Spain is a beautiful country and many people have decided, permanently or temporarily, to make it their home. But being an expat in any country, while adventurous, can be quite difficult!

Just like any other country, Spain has its own systems and bureaucracy that can be very different from your own. Dealing with the most common things like payments and taxes can be frustrating, even more so when you also have a language barrier, so before you begin you’ll want to gather as much information as possible.

To make your life a bit easier, we summarized everything an expat moving to Spain needs to know to choose the right bank and open an account.

The most common banks in Spain

There are many different banks in Spain, all of which are under the control of the Bank of Spain in Madrid. The biggest problem regarding banks in Spain is the high commission, so the expats usually open a saving account right away to cushion the blow to the budget.

The two primary considerations when selecting a bank will be the availability of English-speaking staff and the network of ATMs. High fees for using out-of-network ATMs are common and you could pay up to 4% for each withdrawal.

To open a bank account in Spain, you could be required to provide any of these documents:
Proof of identity (usually a passport), proof of address, proof of employment status (student card, contract to prove your employment, or unemployment documentation) and a foreigner ID number/Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE).

The requirements for opening an account and the offer of services can differ from bank to bank, however one popular bank (N26), only requires a passport!


The recommended solution for expats, N26, doesn’t require an NIE, the ability to speak Spanish, or proof of a Spanish address. They require only minimal documentation and you don’t have to go to a branch in-person to open your account.

As a direct bank, N26 competes with the traditional, branch-based retail banks by offering  smartphone mobile banking services.

You just need your smartphone, passport, and a delivery address in Europe (specifically in Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Slovakia, Greece, France, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, or Slovenia).

And if you don’t have an address in any of those countries, don’t worry: The address of a Spanish or European friend will do – use their address as a C/O address for the purpose of opening the account – you can easily change the address after receiving the card.

If you’re already sold you can open the account directly on their English page: N26 English Website

About the bank:

With their headquarters in Germany, N26 is has developed into the leading mobile bank within Europe. In just five years more than 1 million customers across 17 European markets have signed up, but what makes it different from other banks?

According to the website, “Today, we are one of the fastest growing banks in Europe. N26 partners with the most innovative fintech and financial services companies to offer its customers best-in-class products, such as TransferWise (foreign exchange), Raisin (savings), Clark and Allianz (insurance), and Auxmoney (credit).”

If you want some further details about the benefits read the sections below.

Santander is the largest bank in Spain and one of the largest in the world. If you are a not a resident, it is difficult to open an account.
To do so you would need to get a temporary NIE, but that is yet another bureaucratic hoop to jump through.

Even if you get the temporary NIE, you would still need to provide a passport, proof of employment, and proof of home address. On the bright side, they offer free bank transfers and low fees for withdrawals from out-of-network.

Website

To get a free account, you will need to be at least 28 years old and either set up direct deposit or automatic bill pay for at least five bills a month.

To get started, you have unfortunately to go to one of the branches with your passport (no online option). The ATM withdrawals are free (outside the Eurozone there are only exchange rates) but there aren’t many ATMs or branch offices, and they have short opening hours.

They do have online banking in English, if you can navigate your way past the homepage which is only in Spanish.  They do not have customer service in English.

Website

Selfbank is purely an online bank. If you want to open an account, you need to print a paper and sign it, make copies of your passport and NIE, and send it via UPS courier to the Self Bank in Madrid.

Then they will open your account and send you the cards. There are no fees for national or Eurozone transfers, but you must have another account before you can open one in this bank, for verification purposes.

The biggest problem for expats might be that the bank doesn’t have an online chat and their website and all documentation are completely in Spanish.
Since this is an online bank, you can’t go to a branch and look for an English-speaking employee.

Website

Sabadell makes it relatively easy; there’s a lot of information on their website and they have 24/7 phone customer service, both available in English.

Unfortunately, they require a bit more documentation: proof of employment (depending on what kind of account you want to open), a NIE, and proof of a Spanish home address.

Website

This popular bank provides the option of opening an account online and has no fees or charges but they don’t have customer service in English.

Equally important, they also require the following documentation: proof of employment, proof of home address, and your NIE.

Website

Why N26 is the best choice for a spanish bank account

Control & Flexibility for global clients

N26 has long become a popular bank within Europe, and for good reason:

Their user-friendly app, low fees (see below), useful integrations — like TransferWise — and their investment module puts them miles ahead of most of the competition.

You can get instant push notifications on your mobile of every activity like card payment, ATM withdrawal, direct debit or transfer. A useful feature is also the ability to log in with your fingerprint, which is simpler than typing a password.

The N26 bank account automatically categorizes what you spend your money on and the chart is provided in the app.

The fact that you don’t have to show up in a physical branch anywhere makes it an even sweeter deal — especially for anyone travelling a lot.
If you need to phone N26, they have a special line for customer service in English. This is great news for those who are worried that they’ll have to learn Spanish.

You can open a new account in a paperless process (entirely online) in about 8-10 minutes. All you need is your ID, smartphone and an internet connection.
But, you will still need a delivery address in one of the countries listed above, to allow for card delivery.

There are no monthly, yearly or set-up costs. Opening and using the account, the App, the MasterCard are all free of charge. But most importantly, there are no ATM fees, which means that you can withdraw your cash without fees from any ATM that accepts MasterCard. And you can do it up to five times per month for free.

There are no fees on the foreign transactions.
You can make international transfers by using the TransferWise in 19 different currencies:
British Pound (GBP), Swedish Kroner (SEK), Polish Zloty (PLN), Swiss Franc (CHF), Danish Krone (DKK), Norwegian Krone (NOK), U.S. Dollar (USD), Czech Republic Koruna (CZK), Chinese Yuan (CNY), Indian Rupee (INR), Canadian Dollar (CAD), Australian Dollar (AUD), New Zealand Dollar (NZD), United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED), Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH), Hungarian Forint (HUF), Bulgarian Lev (BGN), Georgian Lari (GEL) and Romanian Leu (RON). Transferring Euros through TransferWise is up to six times cheaper than transfer through the traditional banks.

The N26 website and the App are available in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

Accordingly, the customer service is also available in those languages so you can chat, tweet or e-mail in English, German, French, Spanish, or Italian.

When you open the bank account you will get a Mastercard for free. A Mastercard is a prepaid credit card, which means that the card is tied with the current account.

Simply put, if the account has funds, the card works, and vice versa. Once you open the bank account, the Mastercard will be sent to you right away.

The N26 application is easy to use, it is user-friendly and most importantly it is safe. The N26 is a mobile bank and it was developed specifically for Smartphone users. Accordingly, you can open an account and manage your account using solely your smartphone, without using a computer.

You can set limits, lock your card, send money all through your smartphone. Of course, there is also an option to log in through your web browser.
The App is available on Google Play if you are an Android user or on the Apple App store if you are using an iOS device.

 Available Plans for Personal Bank Accounts

N26

  • No monthly/yearly costs
  • Free ATM withdrawals in Euros
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No currency exchange markup (you get the official Mastercard rate, which is pretty fair)

OPEN THIS ACCOUNT WITH N26 »

N26 Black

  • 9,90€/month
  • Free ATM withdrawals in euros
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No currency exchange markup (you get the official Mastercard rate, which is pretty fair)
  • Free withdrawals worldwide
  • Allianz insurance package

OPEN THIS ACCOUNT WITH N26 »

N26 Metal

  • 16,90€/month
  • Free ATM withdrawals in euros
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No currency exchange markup (you get the official Mastercard rate, which is pretty fair)
  • Free withdrawals worldwide
  • Allianz insurance package
  • Dedicated Customer Support
  • Exclusive partner offers

OPEN THIS ACCOUNT WITH N26 »

The process of opening the N26 account

As mentioned above,  N26 bank proudly advertises that it takes only 8 minutes to open an account with them, whether you are using a computer or a smartphone. You qualify to open the N26 account if you fulfill the following requirements:

  • You are at least 18 years old
  • You hold a supported ID (or passport)
  • You own a smartphone
  • You must be able to receive post

If you meet the listed requirements, you can open your account in 5 steps:

  1. Fill out the online registration form

You can start the registration process in the App or the Web browser where you will input your personal data.
You will be required to enter your:

First name, last name, the country where you live (UK addresses will be available from the end of 2018, US addresses from the beginning of 2019. Therefore, as mentioned previously,  use a Spanish or European address from the countries listed above), the mailing address for Mastercard delivery, date and city of birth, e-mail address, password, gender, job title, nationality, and tax residency.

You will be sent an e-mail to confirm your registration.

  1. Confirm the registration and choose the plan

After you confirm the e-mail, you will be able to log in into your account and choose one of the N26 plans.

If you’re unsure, you can always choose the basic, free account and upgrade later, but keep in mind that if you choose a business plan you can’t go back to the personal plan.

  1. ID verification

This is the best part about N26:
There are several options to verify who you are, but the easiest way is to do it online on your PC or smartphone, no matter where you currently are!
It depends on the country you are from and the type of the identification document you have.

You will be asked either one of these things: to take a selfie and a photo of your ID document within the App (most countries) or you do  a quick video call for verification (IDnow method). 

  1. Pair your smartphone

You can use the N26 account if you have iPhone 4S or newer and at least iOS9, or an Android 5.0 or newer. In order to connect your smartphone to your account, you need to start the App on your smartphone and then confirm your mobile number. You will receive a 4-digit code via SMS.

Once you enter the code in the application, your smartphone is connected. If you have done all the above, you can top up the account through SEPA transfer (all regions) or wire transfer.

  1. Receive your Mastercard via post

At this point, you have your card in your hands and the account opened, so you can use both to fulfill all your needs.

Registration process on the smartphone