Between the sun, the sea, and the sardines, Portugal offers a relaxed alternative to tourist-filled locales in Western Europe. If you’re going to Portugal, here’s a guide to Portugal’s ATM and money exchange options.
The first thing you should do when you arrive in Portugal is find an ATM (multibanco or caixa automático)multibanco system is a network of more than 11,000 ATMs which have several functionalities. Not only are they used for withdrawals, but many Portuguese use them to pay bills, buy cinema tickets, or make transfers. Multibanco withdrawals are free for withdrawals from in-country bank accounts, thanks to Portuguese law. Sadly, assuming your bank account is located outside of Portugal, you likely won’t be able to take advantage of free withdrawals.
You can find ATMs at most bank branches, at airports and train stations, or in central areas and shopping centres. In general, expect a small withdrawal fee, especially if you’re withdrawing from a foreign account.
Major banks in Portugal
International banks with a presence in Portugal
- BBVA ATM locator
- Banco Santander global ATM locator
- Deutsche Bank branch locations (click on your region on the map)
- Crédito Agrícola ATM locator
Yes. Many Portuguese shops, restaurants, and museums will accept international cards, especially in more touristy areas. American cards like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are accepted in a majority of locations. Most major UK and Australian debit cards and credit cards will also be accepted.
Some online forums suggest that Portugal is more of a cash society than you may be used to, so it’s always a good idea to carry a little spare cash. Do a bit of research ahead of time, and plan where the ATMs are for the cards you’ll bring:
- Maestro ATM locator
- Mastercard and Cirrus ATM locator
- Visa, Plus, and Plus Alliance ATM locator
- Discover ATM locator
- American Express ATM locator
Local Portuguese PIN numbers usually contain 4 digits, but you’ll be able to accommodate your PIN if it’s a different number of digits. Most Portuguese cash points allow you to enter in a flexible number of digits for your PIN. If it asks for 6 digits and yours is only 4, enter your 4 digits and then press OK. It should work.
Cards in Portugal, like many European countries, tend to be chip and pin cards. If you’re American or from another place that doesn’t have chip and pin cards, you can still plan to use your credit card. You may face inconveniences if certain smaller shops and petrol stations only accept chip and pin cards.
ATMs in Portugal generally allow for a daily withdrawal of up to €400. You may find that you can only take out €200 per withdrawal, but often machines will let you do 2 or more back to back transactions.
Banks tend to exercise caution when they see strange charges appear on your account, especially in foreign countries. You want to make sure you tell your bank ahead of time that you’re going away. That way, you won’t get surprised by a blocked card from the fraud prevention department.
The mid-market rate is the exchange rate you find on Google, but it’s rarely the rate you’re offered. Most banks give poor exchange rates to unsuspecting customers so that they can make more on a transaction. For example, there’s something billed as a service called Dynamic Currency Conversion that allows you to see ATM transactions stated in your home currency at an ATM. Don’t fall for it though - accepting this “service” gives the ATM provider permission to give you its own even poorer exchange rate. Which means you get less money in the end and they profit. Since the foreign bank doesn’t have the incentive to keep you happy, they don’t mind passing off bad exchange rates to non-customers. As a general rule, always withdraw currency in the local denominations. So, while you’re in Portugal, always choose to see the transactions expressed in euros.
Every bank is different when it comes to fees abroad. If your home bank happens to have partnerships with Portuguese banks, certain fees might be waived. Your home bank may charge an international processing fee, an international ATM fee, a fee for using an out-of-network ATM, or some combination of those.
In addition to exchange fees, you may face fees from the Portuguese banks. Multibanco ATMs adds an international processing fee for some banks. As a benchmark, you should estimate a surcharge between $1 and $7 per withdrawal.
You may be able to take out free cash withdrawals in Portugal. For example, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, and Barclays are all part of the Global ATM Alliance, which is a network of banks that waives ATM fees. Withdrawing money from your own bank’s ATM generally helps to reduce or eliminate fees, but due to the Global ATM Alliance, if you have an account with BNP Paribas, you can also withdrawal cash from a Deutsche Bank ATM for free.
If your bank is part of the Global ATM Alliance, you may enjoy access to some ATMs that offer a fee-free network. Otherwise, your bank may have local partnerships in Portugal, although they’re likely few and far between because Portugal isn’t a massive financial centre in Europe.
Check the foreign withdraw fees and exchange rates of all of your debit/credit cards before leaving home. Some will have higher fees attached than others.
Withdraw cash in large lump sums. That way, you’ll avoid being charged repeated ATM fees and surcharges.
Hotel ATMs and airport kiosks tend to have the highest fees around. These fees are completely unregulated and often bank on you being desperate enough for cash to pay exorbitant surcharges.
As a rule, always choose to see the transactions stated in euros - the local currency.. Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) almost always comes with high fees and poor exchange rates, so avoid it altogether.
To simplify your cash exchange, check out TransferWise. TransferWise works differently than banks, which means you can transfer money quickly and securely, paying only a reasonable flat fee. Even if you don’t have a bank account in Portugal, if your friend or family member does, you can easily transfer money to their account via TransferWise. TransferWise even offers a borderless multi-currency account with a debit card and zero monthly fees. You can keep money in dozens of currencies and convert at an opportune time, then use the card as a local whenever you see fit.
Traveling abroad can be complicated. Managing your money shouldn’t be. With a bit of advanced research, you can navigate ATMs and exchange fees in Portugal, and avoid fees and pitfalls.
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