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What are the main reasons bank accounts get blocked in Spain?

Having your bank account blocked in Spain can be problematic, especially if you have direct debits set up or all your savings in that one account. Here are the main reasons Spanish banks have for blocking accounts. 

What are the main reasons bank accounts get blocked in Spain?
Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

Expired ID documents 

Banks in Spain are obliged to have their clients’ details updated, meaning they keep a record of the ID you used to open the account as well as when it expires. 

If your bank requires an update they’re likely to email you first asking you to present the new documentation, but if you fail to do so this can be a reason to block your account. 

“The European Union’s legislation to combat money laundering and terrorist financing requires banks to request the documentation they deem necessary to identify and monitor the account holder and their operations, so if the holder does not comply with the request, the blocking of the account is considered justified,” writes the Bank of Spain. 

Not providing other documentation 

Apart from ID, financial entities in Spain may also require customers to provide tax, residency or work documents that ensure that the customers are within their rights to have access to the bank account in question.

Expired documentation such as an outdated NIF tax identification number can also be a reason for an account to be blocked. 

It may be that you need to show other documents, such as your last payroll slip (nómina), a work contract, an updated residency document or your income tax declaration.

This is also related to the EU’s legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing. 

Typing in wrong password 

Typing in the wrong login details won’t necessarily result in your bank account being frozen but it may mean you don’t have access to your online banking until you retrieve your password or call up your bank to sort out the issue.

Generally speaking you get three attempts, so if by the second you’ve still not typed in your details correctly, it’s probably advisable to contact your bank unless you’re completely sure you know what your password is. 

Logically, this is a security measure aimed at preventing thieves and fraudsters from accessing your money. 

Joint bank accounts 

Another reason for blocking a bank account may be that  there are discrepancies between the co-owners that make operations unfeasible.

If joint account holders (or their heirs) give the bank conflicting instructions, the bank has to take a neutral stance, not favouring either of them. 

On the rare occasions in which this happens, Spanish banks can block an account and notify all the holders of their decision, informing them that until there is an agreement reached on the matter, the account can’t be accessed.

Account holder dies 

When a person dies, it’s up to the inheritors to notify the bank of their death, so they can then interrupt any transactions and cancel any payments.

It’s important to do this as soon as possible to avoid any bills or commissions being charged.

READ MORE: How to avoid problems with a family member’s Spanish bank account if they die

As soon as the heirs notify the bank, the most common procedure is for the banks to block the part of the money in the account that belongs to the inheritance (in most cases, 100 percent). 

The bank is obliged to maintain the account for 20 years until someone claims the money on it. If nobody claims it, the money will go to the state.

However, in the case of a joint account which sees one holder die and the bank has knowledge of it, they will block 50 percent of the money corresponding to the deceased until inheritance proceedings are completed.

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What’s the maximum amount you should have in a current bank account in Spain?

Most people in Spain only have one bank account and use it for all different purposes, but what happens when you manage to save up a bit? Here's the official advice on Spanish savings accounts.

What’s the maximum amount you should have in a current bank account in Spain?

Our bank accounts are used for many day-to-day activities such as paying bills, receiving paychecks and buying groceries, but is there a maximum amount of money you should have in your account at one time? And what should you do if you go over this amount?

While there isn’t an official maximum amount that you should have in your current account, the Organisation of Users and Consumers (OCU) advises that your current account only be used for certain amounts and everything over that should be put into different accounts.

According to the OCU, in your main bank account, where you receive your salary, pension or other significant payments, you should have a maximum of three months of your salary.

So for example, if you earn the minimum wage of €1,000 per month in Spain, then the maximum you should have in your current account is €3,000.

READ ALSO – Ask the expert: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

They advise that you don’t want to go too much under this amount either because you want to make sure you have accessible cash to use when you need it, as well as for possible emergencies. They also suggest checking your account balance regularly to make sure you don’t go into the red and don’t incur extra bank fees.

But equally, you don’t want to have too much in your account and keep all your savings in one place for security reasons.

Savings accounts

The OCU recommends opening a savings account or cuenta ahorro for any amounts greater than three times your salary, rather than keeping it all together in your current account.

Most banks have various types of savings accounts with different interest rates and different fixed terms where you’ll have to keep your money in for a certain amount of time.

For money you’ll need in the short term, but not right away, the OCU suggests putting it into a fixed-rate savings account (cuenta ahorro plazo fijo) for 12 months, but warn that if you need the money before the year is out then you may have to pay fines take it out.

For money that you know you won’t need in the short term, the OCU advises putting it into a long-term investment or a fixed-rate savings account for longer than one year. “For amounts that you don’t plan on touching in the next five or ten years, it’s advisable to make a little profit on it, however, keep in mind there may be seasons in which you suffer some losses too”, they said.

Savings over €100,000

For anyone that has savings over €100,000 in any type of account, it’s important to distribute the amount over various accounts warn the OCU.

This is because during an economic collapse or bank failure, you will not be covered by the EU Deposit Guarantee Fund, which is only able to guarantee the repayment of your money up to €100,000.

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