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The Curmudgeon

The curmudgeon is a miserable sod. He likes to have a moan. He tackles subjects which many foreigners living in Spain agree with but are too polite to say anything.

You can no longer bank on your bank!
Thursday, October 19, 2023 @ 5:41 PM

The banks in Spain could well be the worst in Europe, if not the world.

They make obscene profits, yet they continue to close branches and their service gets poorer and poorer.

Here is a potted history of my experience of Spanish banks over more than five decades.


Banco Hispano Americano

I opened an account with this bank in San Sebastián (Guipuzcoa) in 1970 whilst on my year abroad from university. I knew a cashier there, Santi, so it made sense. After a few years I no longer needed the account, so I closed it.

Banco Hispano Americano no longer exists, having merged with Banco Central in 1991.



Having bought a property in Spain in 2001, I needed a Spanish bank account once again. On the recommendation of the estate agent who was selling me the apartment, I opened an account with Unicaja, at that time a regional (Andalucian) caja de ahorros (savings bank).

I enjoyed free banking and a trouble-free experience with Unicaja until they decided to get too big for their boots and became a bank. Then it got much more complicated …..

In 2022 Unicaja completed the takeover of Liberbank and became truly a national bank and the sixth largest in the country.

Their criteria for free banking were tightened and I no longer qualified. Post-merger coincided with a marked deterioration in their level of service. They even cancelled their service in the German language.

I cancelled my account. They charged me a fee of 50€ for the privilege!



I opened an account with this Valencian bank around 2018 and used it as a secondary account until Unicaja and I parted company. At that point Sabadell became my main bank here in Spain.

I was delighted. I got to know the director of the Ronda branch, Carlos, and everything was fine until …..

….. the bank decided to close the branch. Despite being the fourth largest bank in Spain.

I discussed this with Carlos, and he re-assured me that the cajero automatico would remain and that he would still be contactable at his new branch in San Pedro de Alcántara, over an hour’s drive from Ronda.

I agreed to stay with them and to see if it worked for me.

Well, within a year they had removed the cajero and I could never get hold of Carlos on the phone.

At the end of my tether, I finally closed my account last week.



Around 2021 I opened an account with this Catalan bank. Its criteria for free banking were easier for me to meet than with all the other Spanish “high street” banks.

At that time there were two branches in Ronda, one in Arriate and another in Montejaque, where I spend a lot of time.

Within six months of joining Caixabank, the Montejaque branch reduced its hours of atención al cliente to two days a week. A bit inconvenient, but I can live with that.

Their “free” banking isn’t free. They charge me a monthly fee for receiving my UK pension (although that might be because of Brexit, I suppose), and also for receiving payment for any rentals of my holiday home in Montejaque paid from the UK.

They also charge 1.95€ for an immediate bank transfer within Spain.

Frustrating, to say the least.

The other day I needed to go to the counter at the main Ronda branch. As always, there was a queue for the only caja. I was about fifth. All of a sudden, the cashier disappeared upstairs with a customer, leaving the caja unattended. A colleague would take her place, she said.

After 20 minutes no-one had appeared. I went behind the scenes to find somebody and spoke to the assistant manager, Antonio, who had nobody with him.

“Why is there nobody at the caja?” I asked politely.

“The other cashier has gone for breakfast,” he replied, without batting an eyelid.

“At this time?” (It was 12.10 pm!)

“Why can’t you take over? There’s a long queue.”

“Sorry, I’m only doing citas previas (prior appointments),” he said unconcerned.

“OK. You don’t have anybody with you, can I make a cita previa for right now?”

“You have to make appointments via the cashier,” he pronounced, without realising how foolish he sounded.

“But she’s not there – she’s gone for afternoon breakfast …..!”

He just shrugged. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up!

Absolutely dreadful service!



A few years ago (in 2010) my wife needed to open an account with Santander in Mallorca. She never used the account, so, after a year, she closed it, for which they charged a fee!

By default, I have an account in the UK with Santander, now the largest of the high street banks there. Back then I was with the Alliance and Leicester, which Santander took over in 2010, along with Abbey National and Bradford and Bingley, making them number one.

I stayed put. I have to admit, I have no quibble with Santander UK.

Although Banco Santander and Santander UK are separate businesses, they remain “cousins”. As a result, I benefit from a special offer in that I can withdraw cash from my UK account at a Banco Santander cash machine without any costs.

That’s the only positive I can think of at the moment.




Banks? They’re all terrible. I must check out the space under the mattress …..


© The Curmudgeon


Further reading:

My Top 10 Bugbears – From Banks to VOX (

The Tax Man, Spanish Banks and the Policia Local (



Abbey National, Alliance and Leicester, Arriate, banco, bank, Banco Central, Banco Hispano Americano, Banco Santander, Bancsabadell, Bradford and Bingley, Caixabank, Montejaque, Ronda, San Pedro de Alcántara, Unicaja


Like 3


Graham Keen said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 5:54 AM

I bought a property in 2001 and was with Bankinter for over 20 years. Absolutely shocking service and you need to book a day off if you need any sort of consultation.

Their couldn’t care less attitude is staggering and any trip to the bank is stressful beyond belief. Just to be able to speak to a cashier was usually an hour of a job at least and it had got significantly worse over the years especially after Brexit.

I was paying €250 per year just for having an account!

I closed my account in 2022 after transferring all my Direct Debits to Wise and now have a Belgian iban.

I have no bank charges whatsoever now and it’s the best thing I ever did!!

Pamela Jakeway said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 8:44 AM

What total nonsense, I’ve been with Unicaja Bank for 10 years in Al Cala La Real and there’s no finer banking service than this branch. My bank manager Isidro always goes above and beyond his duties.

grapow said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 8:52 AM

Our banking experience and indeed with Bankinter in Dénia couldnt be more different , we are now in our 24th year with them. Excellent service, rarely a queue of more than 2 people and by keeping a modest investment with them we remain chargeless.

macsco said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 9:33 AM

Also been on the merry go ground of Spanish Banks.
Started with Santander, agreed a mortgage in 1999, they pulled the offer within a week of the completion, so switched to Banco de Andalucia. They imploded and I was with Banco Popular. Fees arrived so moved to Bankinter.
After a few years Bankinter fees arrived, so left them for N26.
No issues no fees but no physical Banks, and I also have a UK Starling account ££&€€ and can happily transfer between the two fee free.

roberto123 said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 11:07 AM

I was with Caixa years ago they were OK even though I had to pay but their service went downhill. Could never get any sense out of them. Compared to UK banks they are terrible.

Alex said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 11:13 AM

We are absolutely fine with Unicaja online bank (cuenta online SIN), sin standing for no costs whatsoever. However, I am not Brits but of EU nationality and within the EU/euro system. No hassle there.
When I opened my account online, there was some trouble with the recognition of my passport and tarjeta verde. I went to the local bank in the village here and was excellently helped by the man there. No queues, no fees and very friendly people (it is a 2-person subsidiary). Normally you can't go to a bank counter with this online bank account, but the man was absolutely dedicated to help me. Then I wanted to convert the account to an account on 2 names (husband and I), again, no problem, we handed in all requested documents and yes, we have a joint account now which works fine, no fees whatsover if you use the standard transferring and ATM banking facilities. Moreover, they are in the 6000 RED, so you can use many ATMs from many banks in this RED for free.
As far as I know they are the only bank that is totally free of charges for every day banking. I transfer from other EU euro accounts for free, and within seconds the amounts are visible in the other banks and v.v. I use Bizum too with this account.
I had tried to open an EVO account (also totally free) before, but the identification process was a disaster and they only have an online help desk which is worthless and that provides NO service at all, only obstructions (they asked me for a tarjeta verde with photo, which does not exist in Spain for EU citizens!) So better stay away from these rigid only online banks that are not there for you but only for their own profits. All other online banks charge you fees for daily use, be warned.

Simon said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 11:18 AM

Lacaixa was excellent until my manager changed his job. Utterly appaling now. I have a leak and made a claim on the LaCaixa insurance, Adeslas. Five months later still not fixed even though issue identified in the first week. They outsource to Homeserve who ignore what the plumbers tell them. At one branch the person controlling entry was being rude to everyone and lied to me when I asked for Hojas de Reclamación saying they didn't exist. It is a legal requirement to be provided if asked for. Director level in LaCaixa couldn't care less when notified.

DJF42 said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 2:02 PM

It goes to show as in many businesses, it is the employees that make the reputation of the business and has been demonstrated in the comments.
Having a good responsible manager and staff makes all the difference.

oldjonesey said:
Saturday, October 21, 2023 @ 6:03 PM

I can totally relate to the author's banking issues. Having been with Caixa for several years whenever I visit the branch there is invariably an argument going on with one or more irate customers. They are more interested in trying to sell you various insurance products instead of offering a banking facility and although my account effectively runs itself they rake off hefty charges every quarter. I did try N26 but this also proved problematic but I may give them a second chance having listened to others who use them. At least this would avoid the in branch confrontations!

Carey Michael said:
Sunday, October 22, 2023 @ 12:39 PM

I am banking with sabadell Their service is non existent
They disconnected my online account due to clerk error
I could not access it They refused to reactivate unless I visited the bank in person I arranged flights to specially visit the bank Arrived at the bank within opening hours to find that the bank will not see clients without an appointment Nearest date was a week away
There is no customer service and staff are quite arrogant

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