Expats who are planning to stay in the country are advised to register with one of the international banks in Portugal. To get you started, here’s a list of banks and information on the banking system.
Portugal has an advanced banking system, with its main banks linked up to its national Multibanco system enabling customers to perform a range of actions from their accounts. Expats are able to open an account with a Portuguese bank with relative ease and accounts with banks in Portugal can be opened by both residents and non-residents.
This guide, provided by online bank N26, will look at:
- The banking system in Portugal
- Currency in Portugal
- Banks in Portugal
- Banking services in Portugal
- Opening a Portuguese bank account
- Payment methods in Portugal
- Bank charges and fees in Portugal
- Offshore banking in Portugal
- Banking security and fraud in Portugal
- Making a complaint about banks in Portugal
- Alternatives to using banks in Portugal
- Useful resources
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The banking system in Portugal
Portugal has a modern banking system which includes one of the most advanced inter-bank networks in the world through Multibanco. There are currently over 150 banks in Portugal. This includes a range of private national retail banks, public and cooperative banks, international banks and newer mobile banks.
Although the number of physical bank branches in Portugal has decreased over the last decade, there are still around 36 branches per 100,000 of the population. This is nearly three times the global average.
The majority of banks in Portugal belong to the Portuguese Banking Association. The central bank in Portugal is the Banco de Portugal, which also serves as the regulatory authority for Portuguese banks.
Currency in Portugal
Portugal is a Eurozone country that uses the Euro (€). There are 8 different Euro coins in use (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents plus 1 and 2 euros) and seven different notes (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros). Some smaller stores might not accept notes above €50 or €100.
Cash machines and ATMs in Portugal
Portugal’s sophisticated Multibanco network, which involves several of the major national banks, operates a nationwide system of around 11,000 ATMs. You won’t have a problem locating one in any of the bigger towns and cities, but they will be more scarce in villages and rural areas.
Multibanco machines take all of the major bank cards such as Visa and Mastercard. Most machines have a limit of €200 per transaction or €400 per day. Foreign bank transaction fees are around 2-3% but some big international banks, such as Barclays and Deutsche Bank, are part of the Global ATM Alliance where ATM fees are waived.
Banks in Portugal
National private retail banks in Portugal
Portugal has many private main street banks that offer a range of current accounts, with some offering student accounts, non-resident accounts and joint accounts. The bigger banks in more populated cities will often have English-speaking staff.
Banks in Portugal are linked to the Multibanco ATM system where you can withdraw money, pay bills, top up mobile phones, transfer money to other accounts and even pay tax and social security contributions.
Standard banking hours in Portugal are 08:30 – 15:00, with some opening until 16:00. Some banks also open for a few hours on Saturdays.
Big private retail banks in Portugal include:
- Banco Best
- Banco BIC
- Banco BPI
- Banco Santander Totta
- Millennium BCP
Public retail banks in Portugal
- Caixa Geral de Depositos – state-owned banking corporation that is Portugal’s 2nd largest bank
International banks in Portugal
There are a number of big-name multinational banks in Portugal which you can find in in major cities and towns. These banks have similar opening hours as Portuguese banks and will normally offer a range of expat-friendly services. Some of the biggest international banks in Portugal are:
- BNP Paribas
- Credit Agricole
- Deutsche Bank
Digital banks in Portugal
A number of online and mobile banks have emerged in recent years, allowing customers to open an account and bank using their mobile phones or laptops. Digital banks suitable for Portuguese residents include:
Investment banks in Portugal
- Banco Carregosa
- Banco Finantia
- Banco Invest
- Banco de Investimento Global
Central bank in Portugal
Banking services in Portugal
Most banks in Portugal offer a variety of services to individuals and businesses, including:
- Current accounts – standard everyday accounts are available, including tailored accounts for groups such as students or young people, and premium accounts with a wider range of credit card options.
- Loans and overdrafts – accounts are available with an overdraft option, and most banks offer personal loans for things such as holidays, home improvement or any unforeseen expenses.
- Mortgages – fixed and variable rate mortgages can be taken out through the lending facilities of most Portuguese banks.
- Savings and investments – these can range from high interest savings and time deposit accounts to investment funds and pension plans.
- Insurance – products can include home insurance, car insurance, life insurance and health insurance.
- Digital and online banking – all of the main banks in Portugal offer the facility of online banking, allowing you 24/7 access to your account.
- Mobile banking – for even greater convenience, you can download a mobile banking app and bank using your smart device. There is also the option of opening an account with a mobile-only bank.
- Business banking – most of these services are also available for businesses too, which is great news if you’re starting up a business or working as a freelancer in Portugal.
- Expat services – you can shop around with banks in Portugal to find the best services tailored towards expats and foreign residents, e.g. money transfer options.
Opening a Portuguese bank account
Unless you are opening up a non-resident account from overseas, you will be required by most Portuguese banks to open up an account from a local branch. Some banks now have an option of opening up an account online, although this is usually more associated with digital and mobile banks.
Opening a bank account in Portugal is usually fairly straightforward if you have the necessary documentation, which is likely to include:
See our guide to opening a bank account in Portugal for more information.
Payment methods in Portugal
Cash is still a popular method of payment in Portugal. The country is part of the Eurozone so uses the Euro as currency. All of the main Portuguese banks are part of the Multibanco service which links up ATM cash machines across the country, meaning that you do not have to worry about bank charges if you use a Portuguese bank card at an ATM.
There is a maximum limit of €3,000 for cash transactions in Portugal. Although cash is still popular, European Central Bank statistics from 2016 showed that the average amount of cash carried by each Portuguese person (€29) is the lowest among the Eurozone countries.
Payment by cheque is not so popular with Portuguese bank accounts these days and cheque books will usually have to be ordered separately with bank accounts in Portugal for a small fee.
Warning: bounced cheques can cause big problems in Portugal. It is deemed a criminal offence to issue a cheque if you don’t have the funds to cover it and you can be charged with fraud. Penalties can include fines of around 20% of the cheque amount and even blacklisting by the Banco de Portugal central bank.
Card payments make up nearly 75% of all cashless payments in Portugal, well above the EU average. Debit cards are widely used throughout the country. The Multibanco card, used by around 86% of the Portuguese population, can be used as a credit or debit card.
Most Portuguese debit cards use the chip and PIN technology. Contactless cards haven’t caught on in the country as quickly as in some northern and central European countries. Banks in Portugal offer a range of different debit cards depending on the type of account opened. They can be used for online and store payments as well as for withdrawing money at ATMs. The majority of Portuguese stores take them.
Credit cards are not as popular as debit cards in Portugal, although most banks offer them. You will usually need to apply for one when or after you open an account. As with debit cards, there are a number of credit cards available so it’s a good idea to do your research on the perks and associated fees for different products before signing up for anything.
You can use the main international credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express in Portuguese stores and with online businesses. To apply for a Portuguese credit card, you will normally need to have good credit. Cards usually have a spending limit and bills will need to be paid off periodically.
There are fewer direct debits as a percentage of cashless payments in Portugal than the EU average, perhaps due to many people paying bills using Multibanco. However, there were still over 25 million direct debit transactions in Portugal in 2018.
You can set up direct debits through most bank accounts in Portugal to pay regular or monthly bills. They can also be used for one-off payments. Provide the company to which you make the payments with your bank details, and they will set up for you.
You can cancel a direct debit in Portugal at any time, but you will need to inform the company the direct debit is charged to. It’s possible to request a refund on a direct debit if you weren’t informed of the amount at the time the payment was made and it exceeds the amount you could reasonably be expected to pay. You need to apply for a refund within 8 weeks of the date the payment was made.
The Multibanco system was set up in Portugal in 1985 as an interbank network linking Portuguese banks through a network that has grown to over 12,000 ATMs. Through Multibanco, customers can perform a wide range of functions at ATMs in Portugal including paying monthly bills, topping up mobile phones, buying tickets, making bank transfers and paying tax and social security contributions. Nowadays, more than 90 different operations can be accessed through the Multibanco brand.
Online and mobile payments
Online payments in Portugal are growing by around 21% a year and mobile payments by 35%. Debit and credit cards can be used for online payments, while mobile payments using mobile phones and smart devices can be done using banking apps, payment apps such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, and digital wallets such as PayPal.
Local money transfers
Money transfers within the Eurozone can be done by Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) transfer, which costs no more than a transfer between two Portuguese bank accounts providing the amount is less than €50,000. You will need the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and SWIFTBIC (Bank Identifier Code) for the bank that is receiving payment.
Local transfers between two Portuguese accounts can usually be completed on the same day if done early in the day. SEPA transfers are usually 1-2 days.
International money transfers
Transfers to or from outside the EU/EEA will be subject to fees applied by Portuguese banks. You will need to check with your Portuguese bank what the charge rates are to and from different countries.
There are no limits on sums of money travelling in and out of Portugal but anything above €50,000 needs to be declared to the Banco de Portugal central bank. Transfers can take around 3-5 working days.
For international money transfers, there are alternative solutions to banks which could prove cheaper and more convenient, such as:
You can also use Monito’s online comparison tool to save on fees, obtain the best exchange rates and find the cheapest option for your international money transfers.
See our Guide to international money transfers for more information.
Bank charges and fees in Portugal
Banking in Portugal is slightly more expensive than in many countries. Most bank accounts in Portugal charge a monthly service fee which varies from bank to bank but is usually around €5-7 a month plus stamp duty. Some accounts such as student accounts are normally exempt from charges.
In addition to this, there are the usual charges on things such as overdrafts and credit cards. Credit card charges depend on your bank, account, card type and how much you spend but will usually be between €15-50 a year, although some premium cards charge more.
Costs for loans and mortgages with Portuguese banks will depend on the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) plus there may be additional service or administration charges. The APR payments on a €5,000 loan payable over a five year period with some of the main Portuguese banks is:
- Millennium BCP – 10.0%
- Caixa Geral de Depositos – 10.8%
- Novobanco – 10.2%
You can find credit simulators on the websites for most of the main Portuguese banks.
International money transfer costs are usually less than €15 for amounts less than €50,000. Transferring larger amounts can be €30 or more.
You can ask for a full list of charges at most Portuguese banks when you open an account. Information may also be available on the bank’s website.
Offshore banking in Portugal
Expats in Portugal have the option of opening an international offshore account to manage their finances. Offshore accounts are located outside the holder’s country of residence and usually offer distinct advantages such as wider range of cross-border services and lower taxation on funds. You can find out more information in our guide to offshore banking in Portugal.
Banking security and fraud in Portugal
Portugal experiences a lower level of banking fraud than the EU average, with fraudulent activity account for around 0.02% of all credit card transactions according to 2016 figures. However, it is still important to do what you can to protect yourself whether you use mobile, online or traditional banking.
You can help to protect yourself against fraud by:
- never clicking on a link to a bank website in an email. Always type the bank’s full website into the address bar;
- never giving sensitive or confidential information out by email or over the phone;
- making online payments only using a secure payment platform;
- never entering your PIN number anywhere on a website;
- never storing personal data on your mobile device
Lost or stolen bank cards in Portugal
If your bank or credit card is lost or stolen in Portugal, you should:
- contact your bank or card provider immediately. If your card is a Multibanco card, you can call (+351) 21416 9314
- report the incident to the police if your card has been stolen
See our guide to emergency numbers in Portugal for more information on what to do in emergency situations.
Making a complaint about banks in Portugal
If you are dissatisfied with the service provided to you by a bank in Portugal, you should contact the bank’s complaint department in the first instance. If you are unable to resolve the problem through the bank directly, you can contact the Banco de Portugal (national bank of Portugal) which regulates banking in Portugal.
Alternatives to using banks in Portugal
If you don’t want to, or can’t, bank with a high street Portuguese bank, another option is to open an account with a regional cooperative bank. Credito Agricola operates 86 cooperative banks with over 700 branches across the country.
Cooperative banks have over 700,000 members in Portugal and offer many of the same services as retail banks, including current accounts, credit cards, loans and mortgages.
To open a cooperative account with Credito Agricola, you need to provide a Portuguese citizen card. If you don’t have this, you will need to provide your passport/valid ID, Portuguese address and NIF number. You may also need to give proof of your economic status (e.g. employment, student, pensioner).
Banco de Portugal – central bank and Portuguese regulating authority
Multibanco – Portuguese inter-banking network
Portuguese Banking Association – main representative body for banks in Portugal