Whether it’s online or in-branch; has one or more holders; requires a written or digital signature; or is for students or pensioners, opening a bank account is easy. Millions of customers worldwide are able to choose from a variety of accounts – with new and traditional ways to open them – to manage their money.

Bank accounts are usually our first financial product, largely due to how easy they are to open (whether at a branch or online) and because they are where we tend to receive our pay, keep our savings, transfer money, pay bills and do other things with our money. There are many types of accounts, and the one we choose depends on our financial needs. 

The steps to follow when opening a bank account — and their general requirements — are:

1. Assess our needs. Check the available options and pinpoint the account ticks all the boxes. While there are many types for young people, pensioners, students and other groups, the most common are current and savings accounts. They generally differ in terms of returns, fees and related products.

Whether through customer service channels or at branches, advisors are on hand to answer customers’ questions and help them before, during and after account opening.

2. Check eligibility requirements. It’s important to check whether we meet the requirements to open the account. For instance, young persons’ accounts usually have a prescribed age range, while student accounts require proof of enrolment on a course. Meeting certain requirements can also mean having fees waived or reduced.

3. Read the small print. Reading the terms and conditions of our financial products is paramount to understanding the type of account we’re opening and its undertakings, like having our salary paid into it; the minimum term; and average balance. The terms and conditions also include information on the account’s related products (credit card, insurance, etc.). Before we sign on the dotted line, the bank will provide us with the account agreement, which sets out all terms and conditions and key information as simply and clearly as possible. We can also read them at any time on the bank’s website and mobile app, as well as in-branch. 

4. Start the process. At this stage, it’s important to be aware of certain account features that we maybe can’t change after opening, like the number of named holders (i.e. the people who will be able to deposit and withdraw money, as well as being liable for tax). In some cases, we can add “authorized persons” to carry out specific transactions on our behalf without being a named account holder. For identification purposes, all holders and authorized persons must be present at the branch when opening the account. If we open online, we can use mobile phones, email or other options to prove identity.

5. Submit documents. In Spain, account holders and authorized persons must show an official document as proof of identity. Anti-money laundering and tax evasion regulations prohibit anonymous accounts. 

Often, banks ask for proof of address, and a recent payslip to verify the origin of our funds.  We may also have to submit a tax return, employment contract, social security number or other document to prove our personal and financial situation. 

When opening an account at a branch, we must hand original documents over in person. When opening an account online, we can provide scanned copies.

6. Sign the agreement. At a branch, we can usually sign at the same time as showing the documents mentioned above. The bank employee will retain a copy of the documents and provide the holder with a copy of the agreement. There are several options to sign for an account online: on the app; the bank’s website; digital signature platforms; and SMS validation. A copy of the agreement will always be available on the app and website, and the bank will also send a copy via email. 

7. Activate the account. One of the final steps to opening a bank account is choosing a passcode or PIN to access online banking. The bank may provide temporary codes that we have to change in order to activate the account. In other cases, receipt of our pay or a transfer can trigger activation. Online, we can either choose the codes when opening the account or the bank will send them by post for us to later change on the website or app.

How’s your financial knowledge? Find out by taking this test on bank accounts (in Spanish) by Tu Futuro Próximo.

Benefits of having a bank account

Financial health is crucial to our personal wealth and reflects how we manage our money. Opening the right bank account and taking good care of the money we have in it is key to keeping the wolf from the door.

Among the main benefits of bank accounts is the ability to control our money through real-time information on income and payments. Online banking has useful tools to manage budgets and create alerts and virtual piggy banks to curb spending and encourage saving.

Security is a plus point, as we avoid having large amounts of cash that we could lose or have stolen. More establishments and services (like public transport) are enabling contactless payments for extra comfort and speed.

Also, having a bank account is almost always a pre-requisite for accessing other banking products like loans, mortgages, etc.

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