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The new Spanish bank account fees you need to know about (and how to avoid them)

Most of Spain's top banks have recently changed the conditions and charges for their most popular bank accounts. Here's what you need to be aware of and how you can potentially sidestep the extra fees.

The new Spanish bank account fees you need to know about (and how to avoid them)
Photos: AFP

Over the course of this year, Spain’s main banks have decided to toughen the conditions to access their so-called ‘free accounts’ and increase the fees for account holders who don’t meet the new requirements. 

In simple terms, it’s a loyalty scheme that rewards the banks’ most active users by not charging them extra, while increasing commissions for those who aren’t considered an asset to these financial entities.

As unfair as this may seem, most of Spain’s big banks are on board with it: Santander, La Caixa, Bankia, BBVA, Bankinter, Sabadell, Unicaja, Abanca.

We’ll now go over what each of these financial entities is now charging for and how to sidestep these extra fees.


Spain’s biggest bank has decided to scrap its 123, Zero and Día a Día accounts and replace them with the Santander One account.

Anyone with one of these accounts who wishes not to pay extra bank fees from now on will have to have their salary or pension set up as a direct deposit (domiciliado) as well as three direct debits set up to the account, and be signed up for an additional financial product with Santander (mortgage, loan, pension plan, insurance).

Account holders who don’t meet any of these requirements will have to pay €20 a month or €240 a year, whereas those who meet one requirement will pay €10 a month.


Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) has ramped up requirements for its customers who don’t want to pay €100 a year in extra bank fees.

For account holders over the age of 29 who don’t want to be charged this, the minimum salary to be paid into a BBVA account will go from €600 to €800 a month.

There will also be the need to have five bills set up as direct debits in the account or the requirement of using a credit card at least seven times over the course of a four-month period (previously transactions with a debit card counted).

For account holders between the ages of 21 and 25 who don’t wish to pay €100 extra a year, the requirement will now be that they move over to a completely online account (no in-person customer service), take out a bank card with no limits and provide a phone number and email address to the bank.

For those between the ages of 26 and 29, the conditions are to add a credit card to their account and to use it seven times during four months.

The charge for customers with a bankbook that’s been updated in the last year and who continue to use it is will be €10 euros a year.

In 2021, BBVA will also start charging €2 for withdrawing under €2,000 at the bank counter and increase its fees for getting a bank teller to carry out a money transfer, a decision criticised by Spanish consumer watchdog OCU as discriminatory towards the elderly and vulnerable.


The Catalan bank made headlines in October after announcing it would start charging its less active customers €60 every three months in maintenance costs (€240 a year).

In order to be considered a ‘loyal’ customer and avoid the extra fees, account holders have to have their salary or pension of at least €600 deposited into their Caixabank accounts every month, or have at least €20,000 in investment funds, pension plans or other financial products the bank offers.

Customers will also need to have three direct debits set up or use their bank cards at least three times a month.

Account holders who fulfil the first condition relating to deposits will pay €15 every three months rather than €60, whereas those who only meet the direct debits or card condition will be charged €36 every quarter.

READ ALSO: The best banks for foreigners in Spain (and what you should be aware of)


Bankia customers will soon have to meet the same criteria as Caixabank’s account holders to avoid the new charges, seeing as the two banks are due to merge in 2021.

Currently, customers of Bankia's Por Ser Tú accounts that don’t meet the requirements pay €168 a year in maintenance costs and €28 annually for their debit card.

To avoid paying these amounts, customers must have their salary/pension/benefit set up as a direct deposit with Bankia and either make a couple of purchases per month with a credit card or have an insurance policy or €30,000 euros in investment products with the bank.


Catalonia’s other big bank currently charges €15 every three months for Cuenta Expansión users who pay in €700 a month into the account, whereas those who don’t pay €30 every quarter (these charges don’t apply to under-29s).

For Sabadell’s special interest-bearing Plus account, the customer now has to have more than €30,000 in savings or investments in order to receive the interest attached to the account. 


The Madrid-headquartered bank requires customers who have a Cuenta Nómina (Salary Account) to pay in a salary of at least €800 monthly and to set up direct debit payment of bills with them or use their Combo credit card three times in three months.

Those who don’t have to pay €45 a year in maintenance costs and €60 for the credit card.

The only positive to draw is that the minimum salary to avoid extra fees has been reduced by €200 from the previous €1,000 requirement.


The Malaga bank which is in merger negotiations with Liberbank has a 'Zero Commission Plan' account for customers over the age of 28 who don’t want to pay €84 a year in maintenance costs.

These requirements are a salary of at least €600 directly deposited into the account every month and to spend at least €1,200 a year with Unicaja cards.

The fee is scrapped for those who have an insurance policy or other products with the bank worth more than €30,000, and dropped to €60 a year for those with more than €20,000 in Unicaja products.


Since June, many customers with Galicia’s main bank have reported quarterly € 50 bank fees on their ironically named ‘Zero Commissions’ accounts.

The new conditions are to have a salary or pension set up as a direct deposit and to maintain an average monthly balance of at least €500 in savings accounts with Abanca.

The final condition is to meet one of the following: either make annual purchases worth €2,000 with an Abanca credit card OR spend €1,200 with the credit card and have an insurance policy, OR have two insurances through Abanca (home, health, life, etc), OR maintain a monthly balance of at least € 30,000 in savings OR maintain an average monthly balance in investment funds, savings, insurance or pension plans worth at least €8,000. Not exactly easy stuff to keep on top of. 


Even though the Bank of Spain considers it bad practice for private banks to not inform account holders of any changes to account requirements and related bank fees, it's still something which happens regularly.

You should always update your contact details and address so that you can receive all the necessary correspondence from the bank.

That way you will have a better claim as you do have the right to report them for not informing you about the charges.

If your bank doesn't offer you a satisfactory service, you can contact the “Departamento de Conducta de Mercados y Reclamaciones del Banco de España” (The Bank of Spain's Department of Conduct and Claims) on 900 54 54 54 or 913 38 88 30 (C/ Alcalá, 48, 28014 Madrid). 

Member comments

  1. Good article, but it would be very useful to know which banks have free (or so called free accounts. Or what the bank accounts are called which are free. For instance BANKIA has one which is called CUENTA ON. (Online)

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Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.