Banking In Spain

Banking In Spain
When thinking of buying a home in Spain one of your first considerations should be the opening of your own bank account. Here is some information you may find useful from a short description of the currency to automatic payments that in UK is called direct debits. 
The currency in Spain  is the Euro. 100 cents equals 1 Euro, the coins and the notes are readily recognisable. The biggest coin is 2 Euros and the smallest  note is 5 Euros. They are different to each other by both size and colour and are the same throughout the whole of the European Union.
Opening your new bank account
There are two types of banks in Spain, a Savings bank and a normal bank. Savings banks offer the same as a normal bank, however they have no shareholders instead, they invest their profits in many social, cultural, educational and scientific  schemes. To find one of these look for the sign saying Caja de Ahorros, here at 1Casa we recommend CajaSur at Calle Cervantes 13, Alora, telephone 95 249 7570, all of our clients speak very well of the helpful and bi-lingual staff here, their attention to detail and caring attitude is excellent.
For you to open a new current account or a savings bank in Spain you will need your Passport or a Residence card known as an NIE. These days the bank may also ask for confirmation of your income because of the recent change in the law regarding money laundering. There is a very easy process, and much of the work is carried by a member of staff at the bank.  
All major national banks and most regional banks offer secure online banking, thus allowing you to make transactions, check balances, make transfers 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.
It is normal for the bank to ask you which type of account you want as it is assumed at most banks that you will be opening a cheque account. So if you wish to have a savings account instead of or as well as a cheque account then you it is wise to ask them at the same time before you open the account.
The same day you open your account you will be given a passbook and within a period of about a week you will be able to pick up your own personal cheque book from the same branch that opened your account. Please do not expect a new chequebook to be automatically sent to you as the number of cheques gets low, they do not know the frequency of your particular usage, you should ask at the bank for a new book when you need one as very few of the banks are psychic so it is wise to apply for replacement about two weeks before you think you may run out.
If you open a bank account as a non resident, interest rates will be higher as opposed to a resident.  Interest rates are currently low on both cheque and savings accounts.
If you continue to remain in Spain as a non-resident you will periodically be asked
(about every two years) by the bank to complete a form which confirms you still have non-resident status.
Banks themselves
Banking in Spain is a much more casual affair than UK, there are usually much less security grilles etc. it is laid back but efficient. Banks show a genuine interest and more friendly attitude to their clients that you may not encounter in other countries, often after a relatively short period the staff will recognise you by name. You can also enjoy the attention of the Bank Manager himself in many banks, they seem to do more work and attend to individual clients interests much more than in the UK, in many cases you do not even need to make an appointment.
Although the major national banks have branches in all cities and most towns, each region of Spain has its own banks with branches in almost every town within that area.
Normal Bank opening hours
Monday to Friday: 9am till 2pm
Saturday: 9am till 1pm
Savings Bank hours
Monday to Friday: 8:30am to 14:30pmSaturday: closed.
Payment types
Spain is very much a cash and credit or debit card society, cheques are more rarely used than UK. Many businesses still do not accept cheques and will insist instead on cash or a credit or debit card.
When you decide to write a cheque, use all the same precautions against theft or misuse as you would in any other country, filling in any blank spaces with a horizontal line. It is also best not to write cheques out to cash or the bearer ( known as al Portador), although some business people will ask you to do just that.
You can also cross the cheque with two parallel lines, this means that it can only be deposited to the account of the person or business the cheque is made out to.
You can send cheques through the mail to pay a bill or make an order for an item, but you certainly cannot use them at, a supermarket, chemist and most stores. Often one chequebook will last you for more than a year, as you use them so infrequently.
Credit cards
You will normally be issued with a credit card with your cheque account. You should collect it at the bank at the same time as your personalised chequebook is issued.
The credit card, which may be a MasterCard or Visa, is used like any other credit card, but you can only spend or withdraw money up to the limit of what you have in your account.
Your PIN number will either be given to you in the usual sealed manner at the bank, or posted to you.
Many banks offer a more personalised credit card, allowing you to add a picture of your choice or to select from a range offered by that bank.
Direct debits
These are often used to pay for regular payments such as water, electricity and the telephone. When you enter into a contract with one of the above mentioned services, you must give your bank’s name and account number, and from that date forward you are directly debited for these services.
To cancel one of your direct debits you should go to the branch and let them know you wish to cancel. It is wise to write to the company concerned too.
You do not always have to visit your specific bank to obtain cash as,  you can nearly always find a 24 hour cash machine near to where you live.
Written by : Barbara Brough