Practical Life in Madrid

Bank services in Madrid

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Types of banks Retail banks (banco): The Spanish clearing banks with the largest branch networks are Banco Santander, Banco Banesto, Banco Central Hispano, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (BBV), Banco Popular and Argentaria.

Savings banks (cajas de ahorros): The three largest Spanish savings banks are

1. La Caixa (some 3 700 branches),
2. Caja de Madrid (almost 1 200 branches)
3. and the Caja Postal (around 650 branches).

Cajas are nonprofit banks, which means that they spend their profits on cultural programs.

In general, saving banks offer a more personal friendly service than clearing banks and are excellent for local business (many have limited regional branch networks). However, although they provide the same basic services as clearing banks, they aren't recommended for international business.

Opening a checking account (cuenta de ahorro con talonario or cuenta corriente)
You will need to show your passport, your address in Spain, and your NIE (número de identificación de extranjero) from your residence card. Spanish banks levy some of the highest bank charges in Europe for normal day-to-day transactions such as writing cheques, standing orders, direct debits and credit card transactions. Always obtain a list of charges before opening an account and compare the charges levied by a number of banks. A number of entries (account transactions) a year are usually free (e.g. 30) after which there's a charge per entry (e.g. 0.2 €), although the manager can decide to waive certain charges.

Non-resident account
If you don't have a NIE or come from a foreign country, you can still hold a bank account in euros or foreign currency. You will have to show a valid passport and the ID number of your original country. If you acquire resident status any time after opening the account, you must notify the bank and give them your NIE (the fees for a non-resident account are usually 15€ and it's free for a resident account).

Bank Statements
All correspondence from Spanish banks is in Spanish and it's advisable to learn to interpret your statements and other correspondence you receive. Account statements (estados or comunicaciones de movimentos) are sent to customers monthly or quarterly, although you can request one at any time by asking for an extracto or an avance.
The most common words used in statements are date (fecha), debit (debe), credit (haber), date of operation/transaction (fecha operación/valor), balance (saldo) and description (concepto).

Most of the banks will only send mails when there is a transfer or a transaction, giving you details on the debited amount (importe). In order to know the balance of your account, you will have to go to the branch with the booklet that you received at the opening of your account (cartilla), and ask for an update.

For more information:

Update 15/11/2005

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