It’s possible to avoid paying ATM withdrawal fees in Spain but you need to be very careful about which machines you use. Although some banks in Spain don’t charge any ATM fees at all, many of them do and the charges involved can be as high as €5 per cash withdrawal.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Spain and things have changed since the first time I began using Spanish ATMs. Some of the banks that didn’t charge cash withdrawal fees in the past have started to do so. It’s a bit disappointing, but that’s the way life is. I hate paying ATM fees. If you are reading this, you probably do as well. I hope this post helps you to keep more money and pay less fees. It contains a list of banks that charge foreign visitors for using their machines and a list of the ones that do not.
During my previous visits to Spain, Bankia was one of my go-to banks whenever I needed some cash. That’s no longer the case. Now, if you don’t want to pay ATM fees in Spain, you need to avoid Bankia like the plague. Every time you make a withdrawal from a Bankia ATM it charges a fee of €1.75.
And it gets worse.
When you originally enter your card into a Bankia ATM and key in the amount of money you want to withdraw, Bankia stakes claim to the money straight away. Then when you see there’s a fee and cancel the transaction the money is no longer available in your account.
When I was using a Bankia ATM in Madrid, the banking app on my phone beeped at me to let me know I’d made a withdrawal before I even got chance to cancel the transaction. Then I checked my account and it said the money would be returned within 7 days. Fortunately, it was available again within a couple of hours, but I needed cash sooner and had to transfer extra money to my account so I had cash available to withdraw from an alternative ATM. This is a situation that was new to me.
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered other Spanish banks do the same thing. So you need to be very careful when you select which bank to use.
If you don’t want to pay any ATM fees during your time in Spain, BBVA is another bank you need to avoid. It’s been charging foreigners for making cash withdrawals for a very long time. Every time you make a cash withdrawal from a BBVA ATM, the bank hits you with a €1.87 fee and, like Bankia, it lays claim to the cash before you have made tje withdrawal.
IberCaja will also charge you every time you take cash out of one of its machines. At only €0.52 per withdrawal, the cost of using an IberCaja ATM is very low, but charges of any kind soon mount up. There are plenty of Spanish banks that don’t impose any fees at all so there is no need to deal with any of the banks that do. Like Bankia and BBVA, IberCaja claims the money before you even take it, placing it in limbo for a couple of hours or more (or possibly up to 7 days), so this is another Spanish bank I suggest you avoid.
The good news is, Santander doesn’t claim your money and leave it in limbo. The bad news is Santander ATMs in will charge you €5 for every cash withdrawal you make.
As far as ATM fees go, Santander is the most greedy bank I found in Spain so it’s another one you may want to avoid.
Sabadell Bank will charge you for taking cash out of its ATMs too. At €1.80 per pop, it’s fees are very similar to those imposed by the majority of other Spanish banks that charge, but its still money down the drain. If you need to take money out of an ATM in Spain and don’t want to pay any withdrawal fees, Sabadell is another bank to avoid.
Good Choice Avoid)
CaixaBank is one of my favourite Spanish Banks. It doesn’t charge any ATM fees at all. If you see one of its distinctive-looking yellow machines you can be sure you won’t have any extra charges when you make a withdrawal. Although, as with any other bank, avoid using dynamic currency conversion. This is an option many banks offer. It offers you the opportunity to let the machine to the currency conversion. It’s enticing because it lets you see how much money will be leaving your account back home. The problem is, the rate is always more expensive. The best thing to do is to select the option that shows you the cost in euros and let your own bank handle the conversion.
UPDATE: In September 2019, just a few days after I wrote this post, CaixaBank started to charge a €2 ATM withdrawal fee. This is now a bank to avoid.
Bankinter (Good Choice)
Bankinter is another one of the good banks. If you use one of its machines, the only money that will leave your account is the amount that you withdraw. Bankinter makes no additional charges at all.
Eurocaja Rural (Good Choice)
Eurocaja Rural is a good choice as well. Its machines don’t hit you with any extra fees.
Unicaja (Good Choice)
Unicaja doesn’t charge fees either. So, if you want to avoid paying any of those nasty ATM fees in Spain, Unicaja is another good bank to use. Just remember not to accept the offer of dynamic conversion. It won’t work in your favour.
How to Avoid Fees from Your Own Bank When You Use an ATM in Spain
Avoiding Spanish ATM fees is only half the battle. Every time you use your card in Spain, there’s still a good chance you will be hit by foreign transaction fees made by your bank back home. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid it. I know. I’ve been doing so for over a year.
The trick is to open a TransferWise multi-currency account. It’s easy to do and won’t cost you a thing. TransferWise was created especially to help people to avoid paying foreign transaction fees. It’s a reputable company and in June 2016, Richard Branson became one of the main investors. The fact that the company can win the backing of a business guru like that says a lot.
The multi-currency account comes with a Mastercard debit card you can use in machines anywhere in the world. If the machine takes Mastercard it will take your TransferWise card too. All you do is transfer some money from your main bank account to your multi-currency account. You can do it online, but I prefer to use the app. Either way, the money hits your account very fast. Typically within just a few minutes.
Unlike normal banks, TransferWise uses the most up-to-date exchange rate. There is a small fee for the conversion, but it’s much less than the fees you get from normal banks.
When you are a regular traveller, like me, a TransferWise multi-currency account can save you a lot of money per year. If you want to get the most bang for your buck in Spain, the best thing to do is choose your ATM carefully to avoid paying fees and then use a TransferWise debit card to avoid paying fees to your own bank. To save more money, never use dynamic currency conversion.