Today, I finally managed to change my bank account to one that doesn’t charge fees (as long as you keep it topped up). You see, unlike in the UK, where current accounts tend to be free – and if you’re lucky, might even pay interest – over here the banks actually charge you for the privilege of looking after your money.
When I opened my account (based mainly on proximity to where I was living at the time and one positive experience when paying my NIE fee) I was told that for as long as I wasn’t a Spanish resident, I’d have to have a basic account that charged fees. ‘But as soon as you’re resident, come back and we’ll change the account over for you,’ the lady said.
OK, I thought. Sounds simple.
Of course, it wasn’t. (Not to mention how much longer than anticipated it took me to actually become resident!)
It’s funny how there are some things in this country that just work. For example, the digital signature that allows you to access your Social Security account and do all sorts of nifty things like print off the equivalent of a DBS check – just like that! – or a temporary EHIC (and request a permanent one). Amazing. But then there are things that seem to be a lot more complicated for no apparent reason.
So, on Thursday I went to the nearest branch of my bank and asked them to do the necessary. I could have gone sooner but with one thing and another, I hadn’t got round to it. But never mind, it should only take few minutes. Easy peasy, right?
‘Oh no,’ they said. ‘This isn’t the branch where you opened the account. You’ll have to go back there.’
‘But I don’t live there any longer. Can’t you do it here?’
Cue much umming and ahhing. But no. It seemed the best solution (for them, at any rate) was for me to go back to the branch where I opened the account.
So, on Friday I did. I spoke first to a man, then to a woman, then to another woman, who eventually changed my account details to show I was now resident. But for some reason, when she tried to send me the change of product document to sign on my online banking app, it didn’t appear. I could see the notification saying that there was a document to sign, but could I see the document? No. And for some reason, once she’d sent the electronic copy, she didn’t seem able to print a physical one.
Eventually, she gave up. ‘This office is closing after today until September,’ she told me. ‘So you’ll have to go to the branch we’ll be moving to on Monday and we’ll try and sort it out then.’
By now, I was getting a bit cheesed off. I tried to log into the app that afternoon to check whether the document had suddenly appeared, but not only could I not see the document, I was now locked out of the account. I raced down to my nearest branch to use the ATM to check my balance (all good) but of course, banks close at 2pm and don’t open at the weekend, so yesterday was my next opportunity to actually speak to anyone. And yesterday I was out of town until long after 2pm, which meant it had to wait until today.
So, I got up this morning and reluctantly headed off to yet another branch to try and get the problem sorted. When I got there I looked round hopefully for the lady I’d spoken to on Friday but she wasn’t there. I tried to explain the saga to the old man on the front desk, but I didn’t get much further than, ‘Last week I went to the branch on Instituto Obrero-’ before he stopped me.
‘My colleague from Instituto Obrero has just popped out. She’ll be back in about 5 or 10 minutes if you’d like to take a seat.’
And so I waited.
Finally the lady from Friday appeared. Hoorah! She’d remember the whole sorry tale. All I’d have to explain was that now I couldn’t get into the online banking app at all!
No, she didn’t remember… or at least, not until I’d jogged her memory.
‘Ah, yes,’ she said. ‘You couldn’t sign the document, could you?’
No. No I couldn’t.
And so she sat down and I gave her my NIE number and she tried to figure it out. I told her about the problem with online banking and she told me to delete the app and reinstall it. So I did. It took ages to download, so in the meantime she logged me in on her computer (why couldn’t she just have done that on Friday?) and there the document was! Yippee! The code came through on my phone for me to sign it and she typed it into the machine. Hoorah!
I thought that was it. I thought we were out of the woods, but no. She kept chewing her lip, shaking her head and sighing. It seemed there was more that needed to be done.
By this point I was starting to lose all hope, but eventually the printer started whirring and she presented me with a pile of paper documents to sign. So many that by the end of the process, my signature looked nothing like it had at the beginning. Which kind of makes you wonder what the point is.
At least it’s done now. All I have to do is remember to pay in at least 700 euros a month and it’s all good.
But next time I need to go to the bank, I must remember to allow at least 2 hours… and maybe a further visit the next day.