Preguntas Ardientes: Should I open a bank account in my home country?

Six years ago, I was facing the uncertainty of up and leaving for Spain and starting a new life in Seville. Even with the visa and job sorted out for me, I spent hours scouring the Internet for information about renting a flat, getting a mobile phone and setting up a bank account, perhaps the most important factor to take care of before leaving Chicago. Tripping between local banking institutions, I spoke with countless tellers to see whether it was worth my while to keep an account open at home.

In short: it was, and it continues to be.

While I did open a resident bank account in Spain to receive my paychecks and be able to take out money while around Iberia, having a separate savings and checking account at home has allowed me to keep my money matters at bay and makes my mom to have her own card for any transactions she needs to complete for me! I cannot stress enough how at ease I feel knowing that I have an emergency stash of cash in the United States.

What’s more, it’s far easier for me to save for other trips or big expenses when my money is not staring at me in my Spanish bank account!

What should you look for in a bank account back home? To be able to compare bank accounts effectively, there are several criteria to keep in mind:

Online Banking: This is perhaps the deal-breaker for many expats and digital nomads today. I was adamant on having free online banking to be able to make transfers, pay my credit card, and have a handle on how much money I had. And online banks don’t bow down to time zones, anyway. This should be at the top of your list if you’re planning on living abroad.

Card and Account Fees: If you’re trying to maximize your savings, the last thing you want to do is pay exorbitant fees for just maintaining an account. Check with your branch to see if there are discounts for young adults or recent grads, and you could have a few years’ fees in your pocket, rather than in a banker’s.

Interest Charges and Money Back: You should also take into account if your bank gives you anything back if you’re using it for bill pay. This is, after all, more dinerito for you!

ATM availability: Spain is a country that is not without bars, bulls or banks – it’s rare to go even three blocks without seeing one! When choosing a bank, be sure that there are cash points available throughout the world, especially if you want to travel.

Partnerships with other banks: Thankfully, my bank had a few branches in my home base of Seville, and this made taking out small quantities of money for everyday expenses not only easy, but also far less dangerous. They also have partnerships with other internationally banks, thus cutting down on pesky ATM fees, so ask about this possibility.

I don’t go home more than once a year, but when I do, I can roll up to the branch knowing that I’ve got money already, and that the same tellers who helped me open a account six years ago will greet me with an, ‘Hola!’ and know just how to help me. And the lines are far shorter!

Got any other burning questions about banking or moving to Spain? Get in touch with COMO Consulting Spain, a relocation company dedicated to helping you move to Spain.


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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Interesting post! Banking is one of my few issues with living in Japan because their banking systems are pretty outdated. We basically have to do a wire transfer whenever we want to send money to our bank account at home in Canada – it involves a lot of paperwork and a lot of fees every time – so annoying!
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    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      How funny! I’d assume that the Japanese had it a little more together, but goes to show that not everyone is with it. Spanish banks are a huge headache…so I opted for ING for both my savings and checking here. The fact that I can do everything online and they return 3% of all of my bills works for me! Thanks for visiting, Jessia!

  2. I love that I still have an account in my home country. Credit cards are weird in Germany, but I always need one for booking flights and such, so I always use my United card and pay it off with my US bank account.
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    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      I do need to get a better credit card, especially to rack up miles! I just earned my first free flight on Vueling thanks to the big trips I’ve done this year. Where to…?

  3. yes, this is one thing I will need to sort out and I wasn’t sure if I could keep my current account. I imagine once we retire that we will have our social security “checks” (if they still exist by then) directly deposited there and then we can draw from that account once we’re in Spain. If I read you correctly, if I’m going to work, I will need an account in Spain as well yes? If I just give private English lessons I don’t think there is a need for an account at a Spanish bank right? but if I do the auxiliares program I will. Lots to think about! Thanks for this information!
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    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Hi, nice to hear from you!! I’d imagine you’re right, though it may be smart to look for a bank with either ATMs in Spain or partners, since transfers can get costly. You don’t need a Spanish account if you’re just giving private lessons (unless they’re in-company), though with the auxiliar job, it’s usually not necessary. As I’ve understood, each school has its own system for payment – I got a monthly check, whereas a flatmate got direct deposit. If you come on a non-lucrative residency permit, you can get a resident bank account with your NIE number without a problem.

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