Dear Phantom Phixer,
I’m really sorry to hear that you got clobbered by both the landing fees AND the banker’s draft charge.
How does one avoid these charges? Well, as one can already see from the comments on this thread, it depends upon the bank and the branch.
Some banks, like Halifax and Bankinter, have low fees or zero fees as standard. They have a small branch network and keep costs down, which means they can afford to charge low fees. But for some people, a small branch network can be a big disadvantage.
But even with banks like La Caixa – who by the way are far from the worst when it comes to fees – you can usually negotiate a limit to these fees – say 30 Euros per transaction – with the branch manager when you open an account. Otherwise you will pay standard rates, which are often 0.3% to 0.5% of the value of the transfer or banker’s draft.
So when opening an account with a bank, especially if there is a mortgage involved, ALWAYS make it clear to the manager that you do have a choice of banks, and will go somewhere else unless their charges are reasonable.
Regards getting your money back to the UK, start by clarifying exactly what they will charge you to make an international transfer. Please let me know. Make sure you don’t buy your Sterling from them though – banks always give bad rates. Buy your Sterling from a good currency broker.