Law No 26/1988, regulating the activities of credit institutions, and Royal Legislative Decree 1298/1986, adapting current law on credit entities to that of the European Communities, make lending activities the sole preserve of Banks, Savings Banks and Credit Cooperatives.

Banks are credit institutions which must be public limited companies, which is what differentiates them from other credit institutions. Royal Decrees 1245/1995 and 692/1996 regulate the setting up of banks and other issues relating to the legal status of credit institutions. These rules lay down certain requirements, which include specific administrative approval to set up a bank, and establish that public limited banks are a special form of public limited company.

Savings Banks are credit institutions with specific characteristics: they do not have owners who manage their interests themselves or via representatives, and they are non-profit-making, other than in the sense of social benefit. Some of these features are regulated by extensive legislation in the autonomous communities.

Credit Cooperatives are regulated by Law No 13/1989 on credit cooperatives. Under its provisions, credit cooperatives are legally constituted companies whose purpose is to meet the financial needs of their members and third parties by carrying out their own credit activities. Credit cooperatives fall into two categories: the larger and more important is that of Agricultural Credit Cooperatives whose purpose is to finance agricultural activities, and there are also Non-agricultural Credit Cooperatives of an industrial and urban nature which attend to professional financing needs.

The Banco de España is Spain’s central bank.