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banks-in-spain

Opening a Bank Account in Spain

It seems redundant to give advice about opening a bank account given how generally easy the process is, yet a lot of foreign residents really struggle with this, so for those who don’t speak much Spanish here is a quick guide to Spanish banking.

First, like English speaking countries Spain also has two general types of bank, regular banks (banco) that offer full banking services, and savings banks (cajas or caixas) that these days offer the same services as most banks. Unlike the UK, the distinction between a bank and building society has never really existed in Spain, the cajas started as non-profit savings banks, and could offer mortgages and finance, but so too could the banks.

Historically the cajas have been more popular due to charging lower fees and tended to have more branches, especially in the smaller villages, whereas most banks restricted themselves to the towns and cities and also offered more in the way of business banking services. The cajas all have a social component to them and tend to sponsor cultural events and services for the elderly or infirm.

As for which you choose to use for your own banking needs, you’ll find that all bancos and cajas will offer much the same services, couched in different marketing spin, and all offer banking for residents and non-residents alike. Most of the decision as to which to open an account with will come down to price and preference.

As a foreigner in Spain there are two types of account you can open, a resident account, or a non-resident account, and each is self-explantory;

Resident Bank Account
The determining factor as to which the bank opens on your behalf is whether you have registered for a Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE number). If so, the bank is legally obliged to open a resident account for you, and will then withhold a portion of the interest earned to cover taxes. This type of account requires a passport and NIE certificate to be opened.

Non-Resident Bank Account
If you are not a resident, ie you don’t have an NIE number, then you will be offered a non-resident account where interest earned is not withheld and fees are generally higher. This type of account only requires a valid passport or ID document from your country of origin. Every six months the banks and cajas are required by law to establish your residence status, a process that is done without input from you, but may cost you money anyway in fees.

Opening an account of either type is a relatively painless process. You go to the bank of your choice, tell the teller you wish to open an account, give them your identity papers and usually proof of address, fill in some forms, make a token deposit, and a few days later return to collect your ATM card. It’s likely you’ll be given a bank book (libreta) when you open the account if these are still issued, most cajas seem to do this but some banks don’t.

Depending on the account features, you may be issued a regular maestro card, or a Visa/Mastercard debit card which can be used as if it was a credit card, but without incurring debt since the funds will only be charged to the card if there is sufficient funds in your linked account.

Credit cards need to be applied for separately, and different conditions apply for acceptance, for example having a job or owning your own business.

The banking sector in Spain is quite modern, and all banks will have their own automatic teller machines, and most have Internet banking facilities. In the more progressive or tourist centres it is also common to find tellers and managers with good English or French/German language skills.

Movistar

Dave Bull’s Guide to Utility Companies in Spain

Movistar

Dave Bull’s guide to…
THE REALLY USEFUL COMPANIES
…and Movistar

 

UTILITY COMPANIES

firstly let me say that it is NOT LIKE BACK HOME when you deal with the utility companies here – especially bleeding Movistar, but don’t let me get started on them or we’ll be here all day. I thought we’d put together a little info that you may or may not already know – about the big utility companies that we have to deal with here. Now did I mention Movistar…?

When dealing with utilities the normal method is to settle bills via direct debit and believe me, it’s better to arrange for itemised bills to be sent in so you can check them and sort out problems straight away. Also regularly check that the bills are actually getting paid because they don’t hang around out here if they are going to disconnect you.

Water
Most properties get their water from one of the main water companies here in Spain and that company is responsible for the infrastructure of the supply and must maintain it. That means it’s the same as the UK where they are responsible up to the meter.
You will usually get your bill every two months, although some companies invoice quarterly while others do it only twice a year (know how they feel…).

Not a lot of people know that…

What a lot of people do not know is that if you should have a problem with a leak and you’re left with a hefty bill – go and talk to the Aguagest office because if it is your side of the meter (and in reality – your problem) you can get an official plumbers receipt and claim up to 30% of the cost of the bill back! Be warned though that it must be a proper (licensed) plumber – not that dodgy bloke in the tatty car….

Electricity
The whole of the Costa Blanca can turn its lights on in the evening and say ‘thanks’ to Iberdrola who are the only supplier. Whether you actually want to say thank you or not, they will bill you every two months for the power you have used and an additional standing charge for, well, being a good customer…?

Telephone
Many small companies are beginning to spring up since de-regulation but, unfortunately for you, you will, more than likely, have to deal with Movistar at some point. Now, Movistar, where do I start? Well, perhaps their motto should be ‘don’t hold your breath’ because once you’ve dealt with them that is what you will say to the next person who asks your advice about contacting Movistar.

Quite frankly, Movistar is one of the most unprofessional, disorganized, inept companies every to grace the planet – and that’s the good bit… people have waited months and sometimes, years for a telephone line with no customer service to help them out. The have a customer service line (1004) which is about as useful as a bacon slicer at a Bar Mitzvah and if you want to speak to someone in English? Forget it, especially if it is a fault or complaint that you’re calling up about. If I had a choice, I’d sooner put my hand in a blender (again) than deal with Movistar.

Gas
The gas bottles that we use here are supplied by Repsol (orange) and Cepsa (silver) and contain butano mostly. Both companies have either depots or outlets such as garages where customers can exchange their empty bottles and in some areas home deliveries are made every week.

Mains gas is now arriving on the scene but with the relatively small demand for gas (especially in the summer) take up on that option is slow and the majority of homes still use the bottles.

For any appliances that use gas – you must use an approved plumber or risk losing your supply (and/or life).

Disconnected
If you are cut-off by any of the utility companies it is an absolute pain in the culo to get switched on again. You’ll be asked to pay into a bank account – at a certain time of day – then they’ll want you to fax the payment and all your account details to their office. Then it is understood they sit on it for a couple of days before, hopefully, you get switched back on within the promised ’48 hours.’ Oh, and then they’ll add a ‘reconnection charge’ on your next bill which is usually well out of proportion to the work involved. Trust me, don’t get disconnected – keep an eye on the bills and when they are due to make sure they get paid.

Spanish Govt Introduces More Austerity Measures, Cuts Taxes on New Homes

As pressure mounts on Spain’s socialist led government from the EU and finance markets, the government has announced further austerity measures in its hopes of reducing the budget deficit and convince investors that positive economic growth can be expected.

Announcing the measures, Development Minister José Blanco stated that 700,000 new homes remain unsold after the property market crash in Spain, and that reducing the IVA on new homes from 8% down to 4% until the end of the year.

Spain’s decade of housing boom ended with the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, leaving an estimated 2 million new properties unsold, and leading to Spain having the highest private debt burden in the Eurozone. Though the almost complete meltdown of the construction industry has meant more than half of these new properties have since been sold, the resultant slashing of home prices by as much as 50% in some markets has not been without pain to Spanish home buyers.

Corporate tax payments worth some 2.5 billion euros have been brought forward to 2011 with a decree aimed at boosting government coffers before the Nov 20 election. The socialist government is currently polling to lose the election and appears to be frantically aiming to minimise election losses by introducing measures to bring more stability to the economy.

As well, the government announced restrictions on doctors prescribing branded medications, instead insisting the generic or unbranded medicines must now be prescribed in an effort to shave a further 2.4 billion euros off the national debt.

In the last week, the European Central Bank has been buying up Spanish debt to avoid a possible default by Spain, and at the same time German Chancellor Merkel, and French President Sarkozy have been increasing pressure on Spain to make concerted efforts to cut the budget deficit now, and not after the election.

Previous efforts to stabilise the economy and reduce the debt burden included a sales tax (IVA) increase, slashing of public sector wages, and freezing of pensions.

Economic growth has been affected by the austerity measures, with 2011 forecast growth of 1.8% downgraded to 1.3%, though current forecasts from the National Statistics Institute suggest 0.7% growth might be more realistic. This on top of an official unemployment rate above 20%, the highest in the Eurozone.

QROPS Offshore Pension Funds

QROPS: Manage your British Pension from Spain

In recent times the UK government has made it clear through legislation that non-residents will be quickly and efficiently brought back into tax residency status if they earn significant income in the UK, and whilst pension funds are not ordinarily included, the wide ranging ambit of HMRC cannot by assumed to ignore pensions in the future.

Transferring UK-based pension funds to a qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes (QROPS) means funds can be managed offshore with a variety of instruments for example, art, jewelry, antiques, high risk markets, and more.

For British citizens resident in Spain, earnings paid into a UK pension fund whilst working in the UK can now be repatriated offshore, just like other non-property investments, and the UK government through HMRC have legislated that QROPS are the only providers they will accept. Offshore funds that are popular with British citizens include the Isle of Man, Guernsey, New Zealand.

The advantages of a QROPS transfer are that invested funds once repatriated are then available to be reinvested in a much broader range of activities than is possible by leaving it in the UK, funds can be accessed (drawn down) at any time between 50 and 75, there is no requirement to purchase an annuity to avoid taxation, and perhaps most importantly, a QROPS managed fund does not attract UK inheritance tax and remaining funds can be willed to future generations.

QROPS Five Year Rule
Repatriating a UK pension is an established procedure with regulations determined by HMRC, allowing a QROPS to accept and then manage the investment. After funds have been repatriated, it remains possible to transfer funds between QROPS companies.

As soon as non-residency in the UK is declared, within which there is a requirement to state that the member intends to remain non-resident for the foreseeable future, all UK pension funds can be transferred to a QROPS, though there is a five year rule of behaving like a UK pension fund and reporting to HMRC that applies.

The five year rule applies when the member of the fund has been resident in the UK for any period of time in the last five years. This means that UK pension funds can be transferred to an offshore QROPS at any time after non-residency is declared, but the full advantages won’t be evident until a period of five years non-residency has passed.

After five years, the requirement to behave like a UK pension ceases, as does tax reporting to HMRC.

Why Take Control of Pension Fund Now?
UK pension funds are largely intended to be a secure form of investment to provide for people after retirement, however, mandated regulations prevent riskier investments (high interest investments) and generally don’t allow access to funds, as well, UK pensions cannot be willed to children. All remaining funds on death are transferred to HMRC consolidated fund.

In addition, the UK government frequently reviews QROPS and adds or removes country schemes that do not meet their requirements. There is no guarantee that HMRC will allow QROPS in the future, so moving funds now is prudent.

Pension funds paid into private sector schemes, company schemes, public sector schemes (including armed forces) are all eligible for repatriation to a QROPS, meaning that low interest schemes can be converted via QROPS to high interest investments giving a boost to member funds not currently possible if funds remain in the UK.

A typical person from the UK who worked 20+ years may have accumulated combined funds in excess of £200,000 and this money could grow even further by reinvesting in a QROPS, but the most compelling reason for removing these funds from the UK is the possibility of accessing part of the fund for personal use, and ensuring that children or dependents inherit the funds.

Nota Simple Spain in English

Property Owners in Spain to get English Language Help

Intense lobbying by the British government in the EU, English language press, and by expatriate residents in Spain has resulted in the Spanish government conceding that English language help for property owners will be made available as new property regulations came into force on July 7, 2011.

In the first instance, property owners and buyers will now be able to request a copy of the ‘nota simple‘, the Land Registry Certificate, in English. The certificate contains all of the pertinent details of the property including any charges against the property. The English language nota simple will be available from the Colegio de Registradores, or can be applied for online https://buyingahouse.registradores.org after paying a 29 Euro fee including VAT and translation (See Currencies Direct Spain for the best conversion rates).

In addition, owners of property bought outside planning regulations, a form of ownership known as ‘fuera de ordenación’ can now apply to have their interest recorded in the Land Registry for additional protection. Specifically, this will allow owners who bought in good faith to have their property recorded in the registry, whilst also protecting the fuera de ordenación status of the property. This is particularly important for owners of properties who may in the future face demolition orders, and are unable to prove their claims due to not having their property listed in the Land Registry.

The changes to the Land Registry now mean it is no longer possible to have a property included and a ‘nota simple’ issued until a license of first occupation has been approved, a construction license approved, and finally a technical certificate from a technical architect stating the construction and building standards meet those of the plans under which the construction license was approved.

Whilst these changes on the face of things appear to be simply a case of amending the laws to add more detail to the ‘nota simple’, in fact these are significant indeed since the majority of land ownership demolition orders and fines over the last 25 years have been due to non-conformance with Land Registry regulations.

By including all pertinent information in the nota simple, and by making this available in English from the College of Architects, the Spanish government hopes that future investors will at least be able to understand the notations in the property certificate thus avoiding a repeat of previous years.

The most significant development however relates to future purchases of Spanish property, an update to the Ley Estatal de Suelo which will make it impossible for buyers to purchase Spanish property that does not satisfy local town planning laws, and therefore, cannot be issued with a nota simple.

Unfortunately, current owners of property under ‘land grab’ litigation will not benefit from the new changes, and the British government and EU will continue to lobby the Spanish government to have these properties legalised, or at least offer compensation to owners whose property is subject to a demolition order.

Giles Paxman, the British ambassador in Spain stated, “I welcome these initiatives. Communicating essential information in English, combined with the measures announced in the decree, should help to ensure buyers are accurately informed of any legal issues connected with a property.”

Almenara Golf Course

Almenara Golf Course ****

18 holes, Par 72, and 6,168 metres, Costa del Sol Golf Course

Almenara Golf Course in Spain was designed by Dave Thomas in 1999. Set around lakes and Cork Oak trees. Greens already accepted as being of tournament quality. A future classic course.

Almenara Golf Club extends its activities to golf tourism. Almenara is the first complex which has provided for golf courses and Hotels, located between the Valderrama and San Roque courses. The Almenara course, opened in the Spring of 1999, has been built over very hilly terrain and the Dave Thomas layout adds even more difficulties with narrow fairways and typical high lipped fairway bunkers, which catch anything hit off target.

This is riot a wide course and what with the danger lurking alongside or across the fairways you are often better off leaving the driver in the bag. A well built course where maintenance is good.

This is now a 27 hole golf course set in the upper part of Sotogrande 500 metres from Club de Golf Valderrama and five minutes from the beach, surrounded by cork oak trees and wild pines and several streams as well as a natural lake, all of which serve to make this a very beautiful course.

Located close to Valderrama this course has spectacular views and is maintained to a high standard. Set around two lakes the undulating terrain offers a true test of golf. Large greens are protected by fine sanded bunkers.

Soft spikes only. Buggy recommended.
To make a reservation to stay at the four star Alhaurin Golf Resort, visit Booking.com.

Avda. Almenara s/n, Sotogrande, CP11310. San Roque (Cádiz) España
Tel: 902 18 18 36

Recipe for Albondigas Spanish Meatballs

Albondigas – Spanish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Albondigas can be found in almost every tapas bar in Spain throughout the year, and are typically served piping hot, but cool down remarkably quickly outside of the pot. Most bars will have their own slightly different recipe so visitors to Spain shouldn’t be afraid to order this tapa as they bar hop and sample local cuisine.

Generally there are two types of sauce the meatballs are cooked in, the rich red tomato sauce, and the gravy style pale garlic sauce albondigas clarasthough this is rarer and in most bars will not be served at all. It is important to realise that the wors ‘tomato sauce’ do not do justice to the flavour of the sauce, this is not ketchup, it is a delicious tomato and olive oil based sauce that is quite unique to this recipe.

This Albondigas recipe will make 12 meatballs.

Ingredients
Meatballs:

  • 250g minced beef
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of grated manchego cheese (substitute parmesan)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 2 finely chopped green onions (shallots)
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cups of plum tomatos
  • 2 tablespoons of rioja (Spanish red wine)
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped basil
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary

 

Preparation
These meatballs are very easy to make, simply mix all of the meatball ingredients (minced beef, breadcrumbs, manchego cheese, tomato paste, garlic, green onions, thyme, turmeric, salt and pepper) together in a bowl using a large spoon or fork.

Split the mixture into 12 chunks and roll into balls. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil till it sizzles (not boiling), and add the meatballs till they are brown all over.

Next add the tomato sauce ingredients (plum tomatos, rioja, basil, rosemary) and cook for 20 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve 2-3 meatballs in small tapas dishes with sauce and bread.

To make this dish extra special, garnish the tapas with dried basil leaves. You can also experiment and add preserved red chillis to the sauce ingredients.

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Level of Difficulty: Easy

Traditional Porra (Soup) from Antequera, Spain

Traditional Antequera Porra (Southern Spain)

In the South of Spain in the summer people make delicious cold soups, the most famous being gazpacho. Another is porra, and this recipe for traditional Antequera porra is super simple to make.

This soup is softer in taste than the gazpacho and offers a thicker substance. Ask for it in restaurants and be pleasantly surprised, unless you accidentally ask for “Porro Porra”, in which case you might receive a rather incredulous stare and the comment that in Spain joints (ahem, a soft smokable drug) aren’t normally served…

Ingredients for the Traditional Antequera Porra

  • 1 kg tomatoes
  • 2 peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 boiled eggs
  • 150 g finely diced serrano ham
  • 3 / 4 glass extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • a few slices of day old bread

Preparation for Traditional Antequera Porra

  1. Rinse the tomatoes and remove the peel, then discard the seeds. Cut the tomato into pieces.
  2. Wash the peppers and discard the seeds. Cut these into small pieces.
  3. Peel the garlic cloves and cut into chunks.
  4. Crumble the bread into small pieces. You can also always use a little bit of water soaked bread (I always do), but this is not really necessary.
  5. Put it all in a bowl and mix while gradually adding the oil and vinegar it, until the mixture reaches the consistency of a thick soup.

Serve the soup cold with crumbled egg, bits of serrano ham and bread cut into wedges and placed on top. Instead of serrano ham, many people often substitute tuna and/or slices of tomato.

Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Trudis de Ronda. Website: Recepten in het Nederlands

And for more Spanish Tapas recipes why not have a look at the available books from Amazon Uk or US. We get a small commission from the sales and that helps us to carry on the great work here at Ronda Today

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