Opening a bank account in Spain was once the makings of a migraine. Now, if you go early (be there at 9am and avoid the queues) you can be in and out in less than ten minutes. There is no need to make an appointment – just show up early.When opening a bank account, you will either open it as a resident or a non-resident. You are a non-resident if you are not from Spain and do not have a NIE card (see our NIE and Residency section).
To open your account, as either a resident or a non-resident, you will need your passport or EU ID card (in other words, have photo ID with you). Some banks will require that you deposit an initial amount in order to open the account but this is increasingly rare and most will not need any deposits at all.
If you do become a resident after opening your account, you should notify your bank and give them your NIE number. They ask you to do this, but it works to your benefit also, as banking fees are lower for residents. When opening your account, it is wise to do it with the help of somebody who has a high level of Spanish. Although most banks in Barcelona will have at least one fluent English-speaker available in their customer service team, you cannot always expect to find that one bilingual staff member at the bank. Also, for convenience purposes, you should make sure the bank offers your statements and other information (via internet, etc) in English. Almost all banks offer this option to their customers.
When you open your account, you will probably get a debit card, possibly a check book, and maybe a bank book (libreta). You will be able to take out money with the libreta, and the ATM will print the transaction on the book, so it is like a running bank statement. However, the debit card is far more convenient. In shops you can pay with cash, debit or credit card. For putting down deposits on apartments, and other such large one-time payments, a bank transfer is generally required.
The most common account to open is a standard savings account. These can have libretas (savings books), debit cards (like a credit card but you use your own money) and/or credit cards attached to them. This is also the type of account from which utility companies will debit your bills, and into which your employer is most easily able to deposit your salary.
All banks offer term deposit accounts (when your money is locked away for a fixed term and you receive a higher rate of interest than normal) but this is something you can investigate when you are settled.
Checking accounts are available, but as checks are so rarely used (and not really accepted anywhere anymore because they can incur processing fees), there is very little reason to request one.