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Last Sunday, I officially became a customer of Spanish super-bank BBVA. Many people will have heard of them, if not while realising that they are a bank, because they sponsor the top league in Spanish football (named, funnily enough, the Liga BBVA).

I would mention, before explaining exactly why this particular bank is about as useful as an inflatable dartboard, that I did not become a BBVA customer by choice. Until Sunday my Spanish banking services were provided by CatalunyaCaixa, an organisation which came highly recommended and with which I have never experienced any issues in the twelve months my account had been open.

On 8 September, however, my bank closed and the process of merging with BBVA began, with CX customers allegedly able to access their new accounts from 11 September. Now, I have a new account number (which no one has thought to advise me of) but I am supposed to be able to log in to BBVA’s online banking with the same login details as my CX online account. Yet when I tried online (and again on the app), the banking equivalent of Gandalf popped up on my screen and informed me (in three different languages): “you shall not pass!”.

The helpful suggestion from this not-so-great Gandalf was to try the “forgot your password” link, even though I clearly knew my CX login details – and had used them many times over the past year. However, where the wizard shall point, the mortal shall go, so off went I entering my username to reset my password – only to be informed my username was “incorrect”. Now I really knew they were taking the piss, so, as is traditional in the digital age, I took to Twitter to vent my frustration:

Now, I appreciated that BBVA’s Twitter support was primarily in Spanish (with some Catalan answers), so I approached them – in my imperfect Spanish – looking for some help. The conversation was not entirely productive:

For the benefit of those unable to follow the conversation in Spanish, it went something along the lines of:

Me: I can’t login to online banking with my CX username. It says “username incorrect”. Is there a problem?

BBVA: Hello, to access you need to enter your DNI (National ID Number) and your password and follow the steps indicated to migrate the user. If you have already migrated and it doesn’t allow you to login, you can click on “forgotten your password?” and reset it.

Me: I am English and don’t have a DNI. I have clicked on “forgotten your password?” and tried with my CX username and my NIE (Foreigner’s Identification Number) and it always says “incorrect username”.

BBVA: If you write your CX username the migration will happen and your new username will be indicated. If it continues giving you an error, you must contact Technical Support who can check it for you.

Me: Is it possible to speak to someone in English?
(My Spanish may get me by for a Twitter complaint online, but if we’re getting technical, then I’m going to need some help…)

BBVA: Hello, you can contact Technical Support whilst outside of Spain by calling the international number and asking to be assisted in English.

Me: Ok, thank you for your help.

Now, the international number may seem helpful, but it was still a Spanish number – and at a cost of £1 per minute from my phone, I was keen not to spend too long on hold. Fortunately, before calling I discovered a cheaper call rate from my network operator of 5p per minute and signed up to it immediately. I was ready for the dodgy hold music…

My phone call lasted 20 minutes and 55 seconds, and was recorded by both BBVA and myself. It was, to be frank, almost entirely unhelpful. Most of the call was spent on hold, but an abridged (non-verbatim) record of the call is as follows:

[8 minutes on hold]

Me: I was a CX customer and since the merger I’ve not been able to log in to online banking.

BBVA: Are you a customer from CX?

Me: Yes.
(That’s why I just said I was…)

BBVA: When you try to login in, did you write your old username?

Me: Yes.

BBVA: Are you able to see the option to change your password?

Me: No, it won’t let me log in at all. When I go into forgotten password, it tells me my CX username is invalid.

BBVA: I am going to try to register you, but we have some difficulties registering customers with passport numbers. Do you have a passport number or NIE number?

Me: NIE.

BBVA: Could you please confirm your NIE or, better, the username that BBVA has given you when you logged in.

Me: I haven’t been able to login.

BBVA: Yes, but when you login, you have an option from BBVA telling you your new username. Can you see that?

Me: No, I can’t login.
(I have said that three times already…)

BBVA: So can you give me your NIE number, please?

Me: [Confirms NIE]

BBVA: Please hold…

[A further 2 minutes on hold]

BBVA: I’m sorry, I am trying to get access to our service, but we cannot find your details with that NIE number. You must go to the branch … you received a letter when we told you about the change from CX with your new account number and a new branch. You must go to them to get a username and password.

Me: I haven’t received that letter and I’m currently in the UK and not likely to be in Spain for another month or so.

BBVA: You didn’t receive the letter to inform you of the change?

Me: I had a letter in June saying the change was going to happen, but I haven’t had a letter with a new account number or branch.

BBVA: With that NIE number I can’t find anything about you.

Me: Can you try with my passport number?

BBVA: Yes, please tell me it.

Me: [Confirms passport number]

BBVA: I need to check your branch. Please hold…

[A further 3 minutes on hold]

BBVA: You must speak with the branch. I am trying to find your branch information. I can see that you are a customer but I cannot give you any information because I can’t access your details. I have the number of the branch. It’s in [town name]. Do you know that town?

Me: Yes, it’s where I used to live.

BBVA: Ok, I have the number. You must speak with them from tomorrow, because the branch is closed at the moment. [Gives me the phone number]

Me: [Confirms the phone number I have been given]

BBVA: You must speak with them. They close at 2:15pm so you can try to speak with them from 8:30am tomorrow. They must register you because we are unable to see the products for customers with passport numbers. The branch must register you with a username and password to get online and telephone access.

Me: Ok, I’ll call them tomorrow.

I didn’t call them on Tuesday, but my fiancee, who still lives in Barcelona, went into the branch on Wednesday and, while they obviously could not give her any information, confirmed I would need to go into the branch to register for online banking. That being despite the fact that I was already registered for online banking with CX and they had cocked up my online access during the merger – and worse still, the fact that I currently live approximately 900 miles away from the branch.

As you may understand, I rely heavily on online banking as far as my Spanish account goes. If I have any queries with my British bank, I can call them on a UK number (included in my unlimited calling minutes with my mobile provider) or visit my local branch on my lunch break. Of course, I have online banking with them, too, for convenience, but if anything were to go wrong, then I could easily call or pop in – luckily, something I have only needed to do twice in the past 18 months for reasons other than paying money in.

With CX, I could very easily check my balance online and transfer money into my account ahead of a trip to Barcelona. Now, thanks to BBVA’s seeming incompetence, I no longer have online access and must, instead, wait until I am next in Spain to rectify their cock-up. Fortunately, my next trip is booked for a little over three weeks’ time. However, until then, I have no idea what’s going on with my account, as, not only can I not access online banking, I also cannot, it seems, get any information over the telephone.

Although I am obviously not using a debit card while in the UK, I could still end up going overdrawn on my account because I do know whether the regular commission charges that were debited by CX will be continued by them. As a result, I could end up losing money in bank fees which were entirely their fault – and, from what friends have told me, Spanish banks seem to be less forgiving with bank charges than British banks if the customer is not at fault. And, no, I can’t transfer any money to my account to be safe, as they have decided to change the account number – without having the decency to inform me of the new account details!

Readers will be aware that I am not normally in the business of providing reviews or recommendations on products or services. Indeed, even in this case I cannot provide a review of BBVA’s products, because they have (mis)managed the merger with CX so poorly that I cannot access my own – or even know my own account details. However, on the basis of the unhelpful “support” and complete lack of empathy I have received, I have no hesitation in advising anyone looking for a bank in Spain (for whatever reason) to avoid BBVA if you wish to maintain healthy stress levels.

To say I am annoyed with this situation is an understatement. So I took to Twitter to again vent my frustration – in two languages:

Again for your convenience, those last tweets roughly translated:

Me: The migration for CX customers has been a disgrace and, thanks to you, I cannot access my online account until I am in Spain again! How am I supposed to know if I have enough money in my account for the next few months?

BBVA: Good afternoon. We refer you to @BBVAresponde.

@BBVAresponde did not respond…

Leave a Reply

  1. Hello Alan, thank you so much for posting this. I have the same problem. I have been a Client of the Caixa Catalunya for 14 years. I have a bank account with them for my mortgage and bills for my Spanish property (see next post…….)

  2. For the past 7 weeks I have not been able to access my account (through no fault of my own). Although I am British, I now live in Canada and there’s no way I can just get a flight to Spain any time soon. (see next post)…

    • Hi Debbie, yes I did but sadly it involved TWO visits to a BBVA branch in Spain and signing a new online banking agreement with them after their “helpline” were adamant they could do nothing to help me over the phone.

  3. Oh dear. I’m in trouble then as it is impossible for me to visit Spain any time soon. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to contact ME when there is not enough money to pay the monthly mortgage. I have warned them that this is coming (just a matter of time) and that their lack of interest in helping me will be the reason why this has happened. They couldn’t (or wouldn’t) even confirm whether my IBAN number has changed (as I wanted to send money over to my account to keep things going whilst trying to sort out this big mess).

    Thanks anyway Alan.

  4. Hi Alan …I’m having the same problems as yourself with the BBVA…pleased that you have rectified yours…I live here in Spain, visit the BBVA and still cannot get at my monies. Will keep you informed ?

  5. We have a rental property in Spain. Account has been blocked for nearly 3 months with BBVA because our fiscal address is wrong and there is no way to change it online in our account, customer service cannot do it either and after they sent an urgent message to our branch, finally someone emailed us from our branch to ask what we need help we however despite replying instantly and sending a further 6 emails we still have no reply from the person who emailed us at our branch. Every time we try to call our branch in Barcelona in business ours the phone goes to answerphone or cuts off. So we called support again waited an hour while the rep said he thought he could get the address changed for us, he then said he would call us back as it was taking a long time 1 week later no call.
    Then we call back to speak to him but of course no one knew where he worked. So now another urgent message to the branch all the while our water is being cut off phone bill council tax etc if only it would be easy to move our mortgage. The title of your post is certainly relevant.

  6. Hi, I am trying to close my account down with them, spoken to them over the phone several times and they tell me to put money in so I can close my account down. The issue I have been having is that they have been taking “comisiones” (fees) for no apparent reason and no explanations as much as 30 or 40 euros and have been doing that for over three years. I was speaking to them at the call centre and they say the computer says that is the case.. I phoned the branch I set the account up at and they say I need to come to Spain. Now they have taking the final fees which have emptied my account to Zero

  7. (continued)
    Will my account automatically close now that there is nothing left? I am concerned they will start going into the red as if I owe them something. Really a bit hassle. I don’t have spare money or time to visit them in Spain. And from your experiences it doesn’t mean they will actually help. I do not know how the spanish authorities allow this to happen. Do you know who I could contact independently about complaints in Spain? Or if you have any advice. Many thanks