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MONEY

Which Spanish bank accounts are free of charges?

Finding a bank in Spain that doesn’t charge you some sort of maintenance cost or extra fee for simply having an account open is becoming increasingly difficult. So which Spanish bank accounts are free of charges in 2021?

Which Spanish bank accounts are free of charges?
BBVA allegedly offers a commission-free online account, but is it as good as it used to be? Photo: AFP

Spanish banks have always had a reputation among locals and foreigners alike for charging extra fees or comisiones for no clearly justifiable reason.

Unfortunately, most of Spain’s biggest financial entities seem to have put their heads together and decided that 2021 will be the year they tighten the noose further.

Thousands of branches (mainly Santander and Caixabank/Bankia) will close this year and in 2020 most big Spanish banks started requiring more commitment from their customers in the form of financial products if they want to avoid extra fees.

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

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

There’s a sense that if every bank applies these more demanding conditions, account holders will be left with no option but to put up with it or pay the extra fees.

Are there any commission-free bank accounts left in Spain in 2021?

The short answer is yes, although there are certain limitations such as having to operate 100 percent online or a lack of financial services at your disposal.

The following list is based on the latest information available in 2021 in a number of Spanish comparison sites and news sources.

Nevertheless it’s imperative that you read the small print carefully with any account you may opt for, as Spanish banks can be quick to change conditions that make the accounts no longer technically-free.

Openbank – Cuenta Corriente Open

Santander’s digital bank offers a commission-free account with no opening or maintenance fees, as long as your dealings with the bank remain 100 percent online or on the phone (there’s only one office in the whole of Spain).

You don’t have to pay your salary or pension into the account, but you won’t be able to make use of advanced pay checks from the bank or similar credit services.

Openbank also gives you a free debit card for the first account user that allows you to withdraw money at no cost in Santander ATMs, as well as leisure and restaurant discounts.

Bankia – Cuenta On

This commission-free account doesn’t require you to have your salary (nómina) or pension set up as a direct deposit (domiciliado).

It’s 100 percent online so going into a bank branch in person isn’t an option unless you’re prepared to pay extra fees and maintenance costs. It also comes with a free debit card, as well as a free credit card which you have to use at least once a year.

However, there are reports in bank comparison sites which suggest that as a result of Bankia’s merging with CaixaBank, this account is no longer as commission-free as it once was.

Cajamar – Wefferent

Here’s an account that gets mentioned a lot in forums and other groups run by foreigners living in Spain. It’s free to open, use and close as long as all bank affairs are carried out online or at ATMs.

The first four monthly withdrawals are free at Cajamar ATMs, after which 60 cents is charged per transaction. 

N26 – Cuenta Estándar

This German neobank is gaining customers all over Europe with its favourable conditions and its offering of commission-free withdrawals and payments in any currency.

Even though they’re based in Berlin, N26 offers Spanish residents a Spanish IBAN for their accounts.

You can only do three free withdrawals a month with your debit card, however. 

Caixabank – Cuenta imagin

This fully digital bank account is aimed primarily at young people.

It doesn’t require a salary to be paid in (although it can be done), it offers free cash withdrawals at 9,600 CaixaBank ATMS, there are no maintenance or admin fees and it gives 15 percent discount on booking.com and 6 percent on rentalcars.com.

The only catches are that it doesn’t offer any free financial services and it can’t be a shared account.

BBVA – Cuenta online de BBVA

This account offers free withdrawals in the whole BBVA ATM network in Spain but charges 4.5 percent of the amount that you withdraw overseas.

It offers free transfers within the EU and there are no maintenance costs as long as everything is done online.

You get a free debit or credit card when you open the account but again this commission-free account doesn’t come with any additional financial service such as loans.

The overdraft penalty is also high: 4.5 percent with a minimum of €15 and you will be charged 7.25 percent interest on top of that.

There are also an increasing number of negative opinions online about this account which state that it’s not truly without commissions and that they’re finding ways to charge hidden fees. 

Abanca – Cuenta Clara

To keep this account commission-free, it has to be 100 percent online as with all the other accounts on this list.

Apart from that, you don’t need to deposit a minimum amount of money on a monthly basis, it comes with five free monthly withdrawals from ATMs other than Abanca’s and it offers a free debit card (and a free credit card for over-35s).

Abanca’s Cuenta Clara also transfers anything above €3,000 in your current account to a savings account to generate interest. Transfers to other EU countries with the euro as their currency are free.

EVO – Cuenta Inteligente

This 2-in-1 (current and savings) account doesn’t charge fees for national and EU transfers or withdrawals, or for depositing cheques (which isn’t the case with many of these accounts).

Even though it hardly has any offices, you can use the ATMS of a lot of other Spanish banks free of charge. You have to choose between a debit or credit card.

However, in order to avoid extra fees, you do need to deposit a minimum amount of €600 a month, or have your salary or pension directly deposited in the account.

BNext

The Spanish financial entity is technically not a bank, but rather an app connected to a card with which you can pay and take out/receive money.

It’s similar to Revolut and Monzo Bank in the UK. Their account is commission-free, the first three withdrawals at any ATM in Spain and anywhere overseas are free. They also don’t charge for payments made in other currencies.

However, the fact that BNext doesn’t have a banking licence means that you can’t have your salary directly paid into the account, you can’t use it for anything relating to tax matters in Spain and they don’t offer any credit services. 

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For members

TAXES

Is it better to do a joint or separate tax declaration if you’re a couple in Spain?

The deadline for filing your Spanish annual income tax return is not far off now, but working out whether to file jointly or as an individual can be tricky. Here's everything you need to know in order to help you decide.

Is it better to do a joint or separate tax declaration if you're a couple in Spain?

The tax season is upon us in Spain and there’s just one more month to file your annual tax returns for the year 2021.

The deadline for this year is June 30th 2022. 

As a general rule, anyone resident in Spain for more than 183 days who earned €22,000 or more or if it’s their first time filing, needs to complete a tax return. 

READ ALSO: Who needs to file an income tax return in Spain in 2021-2022?

Figuring out how to complete your tax return, what deductions you can make and what to declare can be difficult, but on top of all this, if you’re married or in an established relationship, you’ll also need to decide whether you want to file your return individually or with your partner.

Generally, income tax returns must be declared individually, but the Agencia Tributaria (Spanish Tax Agency) does allow you to fill one out as a couple or a family unit, provided you meet certain criteria.

The Agencia Tributaria defines a family unit, in the case of marriage, as “spouses, not separated and if any, minor children, except for those who are independent”.

In the event that there is no marriage or you are separated, a family unit is defined as: “A father or mother and all their children who live with one of the two and who meet the required requirements”.

Remember, when filing the familial situation you take into account is that which existed as of December 31st, 2021.

READ ALSO – La Renta: The important income tax deadlines in Spain in 2022

Is it better to fill out my tax return as an individual or as a couple?

Depending on your situation, you could end up paying more or less tax if you file as a couple rather than an individual. Joint returns can often mean you benefit from a series of tax reductions, but this option is not open to everyone and it may not always be beneficial to you.

Before you fill out your tax return, you’ll need to calculate whether it will be better for you to file on your own or with your spouse.

You can ask your gestor or your accountant to calculate this for you or you can use the 2021 tax income simulator. This is an online version of the Agencia Tributaria portal that makes it possible to create your declaration without actually having to submit your data, therefore you can work out which situation would be best for you. 

Remember that if you decide to declare as a couple this year, you can always go back to filing individually next year, if you choose. Your circumstances change year on year, meaning that some years it may be beneficial for you to do a joint declaration while other years it won’t.

When filing a joint return, keep in mind that it will include income of any kind obtained by all members of the family unit. If one of the members of the family unit files their income tax return individually, then the rest must also do the same. One spouse cannot choose to declare it on their own the other as a couple.

Generally speaking, if both spouses work, it’s preferable to file individually. Joint taxation is preferable when only one of the spouses works. Make sure to check with your gestor or accountant that this is true in your case.

READ ALSO: What does a ‘gestor’ do in Spain and why you’ll need one

If you live and work in Spain, you’ll need to calculate whether it will be better for you to file on your own or with your spouse. Photo: Surface/Unsplash

What are the advantages of filing your tax return jointly? 

One of the main advantages of paying taxes jointly is the reduction. This means you are able to offset income gains and losses jointly. In theory, it could end up saving you a lot of money, but it could also end up costing you more too.

The basic personal allowance for each person under the age of 65 is €5,550, however, for joint declarations, the allowance of the second taxpayer is established at €3,400. The reduction for single-parent family units is €2,150 per year.

Who can file a joint 2021-2022 Income Tax return?

According to the Agencia Tributaria, the following taxpayers can opt to declare their declaration jointly:

  • Spouses who are married and live with all their children under 18 or those who have been declared incapacitated when they become of legal age.
  • De facto couples – only one of the members can form a family unit with their minor children or disabled adults. The other member of the couple will have to make an individual declaration.
  • In those cases of divorce or separation, joint taxation will correspond to the person who has custody of the children on the date on which the Personal Income Tax (IRPF) is accumulated.
  • In those cases of shared custody, the option of joint taxation can be made by either of the two parents, and the other will have to make the declaration individually.
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