Updated: May 29, 2024

 

Whether traveling for work, relocating, or investing, a seamless banking experience in a foreign country is essential for your peace of mind. The banking system in Portugal is one of the most advanced in the world. Banks in Portugal make opening personal and business accounts, managing investments, making purchases, and completing applications, all while avoiding transaction fees, much easier for citizens and foreign residents.

Banking in Portugal is relatively straightforward, so if you are looking to move to Portugal, it is essential to understand the banking system to be prepared to manage your finances and understand which banking system options are best for you.

In this article, we’ll share an overview of the Portuguese banking system, outline the process of opening a bank account, discuss account maintenance fees and other costs to watch out for and delve into banking services available in Portugal.

An Overview of the Portuguese Banking System

There are over 150 banks in Portugal, ranging from public Portuguese banks and private retail banks to international and new mobile banks. Private banking institutions extend personalized financial services and products to high-net-worth individuals (HNWI), clients of retail banks, or other financial institutions.

The European Central Bank (ECB) monitors Portuguese banks and the activity of other international banks in Europe like the Deutsche bank and France’s BNP Paribas as well as the activity of digital banks like N26. The Portuguese Central Bank and the  European Central Bank  also work together to supervise the Portuguese banking system and the Euro value.

The most significant difference between private and retail banking is the personalized service and sophisticated financial solutions. Private banks provide access to exclusive investment opportunities, such as corporate banking, private equity, venture capital, and hedge funds, which retail banks typically do not offer.

Alongside public Portuguese banks and private retail banks, offshore banking outside of the European Union is also an option for expats in Portugal. These are located outside the bank holder’s country of residence and typically offer advantages such as lower taxation and cross-border services like international bank transfers.

Mobile banking services, investment banking services, and digital banks in Portugal are also widely available. Portugal is leading the way by increasing efficiency, setting up direct debits, and making payments more manageable. For instance, services such as MBWAY, developed by SIBS Multibanco Scheme, where customers can link credit or debit cards to their phone number, enabling them to shop and pay bills with instant payments, is a prime example of Portugal leading the way in this field.

The process of opening a bank account will vary from country to country, which is why research and primary banking education, such as taking short financial literacy programs or subscribing to a global finance magazine, can help you better understand how international banks operate and how best to manage your investment funds.

What can you do with a bank account in Portugal?

Banking in Portugal is relatively straightforward, whether you choose public or private national retail banks, exclusive corporate and investment banks, or international banks. Many online banks allow you to control your finances, even corporate and institutional clients. As with other banks worldwide, the Portuguese banking system offers several services for personal and corporate accounts, including the services listed below, which may differ according to the financial institution you choose to open a bank account with.

  • Receive money
  • Online payments
  • ATM withdrawals
  • Local and international transfers
  • Savings
  • Savings and investment banking services
  • Credit services and access to your accounts, loans, and overdrafts
  • Mortgages
  • Insurance
  • Foreign exchange and foreign currency account
  • Trading services
  • Safety deposit boxes
  • Major bank cards
  • Insurance
  • Services specifically for expats
  • Business banking
  • Digital banking

It is pretty much up to you how you choose to access the services available to you, whether in person, online, or through digital banks. You can make transactions and manage your payments and loans with a bank account online. Mobile banking also offers you access to your accounts anytime, where you can easily transfer money and manage transactions. Some banks even go as far as to serve their customers solely through their mobile apps. Whatever option is best for you, you should be able to find a bank in Portugal that caters to your needs.

Looking for your dream home in Portugal? This guide will simplify your search.

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The Best Banks‍ in Portugal

The best bank in Portugal will depend on what you are looking for, whether it is simple savings accounts with a debit card, current accounts that offer ease of digital banking, or a bank that provides the best mortgage rates and brokerage services to citizens outside the European Union.

Some of the types of banks in Portugal are private national banks, public retail banks, international banks, savings banks, investment banks, and regional cooperative banks and include the following:

  • Millennium BCP
  • Caixa Geral de Depósitos
  • Banco BPI
  • Novo Banco
  • Banco Santander Totta
  • Caixa Geral de Depósitos
  • ABANCA
  • Banco BPI
  • ActivoBank
  • Novobanco
  • Banco Comercial Português
  • Banco Montepio
  • Banco de Portugal
  • Novo Banco
  • Banco Finantia, S.A.
  • Banco Best
  • BNP Paribas
  • Banco Invest
  • Santander
  • ATLANTICO Europa
  • Banco Credibom, S.A.
  • Banco Espírito Santo
  • Banco Popular
  • Banif Financial Group
  • BBVA

You will also find international banks in Portugal, such as Citibank and Deutsche Bank AG in Rua Castilho. Therefore, if you are a resident or citizen of any of the USA and Germany respectively, you can use your bank account in Portugal at the local branch.

Opening Bank Accounts in Portugal

Opening a Portuguese bank account is relatively straightforward, if you have the correct documents ready. It is also straightforward for EU and non-EU citizens to open bank accounts in Portugal if they have the required documents.

What do you need to open a bank account?

Before you open a Portuguese bank account, for any individual, you will need to have your own NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal) number. This is essentially your Portuguese tax number required for any official activities, investments, or business, which you can easily acquire through a tax representative in Portugal.

Getting a NIF number

The Portuguese tax office issues the Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF number). As mentioned above, the NIF is required for various everyday activities, such as getting a phone subscription, signing up for health insurance, and carrying out any financial transactions in the country. To learn more about the Portuguese Tax Number, read this How To Get A NIF guide by our residency and citizenship partner, Global Citizen Solutions.

Documents required by banks in Portugal

Although there may be slight differences depending on which of the Portuguese banks you choose to open a bank account with, Portuguese residents will need the following documents to complete the application for most bank accounts:

  • Proof of identification (e.g., passport).
  • Proof of address (e.g., utility bill received in the previous three months with your name and address visible).
  • Portuguese NIF number.
  • Proof of income or employment (e.g., contract, employment letter, recent payslip). Note that if you are unemployed, you can still open a bank account in Portugal. You just need to show proof of registration with the Portuguese employment center (Centro de Emprego) or a work contract assurance.
  • A Portuguese phone number for SMS activation (in some banks, this is not necessary).
  • A minimum deposit of €250 to €300 in cash is typically needed for new accounts, although the amount may vary from bank to bank.

Banking in Portugal: Understanding Bank Fees

One of the aspects of banking in Portugal that you should be aware of is the fees you may have to pay. Most Portuguese bank accounts charge a monthly maintenance fee, which usually costs between €5-7 per month and around €60 per year, plus stamp duty. Note that you will not have to pay these fees for some accounts, such as student bank accounts.

In addition, there are the usual charges on services, such as overdrafts and credit cards, and charges for card replacement, card re-issuance, or international transactions. Besides the additional fees we will explore below, you must pay application, processing, and administration fees for these services if you take out a loan or mortgage.

ATM fees

ATMs to withdraw cash are found in many parts of Portugal, and many places allow you to use your credit and debit cards. Bear in mind that even in Lisbon, some bars and restaurants still only accept cash, but there is usually an ATM machine close at hand.

There is typically a surcharge of €2.80 to €6 per withdrawal, although this may vary. Non-bank ATM operators can charge more, so be sure to withdraw cash from a bank ATM. In Portugal, you also have “Multibanco,” which links all the Portuguese banks via a shared network and includes around 12,00 ATMs.

With Multibanco, you can withdraw money from any of your Portuguese accounts using these ATMs without worrying about paying any fees. You can transfer money, pay your bills, pay taxes and social security contributions, and easily top up your account.

International transfer fees

Portuguese banks require a fee for international money transfers. Foreign currency exchange fees will vary depending on the bank. For amounts less than €50,000, the bank fee is usually less than €15; for more significant amounts, it is around the €30 mark or more.

In general, there is no limit on the transfer amount, although if the amount is more than €50,000, then the Central Bank of Portugal (Banco de Portugal) must be notified.

Some banks also charge customers two transfer fees when making money transfers to and from international banks. For example, if fees are transferred from a Portuguese account to a UK account, then there may be a fee from the bank in Portugal and the receiving bank in the UK. When opening a bank account in Portugal, we recommend asking about the international transfer fees.

It usually takes between three to five working days for international money transfers. Today, several transfer services, such as CurrencyFair, Remitly, WorldRemit, and MoneyCorp, make sending money with little transfer costs possible, which can be faster.

Standard operational hours for banking services in Portugal

Banks in Portugal typically follow a standard working schedule but may vary slightly according to the type of bank and location. The average working hours for banks in Portugal are 08:30 to 15:00, but most banks stay open later and open on Saturday mornings, especially in larger cities and tourist areas.

Can foreigners buy property in Portugal? Find out in this comprehensive guide

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The Best Banks in Portugal for Mortgages

Several options are open if you want to apply for a mortgage in Portugal. More than fifteen banks provide varying mortgage loans and credit to purchase property in Portugal. Some banks providing mortgages include BCP Millennium, Bankinter, Santander, and Banco CTT.

All mortgage operations in the country must comply with regulations at the Bank of Portugal (Banco de Portugal), one of the largest private banks in the country. The rules are standardized and do not vary from institution to institution. They have macroprudential policies, which center on the operation’s loan-to-value (LTV) ratio and the client’s proven capability to repay the loan. These are in place to ensure the financial system’s stability and are applicable to all credit and financial institutions with branches in Portugal.

Regardless, each bank will have different criteria and types of loans available to you, some of which may not be suitable for your situation. The best advice we can give you is professional advice to find the best deal, as determining the best bank for you is essential when considering a mortgage in Portugal.

Our article, How to Get a Mortgage in Portugal, offers a detailed guide to applying for financial assistance to purchase property, and our Property taxes in Portugal guide provides more information to help you along the journey.

Goldcrest Can Help You Find Your Dream Property

Goldcrest is a buyer’s agent based in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve. Equipped with local knowledge, exclusive networks, and international experience, we provide expert, impartial advice on real estate investments and how to buy property in the Algarve, Portugal. From scouting out the perfect property to property acquisition, we have you covered throughout the process. Contact a Goldcrest advisor to understand the program and the best pathway for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Banking in Portugal

Foreigners can easily open a bank account in Portugal, provided they have the correct documentation. If you move to Portugal, we recommend opening a bank account in Portugal to reduce international transaction fees and for ease with making payments.

Yes, banks in Portugal are safe and include the range of products and services that you would expect. There are online and mobile banking options, and Portugal is one of the countries leading the way in increasing the efficiency and ease of online banking. A prime example is MBWAY, where you can make instant payments by linking your card with your phone. 

The best bank account in Portugal will depend on what you are looking for, be it the best bank for mortgage rates or ease of online banking. Some of the best banks in Portugal are Millennium BCP, Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Banco BPI, Novo Banco, and Banco Santander Totta. There are also international banks in Portugal, so if you are a resident or citizen of a foreign country, you may have a local branch in Portugal that you can access.

As a foreigner, you should have no problem opening a bank account in Portugal. You will need to have the following documents at your disposal to give to the bank: Proof of identification, proof of address, a Portuguese NIF number, proof of income or employment, a Portuguese phone number, and a deposit of between €250 to €300 in cash, which is considered standard procedure when opening an account.

The process of opening a bank account in Portugal is relatively straightforward. You will need to go to the bank of your choice in Portugal and present the following documents: proof of identification, proof of address, a Portuguese NIF number, proof of income or employment, a Portuguese phone number (although this is not always a requirement), and a deposit of between €250 to €300 in cash, considered standard procedure when opening an account.

According to CEIC Data, Portugal’s long term interest rate reached a monthly average of 2.97 percent in January 2024.

You can get a credit card from a Portuguese bank, and most banks offer credit cards. Note that they are not as popular as debit cards, so you may need to apply for one when or after you open your account.

With in-person banking, online banking, and mobile banking, there are many different banks in Portugal. If you are particularly interested in getting the best mortgage rates, looking to manage your account from your mobile, or are looking for a savings account, there are many options.

Some of the types of banks in Portugal are private national, public retail, international, savings, investment, and regional cooperative banks. You should speak with an experienced advisor to understand which type of account is the best for your needs. At Goldcrest, we have an extensive network of contacts in this sphere, so feel free to get in touch to discuss your needs and which option is best for you.

You can find some free current accounts. However, others usually charge fees between €5–7 monthly, plus stamp duty. It is also ordinarily customary to place a minimum deposit of €250 to €300 in cash into your account when setting it up.

The N26 bank account is a fee-free deposit account offered by an international bank based in Berlin, Germany.

Whether searching for a bank with a regular bank account, convenient internet banking, or a bank with the lowest mortgage rates, choosing the best bank in Portugal depends on what you’re looking for. You can select from Portugal’s top private banks: Millennium BCP, Novobanco, Banco Santander Totta, and Banco Português de Investimento.

Portugal has many prestigious banks with various levels of expertise and a wide range of banking services. The bank name only matters if one best suit your needs. Caixa Geral de Depositos, nevertheless, is one of the best banks in Portugal for foreigners. It is also the only and biggest state bank in the country. The top private banks in Portugal are Millennium BCP, Novobanco, Banco Santander Totta, and Banco Português de Investimento.