By Nancy Todd
Opening a bank account was my first “Ahah!” that I was not a traveler in Spain anymore. The logistics of life, the daily stuff like dust balls and paying a phone bill, were wake up shouts that I had actually moved to and was now living there. For smooth banking, research the best banks and their account services. Expert advice from The Scoop:
1. Choose a bank with an international presence. They will understand the issues a foreigner has like transferring money from your home country. Also, if you move to another country in a sizable city, that bank most probably will have branches there and you won’t have to change banks. Potential big time savings.
2. Compare service fees as they vary from bank to bank. Shop around. Understand basic bank account options. Fees can change and banks will usually stay competitive. Find your bargain bank. Important fees to consider are those associated with transferring money from country to country. There is a service charge and commission fee.
3. If you are not fluent in Spanish, chose a bank that has customer service reps who speak your native language. This will make life a whole lot easier. You will have more time to go to the beach.
4. Select a bank close to where you are living. Make sure there are several branches around the city so that when you use an ATM, you won’t get charged service fees.
5. Customer service. Be intuitive about the vibe of a bank. Bank with friendly people who value customer service. This doesn’t happen in every bank. I worked with a great customer service rep. When I had difficulty communicating with the electric company to turn on the electricity for my new apartment, my banker made a call, held the bureaucratic line with the electric company, and I could finally make my coffee.
6. You most likely will be banking on line. Make sure your bank web site is in your native language if you don’t know Spanish. This is also an indicator of how service oriented they are to foreigners.
7. Most banks require a proof of residence before they will open an account for you. And, guess what? Most rental agents require proof of your bank account before they will rent to you. This is the often wacko logic of Spain. Needless to say, at this juncture you will question the wisdom of your decision to move to Spain. Get a friend, acquaintance, to write a letter, give you a copy of their lease, etc., and use that to get your bank account. Fudge.
8. In Spain, at an ATM, you can add money for your cell phone. This is beneficial if you have a pay-as-you-go phone plan. Check to see if your bank offers this option. Saves standing in line at a phone store.
9. Does your bank offer apartment insurance? Some rental agencies require this. When interviewing banks, check into this option and if they offer insurance you will have a one-stop-shop.
10. Limits on credit/debit cards vary. Know what you will need. Usually after you have cred with a bank, you can get your limits increased. But, not always.
11. Some banks offer options to buy tickets to events, etc. at an ATM. In Barcelona, I bought my tickets for the Alhambra in Granada at an ATM. Oh, I will do anything not to stand lines.
12. Spanish bank personnel dress more casually than in other countries. One manager of a customer service department in a well known international bank, who waited on me, wore tight ass jeans, a sparkly tank top, and stiletto heels. I did not want my moolah to be managed by a woman who looked like she was just back from clubbing. I soon learned very casual attire was the norm.
As your banking becomes debungled, remember that you have chosen to move to one of the most fun, most beautiful countries in the world. Celebrate that you gerrymandered the logistics of setting up a new life, that you are following your dreams. Head to a bar, drink Spanish wine, enjoy the calamari, and patatas bravas (spicey potatoes). When you decide to pay with your credit card, give a toast to your bank.
What have your banking experiences been in Spain? Any advice?