How to open a bank account in Portugal

21.06.17
4 minute read
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With long, hot summers, family friendly culture and relatively low costs, Portugal is a popular place for expats seeking a better quality of life. The cities have a vibrant atmosphere, while off the beaten track, you can lose yourself in the warmth of rural life.

If you're planning a move to Portugal then one of the first things you need to do is set up a local bank account. This is an important step in getting settled, but can be tricky for expats trying to negotiate a new system. Here’s our guide to get you started for opening a bank account in Portugal.

What documents do I need to open a bank account in Portugal?

If you visit a bank to open a new account, and have all your paperwork with you, you could walk away with the process completed in one visit. Cards and cheque books are usually mailed to your registered address within a few days.

The specific documents needed will vary by bank, and different accounts may have different requirements, especially if you want access to credit facilities. However, typically you will need the following:

  • Proof of ID - a passport or national ID card
  • Tax number and card
  • Residency card
  • Proof of address - a recent utility bill or rental contract

Expect to complete several forms when you visit the bank, and make a minimum deposit to activate the account. Usually an initial deposit in the region of €250 is needed, which can be made in cash or by international money transfer.

Can I open a bank account from abroad?

Portuguese banks will accept applications from abroad, which can be submitted online or by mailing the forms and required documents.

Can I open a bank account as a non-resident?

Banks in Portugal do offer bank accounts tailored to non-residents, although the services available may be more limited than resident accounts. Check out the options available at the banks listed below.

Which bank should I choose?

Portugal has a sophisticated banking system with plenty of choice in local and international banks.

Check out these four large national banks in Portugal to start your search:

Santander Global banking giant Santander has a Portuguese operation, offering many of the same accounts and deals that you can get elsewhere in the world. If you have an account with them already, you may find it easier to switch to their local business in Portugal.
Novo Banco Novo Banco offers a full range of products for residents and non-residents. All information on the website is in Portuguese only, so ask a friend to help you sift through if you're not a Portuguese speaker.
CGD Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) is the second largest bank in Portugal and offers products ranging from Commercial and Investment Banking too Asset Management and Specialised Credit.
Millennium BCP Millennium BCP is the largest private bank in Portugal and offers a wide range of products and a website which is available in both English and Portuguese.
Banco CTT They offer a large number of locations in Portugal and can be found at most post office branches. Also, the website offers a locator where you can find the nearest bank store.

Online banking is offered as a standard service, and many banks have their account details available in English on their website. If you don't speak Portuguese, then check before you commit whether online services are also available in English.

If you plan to visit a branch to open an account in person, then don't forget that banks tend to close at 3:30 pm during the week, and can often be closed entirely over the weekend. Give your chosen bank a call if you're not sure of their exact opening hours.

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Banking fees and charges

When you open a bank account anywhere in the world, be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully. This is especially important if you're opening an account in a new place, where banking fees and charges could be quite alien.

Check, for example, if there are charges applied to keep your account open or use a credit or debit card. These can be a surprise if you're used to ‘free’ banking. Other common charges you might see include a set fee for withdrawing cash from an ATM operated by a different bank. These fees can quickly mount up, so be wary.

It can be particularly expensive if you need to move money between accounts which are held in different currencies. As well as a charge for processing the transaction, and an international receiving fee at the other end, the exchange rate used is often far from favourable. That's how the banks will make their profit.

For fairer international money transfers, look for a platform that uses the mid-market rate, like Transferwise, instead. With Transferwise you can transfer money between accounts using the real exchange rate. There’s no mark up, and no hidden fees, just a clear set charge for your transfer. Check out our website to find out more about cost effective international money transfers with Transferwise.

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