Practical Life in Barcelona


Bank services in Barcelona


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Banking in Spain offers a modern system, but high bank charges. There are often set-up fees, debit card transaction fees, correspondence fees (when the bank communicates with you) and money transfer fees for transfers between accounts. There are a variety of services, including current accounts (cuenta corriente) and savings account (cuenta de ahorro).

Currency

Spain's official currency is the Euro (EUR). One Euro is divided into 100 cents. Money can be changed at major hotels or bureaux de change, but banks generally provide better rates. Do note that the Spanish separate large figures into thousands with a "." rather than a ",".

Use the Currency Converter to see the current exchange rate.

ATM

Barcelona is well appointed in ATMs (cajeros automaticos). They are labeled "Servired" and offer withdrawals, transfers, mobile credit recharges, ticketing, etc.

Be sure you know your personal identification number (PIN) and your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. You should also notify your bank of travel plans so they are aware of where your card will be used and do not put a stop on it for suspicious activity. Also consult with your bank to find out if they have any partnerships with the Spain you are visiting. Make sure you understand the fees and regulations in your contract to avoid excessive fees. Remember to make a record of your credit card number and the emergency phone number for cancelling your card, should you lose it.

Credit Cards

Though cash is still necessary for many purchases, especially in small stores, cards can be used in more and more places. Note that some establishments might not accept your credit card unless you have a computer chip imbedded in it. More and more places in Spain and Europe are moving from the magnetic strip credit card to the new system of Chip and PIN.

It is also possible to withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, provided you know your PIN. However, you will pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1 to 3 percent "transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad (whether you're using the local currency or your native currency).

Exchange

Most currencies can easily be exchanged for euros anywhere in the world. Moneychangers are frequently advertised at entrance points and in the downtown area. Make sure you understand the rates before committing. Changers at international airports are usually the best deal.

Note that the best rates can usually be found by taking money from an ATM. This depends on your home bank, but this is usually the safest and cheapest way to withdraw money.

Electronic Transfers

Electronic money transfers to another Spain are no longer as difficult as they used to be. Just about every bank in the big cities offer this service. Account holders should use the IBAN number and swift code to transfer funds internationally. All accounts in the EU are allocated with these numbers aimed at facilitating cross-border payments. These are vital for employees based in a different Spain from their employers. Service charges are variable (depends on the sending and receiving bank).

    To receive a money transfer, provide the sender with:
  • Account name
  • Account number
  • Sort code
  • Name of bank
  • Swift code

Transfers from the same bank normally take effect on the same day; from other banks this process can take up to five working days. Transfers from abroad require the international IBAN code, may take longer and incur additional costs.

The easiest way to complete a transfer is if you have a dual-currency account, such as the connection between Deutsche bank and Bank of America. Electronic transfers to dual currency accounts incur no or very low fees.

Open an Account

Expats can either open a resident or non-resident bank account. Non-resident accounts can be held in foreign currencies, but resident accounts tend to offer more services, have higher interest rates and lower commissions.

Note that not all banks cater to English speaking. If you are not familiar with Spanish, it might be best is best to select a branch with English speaking staff and an option for statements and documentation to be translated into English. Halifax and Barclays are two recommended options for Brits in Spain. They offer free transfers from alternate branches and a moderate annual maintenance fee of less than €100.

Beware that charges are generally high, and most banks charge a small sum for opening the account.

    Requirements to open a bank account in Spain:
  • Applicants must be aged 18 or over
  • Photographic proof of identity (passport or National Identity Card from the country of origin)
  • Proof of occupation or status (employment contract/payslip, letter from accountant/lawyer, pension or disability payment confirmation, student card).
  • Residents also need to produce their Foreigner's Identification Number and certificate (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros or NIE)
  • Confirmation of address (utility bill, driving licence or council tax bill; proof of address must have been issued within the last 3 months)

Banks

There are many banks (bancos) to choose from as Spain has one of the highest bank branches per capita on the continent. Banks in Spain are open from Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 14:00; Saturdays from 9:00 to 13:00; and often times Thursday afternoons from 17:00 to 19:00.


Update 17/10/2011



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