For members


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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For members


What to do with a damaged bank note in Spain?

Bank notes are fairly durable, but they can get wet or torn and become too damaged for others to accept them, so what can you do about it?

What to do with a damaged bank note in Spain?

Bank notes are difficult to tear unless you deliberately do so, but sometimes they can get wet and rip or so damaged that you can no longer see all the images. In this case, you’ll find that some shops may not accept them in that condition.

Euro notes have special characteristics so that they resist the passage of time. They are made with 100 percent cotton fibres and small bills, which are the most common, are coated with a special varnish, which also protects them from dirt or deterioration.

Even though paying with card has become a lot more popular in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, according to the Bank of Spain, cash is still the most widely used payment method, especially for small purchases. 

The report ‘Studies on habits with cash 2022′, published in October of 2022, and carried out by market research company Ipsos, confirms that cash is still the means of payment that is used most frequently.  

This is followed by cards, then mobile devices or apps. The report explains that cash is a universal means of payment and is used by almost the entire Spanish population since three out of five people use it on a daily basis.

READ ALSO: Is Spain going cashless?

With cash still so popular, it’s inevitable that at some point one of your notes will get damaged, so it’s important to know what to do when that happens.

So what can you do about it? Are you just down €20 or is there some way you can exchange it?

The Bank of Spain has advised on the steps you need to take if your banknote is damaged.

Firstly, you can present your damaged banknote at any branch of the Bank of Spain or any national central bank in the Eurozone and they should exchange it for you.

Banks should accept the damaged note whether more than half of the note has been destroyed or less than half.

READ ALSO – EXPLAINED: What are Spain’s rules and limits on cash payments?

What if my banknote has anti-theft marks on it?

Anti-theft marks are usually ink stains that have been left on a note because they were stolen from an ATM machine.

The Bank of Spain warns that if you suspect a note has been marked in this way and was stolen, then you should not accept it if someone is trying to pay you with it or give you it as change. You can simply ask for it to be exchanged for another.

When will banks not accept my damaged note?

If your note does have the ink-stained anti-theft mark on it, then Spain’s Banknote Analysis Unit warns that the Bank of Spain will not exchange it. Therefore, it’s very important that you don’t accept these in the first place.

The Bank of Spain will also not exchange any notes that have been intentionally damaged or defaced, so you can’t deliberately go around drawing on your bank notes or ripping them and then expect them to be changed.