banking in Spain

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By UK standards banking in Spain is expensive and many charge extraordinary rates to make payments or even receive funds. Some of the worst are Santander & Caixa both of whom have excellent English web sites and appear to be very user friendly but are frighteningly expensive.

They will charge 4% with a maximum of 1000€ to transfer money from one Euro account to another. For example if you are purchasing a property in Spain and transfer your money, euro to euro, to your lawyer to complete the purchase these banks will charge you an eye watering 1000€!

 If you transfer money from the UK or another EU country, they will make a significant charge.

The bank I have found most fair, charging nothing for transferring money, and and free of most if not all transaction charges is BANKINTER - Because you will almost certainly be using their internet banking in English and other non Spanish languages it is worth visiting one of their branches even if it´s some distance away.

They are a joint American Spanish bank and most of the staff speak English.

They can obtain a motorway toll auto payment machine you put in the car window and then use the fast T toll lane at a reduced rate. The toll company charges 25€ for 3 years but if you pass tolls fairly frequently the discount more than off sets this charge. You pay automatically monthly via your BankInter acccount.

This bank is linked to La Linea Directa who are English speaking Car, House insurance company. I have used La Linea Directa for almost 12 years and made a couple of claims - wrong fuel type in my car and a water leak and found the service brilliant.  All in English and at insurance rates far far lower than those of other insurers.


This is another minefield with companies offering all sorts of goodies in exchange for you using them for both capital and living expense money from UK to Spain.  I think the most important thing is do they have a contact telephone number where you can speak to a human being if there is a problem with your transfer. If they do not then do not go with them.

I use TORfx who have amongst the very best exchange rates, move your money immediatly unlike many others - yesterday I made a transfer at 11.00 and it was in my Bankinter account at 13.00 the same day! And no charges by either Tor or BankInter.

I have used several different money transfer companies over the years and found they vary enormously in the quality of their service and exchange rates.  TOR are very user friendly and incredibly efficient.  They do not hang onto your money before making the transfer as do so many companies in the same business.

Up Ronda Vejer de la Frontera Boat Import to Spain Car Import to Spain How to Register Northern Spain banking in Spain Building in Spain Ronda is where I now live and is a beautiful town up in the mountains and about an hours drive from the sea. Wonderful place to be in.

Vejer de la Frontera is a white hill town near the entrance to the Straights of Gibraltar. Probably the most unspoilt of all the hill towns - white villages in Southern Spain

Boat Import tells you how to handle the importation of your boat legally into Spain and how to avoid paying the 12% matriculation tax.

Car Import tells you how to change the plates to Spanish registration, and if its a near new car how to avoid the 12% matriculation tax -

How to Register gives full details of how to 'clock into' the Spanish system if you are going to become a resident

Northern Spain is just that - a wonderful cruising area for yachties and far removed in every way from the 'Costa's'

Banking in Spain give some helpful info on what can be expensive and complicated.  With the current 'crises' it's quite a 'cash' society so you need easy and cheap transfers.



 We live in the old town and wanted more outside space and decided that a roof top terrace on top of our lovely old house would be perfect.  A local Spanish friend introduced us to a French speaking architect who was helpful as three years ago we did not speak much Spanish but previously we had lived in France.

 It took over twelve months to get planning permission from both the Ronda Town Architect and the Malaga Cultural department Architect but eventually the permission came through but sadly our Ronda architect go so busy with a major Russian building project he asked us to transfer to a technical architect to oversee the project. 

 We had one unsatisfactory builders quote and approached an English speaking Estate Agents here in Ronda partner called RR - Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services'This is what we do' they told us.  We have an excellent builder on our books that does all our work and we will bring him round tomorrow.  They arrived together and I presented them with my 4 centimetre thick planning permission book and building licence.

 It was impressive that they arrived again the next day with staircase constructors, electricians and plumbers.  The only problem was that the staircase man said the planning of the interior access was not practical and he and the builder suggested that an outside staircase would solve the problem.

 'But is that in line with the planning permission' I asked. 

'Yes of course it is'

 then RR Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services, informed me he had a meeting planned that afternoon with our technical architect and would 'run it by' him to make sure, but I should not worry as they  did dozens of these roof terraces and there would be no problem...  A phrase I came to loath  ' No Problem'. No Problem

 The builder produced a quote and said if we paid cash the IVA would be deducted.  (At this time we did not know that when you come to sell your home in Spain the 'profit tax' of 50% can have all home improvements deducted from it and save much more than the IVA.)   The works could start the following Monday and would take three weeks.  Payment was 50% up front and 50% on completion.

 Monday dawned and the scaffolding came in and the roof tiles started to come off. I was surprised when the builder asked me to go with him to the town hall to organise permission for a 'skip'  and did not want to sign or indeed pay for it himself.

  I and not a great believer in health and safety but the actives of the workers balancing on a scaffold tower held together mainly with string worried me.  I checked with my Spanish Lawyer about who was responsible if a worker had an accident whilst working in my house.

  You are totally responsible for any injury to a worker in your house. 

 But provided the registered/legal builder is properly insured then they are responsible for their employees.

 I called my the RR Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services to ask if the builders were properly registered and legal and they said no but no problem as they, the RR Ronda Properties - Serannia Property Servicess had taken on the legal role of 'constructors' and were in control of the project.  The final part of the roof tiling came off leaving the house open to the elements and the workers walked across wobbling scaffold boards clutching tools and my old roofing tiles.

 Then the  technical architect came by and started shouting that the works were totally illegal and it must all stop.  With no roof on the house and the old roof joists being demolished, I stared at him with disbelief.

  But  RR Ronda Properties - Serannia Property Services told me he was confirming with you that the revised project was OK with you.

  'Nonsense' he said 'I am reusing myself from all this and will inform the town hall that that I am no longer associated with the project'.

 I looked at the sky and just hoped that it would not rain! 

 The work continued and the RR Ronda Properties - Serannia Property Services and the builder assured me there was 'No Problem' and that the architect was over reacting. 

 More works with cement being poured, then a few days later a couple of representative arrived from the town hall and demanded to see the works.  We were horrified as there was not a 'hard hat' - work boots - safety harness or indeed a secured scaffold plank to be seen. The site was an accident waiting to happen.

 More and more cement was poured and tiles laid when a letter arrived from the town hall telling me that the works do not conform to the planning permission and must stop.

  I pass this onto the RR Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services and the builder who tell me 'its no problem' the works will be completed tomorrow and will I please arrange payment.

 When I stopped laughing, I told them that the final 50% would only be paid when the Town Hall signed off the works as required in the building licence. The RR Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services and the builder said we will finish the works as a sign of good faith and if you pay us now we will undertake the paperwork to sort the problem free of charge.

 A week later I received a letter from Malaga Cultural Department stating that I was to be fined for illegal building works and there would be a further fine if the existing works were not re-instated to the original condition. 

'No problem' the RR Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services said - happens all the time. Just make the final payment and we will sort all this out. No Problem!

 It was hard to know whether to laugh more or burst into tears.  I decided to take 'Malaga' seriously and employed an excellent new architect to arrange the re-instatement of the works.  He negotiated planning permission to re-instate much of the roof with Malaga and a new legal registered construction company were employed to remove the staircase and replace the demolished roof as required by Malaga Cultural Department.

 This all took almost nine months but the good news was that 'Malaga' only imposed a fine of Three Thousand Euros yes 3000€ for the illegal works.  I suggested that the RR Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services, who were the legal constructor and advised us  pay this fine but he just walked away.

 The reinstatement of the roof cost me ten thousand euros 10,.000€ and I suggested that RR Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services the builder pay for this work but they declined.

 We then applied for planning permission for the terrace again and nine months later it came through, as well as the licence for building works from Ronda Town hall.  These works which are legal and different from the 'bodge' which the RR Ronda Properties - Serannia Property Services constructed, but are going to cost another sixteen thousand euros 16,000€!

 There is a moral in this somewhere but I cannot find it.  I tried to do everything legally. Get the required planning permissions, licences but made the basic error of believing an English speaking RR Ronda Properties - Serannia Property Services when he said that it was 'No Problem' - We will take care of it all.

 There is no sign of RR Ronda Properties - Serrania Property Services paying the fine for their illegal works or for the cost over run for which they caused by organising illegal building works. 

Rather sad - never trust!

 Ronda April 2016

We now have a tiny little bit of 'legal terrace' with no access to it!

'No problem, this is perfectly legal, we do this all the time' .

'No Problem! We often do works that do not get planning permission until after it is all finished' - 

'This sort of job does not need planning permission'

'Don't worry we will take care of it'!!!



The scaffold access 3 stories up to roof - not a guard rail in site - held together with old string!








'We often do works that do not get planning permission until after it is all finished' -  'This sort of job does not need planning permssion' - Don't worry we will take care of it'!!!

I am 45,000€ down the drain and does anybody at Ronda Properties - Serranía Property

 Services, care?..................




The charming and serious estate agents Mary & Tom Becker, who sold us our lovely house, and have always been kind, helpful and most efficient, are not the subject of the above article - They have lots of properties in Ronda and the surrounding area and are 100% reliable








If you want to make any alteration to your flat or house in Spain you will need to follow the  rules and regulations – failure to adhere to these will prove costly, if not disastrous!

When you sell your house  the 'profit' on the house is taxed at 50% - you can set legal building works off against that tax.

Make no mistake planning permission in Spain is at least as stringent as that in the UK and the planning laws are now being enforced to the point where 'illegal' constructions have been bulldozed and illegal works removed or returned to original state.

There is also a very serious potential demand on your present and future wealth, by using unlicensed builders, electricians, plumbers, bricklayers etc etc. 

If you directly employ an unlicensed tradesperson and they have an accident on your property you are criminally liable.

Interestingly it appears to be impossible to get insurance against this eventuality.  The picture, centre above, shows the totally unprotected scaffold tower going up 3 floors without a guard rail in sight and held in place with old ropes knotted in a way that would never be tolerated in my boat. The metal cross plank on which workers balanced to get to the roof was held in place by a piece of string at one end only...

We discovered, too late, that the builder was unlicensed, his workers uninsured and if one fell and sustained serious injury we could have been supporting their wife and family for ever!!!

You will find that English speaking Estate Agents will sometimes set themselves up as 'Licensed Constructors' but the estimates for the work will come from unlicensed builders. 

One financial element about the decision to use 'black' labour' for a lower price and avoid VAT and planning permission is that you will end up without a legal receipt. When you come to sell your house, even if you are resident in Spain is that unless you have been paying income tax you will have to pay capital gains tax on any difference between the price you purchased your home for and the price you sell it for. This tax is around 50%!!!!!    (there is also a relatively small tax payment to be paid to the local authority on completion of the sale.)

If you have employed licensced contractors and hang on to the receipted bill(s) then when you come to sell you can add the money you have spent on the house to the basic price you paid so not pay the 50% tax on any profit.  Whilst it may save 20% VAT when the work is done 'black' when you come to sell you will loose 50%...

This applies to almost anything you do to your property and of course you can deduct the architects and planning application fees..  I wish I had known that earlier!

How do you know that a Builder/Constructor/tradesperson is licensed or not?

Firstly they will have headed notepaper (not just impressive business cards) and on it will be a CIF (Certificado de Identificación Fiscal) which is their tax registration number and they will show a IVA number (which is the same as UK VAT) and is charged at 21% .  Do not think that unlicensed workers, who require 'cash in hand', are any cheaper than registered workers.

In my experience, having used both, the unregistered unlicensed builder is often far more expensive - he will charge what he thinks the market (you) will pay. Licence builders are in business for the long term and want to build a satisfied client base.

The Spanish planning application system is complicated and not really a DIY job, but Spanish Architects and Spanish Draftsmen (Technical Architects) are very inexpensive and included in these low fees are the planning application, supervising the construction once it has commenced and signing it off as legal at the town hall (Ayuntamiento) when finished. The challenge is to find one that speaks enough English for you to communicate with. 

 An easy way is to google eg: Architect Ronda Spain or whatever your town is and you will come up with a list.  Just get on the telephone or go to their offices and see if you can communicate reasonably.

Always remember there is a 'commission' system operating in most of Spain, by which your 'friendly' estate agent etc receives a commission from the person who he has recommended or is doing the translation for.  Not necessarily bad, but worth remembering!

Your architect will advise you or rather just make the correct application on your behalf, but there are two sorts of building licences in Spain

Licencia de Obra Mayor (Licence for major work): this is for those who wish to extend a property or alter its structure in any way. You will need a local architect for this and permission from your town hall.

Licencia de Obra Menor (Licence for minor work):  this applies to interior work, alterations, replacements, painting interior walls, patios or anything that is invisible from the outside of a property.

Of courses there are different types of licences within each category which need different documentation.

 You may need a:

Licencia de obra Mayor de Amplificación - (Licence to extend existing structures) if you are extending the existing building.

Licencia de obra Mayor por rehabilitación de edificios (major works licence for building restoration) - if you are restoring a historic building in a city centre. These buildings are of national importance, like listed buildings in the UK.

Licencia de obra Menor – if you are restoring the property internally, for example if you are installing central heating for example, adding bathrooms, repainting walls, repairing carpentry and altering the plumbing or electrical installations.


Once your town hall has all the necessary information, they will calculate the tax payable to carry out the renovation. This varies from authority to authority but is usually somewhere between 2-6% of the cost of the project.

What happens in reality is that your architect 'creates' a cost list for the project and submits it to the town hall.  You then pay a fee for this planning permission based on this but it has little to do with reality.  The actual costs of the project may be much more and seldom less!!!

If your property is in an 'old town' or is an 'old farm' in the countryside it is almost certainly a listed building.  The town hall has a set of rules and regulations for 'new build' but if you want to do works to an 'historical building' then application to the 'Provincial Cultural Authority' is also required. The town hall may OK your proposals but the Cultural Department may refuse them! If that happens your architect needs to negotiate with the Cultural Department in order to solve the problem

 The system is based on a 'game' played between Architects and the local Town Hall and Cultural Departments of your local authority. This is not stuff to get personally involved with rather leave it to the guys you are paying - Architect - Draftsman - Structural Engineer then sit and wait.  It will take at least 3 months if they accept the 'plan' at once or another 3 months for the first modification and so on.

Do not ever, ever trust the enthusiastic helpful,

'I am a really nice person' estate agents or builders who tell you that 'there is no problem' - 'We often do works that do not get planning permission until after it is all finished' -  'This sort of job does not need planning permssion' - Don't worry we will take care of it'!!!


Certainly you will get the work done. It will probably be to an OK standard rather than the highest, but make no mistake, when the planning authorities come round 6 months later, a year or two later or when you want to sell and move, the friendly estate agent - builder - constructor will be really sympathetic and offer you a deal that if ' as you are my friend' to redo the works they promised are legal, then charge you for them like an 'angry Spanish bull'

If you apply for a building licence then within 15 days of completion of the works you or your architect must have to apply to the town hall for a 'sign off' visit by the Architects department of the town hall. If they accept the works then make the final payment to your builder - if they don't, then wait until his 'workmanship' complies with the law.

The above knowledge is based on research 2014/5/6 and and this ongoing unhappy experience here in Ronda thanks to:  




I highly recommend  builders,  who recovered the terrace disaster and installed the  inside staircase with all the works done to the highest standards at very , very reasonable prices.

They cover the entire Andalucía area and Carlos speaks perfect English & German. Email:-



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Our beautiful Ronda home in the old town is for sale.

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