How to Avoid Excessive Fees with Spanish Banks

Spanish banks are increasing the fees that clients have to pay, in some cases charges are in excess of 240€ per year. Find out what to do in order to avoid the charges.

Know what the charges are for your account

You may have a bank account that already comes with a quarterly or yearly charge. Or your commission-free account is no longer free. In either case you need to know exactly what the applicable fees are now. Once you have the figures, you can consider whether the service warrants the cost.

There are several types of charges:

  • A flat rate charged regularly (eg every quarter), regardless of how often you use your account. This is the comisión de mantenimiento.
  • A rate per bank movement, payment or withdrawal, normally in cents per movement (eg 0.50€ each). These will be calculated and charged every month or quarter. This is the comisión de administración.
  • A charge for individual services. These include debit and credit card fees, bank transfers, cheque depositing, cash withdrawals and more.

If you’re not sure what fees are applied on your account check online, phone or visit your local branch.

Charges can soon add up. If you have to pay:

  • A 10€ monthly flat fee
  • 8 movements per month at 0.50€ each (4 cash withdrawals and 4 direct debits)
  • A 30€ annual debit card and credit card fee for each card

you’re looking at a total cost of 228€ per year!

Not all clients have to pay bank fees

Banks want clients who are profitable, and their best clients won’t pay any charges. In order to avoid fees a number of thresholds are established that can include:

  • Depositing a monthly wage or pension, subject to a minimum
  • Maintaining a minimum balance (this is normally a daily minimum, not the average during the month)
  • Using the credit card issued by the bank a minimum of 2 or more times a month or quarter
  • Having several direct debits (your usual household bills)
  • Investing with the bank in products such as an investment fund or a pension plan, subject to a minimum amount

Some banks will require you to meet more criteria than others, so once again you’ll need to check. If you think you meet the criteria but are still being charged, get in touch with your branch to query it.

Negotiate

Although bank charges are fixed by each bank, there may be some flexibility if you’ve been a good client for years. In order to negotiate, and possibly ‘threaten’ with moving your account elsewhere, it’s better to visit your branch rather than try over the phone.

Most banks have special conditions for certain groups, such as Spanish civil servants. Even thought this won’t be your case it does mean that exceptions exist.

If your account is flagged to not have any fees, it’s usual for the fee to be taken from your account and then the operation reversed the same day or up to 3 days later.

Avoid fees by planning ahead

When you know exactly what fees are levied and when, you can take the necessary action to avoid paying some of them:

  • Plan your cash withdrawals to avoid ATM fees. Often if you withdraw an amount over a set threshold the transaction is free.
  • Know which ATMs to avoid: if you use an ATM that doesn’t belong to the same network that your bank belongs to, you’ll normally be charged regardless of the amount you withdraw.
  • If you need to deposit a cheque, talk to the bank first. If you’re thinking of investing with them, or overpaying on your mortgage, they may waive the fees.
  • Avoid planned or unplanned overdrafts and always have enough money in your account to meet your direct debits.
  • Opt for online correspondence rather than letters by post or SMS messages (the latter options are normally charged).
  • Cancel your credit card and get a free one (more info in our dedicated post).

When you can’t resolve the issue

If your bank is adamant that you have to pay the fees, and you don’t meet the criteria to avoid them, it might be time to find a new account or even a new bank.

Ask your current bank if they have any other type of account that comes with lower fees, or none at all. If they have nothing that interests you, it’s time to take a look at the competition.

Many online-only banks offer a commission-free account. Some require a regular deposit (wage or pension) and others don’t (often called ‘cuenta no nómina’). If your Spanish is ok, you won’t have any problem setting up an account online. However if this is an issue your options will be limited to those banks that offer their portal in English too.

Your new bank will be responsible for swapping over all your direct debits. On each bank website or app they have a specific section for changing your direct debits, although the name of the service varies by bank. Avoid closing your old account until you’re sure all your direct debits have gone through to the new bank to avoid leaving any bills unpaid.