Banking in Spain

Banking in Spain for Tourists and Long-Term Ex-Pats

Visiting your local bank in Spain has become painless indeed since Franco died. Now in the year 2005, there is at least one English-speaking ‘bank officer’ on hand in just about any branch in southern Spain. They like showing off their mastery languages as they open ‘tourist’ accounts with glee.

An added bonus for us technology worshipping ex-pats is that most of their websites are also in several languages for ease of use.

Here is an almost complete list of banks in Spain, including the website addresses for each:


Banco Atlántico
Banco Gallego
Banco Guipuzcoano
Banco Herrero
Banco Pastor
Banco Popular
Banco Sabadell
Banco Urquijo
Banco Zaragozano
Barclays Bank
BBK (Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa)
Caixa Catalunya
Caixa Galicia
Caja Duero
Caja España
Caja Madrid
CAM (Caja de Ahorros de Mediterráneo)
Deutsche Bank
ING Direct
La Caixa
Santander Central Hispano

In Spain, a personal relationship with someone at a bank is imperative if you need to get anything of extreme importance done, or taken care of promptly. Be sure to cultivate your contacts and try to get introduced to someone with power in a bank, especially if you want to buy a home with a mortgage.

But for the usual ex-pats, here for six months then gone, you can bank online exclusively in Spain, using Bankinter ( or Patagon ( where you can actually open an account and do all your banking transactions online.

Opening a bank account

You can choose two different types of ‘tourist accounts’ here in Spain. Either a savings or regular checking accounts are quickly opened by the banking staff requiring only your passport, telephone number (a mobile number will do), and a local address for mailing. The forms are always filled in by the staff, and within a week or so you get a debit card, checkbook (if you asked for one) and all the secret passwords you’ll need to navigate yourself onto their online banking system. Unlike the USA, you don’t get a shotgun or toaster oven just for opening an account. But now you can pay your bills, and make bank transactions online internationally without having to deal with a local branch office, and their short working hours.

Friendly Bank People

Banking in Spain is relaxed, or as they say ‘tranquilo.’ When one considers the laid-back hours they work, it should be relaxed. They open at 9 am and close at 2 pm. If you’re lucky, they may also open on Saturdays from 9am to 1 pm, but watch out for those holidays! They take every single one of them off.


If you do get a checkbook, hide it. It’s useless. Do everything online and save yourself a big hassle.

Direct Debits

Direct Debits are the way to make your payments in Spain. Telefonica, electricity, water, all require direct debit accounts for you to exist here in Spain. So the tourist bank account is the way to go, just make sure there is another account somewhere else replenishing your Spanish account, and keep track of it online.

That’s assuming you can get online here in sunny Spain!


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