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Utilities and Bank Accounts in Spain

Spain

NIE Number

This is a unique identity number issued by the Spanish government to people from other countries who move to Spain or have financial dealings there. Your NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) identifies you as an individual, and is the equivalent of a Spaniard's NIF (Número de Identificación Fiscal). In the eyes of Spanish officialdom, if you don't have a number you don't exist. There are various ways to obtain an NIE, but if you can get by in Spanish the simplest way is to apply in person at the overseas department of a police station. You will be asked for your NIE certificate each time you arrange a significant financial transaction such as opening a bank account, buying a car, setting up utilities accounts, etc.

Bank Accounts

It is well worth asking around and doing your own research into bank tariffs before opening an account, as Spain has a multitude of banks to choose from. Some, like Santander, have a nationwide presence whilst others are regional. Banking is never free in Spain and charges for the various facilities can vary considerably between banks. If you don't plan to travel a lot and can speak Spanish, a regional bank may be most convenient. But if you will want to withdraw money from cash machines all over Spain and abroad, or if you prefer a bank that has an English language helpline, a larger establishment would probably suit you better.

Utilities

Electricity - Since 2009 the electricity supply marketplace has been open to competition, but Iberdrola and Endesa are still the main suppliers over much of Spain. Electricity tariffs for some sectors are regulated by the government. Power cuts are common so a surge protector is essential. In some rural areas private generators are used as there is no mains supply.

Electricity providers offer supplies at different power ratings (potencia). The supply you need depends on the number of electrical appliances you run. Electricity is charged at the same rate but the standing charge for a 3kW supply, for instance, is lower than for a 13kW supply. However, if your supply is not adequate for your needs, it will become overloaded and trip constantly.

Gas - Mains gas is only available in the big cities, but bottled gas is an economical alternative to electricity for cooking, and is widely used and easily available.

Telecoms - Telefonica is the national telecommunications company, and unfortunately does not have a good reputation for customer service. However, although there is no alternative to renting your line from Telefonica, a number of companies offer cheap calls packages. In some areas satellite may be the best - or only - option for ADSL.