Three years later, and l still hate banking in Spain as much as the day (no, WEEK) that it took me to open a bank account.* As far as least-favorite errands go, it falls between being put on hold for an hour with the internet provider and sole-searching for illusive black flats. Banking in Spain promises the terrible waiting of the internet call, but with the frustration of hidden fees and shifting rules.
The “rules” l mention start at the entrance, with the glass box you must filter through on your way to the actual interior. The metal detector is to protect the bank from robberies by beeping at clients until they leave their things outside in the lockers. However, the unassuming little old ladies are waved through without having to spill the contents of their purse into the safes provided. When l try to go through, the box beeps one of my most-loathed sentences: “Aceso bloqueado. Hemos dectetado metal. Por favor, deje sus cosas en las taquillas de la entrada.” Of course there’s metal in my purse–keys, coins, zippers… And ya know what? l bet there’s just as much metal in that shopping cart that the was just brought in by the middle-aged woman in front of me!
Then, while l’m struggling to extract my ID card from my purse and fish my bank book from an interior pocket and grab my phone (to pass the time, you know), another old woman pushes past me to the box and is waved through without a beep. I glare at her back, warming up the visual daggers l will shoot her once the box finally spits me out on the other side.
When banking in Spain, there’s no guarantee that these older ladies will run you over. A few weeks ago the woman behind me kept creeping closer and closer until finally we simultaneously reached the spot in the floor that asks you to Please Wait Here. When the woman in front of us left, l threw a “Cómo está?!” to the teller to signal that l Was Waiting Here First. It worked, and the heel-nipper reluctantly halted mid-step.
You’re probably thinking, “Why worry about one person, that won’t make a huge difference in your wait time.” Oh, you would be so, so wrong. The wait is the second most-loathed thing about this errand, as each person in line represents, according to my scientific estimates, roughly 8.5 minutes of wait time. If there are more than 5 people and you’ve forgotten to bring a book, spin right around and leave.
Bank pile-ups are certainly not helped by the insanely limited hours. My bank is open from 8:30 to 2 Monday through Friday, which makes it impossible for those with a regular work schedule. Online banking seems likes an obvious choice then for those who need to make transfers, but those often incur unnecessary charges. I always prefer to go in person to the bank in hopes of avoiding yet another aggravating fee. And really, I have no choice to go in person because my school is one of only .002 percent of schools that still pay their auxiliares with a physical check.
My bank “libreta,” where transactions are recorded
I have to go to three different banks each month. First and foremost is the trip to deposit my monthly check. Mid-month means that it’s time to pay the rent at my landlady’s bank. Her bank isn’t as close as the other banks in the neighborhood (of course it isn´t…), so l have to plan the trek there. Finally, there’s the water bill, which all those at our building have to pay at a regional bank after a cryptic bill–only a price amount–arrives in our mailbox. Three times waiting in line, three times praying that the line moves fast and that there will miraculously be a second teller to ease the traffic jam.
Because l spend so much time at the bank, l come prepared. If security guards were to examine the bag that accompany me through the metal detector, they´d discover that the provisions are quite similiar to those necessary for a weekend roadtrip; water, a book, pens and paper, a snack… Granted, l only have access to these lovely items if the almighty Box deems them worthy enough to bring to the other side.
If l’m caught without my trusty notebook, l turn my attention to the clientele. On a recent trip, my interest was held by a woman whose style was a grizzly mash-up of fashionista meets couch potato. Her hair was expertly coiffed, every unruly strand held in place. This gave the impression that she had somewhere fancy to be, but her pants, fashioned of the grey sweatpant material that is the same the world over, told another story. They would have oozed practicality…if they had reached her ankles, that is. A double set of neon-colored socks (pink and green) met her legs where the pants ended. She wore tennis shoes, and draped over the whole ensemble was a fur coat that hit her calves. Enjoy people watching here, as it is pretty much the only activity you can do here other than read offers for buying insurace from your bank. (Which is another rant entirely–who buys insurance from the same place they bank?! What is the logic behind this, and how many people do it?)
Once l reach the counter, l breath a sigh of relief–l’ve made it! The teller doesn’t rush, giving just as much attention to my requests as he did to the people in front of me. Unfortunately, I find that today my normal teller has changed, and therefore, so have the rules. Suddenly, the physical checks I´ve been depositing all year can not be deposited–didn´t I know that? Instructions are given for me to go back to the branch where I originally opened my account. I grit my teeth before my next request. Can I at least take out 300 Euros, then? I need to pay rent…
In leiu of a spoken answer, the teller simply nods his head–not in a “yes, of course” motion but rather to point out a notice tapped to the wall. It clearly reads “Hey, dummies! There is an ATM machine outside for your convenience. Only withdrawals 600 Euros and over will be accepted inside the bank.”
Fabulous! I love taking out hundreds of Euros on the street, quickly scanning to make sure it´s all there, and then stuffing said money into my purse. All in public. But that is my fate. And thus
ends begins another day of banking in Spain.
If you hate banking in Spain as much as I do, please share your stories! Have you had bad luck with hidden fees, changing rules, long waits, or online banking? Please comment below.