led to the fact that each client was considered literally under a magnifying glass, and the number of refusals to open an account increased.
Documents for opening a bank account in Spain
In order to minimize the risk of failure and open a bank account in Spain, it is necessary to stock up on documents confirming the source of income. Residents of Spain use “nomins” (payroll sheets), employment contracts, tax returns, etc. for these purposes.
Spanish banks require non-residents to submit:
- references from work,
- declarations of 2-personal income tax,
- from entrepreneurs – 3-personal income tax.
It is important to consult with the bank’s manager in advance and find out the requirements for paperwork. For some banks, a simple translation of documents into Spanish is enough, others may require only sworn translation, and others – mandatory apostille of all documents. The bank may also ask for an account statement opened in the country of permanent residence, indicating the movement of funds over the past 6–12 months.
Therefore, if you are planning to buy real estate in Spain, it is better to entrust the opening of a bank account in Spain to a realtor who will accompany you. Entrust this procedure to professionals in order to save time on finding a bank that will open an account for a non-resident.
The financial documents listed by us will be required when opening an account, and in the future – once a year or every two years to confirm the legality of the income received. Late submission of documents may result in blocking of the account, and this is an unpleasant situation, because it will not allow you to replenish the balance until the issue with the documents is fully resolved.
Non-residents of Spain, in addition to submitting financial documents, are required to annually confirm the status of a tax non-resident. The application form can be obtained either from the bank itself or downloaded from its website.
In addition to financial documents, when opening a bank account in Spain, you will need to submit:
- for residents – a plastic card of a TIE resident;
- for non–residents – valid passport and NIE certificate (Identification number of a foreigner);
- for students – a student’s plastic card.
If you want to open a bank account in Spain for the purchase of real estate, you will definitely be asked for a reserve or deposit agreement, and after the transaction is completed, a notarized bill of sale.
A number of Spanish banks have an option to open an account online (this is how BBVA bank works, for example). The bank account is opened independently through the website, and all necessary documents are sent to the bank by courier.
There are also a number of banks in Spain, 99% of which are online. For rare operations requiring the personal presence of clients, single offices in large cities are supported. This is how, for example, OpenBank, which is part of the Santander Bank group, works. One significant “but”: such banks work only with residents of Spain and do not accept non-resident foreigners for service.
Principles of operation of Spanish banks
An interesting feature of the work of Spanish banks is that there is no uniform policy and uniform requirements for foreign clients and their documents. The same issue can be solved in different ways, not only in different banks, but even in two neighbouring branches of the same bank.
The position of the management of each particular department and the internal policy of working with foreigners play an important role here. And since there is a constant rotation of employees in the Spanish banking system, even yesterday a branch loyal to foreigners may cease to be such today, and vice versa.
So what should you pay attention to when choosing a bank? Convenience of location, terms of service, the amount of commission, staff speaking English (and sometimes Russian), the ability to assign a client to a personal manager are the key points.
As practice shows, small regional banks are the most loyal to foreign clients, and the most absurd demands are usually made by foreign banks (for example, Barclays and Halifax). Of course, if you are buying a bank property with a mortgage, there is no choice – you will have to open a bank account in Spain at the seller’s bank. In all other cases, the client retains the freedom of choice.
Be sure to visit the bank’s website and – if possible in demo mode – the client’s personal account. Spain has embarked on the path of reducing the physical offices of commercial banks. Most banks are cutting staff, closing or merging offices, and diligently transferring maximum work to online rails. Since almost all operations can now be performed through a personal account, it is important that the interface is user-friendly and understandable to the user, and that the site works, at least, also in English.
Since September of this year, commercial banks in Spain have added a stage of user verification and online transactions carried out by sending SMS messages with a code to the user’s phone. All customers were strongly advised in advance to get Spanish phone numbers and link them to the account.
When opening a bank account in Spain, you need to be prepared for the fact that the bank will impose related services in the form of life insurance, property, car. And if, when applying for a mortgage, banks are strictly forbidden to put pressure on a potential borrower and impose secondary financial products, then with a simple account opening, they are free to make any demands.
The requirement to buy insurance may be mandatory: if you do not buy it, you will not be able to open an account with this particular bank. In fairness, we note that sometimes banks offer good insurance conditions that are worth considering.
How to open and top up a bank account in Spain in the future
There are several ways to top up an account in a Spanish bank:
- transfer money from a foreign bank,
- make a bank transfer from an account opened in another commercial bank in Spain,
- deposit money to the account through the cashier,
- get a salary, pension or some kind of benefit on the account,
- top up the balance through an ATM.
However, not all of these methods are available to every client.
Usually, non-residents are required to replenish their account only by bank transfer. Moreover, this transfer must be made from the client’s personal account from the country of his fiscal residence. In exceptional cases, the bank may agree to accept money through the cash register, while the amount will be limited to several thousand euros per year.
An exception may also be cases of payment of compensation for insurance (for example, for automobile insurance – compensation for damage to health or a car), but even here you will need to notify the bank in advance of the amount of payments in order to avoid blocking the account or rejecting the payment.
If a student opens an account, it will be necessary to stipulate the possibility of transferring money from parents (probably with the submission of relevant financial documents from them).