When you make the move to Spain you will need to open a Bank Account. As in the UK there are different types of banks in Spain. If you have got a Halifax account in the UK then retain it and open one with the Halifax in Spain. All transfers each way are free. You can do just that by simply using Halifax’s subsidiary bank in Spain which is Banco Halifax Hispania. They offer access to English-speaking bank advisers in Spain and also through their UK Customer Services hotline. This is particularly useful when first setting your account up once in Spain.
In Spain cash tends to be king. So, you can expect to pay for the privilege of holding credit or debit cards, maybe 1 euro per card per month. Pay in a Spanish cheque and you will pay perhaps 1 euro for that transaction. Transferring money often costs you, and you might pay 1 – 3 euros per transaction, depending on whether you do it over the Internet or at the bank. And as if it wasn’t bad enough having to pay out for individual items a lot of banks will charge a flat rate fee just for handling your account. This could work out at around 20 euros a year. Negotiating with the bank might get some fees reduced. Basically, for virtually every transaction you will have to pay. Some charges can often be minimised by keeping a certain amount in your account. Like most things in life it is worth shopping around and getting the account that`s right for you. You could even end up with several bank accounts held at different banks. Typical banking services include Savings accounts (cuenta de ahorro) which give interest, but are quite limited in range. For those wishing a higher rate of interest Deposit accounts are available, though they aren’t very flexible. And of course the most popular type of account, the Current account (cuenta corriente). This is the one for most day to day banking activities – cheque book, debit cards, standing orders, direct debits etc. Some current accounts pay interest – usually very low – others don’t. Here is a list of some of the banks in Spain. Some offer an English translation on their sites-
* Banco Popular
* Banco Santander
* Barclays Bank
* Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa
* Caja de Madrid
* La Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo (CAM Bank) Not recommended due to uncertainties about the bank’s future
* Deutsche Bank
Apart from the Spanish banks there are also a number of foreign ones to choose from. But don’t think that the banks out in Spain are just foreign extensions of their UK counterparts, they are most definitely not. If you can make any sense of their likely charges that will help when deciding to set your account(s) up, but unlike in the UK clarity isn’t one of their strong points. Charges by banks in Spain are actually quite high compared to the UK. You can get a cheque book in Spain but the Spanish prefer to do transactions in cash or credit card. If you visit a bank in Spain then be prepared to have to queue for an hour to get served, as the staff tend to chat on the phone (both mobile and landline) drink tea/coffee, talk to their workmates and until recently, smoke whilst serving you. Internet banking is starting to become more popular, which takes the tedium out of having to go to the branch.
The interest on your savings is low, usually about 1.5% and remember they charge for having an account with them. You can withdraw cash from the cash machines outside of the bank, but take care as robbery and copying of PIN numbers is unfortunately quite common there.
Your passport and other documents such as proof of residence are essential for opening an account and the paperwork can take about 45 minutes to complete.
The banks open around 8.30 a.m and close at 2 p.m. although in the summer they may open an hour or two at night. When transferring money there are several money companies that will do this for you at a better rate than a holidaymaker gets and with no commission. To make comparisons, get a quote from your own bank first (who will always charge a commission from and give a lower exchange rate) but it is a guide.
Finally, avoid going into the red if at all possible. In Spain they are notorious for their high charges for normal day to day transactions. Go overdrawn on your bank account and you will pay dearly for it, as the penalties can be very heavy. Whilst it might not affect too many Brits in Spain I do feel sorry for the Spanish who may be unemployed at this time. The banks can and will penalise those unfortunate enough to miss payments, which just makes their already difficult lives even worse, and puts them even further in to debt.