Types of Bank Accounts in Spain

The costs and benefits of available bank accounts in Spain...

There are various types of bank accounts available. The three main types are:

  • Current/checking account (cuenta corriente): the most typical type of account for undertaking essential, day-to-day banking activities. The interest rates for current accounts that remain in credit are usually quite low, if they pay any interest at all.
  • Savings account (cuenta de ahorro): offer higher interest rates, but with a limited range of banking services and/or limited access to money, particularly at short notice.
  • Deposit account (cuenta de depósito): as with savings accounts, these are aimed at customers who want to earn a higher rate of interest on their money, but this type of account does not permit day-to-day banking operations.

Banks also offer accounts for specific services:

  • Mortgage (cuenta hipoteca)
  • Fixed deposit (cuentas de depósitos a plazo fijo)
  • Credit (cuenta de tarjeta de crédito)
  • Investment (cuenta de fondos de inversión)
  • Payslip account (cuenta nómina) Allows an employer to pay directly into the employee’s account and there arewith fewer withdrawal restrictions
  • Student (for those under the age of 26)

Most banks also provide accounts in other major currencies (such as US Dollars or GB Pounds), although a foreign currency account may not be useful for day-to-day banking needs, particularly if regular transactions are made in Euros for payments such as utility bills.

When opening a savings account, a savings book (libreta de ahorro) is usually issued instead of an ATM/Debit card in order to access banked money. In ATMs of some banks (principally the ATMs of cajas de ahorro) a savings book can be inserted into a dedicated slot which will update the movements on the account within the book, and also allow the account to be viewed and cash to be withdrawn. 
Note: this only applies to ATMs of the bank with whom the account is held; it cannot be used in ATMs of other banks.

Residents and Non-residents

Banks offer accounts to both residents and non-residents, though residents will be offered a wider range of products and higher interest rates, and commissions will tend to be lower. Some banks have limited services for non-residents and fees are higher.

According to Spanish law, to be considered a resident, a person must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • live in Spain for at least 183 days per year
  • use Spain as the base for a business or professional activity
  • have a spouse and/or children under 18 who are permanent residents in Spain

Residents must prove residency by presenting their residence identity certificate/card which contains details of the holders NIE and address. They must also submit an annual tax return. Non-residents do not need to pay capital gains tax or submit tax returns. They do need to confirm their non-resident status by completing a Declaration of Fiscal Residence (Declaración de Residencia Fiscal) form and an NIE number when opening an account. When a person first visits the branch to open an account and sign the relevant paperwork, the bank should provide this declaration form and then submit it to the tax authorities on their behalf once it has been signed.

The Declaration of Fiscal Residence is valid for up to two years. When it expires, another declaration will need to be signed. At this point the bank should get in touch with a client and advise them that they need to renew it. If a person decides to become a permanent resident, they must advise the bank, which will inform the tax authorities of the change in status.

Notifying the bank of a change in residency status is a legal requirement, as with non-residence accounts the bank does not withhold a percentage of the interest earned.