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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
Why banks have to offer you a low-cost basic account. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

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.

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Bank of Spain warns residents to open an important January letter

The Bank of Spain has issued a notice, informing customers about the letter they will receive from their bank this January, urging them to not ignore it.

Bank of Spain warns residents to open an important January letter

At some point during the month of January, customers will receive a letter from their bank containing important financial information. 

“The banks are obliged to send these letters and they should not be ignored,” the notice from the Bank of Spain warned. 

Here’s what is included in the letter and how it could affect you: 

The letter will include an annual summary of your account, along with all your contracted services and their conditions. 

You will receive “two documents: one with the information of the contracted banking services and another with the information of your accounts”, the Bank of Spain explained.

READ ALSO: How to get Spain’s €200 cost-of-living subsidy

According to the law EHA/2899/2011: “credit institutions will send their clients, annually, during the month of January of each year, a letter which details information on accrued commissions, expenses and the interest rates applied to the client during the previous year”.

These documents should be sent individually to each client, even if you have a joint account.  

Bank account summary 

Your bank is obliged to provide you with a summary of the status of your commissions. 

This statement will include all the commissions that have been applied during the previous calendar year for the associated services you have contracted, with all the total amounts. 

It will also inform you of the credit and overdraft interest rates applied to your account and the total amount of interest it earned that year.

If you have a joint account, it will also detail information on the total number of co-owners, each of whom will have received their own letter.

Contracted services 

The second document will include all the services you have contracted with your bank, such as the types of accounts you have with them, any credit cards, insurance etc. 

You will not only be reminded of the services you have but also the terms and conditions of each, so you know what you should be paying out each month in 2023, in terms of any fees or expenses. 

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

You should receive these documents via the post, but if you have requested not to receive physical letters or you have not received one anyway, the Banco de España recommends checking “the inbox on your institution’s website or app to access your annual summary”.

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