Updated: February 6, 2023
The process of opening a bank account will vary from country to country. You will be pleased to know that banking in Portugal is relatively straightforward and Portuguese banks make it pretty easy to open a bank account in the country.
Banking in Portugal for expats is important — making it easier to handle investments, make purchases, and complete applications while avoiding transaction fees. Indeed, if you are looking to move to Portugal it is essential to understand the banking system so that you are prepared to manage your finances and understand which option is the best for you.
The banking system in Portugal is one of the most advanced in the world. At the moment, there are over 150 banks in the country, ranging from public banks and private national retail banks to international and new mobile banks. Offshore banking is also a possible option for expats in Portugal. These are located outside the bank holder’s country of residence and normally offer advantages such as lower taxation and cross-border services.
Mobile banking and online banking services in Portugal are widely available, and Portugal is actually leading the way in increasing the efficiency and ease of payments. Take services such as MBWAY developed by SIBS Multibanco Scheme, where customers can link a debit or credit card to their phone number, enabling them to shop with instant payments as a prime example of Portugal leading the way in this field.
In this article we’ll run over the process of opening a bank account for EU and non-EU nationals, banking fees to watch out for, and what you can do with a bank account here. We’ll also delve into how to find the right bank for you and provide a FAQ with extra information to help you with understanding the banking system and banking services in Portugal.
What’s the process of opening a bank account and what documents do I need to open a bank account in Portugal?
The process of opening a bank account in Portugal is relatively straightforward, provided that you have the correct documents ready.
It is also very easy for both EU citizens and non-EU citizens to open bank accounts in Portugal, as long as they have the required documents (outlined below).
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 tax number in Portugal that you will need for any government activity, investments, or running a business, and which you can easily acquire through a tax representative in Portugal.
While you can now open your account online in many instances, most banks will require that you pay a visit to the local branch in person. The process is straightforward and most bank employees have excellent English-speaking skills.
Open a Bank Account in Portugal: Documents Required
Although there may be slight variations of the documents that you will need to show at the bank, as a general rule of thumb, expect to have to show the following documents:
- Proof of identification (e.g. passport).
- Proof of address (e.g. utility bill received in the previous three months with your name and address both visible).
- Portuguese NIF number.
- Proof of income or employment (e.g. contract, employment letter, recent payslip). Note that if you are unemployed, then you will still be able to open a bank account in Portugal. You will just need to show that you have proof of registration with the Portuguese employment center (Centro de Emprego) or that you have a work contract assurance.
- A Portuguese phone number for SMS activation (in some banks this is not necessary).
- A deposit of €250 to €300 in cash, which is typically needed for new accounts although the amount may vary from bank to bank.
For EU citizens
With EU citizens allowed to work, live, and study in Portugal, you should be able to easily open a bank account if you have all the documents prepared beforehand.
For non-EU citizens
Portugal is very welcoming towards expats from the world over. Non-EU citizens should have no trouble opening bank accounts, just ensure that you have the correct documentation:
- Proof of your ID. It can be a passport or other documentation proving your identity with a color photo.
- Proof of your profession or a contract of employment and company information
- Proof of the home address (of your country of origin)
- Social Security number or national insurance number
How to open an N26 bank account in Portugal?
The N26 bank account is a fee-free “deposit account” that is based in Berlin, Germany. You can open the account in under eight minutes and can deposit money with cash, or transfer money from another account at any time. If you are only looking for a Euro bank account to save and withdraw cash then the N26 bank card could be a good option for you to consider.
However, the account does not have Multibanco functionality, which you may need if you have bills to pay in Portugal.
Banking in Portugal: Account Fees
One of the aspects of banking in Portugal that you should be aware of is the fees that you may have to pay. Most Portuguese bank accounts charge a monthly service fee, which will vary from bank to bank. As a rule of thumb, the monthly rate is between €5–7, plus stamp duty.
Note that for some accounts, such as student bank accounts, you will not have to pay these fees.
In addition, there are the usual charges on services, such as overdrafts and credit cards.
ATM machines to withdraw cash are found in many parts of Portugal and many places allow you to use your card. Bear in mind that even in Lisbon there are some bars and restaurants that still only accept cash, but there is usually an ATM machine close at hand.
There is typically a surcharge of $1 to $5 per withdrawal, although this may vary. Non-bank ATM operators can charge more, so be sure to withdraw cash from a bank ATM machine.
However, in Portugal, you also have “Multibanco”, which links all the Portuguese banks together via a common network, and includes around 12,00 ATMs. With Multibanco, you are able to withdraw money from any one of your Portuguese accounts using these ATMs and do not need to worry about paying any fees. Alongside this, you can transfer money, pay your bills, taxes, and social security contributions, and top up your account extremely easily.
International transfer fees
Portuguese banks require a fee for international money transfers. International transfer fees will vary depending on the bank. For amounts less than €50,000, the bank fee is usually less than €15 and for larger 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 transferring fees 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, there are several transfer services, such as CurrencyFair, Remitly, WorldRemit, and MoneyCorp, that make it possible to send money with little transfer costs and that can be faster.
What can you do with a bank account in Portugal?
Banking in Portugal is relatively straightforward, with many online banks allowing you to take complete control of your finances. Aside from this, as with any other bank in the world, there are several services for personal and corporate accounts, such as the following:
- Checking your accounts, loans, and overdrafts
- Savings and investments
- Digital, online, and mobile banking
- Business Banking
- Expat services
- Trading services
It is pretty much up to you how you choose to access the services that are available to you, whether it is in person, online, or through mobile banking. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made it easier to access bank account services at your fingertips.
With a bank account online, you can make transactions and manage your payments and loans. Mobile banking also offers you access to your accounts at any time, where you can transfer money and manage transactions with ease. Some banks even go as far as to serve their customers solely through their mobile apps. Whatever option is best for you, there will be a bank in Portugal to cater to your needs.
Banking in Portugal: Best Banks in Portugal for Mortgages
If you are looking to take out a mortgage in Portugal, there are several options open to you. There are more than fifteen banks that provide varying mortgage loans and credit to purchase property in Portugal. Some of the banks providing mortgages include BCP Millennium, Bankinter, Santander, and Banco CTT.
All mortgage operations in the country are required to comply with regulations at the Bank of Portugal (Banco de Portugal). The rules are standardized and do not vary from institution to institution. They have macroprudential policies, which center on the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of the operation and the client’s proven capability to repay the loan. These are in place to ensure the stability of the financial system and are applicable to all credit and financial institutions that have branches in Portugal.
Regardless, each bank will have different criteria and different types of loans available to you, some of which may not be suitable for your specific situation. The best advice that we can give you is to get professional advice to find the best deal for you, as determining the best bank for you is essential when considering a mortgage in Portugal.
If you are looking for properties to purchase in the capital, Lisbon, then our article about how to find the best properties for sale in Lisbon has you covered.
Our new book, Your Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal also has detailed advice on the process and mortgage rates in Portugal. You can purchase your copy in our Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal.
Banking in Portugal: The Top Portuguese Banks
The best bank in Portugal will depend on what you are looking for, whether it is a simple bank account, for ease of online banking, or the bank that has the best mortgage rates.
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.
Some of the most notable best banks in Portugal are the following:
- Millennium BCP
- Caixa Geral de Depósitos
- Banco BPI
- Novo Banco
- Banco Santander Totta
You will also find international banks in Portugal. Therefore, if you are a resident or citizen of any of these countries, then you will be able to use your bank account in Portugal at the local branch.
The Portugal Golden Visa
The Portugal Golden Visa, introduced in 2012, is one of the most popular residency-by-investment programs in the world, providing non-EU investors with an entryway into Europe. In return for a qualifying investment, you are granted residency and are given the right to live, work, and study in Portugal. After five years, you are able to obtain permanent residency and citizenship, provided that your investment is maintained for at least five years.
Frequently Asked Questions About Banking in Portugal:
1. Can a foreigner open a bank account in Portugal?
Foreigners can easily open a bank account in Portugal, provided that they have the correct documentation with them. If you move to Portugal, we recommend opening a bank account in Portugal to reduce international transaction fees and for ease with making payments.
2. Are banks in Portugal safe?
Yes, banks in Portugal are safe and include the range of products and services that you would expect. There are options for online and mobile banking, and Portugal is one of the countries leading the way in increasing the efficiency and ease of online banking. A prime example of this is MBWAY, where you can make instant payments by linking your card with your phone.
3. Which bank account is best in Portugal?
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 that country, you may have a local branch in Portugal that you can access.
4. Can I open a bank account in Portugal as a tourist?
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.
5. How do I open a Portuguese bank 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, and a deposit of between €250 to €300 in cash, considered standard procedure when opening an account.
6. What is the interest rate in Portugal?
As of 13 December 2021, the long-time interest rate for Portugal was 0.39% p.a.
7. Can I get a credit card from a Portuguese bank?
Yes, 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.
8. What type of account should I open?
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 banks, public retail banks, international banks, savings banks, investment banks, 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 a large network of contacts in this sphere, so feel free to get in touch to discuss your needs and which option is best for you.
9. Do banks offer free bank accounts?
You can find some current accounts that are free. However, others will charge fees that are usually between €5–7 a month, plus stamp duty. It is also normally customary to place a minimum deposit of €250 to €300 in cash into your account when you are setting it up.
10. What is the best bank to use in Portugal?
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 choose from Portugal’s top private banks: Millennium BCP, Novobanco, Banco Santander Totta, and Banco Português de Investimento.
11. What is the best bank for expats in Portugal?
Portugal has many prestigious banks with various levels of expertise and a wide range of banking services. The name of the bank does not matter as long as you choose one that best suits 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.