Expats in Barcelona: Everything You Need to Know About Setting Up a Bank Account

Spain is home to some of the world’s best cities for expats. In particular, Barcelona has a vibrant migrant population, with 20% of its city dwellers being non-natives. With rich local cultures, excellent weather, and superb public services, you’re sure to feel at ease.


If you’re an expat in Barcelona or are planning to become one, you may be wondering about how you’ll manage your finances in a new city. Fortunately, Spain has some of the biggest European banks, so you are ensured a quality service even if you’re not in your home country. Read on for a comprehensive guide to a crucial first step you’ll need to take once you’re in Barcelona: setting up a bank account.

How much it costs to open a bank account

Generally, a bank will charge €15 to €30 (depending on whether you want a debit or credit card) of annual fees to open an account. Some banks may charge for ATM withdrawals at terminals outside of your bank’s network, too. Expats should also be particularly mindful of costs for international transfers. You may be charged up to €15 if the amount you’re sending is less than €50,000, while larger amounts will have a higher transfer fee. However, you can use cheaper alternatives like Wise, which has a lower transfer fee.


You should also be wary of the hidden costs of banks in Spain, as they charge a few fees that banks in other countries don’t. For instance, you may be charged for paper statements, early closures, breaches of contract, or simply owning a credit or debit card. However, Spanish banks make up for these hefty costs with the range and quality of the services they offer. That said, there are many things you need to consider when choosing a bank.

What to consider when choosing a bank

Reliable security

Choosing a secure bank is crucial since you may be affected by higher fees to compensate for a poorly-managed bank’s losses. To guard yourself, choose a bank with reliable security. Take Banco Santander, one of Spain’s top financial institutions with several branches in Barcelona. Its services leverage baseline best practices for protecting your data, such as securing transactions with one-time passwords and implementing early detection systems to prevent fraud. Yet it also goes above and beyond by using OneSumX Basel reporting software, to automate compliance requirements in line with the Basel accords — a series of regulations meant to strengthen the international banking ecosystem. This makes Banco Santander’s services especially helpful for expats like yourself who make international transactions on a regular basis.

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Services in your language

Many of Spain’s established banks are expat-friendly: they can accommodate you by offering their services in different languages. This is especially true in Barcelona, where you can easily find fully-staffed branches with available translators. One company you can rely on for this is CaixaBank, which is particularly welcoming to foreigners. They have HolaBank services in five languages: English, Italian, Russian, German, and French. Following an easy online sign-up process to HolaBank, they can even help you establish yourself in Barcelona by arranging electricity, water, and gas for your new residence and dealing with any legal and administrative issues. As such, you can ensure quality services that even go beyond your banking needs — all without dealing with the stress of language barriers.

Convenient online banking services

A bank with an easy-to-use digital interface is the basis for excellent customer service. These features can include online bill payments, transfers, fraud alerts, and even biometric log-in for maximum ease. One bank that goes above and beyond for this is N26, a purely-digital bank available in Spain. In addition to the standard online banking features, N26 allows you to monitor your spending patterns through a consolidated dashboard and quickly set up sub-accounts for savings. These additional features allow you to optimize your banking experience. With easy-to-use interfaces like those offered by N26, you can navigate banking and financial management in unfamiliar cities like Barcelona with greater ease.

What you need to open a bank account in Barcelona

Opening a bank account in Barcelona is relatively easy. All you need is your ID (usually your passport), a valid Spanish address, and proof of employment status (a contract of employment or a student card). If you’re already a resident of Spain, you will also need your Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains that the NIE is a unique number assigned to foreigners engaged in professional or personal activities related to Spain. You can apply for this in Spain or at the Consular Office in your country of residence. To facilitate greater ease, banks in Barcelona allow you to set up appointments in English when opening an account. However, this service should also be available as long as you go to the bank early on in the day.


Spain is home to some of the world’s best banking services. With this guide, you can easily open an account as an expat living in Barcelona.

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