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Banks

There are two main types of banks in Spain, savings banks and ordinary banks. To be honest I don't know what the technical difference is but the most obvious difference to customers is that the savings banks tend to be regional.

The current account I've had since I got here is with a savings bank, one based in Murcia. Being in Ciudad Rodrigo, 700kms from Murcia, there aren't any branches close by and I have been paying 1.20€ to withdraw cash on my bank card from the associated network of cashpoints. There are three main networks of cashpoints and the last time I had to draw money from a machine that wasn't in the same network I was charged 6€.

They also charge you to put money into an account unless you are able to go into a branch of your own bank. As an example the other day I was charged 7€ to pay money into my savings bank account.

On top of these transaction charges there is also a maintenance charge on most accounts. The fee depends on how much your average balance has been over the year but usual charges are somewhere around 20€ pa. Oh, and they charge you an annual fee for the bank cards too. That cost me 40€ per card this year.

As a Brit used to free banking and free use of my UK bank cash card in a wide range of cashpoints these charges have always annoyed me. Even worse the banks don't give you notice of when they are about to take their charges from an account and if their charges take you into the red then they fine you for that too! As an aside lots of bills are taken against direct debits, things like phone, electric, water rates etc. Almost none of the companies that draw money from my account give me any notice when they intend to withdraw the cash. To add insult to injury the dates they take the money out are not consistent. It can be infuriating.

Someone told me that banks tend to be a bit cheaper than savings banks. The banks have branches nationwide so at least putting money in and taking money out becomes free so long as there is a branch close by. With this in mind I went and opened a new account. I checked the annual maintenance fee and when it was payable, I checked the annual fee for the bank card and they were both less than I pay to my savings bank. I was given a list of the other fees and commissions for bounced cheques, going overdrawn etc. All fair enough. I was happy. I would soon be able to close my savings bank account and let them know why.

With money in my new bank account I went on-line and started to pay off some of my accumulated debts. The site was nice and easy to use but my joy didn't last long. There is a charge of 2€ for each transfer by Internet. I could have cried.

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