Spanish Banks usually provide a much more personal service than their European Counterparts. Staff changes are not so frequent and it is advantageous to establish a personal relationship with the staff and the manager who are often prepared to spend extra time helping their clients.
There is no automated central clearing system for cheques and transfers and banks communicate with each other directly.
If there is a problem with funds (lack off) in one of your accounts when a cheque or direct debit arrives for payment a member of staff may call personally to establish what action to take. For example transfer funds from another account, wait a day or two while you so the same or send the cheque back unpaid.
These friendly working practices come with a price; bank charges which many foreigners find too high and this is a common source of complaint. Especially as Spanish Banks tend to charge for every transaction or activity rather than absorbing this cost in other charges such as interest rates.
All the banks publish charges as they are required to by law. The documents can be found on the banks websites but they are long and complicated and state the maximum charges which will probably bear no relation to what most people pay. Simple leaflets explaining charges a rarely available.
Charges are negotiable with your branches senior staff or manager. Obviously the more business you do with the bank and if you have a clean and friendly history you will be better placed to negotiate lesser charges. Always keep a written note of such agreement as they may be forgotten and not applied.
Here is a very approximate guide to typical levels of charges.
Maintenance of Accounts - 20 EUR per year (waived for high traffic accounts)
Cash Card & Credit Cards - 12 EUR per year per card
Pay in Cash - Nothing
Pay in a Spanish Cheque - Minimun 1 EUR
Pay in a Foreign Cheque - Min 3 EUR 0.25%
Transfer Money - by Internet 0 or 1 EUR / in the Bank 3 EUR
Transfer by Internet to EU bank in EUR - same as national transfer
Transfer by Internet to UK bank (any currency) - about 33 EUR
Receive Transfers from Spanish Bank - Nothing
Receive Transfers from Foreign Bank in EUR - Negotiable
Bank Draft - 5 EUR
Bank Cheque Drawn on Foreign Bank - 7 EUR Min 0.40%
If you receive regular payments from abroad is is certainly worth shopping around for the best deal. EU state pensions paid into a Spanish Bank should not attract any charge.