OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT
Having a Spanish bank account is very convenient as many of your household bills can be paid by direct debit from the account and most banks offer debit cards which allow you to shop and pay directly from your account. Generally, most Spanish banks supply internet banking, allowing clients 24 hour a day access to their accounts.
While some banks offer extended opening hours, in the main you will find that they operate between the hours of 8:00 and 14:00 and do not re-open until the next day.
Saving accounts are available, but you must specifically ask to open one. Interest is at an all time low and some savings banks are offering only 1% interest. Banks are required to ask non-resident account holders to sign a document biannually affirming their non-resident status.
There are two types of banks in Spain: savings banks and regular banks. Savings banks do not have shareholders and invest in social and cultural projects. There is a nationwide network of savings banks recognisable by the sign saying Caja de Ahorros. To open an account as a non-resident you must present a current passport. To open an account as a resident you must present your registry certificate. The bank staff will do the paperwork for you and the process is speedy.
While cheques come with the basic account, the cuenta corriente, they are very infrequently used in Spain, as most people prefer cash or plastic. If you decide that you feel more comfortable using cheques, use the same precautions you would at home: Treat the cheques like cash. After filling in figures include a horizontal line filling up the blank space; if you make a cheque out to cash, al portador, add two parallel lines horizontally across the cheque and between these parallel lines write “y cia”. When you do this, it means the cheque will have to be deposited into an account and will be traceable. When you open the account, you will be given a temporary chequebook and within about ten days, your personalised chequebook will arrive at the branch. When you see you are running low on cheques, contact the bank, as they will not offer you new cheques unless you ask. Note: Spaniards do not use cheques and many shopkeepers will be reluctant to accept them.
Your debit card will take about ten days to arrive at your branch. When you pick it up you will be given your PIN number. Ask at the branch what you must do to access your account over the internet. You may use non-Spanish credit and debit cards as long as you have proper ID.
To cancel a direct debit you need to visit your branch and tell them you wish to remove the company from your list of direct debits. Normally they charge you a small fee for this service. Also directly contact the business and cancel their service. Many bills can be paid by direct debit: utilities such as electricity, water and telephone, amenities including satellite television, insurance, as well as all town hall bills, circulation and property tax.
Your debit card gives you access at all connected ATM machines that dispense cash twenty-four hours a day. Using your bank’s cash point will incur no fees. Fees vary when using cajeros automáticos from a bank that did not issue the card.
Most banks and savings banks now offer internet access. You must sign up for this in the office and they will give you your user name and PIN number. Generally there is a second PIN number or a code card used to authorise transactions. Many of the websites are at least partially available in English.