Opening a bank account in Portugal

Opening a bank account in Portugal

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This guide highlights the types of banks in Portugal and explains how to open a bank account in Portugal so that you may send money from and to Portugal securely.

If you are an expat living or working in Portugal, opening a Portuguese bank account will make things easier when it comes to receiving your salary and paying monthly or regular bills. There are several Portuguese banks that you can open an account with, as well as international banks with branches in Portugal. Each offers a range of accounts as well as additional services.

Non-residents can open a bank account in Portugal, although which documents needed for opening a Portuguese bank account will depend on where you are travelling from. As there are branches of international banks as well as online banking options in Portugal, it is possible in some cases to start the process of opening an account before moving.

This guide to opening a bank account in Portugal includes information on:

Choosing a bank in Portugal

There are a number of different options to choose from if you decide to set up a bank account in Portugal, including several local Portuguese banks and Portuguese branches of international banks. See our guide to banking in Portugal for a list of banks in Portugal.

Which bank you decide to open an account with will depend on the factors that matter most to you, but it's advisable to do some research into the options on the market. This guide will hopefully help you make that decision and provide the foundation for doing further research. Things that you may want to consider when opening a Portuguese bank account include:

  • Reputation. Ask for recommendations based on personal experience.
  • If you are a foreigner who doesn't speak Portuguese, you may want a bank that has English-speaking staff.
  • What types of services are on offer e.g. online banking or other services such as insurance and mortgage options.
  • What are the costs in bank fees and charges (see below section) and do you need to make minimum regular deposits?
  • What type of accounts are on offer e.g. is there a good option for non-residents or students?
  • Are there any incentives on opening the account e.g. free gift or overdraft facility?
  • How easy is it to make international transfers?
  • How easy is the process for opening the account?


How to open a bank account in Portugal

Bank account types

There are three main types of bank account in Portugal:

Current account

A standard Portuguese bank account for day-to-day banking. Most current accounts are free but some banks may charge fees (usually around EUR5 a month) and stipulate that a minimum deposit needs to be paid into the account.

Instant-access savings account 

A Portuguese bank account with higher interest rates for saving money but with easy access to funds.Standard savings accounts in Portuguese banks are easy-access and some bank accounts have the function of merging a current account with a savings account (so that funds above a certain balance will automatically transfer into a savings account).

Time-deposit accounts 

Savings accounts with the highest interest rates but with conditions on minimum deposits and time periods that funds must stay in the account.

The biggest retail banks in Portugal offer the following accounts:

1. Millennium BCP, which is the biggest bank in Portugal in terms of market share, has options open to both residents and non-residents including:

  • A range of current accounts, such as the Millennium account (standard current account); the Millennium Start account (for young people aged up to 17) and the Minimum Services account (cheaper account for those with difficulties opening other types of account)
  • Base instant-access savings account
  • Time-deposit savings accounts with varying interest rates and minimum deposit periods ranging from 15 days to 3 years
  • A selection of investment funds

 

2. Caixa Geral de Depositos, which is a publicly-owned bank and the 2nd largest bank in Portugal, has options including:

  • 9 current accounts including accounts for young people aged 0-14 and 15-25, a foreign currency account and accounts for Portuguese residents abroad
  • A range of options for students
  • 2 instant-access savings accounts
  • Time-deposit savings accounts with varying minimum deposit amounts, and minimum deposit periods ranging from 6 months to 3 years
  • A selection of investment funds

 

3. Novobanco, which is the 2nd largest private bank in Portugal, has account options including:

  • 9 current accounts including the Welcome account (for immigrants); Golden Key account (for English-speakers, with services and bank statements in English); 100% Gold account (for Portuguese residents abroad); youth accounts for young people aged 0-12 and 13-17; the Up account (for students); 18.31 account (environmentally-friendly option that offsets co2 emissions)
  • 3 instant-access savings account including the Retirement Savings account with tax exemption on deposits of up to EUR10,500
  • 9 time-deposit savings accounts with minimum deposit periods ranging from 15 days to 3 years
  • A selection of investment funds

 

4. Banco BPI, which is the 4th largest overall bank in Portugal, has options including:

  • 5 current accounts including standard, junior (aged 0-12), young (aged 13-25), foreign currency and minimum services account
  • Base instant-access savings account
  • 15 time-deposit savings accounts
  • Over 20 investment fund options

 

5. Banco Santander Totta, which is the 5th largest overall bank in Portugal, has options including:

  • 7 current accounts including the Growing account (for ages 0-14); MOVT account (for ages 15-20); 4U account (for students); foreign currency account; Shareholder account (for those with Santander shares); and Minimum Services account
  • 2 instant-access savings account
  • 5 time-deposit savings account with minimum deposit periods from 6 months, including the Savings To Grow account for young people with a minimum deposit period of 3 years and one month.
  • A selection of investment fund options
 

Send money to Portugal

Opening a bank account in Portugal

Most banks in Portugal require you to visit a local branch to open a bank account, although a few allow you to open a Portuguese bank account online. How to open a bank account in Portugal varies slightly from bank to bank, but as a rough guide you will need to go through the following procedures.

Opening a bank account in Portugal in person

If you are setting up a Portuguese bank account in person, you will first need to find the local branch near you. Most bank websites have a branch finder option which you can use for this. If your Portuguese is not fluent, it is a good idea to find out if there are any English-speaking staff at the branch. If not, you may want to take an interpreter or a phrase book with plenty of bank-related phrases with you.

Documents needed for opening up a bank account in Portugal are:

  • proof of ID (e.g. a passport)
  • proof of address (e.g. utilities bill)
  • proof of employment profession (e.g. pay slip)

 

For most accounts you will also need to provide tax identification in the form of a taxpayer card or Tax Identification Number (NIF), or provisional NIF if you are opening a Portuguese bank account as a non-resident. See our guide to NIF in Portugal for more information. If you are opening up a non-resident account in Portugal, you will usually have to provide details of your overseas address used for tax purposes.

You will also need to provide any information specific to the account you are opening, e.g. proof of studying if opening a student bank account in Portugal, along with the minimum deposit (if there is one). Some banks may ask for a residency or citizens card if they stipulate that you must be a Portuguese resident to open an account.

Most banks will require you to fill out a short form submitting the details on your documentation. An example form can be found here. You will probably also need to read and sign a Terms & Conditions form. Once this is done, the process is complete and your account is open. The whole thing usually takes around 20-30 minutes. You will receive any credit, debit or cash cards associated with the account within a few days.

Opening a bank account in Portugal online

Most banks in Portugal allow you to do online banking but only a few give you the option of setting up the account online. The process for opening up a bank account in Portugal online is largely similar in terms of information that you have to provide. The main difference is how you submit your documents, which will either be done by uploading them online or providing copies to the bank in person.

The link to opening an account online with Millennium BCP can be found here.

The online link for Novobanco is available through the NBNet portal.

The online banking link for Banco Santander Totta can be found through their NetBanco service.

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 EUR5-7 a month plus stamp duty. This is cheaper for the Minimum Service Fee accounts which can be less than 1 Euro a month. Student accounts are normally exempt from charges.

In addition to this, there are 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 EUR10-40 a year, although some premium cards charge more.

Interest rates in Portugal

The remuneration on savings investments with Portuguese bank accounts starts at around 0.05 - 0.1% Gross Annual Nominal Rate or Taxa Anual Nominal Bruta (TANB). Novobanco offer TANB rates of between 0.15 and 0.55% on their savings accounts (13).

The Annual Percentage rate (APR) payments on a EUR 5000 loan payable over a five year period with the five main Portuguese banks is:

  • Millennium BCP – 9.2%
  • Caixa Geral de Depositos – 10.8%
  • Novobanco – 11.4%
  • Banco BPI – 12.3%
  • Banco Santander Totta – 12.4%

 

You can find credit simulators on the websites for Millennium BCP, Caixa Geral de Depositos, Novobanco, Banco BPI and Banco Santander Totta.

Cash, cheques and cards in Portugal

Payments in Portugal can be made using cash, cheques, credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, direct debits or at any of the Multibanco ATM units.

Cash payments

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.

Cheques

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.

Credit/debit cards

Most big businesses in Portugal will accept payment by credit or debit card but some smaller traders won't have the facilities for this. Most bank accounts in Portugal offer different credit and debit cards with current accounts and instant-access savings accounts.

> Millennium BCP – offers a range of 24 different credit and debit cards including Visa, Mastercard and  American Express options

> Caixa Geral de Depositos – offers 5 different credit cards, 5 debit cards plus prepaid cards for internet shopping and young people.

> Novobanco – offers 3 credit cards, 2 debit cards and a prepaid card for young people

> Banco BPI - offers 6 different credit cards, 3 debit cards and 5 prepaid cards

> Banco Santander Totta – offers 6 different credit cards, 7 debit cards (including cards for students and young people) as well as online and prepaid cards.

Direct Debits

You can set up direct debits through most bank accounts in Portugal to pay regular or monthly bills. You simply need to provide the company who you make the payments to with your bank details and they will set up for you. You will need to inform the company if you wish to cancel at any time.

International bank transfers

International money transfers in Portugal between banks in Portugal and banks within the European Union, the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland cost no more than a money transfer between two banks in Portugal, providing the money is paid in Euros and is less than EUR50,000. You will need the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and SWIFTBIC (Bank Identifier Code) for the bank that is receiving payment.

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. One option that can sometimes reduce fees is to use an online money transfer company such as TransferWise or PayPal.

There are no limits on sums of money travelling in and out of Portugal but anything above EUR50,000 needs to be declared to the Banco de Portugal central bank.

Multibanco payments

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.

Bank account in Portugal

Services for foreigners and non-residents

Non-residents in Portugal can open savings accounts in Portuguese banks and there are also current account options with some banks that are not restricted just to residents. Some banks have current accounts tailored towards the needs of foreigners and expats, such as the Novobanco Welcome account which comes with the Family Links card used for sending money abroad quickly.

If opening a bank account in Portugal as a foreigner, it's worth asking what services they provide that meet the needs of new residents.

NIF Numbers in Portugal

The Numero de Indentificacao Fiscal (NIF) is the tax identification number given to Portuguese residents for tax purposes. It can also be issued to non-residents as a provisional NIF number. When opening a bank account in Portugal, you may get asked for your NIF number which can be obtained from the local tax office. See our guide to NIF numbers in Portugal for more information.

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