Banks in spain, details of spanish banks, banking in spain, transfer money into spanish banks
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Banks and banking in Spain
The banking system in Spain is well established and modern. There are many banks and all banking activity is controlled by the Bank of Spain (Banco de España), which has its central office in Madrid and branches in all provincial capitals. Banks are divided into clearing banks and savings banks, and several foreign banks also operate in Spain.  There are few banks in Spain that are directly linked to UK banks.
 
Bank charges in Spain are quite high and free banking is very rare. It's quite common to be charged for everything, including withdrawing money from ATMs. When using ATMs you need to check what the charges are as they vary between systems.
 

Bank statements

These can be posted to your residential address or held at the bank for collection. Most banks offer post box facilities for an annual charge.

 

Bank cards

All bank cards in Spain are now pin and chip. A few places still work on the signature system instead of pin numbers although this will soon be phased out.

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Clearing Banks
There were once numerous different clearing banks. This has changed considerably in recent years as many banks have merged or been bought out by a larger bank. At present the two banking giants in Spain are the BSCH (Banco de Santander y Central Hispano), which resulted from the merger of the Santander, Central and Hispano banks, and the BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria), which is again the product of two major banks including the originally state-owned Argentaria.

Other important banks in Spain include the Banco de Andalucía, Banco Atlántico and Banco Zaragozano. Most large towns have at least one branch of the main banks and in cities there are several branches. Smaller towns usually have a very limited number of banks (perhaps just one) and villages sometimes have none at all.

 

Foreign Banks
There are foreign banks that operate in Spain, although they tend to be concentrated mainly in coastal resort areas and in the large cities. British banking is represented by Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland (affiliated to the Santander bank) and Solbank, owned by Banco Sabadel. The American banks, Citibank and Chase Manhattan, are also present. Other foreign banks include Deutsch Bank (which has an agreement with the Spanish Post Office) and several Arab and Scandinavian banks.

 

Savings Banks
Savings banks (known as cajas de ahorro) are very common in Spain and apart from the Catalan La Caixa and Caja Madrid that are both present in most of the country, tend to be regional or provincial. Savings banks also act as charitable institutions and invest part of their profits in social and cultural associations. In Andalucia the main savings banks are Caja Rural, Caja Mar, Caja Sur and UniCaja (originally from Malaga province), La General (from Granada), Caja San Fernando (from Cadiz) and El Monte (from Seville and Cordoba). Savings banks, although popular, are considerably less so than the clearing banks.

 

Internet Banking
Internet banking has taken off in a big way over recent years in Spain and more and more Spaniards are now using online services. Practically all banks offer Internet services and as long as you have a user name and password you can carry out most banking transactions online. Some banks even offer online credit facilities. Internet-only banks operating in Spain include ING (part of the Nationale Nederlande group), Patagon (linked to the BSCH group) and EvolveBank (a subsidiary of Lloyds/ Chase Manhattan). Most Internet banks offer preferential rates of interest for savings.

How to Choose a Bank
The number of banks in Spain can mean that it’s difficult to decide which one to use and where to open an account. The following may help you in your choice:

 

Location
Your first consideration should be which banking institutions operate in your locality. If your property is in or near a small town or village then the choice may be very limited –perhaps even to just one savings bank. If this is the case, you may decide to widen your horizons to the nearest larger town, if only to have a better choice. However, there’s a lot to be said for having your bank as near as possible to where you live. Service in branches in small localities is often much more personalised and the staff less hurried or stressed out with the pressure of meeting monthly objectives. On the other hand, small branches may not offer a choice of banking services and they are less likely to have English-speaking staff.

 

Bank Charges
Spanish bank charges are notoriously high and a large part of some banks’ profit margins are made thanks to the charges paid by clients for just about every banking transaction imaginable. Charges are particularly high for the payment of cheques into your account and for bank transfers. Before you open an account, ask for a breakdown of all charges including annual fees. If you plan to make a lot of bank transfers every year, you should carefully consider how much this is going to cost you. You may be able to negotiate more favourable terms if you agree to maintain a minimum amount in your account or if you treat the branch manager to at least a coffee in the local bar!

Bank Transfers
If you plan to keep most of your money outside Spain and to make transfers periodically to your Spanish account, you should enquire about the facilities a bank offers for this (e.g. once the money arrives in your account, how long is it before you can use it) and what their charges are.

Extra services
Banks sometimes offer a range of services such as insurance and investment banking, which could be useful to you. Bear in mind, however, that these services can be more expensive than those offered by specialised companies and aren’t likely to be independent.

English-speaking Staff
If you’re not planning to learn to speak Spanish or feel that Spanish banking language is beyond you, you may wish to base your choice of bank on the availability of English-speaking staff. Banks in resort areas and in large cities usually have at least one member of staff who speaks English, although you shouldn’t count on this. Banks in towns and villages in rural areas generally don’t have English-speaking staff. When choosing a bank, it’s also a good idea to ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations (or otherwise) and if after a while, you find you’re not happy with your bank, you can always open an account somewhere else!

 

Opening a bank account in Spain
Both residents and non-residents can open a bank account in Spain. You need to be over 18 and provide proof of identity such as a passport. If you’re a resident you’ll need to provide your residence card details. If you own property in Spain, the bank will probably also require your NIE (número de identificación de extranjeros), which all foreign property owners must have. You can open the account in person or by postal application, although this is probably only advisable as a last resort.

Type of Accounts
Most people open a current account or a savings account with their bank. A current account in Spain is much the same as that in any country and you’ll be issued with a cheque book and ATM/ debit card. Note that cheques are generally not accepted as a form of payment in shops and businesses. Debit and credit cards are. You receive monthly statements regarding your account. Some banks pay nominal rates of interest on current accounts, although by the time with-holding tax at 25% has been deducted, you sometimes wonder why they bother.

Saving Accounts
Saving accounts are generally different from current accounts in that they offer interest, although interest rates paid at present are very low (marginally higher than current account rates). With savings accounts you are issued with a cash book where all transactions are recorded. In some banks, you can use the cash book to withdraw money from cash machines. Savings accounts sometimes include the option of a debit card, but you can’t have a cheque book.

Investment Accounts
Long-term savings accounts and investment accounts are also available, although these generally have restrictions on the amount you can withdraw or penalties for withdrawing funds before time. Interest rates vary, although at present no standard savings accounts in Spain offer a good rate of interest. The best rates are obtained from investment account linked to stocks and shares, although there are associated risks of loosing some or all of your investment.

 

ATMs in Spain (Cash machines)
There are numerous ATMs in Spain and you can even find them in larger villages, although you shouldn’t count on this, especially in rural Spain. Spanish ATMs are very sophisticated and start by offering you a choice of language (usually English, French, German or Spanish). Instructions are easy to follow and self-explanatory.

Three ATM networks operate in Spain –4B (the most common), ServiRed and 6000. You can generally use any ATM to access money from your account, although if the ATM you use isn’t one linked to your bank there may be a charge. Some banks allow you to make three withdrawals a month from ‘foreign’ ATMs before they charge you. Others are not so generous. Because of this, you may wish to consider opening a bank account with the bank owning your nearest or most convenient ATM.
As well as straight-forward cash withdrawals, some ATMs allow you to carry out a wealth of other transactions including paying cash into your account, consulting your balance or most recent movements, renewing your mobile phone card or making theatre, cinema and sporting events reservations.

 

Mortgages
The mortgage market in Spain has opened up considerably in recent years and now all banks generally offer mortgage facilities to both clients and non-clients, although obviously clients receive more favourable terms. In order to obtain a mortgage from a bank in Spain you must be over 25 and have a fixed employment contract or have been self-employed for at least 3 years. Residents can theoretically borrow up to 90% of the value of the property, although the amount is usually nearer 70 or 80% and the actual amount lent will depend on your income. Non-residents can usually only borrow up to 60% and 50% maximums are also common. Note that not all banks will lend to non-residents. Mortgages are available for up to 25 years, although 10 or 15-year mortgages are the most common.

 
   
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