Getting Carded in Madrid

Ok, ok…it’s not what you think! As a matter of fact, the legal drinking age in Spain is 18 so I’ve never been asked for I.D. nor have I ever seen anyone else been asked for theirs. I’m talking about all the other cards we need in our lives. Library, debit, and public transit. If you move to Madrid you’re gonna need to know how to get all of these cards and since I’ve (surprisingly) succeeded in doing so, I thought I’d share with all y’all how I did it!

Library Card 

Getting a library card was super easy! I went to the library closest to me, in Puerta de Toledo, and went up to the circulation desk under the sign that said “Carnes” (I think) and said I would like to obtain a library card. I had to show them a copy of my passport and provide them with my local address here in Madrid. The great thing is that the card is valid in ALL libraries which are part of the Comunidad de Madrid network and the Bibliometro! To locate one near you, click here. You will not be wanting for libraries! Once you are given a card, you can log in to “mi biblioteca” by using the number on your card for the “numero de carne de la biblioteca” and the password “contrasena” is the exp date on your card, which will be the day you opened it. Once you are logged in, you can check the availability of a book and also reserve books to pickup later!


Abono Transporte

This will be SUPER important if you’re going to commute out of the city or even to get around in town. To obtain one, you must have your passport, a copy of it, and a card sized I.D. photo.

Keep in mind, these photos are much smaller compared to the ones we get in the U.S. You can easily get one in any Metro station at a photo booth with the use of the machine plastered all over it. It’s 5€ to get 8 photos (6 small and 2 large) which will be plenty for just about everything you’ll need to get done in Madrid. Watch out though, the booths can be pretty sticky and your photos may come out bizarre…for example, the screen had a smudge of dirt on it so it looks as if I have a Cindy Crawford beauty mark. There was bad lighting in the one my roommate used and so it appears she has a 5 o’clock shadow mustache! It doesn’t matter though, just push the button, center your face, and get yo picha! I’ve been told that in most official documents in Spain, they prefer for you to not be smiling (something about your face being more natural) so I just kept a blank face for mine.

Ok! So you have your passport, a copy and your mugshot  glamour shot so now what? Go to a Tabaco or Estanco shop, you’ll see them everywhere all over town and tell them you want an Abono Transporte. You’ll be handed a form to fill out with the basics- name, I.D. number ( your U.S. passport is sufficient) address, and contact info. After you give the clerk your application they will enter your information into the system and ask which zone you want and then you will have a unique Abono number written on your card. The number is used to identify your zone so each time you recharge (whether in the machines in the Metro station or at another Tabaco or Estanco shop) you’ll pay the correct amount for your zone. For example, my school is in B3 and I have to pay 82€ a month! It’s pretty steep compared to other zones. That’s all there is to it! After you pay the 1,50€ for the card itself, you’re all set to go.

If you’re under 23, you can get an Abono Joven! Being young really does pay off…you can use an Abono Joven up until June of the year you turn 23. So if your birthday is in February, you’re in luck! You can keep paying the youth price until June. However, if you’re birthday is in October, sucks to be you because you’ll get cut off in June! At that point, you’ll have to get an Abono Transporte like all the rest of us adults. Keep in mind that it can take at least 10 DAYS to get your Abono Joven. The average wait period can be anywhere from 10-20 some odd days. So if you’re moving to Madrid, plan accordingly and get this done early and you can save some moolah.

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Debit Card

This was probably the most daunting task I had to do out of all the things listed in the post. WHICH BANK DO I CHOOSE?!?!? There are a lot of banks to choose from in Spain so to help with my decision making, I did what any modern gal would do and went to the Facebook groups! I’m a member in several Auxiliar groups on Facebook and used the search box to look up terms used in posts and comment threads like “banks, banking, Spanish banks, debit card, bank account, etc.” and read so many I can’t remember the count. The unanimous opinion was that one should avoid Santander, Bankia, Sabadell, and any with “caja” in the name. The banks with the most positive comments were ING Direct, La Caixa, BBVA, and Evo. I really REALLY wanted to bank with ING Direct as they have a lot of positive reviews and it is a Dutch company with headquarters in Amsterdam. I wanted to avoid a Spanish bank due greatly to the financial crisis on the off chance the company should go under. The only issue was that ING Direct can be difficult to get without your TIE and since I won’t get that until at least December 15th(more info on that later) I knew I needed something sooner. I went with Evo after a friend recommended them to me, greatly because they are open until 8:00 pm! Most Spanish banks are only open 8:30-2:30 so this was a luxury I found all too enticing. I got the Cuenta Corriente and so far have been pleased with them. No fees, commisions, nada at all and the account includes a checking account, savings account, debit card and credit card all gratis. I am not using the savings (have one in the U.S.) or credit card (because, duh) and there is no charge to leave them untouched, it’s just a package deal. The best part? EVERY ATM in the WORLD is FREE. You will not be charged at all to use your debit card in an ATM anywhere. I did some research on Evo before opening and found out they were recently bought out by an American financial firm so I liked the insurance of a foreign hand as well.






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