Banking in Portugal

You will need a Portuguese bank account to enable you to send and receive funds, not to mention make transactions whilst in Portugal. A bank account will also make your life much easier and you can set up Direct Debits to pay for numerous different things.

Portugal has a state-of-the-art banking system, with various reputable banks to select from, with each offering a large network of branches and ATMs that you can use nationwide and online. Some charges and tariffs may apply and will typically vary, in accordance with each bank’s terms and conditions.

Choosing a bank

Just as if you were choosing a bank in the UK, there are various factors that you must take into consideration when selecting a bank in Portugal.

  • Consider the size and spread of the network. Does the bank charge a commission for using ATMs that are not a part of their own network? If so, ensure that the bank you choose possesses a healthy number of branches and cash points across the country
  • How’s your Portuguese? If not great, then you may wish to choose a bank with English-speaking members of staff. This will certainly help to make life less stressful
  • Most banks in Portugal offer telephone and internet banking facilities. But check to see if these services are also available in English.
  • If your Portuguese is not the greatest, always request to see if statements and other documents can be provided in English. If you don’t ask, you don’t get
  • Consider the types of transactions that you are most likely to make and check to see if charges will be made, such as a fixed administration cost or commission

Resident and non-resident accounts

In order to be considered a resident, an individual must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • He or she lives in Portugal at least 183 days per year
  • He or she has a spouse and/or children under 18 who are permanent residents in Portugal
  • He or she bases a business or professional activity in Portugal

Portuguese banks offer accounts tailored to residents and non-residents. Residents will usually have access to a wider range of products and tend to get better interest rates and lower commissions and charges.

Residents must prove their status by presenting the bank with their residence identity card (‘Bilhete de Identidade’), although is currently being phased out in favour of the more technologically-advanced Citizen Card (‘Cartão de Cidadão’). Both contain details of their tax number (‘Numéro Fiscal de Contribuinte) and home address.

According to Portuguese law, you must be aged at least 18 and provide proof of identity (e.g. a passport), your address in Portugal and your fiscal number.

Non-residents are not liable for capital gains tax or submitting tax returns though they do need to provide their tax number when opening an account. The bank will provide all necessary application forms when the applicant first visits the branch to open the account and sign the paperwork.

Opening a bank account

There several different types of bank accounts available, but the main ones you’ll be considering are:

  • Current account, for everyday banking activities. As in the UK, little or no interest is paid on accounts in credit
  • Savings account, which with have a limited number of banking services and may not allow instant access to funds, though balances attract slightly higher interest rates
  • Deposit account, offering marginally higher interest rates on day-to-day banking services

To open a bank account in Portugal, applicants must be aged at least 18, may have to pay a minimum deposit to open an account, e.g. €100, and will have to fill in the bank’s applications forms – there are typically up to three forms that the prospective client must fill out. The forms can usually be downloaded online and handed into the nearest branch.

Applicants will have to sign the following:

  • A General Application Form (‘Identificação de Títulares e Ficha de Assinaturas’)
  • Client Details & Adherence to Products and Services (‘Dados de Cliente e Adesão a Productos e Serviços’)
  • Acceptance of General Conditions and Terms (‘Condições Gerais’)

Additionally, applicants must present the following documentation at a branch of the bank:

  • Passport or Identity Card (‘Passaporte’/’Bilhete de Identidade’)
  • Tax Number and card (‘Numero Fiscal de Contribuinte’)
  • Residency Card (‘Cartão de Residencia’)
  • Proof of Residence (‘Comprovativo de Morada em Portugal’). Any document which has proof of name and address such as utility bills, driving licence

If you present all these documents at once, that should ensure that the account is opened almost immediately. A cheque book (though cheques are not commonly used in Portugal) and ATM/debit card should follow within a few days, though most banks instantly provide a bank book to allow withdrawals even before the ATM/debit card arrives.

Most banks will send cheque books and ATM/debit cards to overseas addresses. So if you do not yet have an address in Portugal to send them to, they can either be collected from the branch or sent to your UK address.

Warning: It is illegal to bounce a cheque (i.e. write a cheque without sufficient funds in your account to cover it) in Portugal, for which you can be charged with fraud. You will also have to pay 20% of the amount of the cheque in interest and fees, and can be blacklisted by the Banco de Portugal and refused a cheque account in the future.

Continue to section 7: Currency exchange

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