Closed and Dormant Spanish Bank Accounts
If you’ve ever changed bank in Spain, it’s a good idea to check whether your old account was actually closed or not. Inactive or dormant Spanish bank accounts can still be charged commission, even if there’s no balance available. Read on to see what to do.
Closing an account
In the past the personnel at many bank branches in Spain did not close personal bank accounts upon request and simply advised their clients to leave them untouched (and with the balance at zero). However many account holders have been subsequently surprised to receive notification of an overdrawn account due to commission charges.
If you no longer want or need to use a Spanish bank account, don’t leave it inactive but expressly inform the bank to close it and request the paperwork that shows it has been closed. If there is a pending balance you can either transfer it beforehand to another account or withdraw it in cash when closing the account.
Although it’s not usual to be charged to close an account, you should double check beforehand. If you transfer the pending balance first, leaving the account with no funds, and the bank has the right to charge for closing the account, this means that it will be overdrawn. An overdrawn account brings with it extra charges and interest, and you won’t be able to close it until you have paid all the charges.
Remember: Simply leaving a bank account with no funds is NOT the same as closing it and you may be charged.
Can commission be charged on a dormant or inactive account?
Some banks don’t charge commission as, theoretically, an inactive account doesn’t produce any maintenance charges. But this isn’t always the case.
All banks must publish the applicable commissions and other charges, both in their branches and websites. This information can change over time and banks have to inform their clients regarding any new or amended charges that can be applied to inactive accounts. However, if you’ve changed address (physical or email address) then you may not receive the notifications.
If you decide to close an inactive account you may find that you actually owe money to your bank. In order to protect bank account holders, the Code of Good Practice, which many banks are signed up to, does not allow for charges and interest to be levied on overdrafts if the sole reason for this is to charge a client.
When is an account considered to be legally inactive?
According to the Bank of Spain, the term “inactive” or “dormant” when applied to a Spanish bank account has no legal basis. However, after 20 years without usage an account is considered to have been abandoned.
Any balance held in abandoned accounts will be turned over to the State. Before this happens, there will be a last attempt to contact the account holder, but this will only be carried out if the account balance is higher than the cost of getting in contact.
What to do if you have a problem
If you think you’ve been overcharged for an overdraft on an inactive account, or have any other issues, the first step is to get in touch with the bank’s own customer service department. You can find the details online, each bank has a different name for this department (Defensor del Cliente, Servicio al Cliente…).
If you don’t receive an answer in one month, or you’re not satisfied with any solution offered, you can then use the official Bank of Spain’s complaints service (online, by post or in a branch). However remember that any resolution by the Bank of Spain is not binding, your bank may decide not to follow their advice.
The Bank of Spain’s dedicated website is available in English, however complaints will have to be made in Spanish.
Suggested reading: Banks in Spain: Top Tips for Account Holders