Are you concerned about how you will navigate banking once you own a property in Spain? Our writer in Spain, Sally Veall, shares her insight and experience on all things banking in Spain, from the rise of remote banking to the importance of a genial branch.
Find homes in Spain via our property portal.
How has banking in Spain changed in the last couple of years?
Spurred by the pandemic, day-to-day banking has undergone some changes. As ATMs disappear, online banking is becoming the new way to deal with your finances in Spain.
ATMs are disappearing
One of the biggest problems currently in Spain is the disappearing ATM. This is mainly due to branch closures and takeovers, reducing the number of outlets throughout the country. Over 2000 ATMs were removed between 2019 and 2023 which has hit hard in the smaller, rural communities particularly as some now have no means of withdrawing cash other than to make a longish trip to a large town.
Remote banking is becoming increasingly popular
Digitalisation is also a culprit. The main banks all have wholeheartedly embraced online banking and banking apps. During the Covid pandemic, Spanish people began using less cash in favour of swiping a card for health reasons. This has led to the banks pushing their customers to do more and more via their phone or pc and paying by card or mobile at the checkout. That’s not to say that cash is no longer welcome, it is, especially in the smaller shops and in bars.
The use of remote banking is a problem for many older people in Spain who aren’t computer savvy and don’t understand APPS. In fact, an elderly doctor in Valencia started an online campaign to increase the number of face-to-face options in Spanish banks for retired people. The campaign gathered 60,000 signatures as he declared “‘I’m old, not an idiot”. He presented a petition to the Economy Minister. Within a year, the Spanish government brought in new measures to improve physical banking in Spain to help older people and others who find remote banking problematic.
Nevertheless, banks still only open from 8.30 to 2 pm in most cases. Many restrict the hours in which you can pay in money or pay bills over the counter, usually only before 11.00 am. There are still queues and maybe only one or two tellers on at any time. Physical banking can be frustrating! You can, though, make an appointment to see someone and that generally works quite well.
Have you heard of Bizum? All the main banks have offered Bizum since 2016. Account holders can make person to person payments quickly and easily using a smartphone and it’s free. It is widely used and recently some companies have started offering it as a method of payment. If you will be spending a lot of time in Spain, it’s well worth applying for. An example of its use: you are out with friends enjoying tapas and drinks. Instead of pouring over the bill and then finding your share in cash, one person pays the bill and the others send their share to them via Bizum.
Which banks are good for foreigners?
There are 4 big banks:
- Banco Santander.
- Banco Sabadell.
The biggest is BBVA. It has a service in English and offers online banking and a banking APP.
Banco Santander is already present in the UK and known to British people. It offers a range of products and has information online in English.
Caixabank has a dedicated online bank for foreigners called HolaBank which claims to offer everything you might need when moving to Spain and buying a property.
Banco Sabadell started life as a Catalan Bank but now covers all of Spain and has a wide variety of services in English.
How can you choose a bank?
As mentioned earlier, much depends on the actual branch so talk to people you know about their bank and branch, research comments online and visit the bank in person. This way you will get an idea of how your local branch works, whether they are helpful and knowledgeable and if someone speaks English.
If you are comfortable with online banking, really any of the above banks have a reasonable service and you can contact someone 24 hours a day if needed.
Residents and non-residents
Spanish residents and non-residents have different types of accounts. Most accounts of either type carry bank charges, some quite high. However, an account called a Nomina is an account with no charges and is specifically for paying in your salary or pension each month. Usually, you will need to transfer a minimum of €700 a month.
The truth is that we all need a bank. Since most are much of a muchness in Spain, a little research on your part can help you make the right choice. Please believe me when I say the branch office is more important than the name of the bank: service, friendliness and efficiency all vary enormously from branch to branch. My bank account is not in the town in which I live for this reason but a 20 minute drive away. It’s a deliberate decision as I get better service all round there than in my local branch.
Do you want to know more about banking in Spain? You’ve come to the right place. We have a wealth of practical information on the subject, including opening a bank account in Spain, claiming your pension in Spain and tax planning when living in Spain. If you have not purchased a property in Spain yet, we also have financial advice on the buying process, such as: the hidden costs when buying a home in Spain and why you should use a currency specialist when purchasing a property in Spain (we recommend our partners, Smart Currency Exchange, for transferring money to the UK from Spain). Head to our section on finance for more.
“I’m old, not an idiot”: criticism leads to new service at Spanish banks