The best credit cards for expats in Spain

New to Spain? If you want to know all about credit cards available there, here’s our take on building your credit history and using the best credit cards for expats in Spain.

Xe Consumer Europe

June 15, 2021 9 min read

Young expat woman in Spain shopping online with her credit card

Planning on a new beginning in Spain? Its pleasant Mediterranean climate has already got a lot of expats swooning with joy. But there’s another aspect of the move that could have you feeling a little light-headed—making sure your finances will be in order in your new country.

If you’re serious about moving to Spain, or you’ve already shifted there, you might be thinking of using a credit card in your new country. However, without a Spanish credit history, it might be a little tougher than you think.

To help you make a choice, we’ve listed the best credit cards for expats in Spain, the documents you’ll need for your application, and how you can establish your financial history at your new home.

What potential credit card fees should I look out for?

Annual fee

You’ll find some credit cards in Spain that have no issuance and maintenance fees. But it doesn’t mean that using other cards won’t cost you any annual fees at all.

When it comes to choosing a credit card based on the annual fees associated with it, there isn’t any right or wrong choice.

That’s because at the end of the day, it boils down to what rewards or facilities you’d like for your daily credit card purchases.

Foreign transaction fees

Since you’re an expat, you may well need to move money between countries and across different currencies.

Typically, such foreign transactions with most credit cards cost 3% of the purchase value. It may not seem like a lot at first, but as it piles up gradually, you’ll understand what we’re talking about.

So, watch out for credit cards with foreign transaction fees, and check if the rewards or facilities with those cards are enough to negate the fees.

Or you can avoid those foreign transaction fees altogether by utilizing an international money transfer for those overseas payments. (More on that below…)

What do I need to apply for a credit card in Spain as an expat?

Of course, the requirements would differ from bank to bank, but there are a few basic conditions you need to satisfy before you can apply for a credit card as an expat in Spain:

  • You must be of legal age, that is 18 or more.

  • You must be a permanent resident in Spain. This is where your permanent residency visa will be useful.

  • You must be ready with your Número de identidad de extranjero (NIE) number. It’s a tax identification number for foreigners in Spain.

What are the best credit cards for expats in Spain?

WiZink Plus

WiZink, an online-only bank in Spain, offers a no-fee Mastercard with 3% refund on your purchases in any 2 categories out of travel, food, fashion, and leisure. This cashback will amount to a maximum of €6 Euro (or approximately $7.30 US Dollar) per month, which means you can get €72 EUR ($87.60 USD) cashback per year.

You call the shots on the time when you’ll be paying your bill every month. You also get to choose how to pay for your credit card purchases and expenses.

For example, you can pay in full each month, or a fixed amount per month, or just a percentage of your available credit every month - it’s up to you.

Keep in mind, though, that postponing your payment will generate interest. To activate the credit card, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the WiZink official website or app and log in to your customer area.

  2. Next, fill in the details like the Card Verification Value (CVV), your Personal Identification Number (PIN), and your email address.

  3. Five seconds later, you’ll receive a 6-digit security code on your cell phone.

  4. You’ve got 5 minutes to enter the security code in your application or on the website.

  5. Select the “Activate Card” button to complete the credit card activation process.

Using your WiZink Plus credit card will also let you enjoy free Purchase Protection insurance.

In case you lose your credit card or it’s stolen, you can block the card permanently through the WiZink app. Don’t worry, WiZink will send you a new credit card in place of the old one.

BBVA Aqua Credit Card

The best thing about this credit card from Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) is that only you can see the card number. More specifically, this card doesn’t have any numbers printed on it. You’ll be able to see the card number in the BBVA app, though.

To protect your online card purchases, the Aqua Credit Card comes with a dynamic CVV, as well. This CVV expires in a few minutes, so your money is always protected against any potential frauds.

Don’t want a physical credit card? That’s okay - simply request the bank to provide you with the digital version of your card, and pay for it with your mobile phone.

You can also add the credit card to Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay. Every time you pay with the card, the BBVA app will send you notifications.

If you want, you can also change your credit limit on the app, and even turn your credit card off, in case it’s lost or stolen. As with the WiZink Plus credit card, you can choose your payment method and change it any time you like.

The total payment method requires you to pay your card’s monthly expense in full on the 21st of the same month, or on the 5th of the next month.

Going with the deferred payment method, on the other hand, will let you pay either a percentage of your expense, or a fixed amount, on the 21st of each month or on the 5th of the next month, both with interest.

There’s no issuance and maintenance fee for the first year, but you’ll have to pay an annual commission of €43 EUR ($52.32 USD) in the subsequent years.

Using the Aqua Credit Card also makes you eligible for ATM robbery insurance. Under this insurance, the maximum compensation limit would be €600 EUR ($729.99 USD) per card and claim, and €1,200 EUR ($1,459.98 USD) per card and year, provided you pay a franchise expense of €30 EUR ($36.50 USD).

To apply for the Aqua Credit Card, you’ll need to have a BBVA Online Account Without Commission, as well as an Aqua Debit Card.

Open Credit Card

The Open Credit Card, offered by Openbank, is a free Visa card, provided you’ve got a regular minimum income of €900 EUR ($1,094.99 USD), or you use the card once a month. Otherwise, renewing the card will cost you €2 EUR ($2.43 USD) each month.

You can make in-store and online purchases with a 3D Secure Code System at any merchant accepting Visa. For payments under €50 EUR ($60.83 USD), you simply need to hover your credit card over the terminal.

The credit limit is set with approval from Openbank’s Risk Department, and can be up to €6,000 EUR ($7,299.92 USD) per month.

To avail of the Open Credit Card, though, you must have a current account with Openbank. There’s no fee for moving money from your current account to your credit card.

You’ll also get free SMS alerts every time you make a purchase with your card.

If you’re traveling, and you’ve paid for the ticket with this credit card, you’ll be eligible for travel accident insurance.

This insurance covers claims for disability or death due to an accident while you’re a passenger on a public transport. The compensation limit for this insurance is €120,202.20 EUR ($146,244.49 USD).

For cash withdrawals at ATMs with your credit card, the minimum fee is €3.90 EUR ($4.74 USD).

If you make any credit card purchases in a foreign currency, the fees would cost you 3% of the amount, but you’ll have to pay €2 EUR ($2.43 USD) as the minimum fee.

How does the Spanish credit system work?

Banks and other financial institutions in Spain track all your loans, risks, and credits to get a hang of your creditworthiness.

Their decision finally comes down to whether you’re on a blacklist for bad credit or not. So, to make sure your credit score is good, you just need to keep your name off the bad credit blacklist, no matter what happens.

This is because once you’re on the blacklist, your name won’t be removed from there until 6 years have passed, or you’ve paid off your debt in full.

How can I build credit in Spain?

You’re not going to get a credit card in Spain in the wink of an eye. No, you’ll have to prove that you’re responsible enough to pay off your debts in full and in time.

If you’re thinking of flaunting your credit history, no matter how good it’s been, in front of the Spanish banks and credit card issuers, you’re only going to get disappointed.

Generally speaking, the financial history you’ve established in a country, stays in that country. This means that only a good credit history in Spain would make you eligible for credit cards as an expat in Spain.

But what’s a good credit score? Well, different credit bureaus have different ways of scoring your creditworthiness, though you can get a general idea about the scores.

For instance, a credit score under 400 would be very poor, but if your credit score is in the range of about 700 and 900, it means you’ve got an excellent credit history.

Setting up utility accounts would be a good way to start building your creditworthiness in Spain. These accounts include Internet accounts, postpaid phone plans, electricity accounts, water, and so on. Make sure you never miss a utility bill payment, and always pay the full amount.

If you’ve taken any loans from a Spanish bank, ensure you’ve repaid those, too, within the specified timeframes.

What happens next?

Once you’ve secured your first Spanish credit card, you’ll have a very valuable tool to manage your money and make your payments within Spain. But what if you want to make a purchase in another country or currency? Or if you want to send money to or from your old bank account?

Rather than dealing with foreign transaction fees or excessive bank transfer fees, you can use Xe to send money to over 130 countries around the world.

Looking for a quick, low-cost and convenient way of transferring money to Spain? Check out our guide to sending money with Xe. Or, if you want to give it a try now, log in to your free Xe account to get your quote.

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All currency conversions mentioned are based on the EUR/USD mid-market exchange rate from Xe on June 5th, 2021, at 12:00 PM PT.