Spain has close to 150 banks and the country’s banking system is integrated into the European and global financial markets. The big national banks (bancos) are Banco Santander, BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria), Caixabank, Bankia, and Banco de Sabadell. Smaller regional banks (cajas) exist and multinational banks such as Deutsche and HSBC also operate on the Spanish market. We’ll give you an overview of the best banks in Spain and which are especially suitable for foreigners.
What you need to know about banking in Spain
It is considerably difficult to open a bank account as a foreigner in Spain: you’ll need a NIE, proof of address, and sometimes a work contract. Especially older people still do their banking in person and many ATMs read bank books (as well as cards). Despite how it might seem, financial services in Spain are actually quite modern. A current account for your day-to-day finances is called cuenta corriente, whereas a savings account is a cuenta de ahorro.
Card payments are widely accepted, with the exception of smaller cafés and mom-and-pop shops. To avoid ATM fees, you have to pay attention to which network your bank is part of. When using foreign cards, fees might be subject to your issuer’s conditions as well.
Banking in Spain for expats and digital nomads
It’s fairly straightforward to open an account with Sabadell as an expat. You’ll need your NIE and a proof of employment to show you’ll have money coming into the account. The online banking with Sabadell is easy, they offer 24/7 phone services with English support available and overdraft services if you need them.
With ING, you can choose between three different accounts with options for freelancers and regular employees. It’s possible to open an account online, however ING doesn’t have English language services. You need your NIE, proof of employment, and an address.
Since Santander is among the biggest banks in Spain, you’ll benefit from their many cash machines. The fees for cash withdrawals from machines outside their network are acceptable as well. Bank transfers are free with Santander.
If you’re under 28 years, you can get a free account with them, as long as you’re a resident in Spain and manage to navigate their Spanish-only services. Expats benefit from currency conversion without fees and up to four free ATM withdrawals abroad per month.
They offer two accounts for people both with or without a regular income. You can withdraw cash for free from the large network of Santander ATMs in Spain. For banking services in person, you can also use Santander’s branches with a limit of two fee-less deposits per month.
The German online bank N26 is also operating in Spain. You can open an account with them from inside their smartphone app and you’ll benefit from a free account with a MasterCard debit card, limited free cash withdrawals and no charge on foreign transactions. Various upgrade options exist to get a card with more benefits such as travel insurance. The app has various features for saving or sending money to friends. N26 works seamlessly with mobile payment services such as Google Pay.
The British online Bank Revolut came to revolutionize mobile banking. Setting up a new account is a straightforward process within their banking app and Revolut is especially popular with digital nomads and travelers thanks to their currency exchange and conversion features. It’s no problem to receive money in different currencies with Revolut. You have a choice of cards available such as MasterCard Debit or Maestro and can also create a number of virtual credit cards for one-time use or online shopping. Additional features include savings, spending analytics, and stock and crypto trading within the app.
The Dutch bunq calls itself the bank of the free and is available in 30 European countries, including Spain. The features are geared toward travelers and digital nomads with Maestro and MasterCard payments, no foreign exchange fees, fast payments through TransferWise and automatic expense tracking. Sign up takes less than five minutes within the mobile app and options for savings and investment are also available.
Other options for sending and receiving money in Spain
As an expat, digital nomad or non-permanent resident in Spain, you might want to keep your existing foreign bank account and combine it with additional financial services. TransferWise allows you to send and receive money with international bank details while using your phone for managing your banking needs. A MasterCard for spending your TransferWise credit is available. Payoneer is a very similar solution for fast and reliable cross-border payments and managing the exchange of various currencies.