Banking in Spain

2 Nov

Money makes the world go around they say, and that is certainly no different in Spain. If I want to be paid by my primary job, I am required to have a bank account so the Basque government can directly deposit my paycheck. I was anxious to get this done when I first arrived so on advice of a colleague in another part of Spain, I went to La Caixa and began the long and arduous process of opening a bank account with my passport because I did not yet have my Spanish version of the Green Card (my NIE). Some ninety minutes and twenty pages of paper later, I emerged with my Spanish bank account, debit card ordered, and access to online banking. I had deposited fifty euros, with an understanding that there was a thirteen euro initial ingreso (charge) for opening the account with a passport.

Two weeks later, I picked up my debit card at the bank and had it activated. Imagine my surprise when I finally went to use it to withdraw twenty euros, I saw that I was thirteen euros en el rojo (yes, that’s right — in the red!) At first, I thought perhaps they banked differently in Spain. After all, they use periods where we use commas, and they use commas where we use periods. Perhaps they used red where we use black and black where we use red. It was possible, wasn’t it?! Not so when I went to the bank a couple days later to have the bank stamp my direct deposit form for my pay. Not only was I thirteen dollars in the hole, but they also wanted to charge me six more euros to fill out the direct deposit form! And when I asked where all the money had gone (sixty-three euro and some change), it was all fees! That is worse than overdraft charges in the US and I hadn’t even written a check. There was a twenty-three euro charge for a police check because I opened the account with my passport rather than a residency (NIE) card, a thirty-three euro charge for an annual fee for the debit card (that no one bothered to tell me about), and a six euro charge for a monthly service fee.

Needless to say, I closed that bank account. I now have my NIE (número de identificación de extranjeros) and went to a new bank where they didn´t charge me to fill out the direct deposit form. At my new bank, the process of opening the bank account with the NIE took about twenty minutes and there are no fees unless I have a month with no direct deposit. I can deal with that. I opened the account on Tuesday and went to the bank today and the gentleman who helped me called me by my first name already. I am quite satisfied having changed banks.

My mom always told me that patience is a virtue and she is right. Had I waited to open my bank account until I had my NIE, I could have saved sixty-three euros in expensive charges and ninety minutes of precious time.

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