Navigating bank accounts in Spain as a foreigner

This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research. You should seek advice from a professional adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this communication is correct, they are subject to change and we are not responsible for any errors or omissions.

Does a British expat need to be a resident in Spain to open a bank account there? What is involved with the process, and what benefits should you look for as a foreigner?

In this 2023 guide, we offer information and insights about bank accounts for British people travelling frequently to Spain, or who are interested in settling there. 

We hope this content is helpful. If you want to discuss your financial plan with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-obligation financial consultation, at our expense:

+34 966 460 407


Overview: Spanish bank accounts

If you simply plan on visiting Spain every so often from the UK, there is less urgency to open a local account. However, if you plan on spending a lot of time there – perhaps becoming a resident – then there is more incentive.

For expats looking to work in Spain, a local account can make it easier to get paid. Paying utilities, getting a mortgage and paying taxes will almost certainly require a Spanish account.

Fortunately, the process for British nationals is not too difficult. Indeed, within minutes of your arrival in Spain, you could open a digital bank account using your smartphone. You do not necessarily need to be a resident.

The information you are likely to need includes your name, home address in Spain and identification documents (e.g. passport). However, note that some digitally-based banks may not offer the range of banking services that certain expats may need – such as business owners.

British expats can choose to either open a resident account or a non-resident account. The latter takes a bit longer to process and tends to be less flexible, requiring a Certificate of non-residency. However, it can be a good option if you do not plan to stay in Spain permanently.


Choosing an account as an expat

If you are not a confident Spanish speaker, then consider local banks which provide their services and customer support in English. 

As an expat, it is also worth comparing the perks from different providers (e.g. from premium subscription options). Some might provide discounts or offers on travel insurance. Others allow you to use disposable virtual cards, allowing you to pay using a “digital wallet” on your phone.

Consider whether it is important for you to have easy access to a local branch that you can visit. Bear in mind that not all staff will speak English at these locations, so you may not be able to simply walk in and talk to someone. You may need to book an English-speaking appointment.

Check the requirements from different banks. Some will be easier to deal with compared to others, as a British expat. For instance, some may request proof of employment status. In which case, your documents will need to be translated into Spanish and notarised with the Hague Apostille.


Some financial planning considerations

As you do your research, you may notice that Spanish banks might involve higher costs compared to those in the UK. Make sure you take time to compare the costs, such as: 

  • Opening charges
  • Maintenance fees
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Transfer fees (national and international)
  • Exchange rate fees.

There may even be differences in fees and benefits for salary deposits, insurance and pension plans. If you plan on retiring to Spain with a UK pension, for instance, take note that some Spanish banks will offer free banking because you have regular transfers.

It is not uncommon for unexpected banking commissions to appear in expats’ bank statements occasionally. Having a good relationship with your bank manager will help you deal with these.

Consider speaking to British expats already living in Spain about their experiences with local banks. Unfortunately, some are bureaucratic, reactive (rather than proactive), reluctant to offer credit, difficult to contact on helplines and confusing when navigating their websites.

Hopefully, your experience will be positive. Yet it can help to brace yourself for difficulty when dealing with them. Be prepared to move to another provider if necessary, and check that you would not be punished too harshly by “exit fees” if you do so.

If you spend a lot of time in multiple countries, perhaps transferring money frequently between them, then an offshore bank account might also be an option to consider. These can offer certain benefits such as lower taxes on funds and a wider range of cross-border services. 

When it comes to asset management and investing, it is often worth seeking financial advice about your options. Here, it will be important a suitable platform for your needs. This may lie outside of a traditional “bank model”.

For instance, a Spanish bank may give you what you need for a regular account. Yet it may not offer the best range of fund choices, competitive fees (e.g. for fund management) or diversification opportunities needed for British expats’ needs.

Speak with a financial adviser to explore your options. If you already have an investment portfolio in the UK and are planning to move to Spain, also consider getting professional advice about how to best manage your investment strategy going forwards.


Conclusion & invitation

If you are interested in discussing your own financial plan or investment strategy with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-commitment financial consultation at our expense:

+34 966 460 407

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