Opening a bank account in Portugal

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Updated 2023-11-05 10:09

Expats moving to Portugal may wish to open a bank account in their new country of residence. Having a local account is very useful for making and receiving payments and receiving wages from your employer and will allow you to avoid international transaction fees from your home bank.

Opening a bank account in Portugal is quick and easy to do. Proof of employment is usually not required, so it can be helpful to open an account even if you haven't yet found employment.

How to open a bank account in Portugal

Opening a bank account is a simple and straightforward process. You can compare banking options online to decide which bank would best suit your needs. Once you have decided on a bank, an account can be opened in person or sometimes online.

Some banks may charge monthly service fees, require minimum deposits, or have other restrictions, so do your research thoroughly before selecting a bank.

Major Portuguese banks include Millennium BCP, Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Novo Banco, Banco Santander Totta, and Banco BPI. Larger banks, such as those mentioned here, are likely to have English-speaking staff, and experience in setting up accounts for expats. To open an account, some paperwork is required, but the process shouldn't take long, and your new debit or credit cards will be posted to you shortly after opening the account. You can then use these cards to withdraw funds or make purchases. ATMs are prominent all over the country, even in smaller towns. However, small businesses may prefer cash over card payments.

Generally, to open an account, you will need to provide:

  • Proof of identity, such as passport;
  • Residency card or proof of residence in the country;
  • Address details;
  • Portuguese ID tax number;
  • In rare instances, proof of employment may also be required;
  • Minimum opening deposits, if required.

Online banking in Portugal

Almost all banks offer online banking, which can be an easy way to pay bills, transfer funds, etc. Check if the bank offers an English-language website if you aren't fluent in Portuguese.

If you wish to open your account online, not all banks offer this, but it can be a useful way to set up a Portuguese bank account before arriving in the country. Banks that offer online account openings include Millennium BCP, Novo Banco and Banco Santander Totta. If you open an account online, it will not be finalized until they receive copies of your documents, as mentioned above. Documents can usually be uploaded or emailed to the bank or taken to a local branch for verification.

You are advised to maintain your bank account in your home country in case you decide to move back or for ease of paying any bills within your own country. Also, consider asking your home bank if they have international branches in Portugal that you could access.

It is also worth asking your new bank if they can offer international transfers and what the fees will be in case you want to transfer funds between accounts.

List of banks in Portugal

Portugal's banking sector has undergone significant transformation in recent years, with a focus on modernization, increased efficiency and adherence to international standards. The country is home to both domestic and foreign banks, offering a wide range of financial services to individuals, businesses and investors.

Below are the most prominent banking institutions in Portugal:

Banco de Portugal

The Banco de Portugal serves as the central bank and regulator of the Portuguese banking system, being the entity responsible for monetary policy, financial stability and for supervising financial institutions, ensuring they comply with international regulations.

Caixa Geral de Depósitos

CGD is Portugal's largest state-owned bank and offers a comprehensive range of banking services. It operates an extensive branch network both domestically and internationally.

Millennium BCP

One of Portugal's largest private banks. It provides retail, corporate and investment banking services, as well as international banking services to clients worldwide.

Novo Banco

Novo Banco emerged from the restructuring of Banco Espírito Santo and focuses on retail and commercial banking, offering a broad spectrum of financial products and services.

Santander Totta

Banco Santander Totta is the Portuguese subsidiary of Banco Santander, one of the largest banking groups in the world.

Other popular institutions operating in the country include Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Barclays or BBVA. Aside from the traditional banks, fintechs such as Revolut or N26 are also available.

ATMs in Portugal

ATM machines have become an indispensable part of modern banking, offering convenience, accessibility, and 24/7 access to financial services – and Portugal is no exception!

ATMs are a common sight in Portugal, with a dense network of machines spread across cities, towns, and even rural areas. Whether you're in Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve, or a small village in the countryside, you're likely to find an ATM nearby. This widespread accessibility ensures that residents and tourists alike can easily access cash and banking services when needed.

There are two major ATM networks in Portugal, each with its own extensive coverage:

Multibanco

The Multibanco network is the largest and most widely recognized ATM network in Portugal. It is operated by SIBS (Sociedade Interbancária de Serviços), which is responsible for interbank transactions and electronic payment services. Multibanco ATMs are easily recognizable by their green and yellow signage and can be found nationwide.

EuroNet

EuroNet is another prominent ATM network in Portugal, providing additional options for cash withdrawals and banking services. These ATMs often have a blue and yellow logo and are mostly found in popular tourist destinations. Unlike the Multibanco network, withdrawing money with a foreign card in a EuroNet ATM often comes with a hefty fee.

Furthermore, Portuguese ATMs offer a wide range of services to meet the diverse needs of customers, including:

  • Cash withdrawals: Most ATMs in Portugal accept major international debit and credit cards, making it convenient for both domestic and international travelers to access local currency;
  • Balance inquiries: You can check your account balance and view recent transactions in real time.
  • Bill payments: The Multibanco network allows customers to pay bills, including utilities, taxes and even mobile phone top-ups.
  • Transfers: Most ATMs allow for interbank transfers, enabling customers to move money between accounts or send funds to another individual or entity.
  • Currency exchange: Definitely rarer but not unprecedented, some ATMs offer currency exchange services in tourist-heavy areas, allowing travelers to withdraw funds in different currencies.
  • Print statements: You can request a printed account statement or receipt for your transactions directly from the ATM.

Most ATMs are wheelchair accessible, and many have instructions available in multiple languages, including English. Security features such as PIN entry and card chip technology help protect customers' financial information.

Banking services in Portugal

Most banks in Portugal provide similar services, which can be fitted into one of the following categories:

Retail banking

Savings accounts, current accounts, debit and credit cards, personal loans and mortgages. Online and mobile banking have gained popularity, allowing customers to manage their finances conveniently.

Corporate banking

A sector catering to the needs of businesses, offering corporate loans, trade finance, cash management services and other financial solutions to support the growth and development of enterprises.

Investment banking

Some Portuguese banks provide investment banking services, including asset management, brokerage and advisory services for individuals and institutions looking to invest in financial markets.

International banking

Several Portuguese banks have a global presence, serving both expatriates and international clients. They offer services such as international money transfers, multi-currency accounts and wealth management.

How to make payments in Portugal

Portugal's payment landscape has evolved significantly over the years, transforming the way people conduct financial transactions. From traditional methods like cash and checks to contemporary options such as credit and debit cards, direct debits, and digital wallets, these the various payment methods available in Portugal and their prevalence in the country.

Cash payments

Cash remains a popular payment method in Portugal, especially for small transactions and in rural areas. Portuguese banknotes and coins are issued in euros, making it easy for both residents and tourists to use cash for daily expenses. However, keep in mind there is technically a cap of 3,000€ for individual cash transactions in Portugal, meaning any amount over that sum must be paid by card.

Checks

While much less common than in the past, checks are still used for certain transactions. Many businesses and individuals in Portugal still accept checks, but electronic payment methods have largely replaced them for everyday expenses.

Credit and debit cards

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Portugal, and most businesses, from supermarkets to restaurants, allow customers to pay with their cards. Major international card networks like Visa, Mastercard and American Express are prevalent, providing convenience to locals and tourists alike. Contactless payment technology has gained popularity, making transactions even more convenient and secure.

Direct debit

A commonly used method for recurring payments such as utility bills, mortgages and insurance premiums. Customers can authorize businesses or service providers to withdraw funds directly from their bank accounts on specified dates, ensuring timely and hassle-free payments. Many companies actually provide special discounts for customers willing to set up autopay/direct debit for their bills.

Online banking and transfers

These have become increasingly popular in Portugal. Residents can use their bank's online platforms to transfer money, pay bills and manage their accounts from the comfort of their homes or mobile devices. Plus, digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay and MB Way (a Portuguese mobile payment solution) have gained traction.

ATM payments

Most ATMs in Portugal offer the option to make payments, including bill payments and mobile phone top-ups, to both private companies and the state (for example, for independent workers to pay their monthly Social Security Contributions). This feature provides an additional level of convenience for customers.

Banking fees in Portugal

Unfortunately, banking fees have been on the rise in Portugal over the last couple of years. Like in most other countries, banks charge various fees for their services, so we will discuss the types of fees you may come across while banking in the country:

Account maintenance fees

Many banks in Portugal charge a monthly or annual fee for maintaining a current or savings account. These fees vary depending on the bank and the type of account you hold, but generally, you can expect to pay between 1€ to 5€/month, mostly depending on whether you get your monthly salary deposited into the said account or not.

Transaction fees

These fees are incurred when you perform certain transactions, such as transferring money to another bank, making payments, or using your debit card for purchases. Transaction fees can add up, so it's essential to be aware of them.

ATM withdrawal fees

While Portugal has a vast network of ATMs, some banks charge fees for using ATMs outside their network or for international ATM withdrawals. It's crucial to check your bank's policy on ATM fees to avoid surprises.

Overdraft fees

If you spend more money than you have in your account, your bank may charge overdraft fees.

Foreign transaction fees

When you use your debit or credit card for transactions in foreign currencies or abroad, you may incur foreign transaction fees. Furthermore, these fees can include currency conversion charges.

Account closure fees

If you decide to close your bank account, some banks in Portugal may charge an account closure fee.

Credit card fees

It is hard to predict and will significantly depend on your costs and on the type of product to which you subscribe. First, you may pay an annual fee, regardless of whether you actually use the card or not. Plus, you need to factor in the interest rates, cash advance fees, or any late-payment interest/fees.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.