Spain’s government wants cashback at shops across the country

Getting cashback from shops and supermarkets is hardly ever possible in Spain, but the Spanish Parliament has now approved a proposal to promote the practice, in part to solve the problem of bank access in rural areas.

It's not yet known exactly when cashback will become available across Spain, but as it's now been approved and talks have been in the pipeline for a while, it's likely it we may see it here in the near future.  (Photo by PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP)

The Spanish Commission for Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation on Tuesday approved a proposal by the country’s political party Ciudadanos to promote the use of cashback in shops across the country.

Cashback is a practice that is common in many countries in Europe including Germany and in France, where it was introduced in 2018.

In the UK, citizens have enjoyed the cashback scheme since 1990.  

For those who are unfamiliar with how it works, cashback is when you go shopping, usually at the supermarket, and you have the option of taking some money out in cash with your purchase, instead of having to go to the bank.

It’s essentially just like going to an ATM or a bank teller, but instead, you tell the supermarket cashier how much you want and they will give you the cash.

It will automatically be debited from your account when you pay with card, along with the amount of your shopping bill.

The UK even started introducing cashback without having to make a purchase in the summer of 2021.

The objective is to reduce dependency on cash machines, which are very expensive to maintain.

READ ALSO: Spanish banks’ ATMs are disappearing or being replaced

According to cash withdrawal app Topii, just to keep one ATM operational, it costs €1,000 a month and 56 daily cash withdrawals are needed to pay for maintenance.

It is also aimed at helping those in rural Spain who now no longer have access to a bank, as many of them ceased to be operational over the last 15 years. 

Since 2008, 22,363 branches have closed in Spain, which is more than half of those that existed then.

According to a 2022 Bank of Spain report, 55 percent of municipalities, in which 1.6 million people live, have difficulty accessing cash. 

The Spanish Banking Association, the Confederation of Savings Banks (CECA) and the National Union of Credit Cooperatives (UNACC), confirmed that currently a total of 657,557 people in Spain do not have access to any banking service and there is no bank branch in 4,378 municipalities.

READ ALSO: How rural Spain is rebelling against rampant bank closures

Recent Bank of Spain data also revealed at the end of the second quarter of 2022, there were 46,530 ATMs, which is 1,109 fewer than at the end of 2021 and 15,184 fewer than in 2008.

Thirty percent of transactions in Spain are still done by cash and cashback is one of the main solutions to help thousands across the country that have trouble accessing it.

Customers of Dutch bank ING are some of the few people in Spain who already have access to cashback and have been able to since February 2022. Currently, ING customers can ask for cashback at over 30,000 points including Supercor, Hipercor, El Corte Inglés supermarkets, fuel stations Shell, Disa, Galp and Atenoil, and shops belonging to the DIA group.

READ ALSO: How to get cash out in Spain when there are no ATMs

In 2021, Spain’s PSOE party also came up with a solution to the problem, suggesting that cashback should be available at Correos branches, the country’s national postal service.

It’s not yet known exactly when cashback will become available across Spain, but as it’s now been approved and talks have been in the pipeline for a while, it’s likely it we may see it here in the near future. 

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Why banks in Spain are obliged by law to offer a low-cost basic account

Low-cost basic accounts may not be widely advertised in Spain, but they are available and your bank must, by law, offer you one if you want.

Why banks in Spain are obliged by law to offer a low-cost basic account

According to EU law, banks must offer a “basic account” for essential operations such as depositing and withdrawing money, making transfers and receiving salaries.

The EU created this “basic account” with the aim of avoiding financial exclusion and providing everyone residing in the bloc with a current account, even if they hardly earn any money or don’t have a fixed address.

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

What are these basic accounts?

They allow you to carry out up to 120 operations per year and have a debit card, paying only a commission of €3 per month or €36 per year to use it. 

The Bank of Spain along with consumer associations are encouraging banks in Spain to make these types of accounts more well-known to their customers. 

READ ALSO: What to be aware of before opening a shared bank account in Spain

Who are these basic accounts for? 

The accounts are ideal for those who have minimal incomes, as well as those who are not comfortable with technology such as using computers, tablets or smartphones as they don’t require you to use any apps or carry out any extra operations online. 

They are also good for vulnerable consumers, due to the fact that banks must agree to give you the account free of charge for two years, extendable two by two, provided you demonstrate that you continue to be so.

You will be considered vulnerable if: 

  • You are not part of a family unit and you do not earn more than twice the amount of the IPREM. For 2023, this will be €14,400 per year.
  • Or, if you are part of a family unit of fewer than four members and you earn less than 2.5 times the IPREM – no more than €18,000 in 2023.
  • And if none of the members of the family own property, except for the main residence, or own a company. 

Can banks refuse to give me a basic account? 

Not really, no. Banks are obliged by law to be able to provide these low-cost accounts and can’t refuse you unless they find out that you are using it to launder money or threaten national security.