Getting a Spanish Bank Account + First Day Finances

Opening a Spanish bank account is a number 1 priority.

When you arrive in Spain, do your due diligence with personal finances. Make sure you will have access to your funds. Avoid getting your cards frozen due to suspected fraud, and don’t waste your money with expensive money exchange issues when converting dollars to euros.

Ensure that you have a plan and understand how to best use your money while in Spain. To do this, I have information below on how to plan your first days of finances.

Table of Contents

First Day Finances

Before you travel to Spain, inform your bank and credit card provider(s) that you are going to travel to Spain. This is to avoid them locking your account due to suspected fraud. Ask and make sure that you won’t receive additional foreign transaction fees for using your card in Europe. Also, ask your bank about international ATM withdrawal charges. It’s okay if they charge a small fee since it is usually much cheaper than ordering Euros while in America.

On the first day when you arrive in the airport, find an ATM and make a withdrawal using your American bank card. Again, make sure you are aware of any international ATM withdrawal charges. Try to avoid paying with cash and pay with credit card instead for whatever you need. Later that day or the following day, open a Spanish bank account using your passport and Carta de Nombramiento.

Some banks allow you to use your home address, but most banks require a Spanish address to open a standard bank account. To fulfill this requirement, you have 3 options. (Some banks require proof of permanent address. If you need to provide proof, use option 3 and bring a paid utility bill in your name or your rental contract).

Option 1: Ask your coordinator if you can temporarily use the school address to open an account. If they say yes, great! You can open an account that day and make an international transfer. You can open any number of Spanish bank accounts or an online banking account that provides a Spanish IBAN. As soon as you get an apartment, update your bank account with your new address. If not, you have other options.

Option 2: Open an online banking account that provides a Spanish IBAN and uses a virtual debit card. N26 is an online bank that is quickly growing in popularity with auxiliaries. There are no withdrawal fees or exchange fees, and it is able to meet all the requirements needed to receive your stipend and make domestic transfers. Instead of a physical card, you will receive a virtual Mastercard.

Referral Code
(Spend €5 and receive €5 if you sign up with a referral code)

When it asks for your address, you can use your temporary accommodation’s address as a temporary option. Make sure you immediately change the address after getting an apartment.

Updating Personal Data – N26

You can easily change your address in the app, and if you ever have any issues, you can quickly contact customer support and get it it sorted.

Customer support can be found at the bottom of the page.

You will also need to have a Spanish phone number and your NIE to open a bank account with a Spanish IBAN (I opened a bank account in October, 2022. Please let me know if the process has changed.) For those of you who received a visa without the NIE, you’ll have to request it or try another method.

How to Get Your NIE

Getting a Spanish Phone Number

Once you get an apartment, you can update your address, and if you so desire, you can pay a small fee to receive a physical debit card at that address. Just go to the N26 App -> “Cards” -> “Order a physical card”. It only costs a one time fee of 10 euros to order a physical card.

Option 3: If you are unable to open a bank account with a temporary address, you will have to get an apartment before opening a bank account.

Apartments, Temporary Accommodation, and WIFI

For the first month’s rent, deposit, and additional fees, you can pay in cash, make a transfer using a cash deposit at the landlord’s bank, or make a transfer using with your American bank account. After getting an apartment, you can bring the rental contract or a paid utility bill in your name along with your Carta de Nombramiento and passport to open a bank account.

After opening your account, you need to make an international transfer to add funds. For transfers, I highly recommend using Wise. It is what everyone living abroad uses because it has lower fees, higher transparency on costs, and reliable, fast transfers.

Wise Referral Link – get a fee-free transfer up to $600 USD
If your transfer exceeds $600 USD, get a significant discount.

Once you have an account with funds, you will be all set to make whatever purchases or ATM withdrawals you need to using the account’s debit card.

Why Do I Need a Spanish Bank Account?

Opening a Spanish bank account should be one of the first things you do when arriving in Spain.

You need a Spanish bank account for the following:

  • Receiving the monthly stipend from your school.
  • Acquiring an apartment and paying rent. Some landlords prefer cash payments and allow cash payments/deposits, but having a Spanish bank account will offer you more options when searching.
  • Paying for utilities. Not all renting agreements require you to pay utilities but the majority will. You may be required to put the utilities in your name. These utilities will be paid via card or bank payment.
  • Getting a phone contract if you don’t want to use a pre-paid plan.

It can be difficult to get a Spanish bank account as soon as you arrive in Spain, especially because foreign banks aren’t always happy to take American clients. America is a unique country in that it requires its citizens to file for taxes every year regardless of your residency. Because of this requirement, foreign banks are obligated to work with the IRS and follow additional American regulations. This can be a lot of extra work for banks, but every auxiliar so far has been able to get a Spanish bank. Further down in the page I will include a list of Spanish banks that will let you open up an account without yet having your residency card.

What makes Spanish bank accounts different from my American account?

To make money transfers, American accounts use a routing number to identify the bank alongside an account number to identify the individual bank account. Spanish accounts, along with most of the world, use the IBAN system. It’s a 2 in 1 sequence of letters and numbers that identifies the bank and the individual bank account. Because of this difference, it is a hard requirement to get a Spanish account while in Spain.

Spanish accounts will start with ES followed by 22 digits. The last 10 digits make up your account number.

For international transfers, you might need to know your SWIFT/BIC code.

“A BIC is sometimes called a SWIFT code, SWIFT BIC or SWIFT ID (all of these mean the same thing). A SWIFT/BIC consists of 8-11 characters used to identify a specific bank in an international transaction, to make sure the money is going to the correct place.”

Your bank’s SWIFT/BIC code is not specific to your bank account. It is specific to the bank itself. For example, the SWIFT code of Sabadell is BSABESBBXXX. To find out your SWIFT/BIC code, simply input your bank’s information in the following link. For some banks, the SWIFT/BIC code is shown in the app alongside your IBAN.

Wise is a great resource for bank information and international transfers.

Upon arrival to Spain, you will not have a permanent address yet, and you will not have a residency card. Some auxiliares may have a NIE, but others won’t. Don’t worry, you will have your passport and Carta de Nombramiento, and that will be enough for many banks. After you receive your TIE, it is highly recommended to add that information to your bank. If you need to list an address, you can use any of the 3 options listed at the top of the page.

Your bank account might not have access to mobile payment services like Bizum (the Spanish version of Venmo that connects your phone number with your bank account) with just your passport information.

Bizum is surprisingly popular among young adults in Spain.

You can always get access to Bizum later on after adding your NIE and TIE information.add your NIE and TIE information. The online banking account N26 has access to Bizum as well, but opening an N26 bank account requires a NIE.

Spanish Bank Options for Foreigners

Quick tips:

1. Do not pay fees to open a bank account or maintain your account. You have many options to choose from, so find one that does not charge you.

2. When opening an account, you may find that the bank asks you to come back at a later time or day. It is typical to have limited hours at a branch when new bank accounts can be made. Be proactive and flexible.

“In some banks, a temporary bank account may be open without a NIE by presenting the passport or equivalent identification document and the Letter of Appointment. However, you need to remember that obtaining a NIE is necessary in order to participate in the program and live in Spain. When opening the Spanish bank account, it is important that you specify that you will receive a monthly stipend through an educational program. This will help to avoid commission charges. Most banks charge fees for maintaining accounts and sometimes could freeze them if no movements are made.”

-NALCAP official guidebook

Banco de Sabadell: I personally have Sabadell which only requires a passport to open an account. There are plenty of ATMs where I lived in Madrid. If you get the mobile app, you can make domestic transfers for free without limits. On the app you can easily track your spending and maintain a budget. A huge con of Sabadell are the quarterly maintenance fees. If you do not qualify for €0 maintenance fees, I do not recommend Sabadell. The conditions for €0 maintenance fees are below. You only need to meet 1 condition to qualify.

Sabadell can charge up to 240 euros a year in maintenance fees!

If you are between 18 and 29 years old, you won’t receive any maintenance fees for having a Sabadell account. It’s great if you fall within the age range and don’t plan on staying with the same bank until you are 29+.

N26: N26 is a unique banking option. It is an online bank founded in Germany in 2013 that can offer you a Spanish IBAN. This type of bank account was recommended during the NALCAP Webinar. I recommend opening the free standard account.

Online banking requires you to have a Spanish phone number and a NIE to open an account with a Spanish IBAN

Getting a Spanish Phone Number

Additionally, you will need a Spanish address when opening an account. In the meantime you can use your temporary accommodation’s address to open the account. Instead of having a physical card sent to you, you’ll have access to your funds through a virtual Mastercard on your phone. After getting an apartment, you can easily update your address, and if you want to have a physical card after updating your address, you can pay a small fee of 10 euros to have one sent to you through the N26 App.

This account is able to meet all the requirements needed for receiving your stipend. You’re able to make free domestic transfers and manage your account online with your phone. You’re also able to make 3 free ATM withdrawals a month from any ATM with the standard account.

You can also make unlimited withdrawals for free at select retail stores when making a purchase. The withdrawal limit is €200 per transaction, and you can withdraw up to €900 in any 24-hour period.

N26 is entirely online, but you get many real benefits.

Banco Santander: Being the largest bank in Spain, Banco Santander always has a physical branch close to wherever you might be in Spain. They don’t charge fees, and their app is very convenient with a great user interface.

If having many convenient physical branches is important to you, Santander might be a good option.

Other Banking Options

Receiving Your Stipend & International Transfers

For most auxiliary teachers, you will need to provide your school or region with your bank details to receive the monthly stipend. All you have to do is provide the bank name and IBAN when it is requested.

Some auxiliary teachers will have a ministry placement, and those teachers will need to add their bank details online through Profex. (You will know if you have a ministry placement. You will be sent instructions on what to do via email.)

For transferring money from your U.S. account to your Spanish account, I recommend using an online service instead of your bank. If your bank is like mine, you can be charged $50 plus a percentage of the transfer amount when sending money to your Spanish account.

Instead, I use an online service. In the past, I used Paypal, but they can create limitations on transfer amounts, and you get charged a markup on the exchange rate when transferring to an international bank account. So even though it appears you are not getting charged huge fees, you end up losing a lot of money in the exchange. Using Wise has saved me a lot in transfer fees, and you make sure you get an accurate currency transfer. I also appreciate how they are transparent about the cost of transferring money abroad.

I use Wise because I never have issues with it, and the fees are much lower (and transparent) than its competitors.

Wise Referral Link – get a fee-free transfer up to $600 USD
If your transfer exceeds $600 USD, get a significant discount.

Disclaimer: By using the referral link, you will be supporting this website. Feel free to use Wise without the referral link. I still highly recommend it, and I use it personally. Regardless, the referral offer of a fee free transfer can benefit you when going to Spain.

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