Spain – an Expat Haven, But…
When it comes to Spain, there is no arguing that the quality of life is unbeatable in comparison with many other parts of the world. The cost of living is low, the climate is probably one of the best in the world, there is access to nature and blue space all over the country… the list goes on.
However, the bureaucracy involved in accomplishing many usual tasks, such as opening a bank account, can be astonishing at best.
For this reason, I would like to impart some information regarding the process – things I wish I’d known prior to opening a bank account here. Hopefully, it will be helpful and prevent you from making any rookie expat mistakes.
Banking – What Do I Need as an Expat in Spain
First, it’s important to know that one of the most important documents necessary to do just about anything is the NIE or TIE, which is basically your non-resident ID card.
It’s a process in and of itself, to get this (and I’ll write a post about it soon) but you basically need it to do just about anything.
There are, of course, banks that will allow you to set up a bank account with your passport, but there are additional fees involved and the banking fees in Spain are high.
So what documents do you need to open an account? You will probably need any combination of the following, depending on the bank’s policy:
- Proof of address
- Work contract / student ID
As for opening an account online, just about every Spanish bank will do it only if you have the NIE/TIE card. Otherwise, forget about it and go to the nearest banking branch for your choice with your passport and other documentation on hand.
Now, here’s where my tips and the insightful info I’ve learned from experience come in handy.
Great Banks with Excellent Exchange Rates in Spain
I’ve been transferring money between the US and Europe for years now and trust specific apps that have allowed me to move money around for very cheap exchange rates. I highlight the best options below.
BBVA – this is one of the few free online banking accounts which exists and can be set up fully online, granted you have your NIE/TIE and a Spanish address. You can really set up the account in 10-15 minutes and once you have submitted your information, a live agent video-calls you so that you can show them your nifty ID card. That’s it – then bank as you choose via the app.
Wise (formerly TransferWise) – this is a fully online multi-currency account that allows you to transfer money and hold several currencies at once. They exchange currency easily any and for a fraction of the cost of a traditional bank. I pay $0.28 per exchange. The only downside to this is that you cannot get a Spanish IBAN because it’s a British bank but the IBAN is issued from a Belgium bank. Also, it can only be used with approved SEPA banks when making transfers within the EU.
N26 – this is the best option in my experience. You can get an IBAN in Spain online by simply providing your identification documents, such as a passport – no NIE/TIE is required. You can do everything from the app, and it takes less than 5 minutes to set up. Once approved, you can immediately access a virtual card and order a physical card for €10. There are different account options, ranging from free to paid, but the fees are extremely low and straightforward. Wise is a banking partner, so the two apps work well together. I do all my banking with this app.
I’ve spent countless hours researching this topic over the years, and I definitely wish it had been easier to find such viable solutions. Hopefully, this gives you a little clarity and will help you arrive at the best solution when taking care of these very necessary steps to becoming an expat.
Are there any other banking apps you’ve come across that have made life a lot easier? Sign up for free, comment below to get the discussion started!
by Marjorie Vera