Opening a Portuguese Bank Account: The Complete Guide
When Relocating to Portugal or just getting a Golden Visa there. Opening a bank account is completely worth it. You have many reasons to open and have a bank account there; to keep your money safe, to send and receive payments, to make purchases, to have access to credit, and more.
If you are not Portuguese but live in Portugal, all the more reasons to open a bank account there. The Portuguese bank account will help your money cross the borders to reach you when you need it. Even for non-residents, it could help if you’re thinking of renting property or conducting any business in Portugal.
When choosing what to pay attention to, and which bank to use, you need some research. We will address all you need to know about how to open a bank account in Portugal!
Online Portugal Banks: the Most Convenient
The Deco Proteste, a consumer protection entity in Portugal, conducts a survey annually to assess the Portuguese banks and their services. The outcome of the latest survey pointed to the online banks as clear winners.
Consumers prefer online banks as there are less and smaller fees, more transparency, and good customer service.
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Over the last three years, the Portuguese consumers rated the below banks as the best banks:
- Banco Carregosa
- BNI Europa
- Banco Invest
- Banco Best
Having said that, I live in Portugal but have not heard of most of these banks except for BNI Europa and ActivoBank.
The major traditional banks in Portugal, which still have the lion’s share of clients, are:
- Caixa Geral de Depósitos
- Millennium BCP
- Novo Banco
- Santander Totta
- Deutche Bank
In my personal opinion, N26 (digital banking), ActivoBank, and Millennium BCP are all great options. Nevertheless, below you may see a comprehensive list of banks in Portugal.
Best Banks to Open a Bank Account in Portugal
The N26 Bank is a German digital bank launched in 2015. It is an entirely online banking platform. it’s free to open an account and the process is straightforward, easily completed through the computer, mobile phone, or tablet.
The N26 is safe. It is a pioneer bank in Europe and it meets all the security requirements of a traditional bank. In addition, it is very well rated by its customers, with a solid rating on Trust Pilot.
The bank has a free account option, as well as paid options with additional benefits.
The ActivoBank is a Portuguese bank established in 1994, emerging as the first telephone bank in the country. It belongs to the Millennium BCP Bank.
Virtually all operations and activities can be done over the internet. The main channel is the ActivoBank application (iOS or Android) and also the ActivoBank website.
What sets ActivoBank apart is the lack of most fees and the particular products designed for younger clients. The cost of opening an account is keeping a minimum deposit of € 100.
The Millennium Bank is the largest private bank in Portugal, founded in 1985. It has a “made in Portugal” reputation. Nevertheless, it excels in servicing international clients. It is the Portuguese bank that is most used by foreigners making real estate investments in Portugal.
During the financial crisis in Portugal, from 2008 to 2014, many Portuguese banks went under or became dependent on government stimuli. Banco Millennium was the only one to stand tall and pass the “stress test.”
The BNI Europa bank in Portugal offers checking accounts with no maintenance fee. It only requires a minimum deposit of € 100 at the opening.
According to its website, BNI is the digital bank with the highest growth rate in the Portuguese market.
Revolut: Another Online Option
The Revolut is another digital bank that is also a good online banking solution. Growing in Portugal, this bank does not charge a fee for most services. In the standard option, which is free, there are no account fees.
Documents you need for Opening a Bank Account in Portugal
Once you decide which financial institution to open your bank account in Portugal, you will need to gather the following documents:
- Passport (or residence permit in Portugal, if you have one),
- NIF (Tax Identification Number),
- Proof of Address (for you proof of address a water bill, electricity bill or rental agreement would work),
- Pay Slip or Employment Letter,
- Deposit amount for opening a Portuguese bank account (varies between banks).
You can also check out the documents necessary to live in Portugal.
How to open a bank account in Portugal while still outside of the country (as a non-resident)?
When trying to open a Portuguese bank account while you are a non-resident in Portugal, the only obstacle could be the requirement of the NIF, which is the tax identification number. All banks require this document from residents and non-residents alike.
However, any law firm may help you in obtaining a NIF without you actually being present in Portugal. As a non-resident, you will need to provide the law firm with a power of attorney in order to be able to do that.
Due to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, opening bank accounts remotely became much more popular and convenient. I would be happy to introduce you to a few law firms that can help you open a bank account in Portugal remotely.
To open a bank account, you will be asked:
- Proof of residency, for non-residents of Portugal you’ll need proof of residency in your own country
- Pay Slip or Letter of Employment,
- Disclosure of dual citizenship, if you have one,
- Commercial registration, in case the account will be a commercial one.
If you choose to open an account via an application or website, please be aware that, in any case, it will most likely be necessary to physically present the NIF.
Millennium BCP is the largest Portuguese private bank, which is a good recommendation to pursue remotely.
For extended information, you can read our article on what a Portuguese NIF is and how to apply for it.
Transferwise: Another Borderless Alternative
Another option is to create a multi-currency bank account using TransferWise. This money sending platform offers the option of an online account for free.
It is possible to open an international account at TransferWise and deposit a balance in your own currency. You will be assigned an IBAN (International Bank Account Number).
TransferWise debit card is currently available in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Singapore, the US, and most of the EEA. You can check the list of countries where they deliver cards.
When you arrive in Portugal, you can immediately start using the card with the balance already added in the card, with a fair conversion rate, as TransferWise generally offers.
For those who are planning a move to Portugal, this is a good option to have continuous financial access.
Free of Charge Banks
It is possible to obtain a bank account free of charge, even if it is a salary account.
Below, you may find a list of banks that do not charge fees:
- Banco CTT
- Banco Atlântico Europa
- Banco BNI Europa
- Banco Best
It is worth noting that three banks stand out when we analyze the tariff benefits: N26, Activo Bank and Transferwise.
Tip: How to Guarantee the Lowest Rate
In order to guarantee the lowest rate in banking services, here is a worthy tip: Banco de Portugal, the central bank of Portugal, offers a commission comparator. There, you can select up to three banking institutions and compare their fees side by side for each transaction. It is in Portuguese, however, you can use your browser’s add-ons in order to use it in English.
The tool covers both physical and online banks, so it is quite comprehensive and useful.
When it comes to banking in Portugal, there are different types of accounts available across most of the above banks. You need to evaluate your needs in order to determine what kind of a Portuguese bank account you will open . Below are some of the common types of accounts.
Simple Minimum Service Accounts
If you just need a bank account for the basics like receiving your salary, paying bills, making small transfers, using a debit card and ATM through, then what you are looking for is a minimum service account.
Although not all banks carry Simple Minimum Service bank accounts, this model is quickly growing in Portugal and the rest of the world. Many users do not need a fancy menu of services and they are willing to opt-out of those in exchange for lower fees.
The banks that do not charge maintenance fees or require a minimum deposit to open an account are:
- Banco Invest
- Banco Best
If you want to have a credit card, a chequebook and access to loan services, you will need a checking account. These services may have additional fees and limitations that vary between banks.
The savings account in Portugal works just like everywhere else. You put your money to work.
Nevertheless, the negative interest rates in Europe have made it rather irrational to pursue savings accounts. The maintenance fee for the account will certainly eat out any interest you may hope to gain on your funds.
In Portugal, just as in the rest of Europe, the clients are discouraged from putting their money to sleep in a savings account. Instead, governments want people to use money and stimulate the economy.
If you are from a high inflation country, this may sound strange. Though Europeans are used to very low inflation rates and negative interest rates; so stimulation consumption, encouraging production, and generating jobs are part of their evergrowing struggles.
A more interesting option for those who want to see their money work and create meaningful ROIs is the investment account.
You can use such accounts to invest in stocks, bonds, and funds. Brokerage fees do apply on such transactions and they vary from bank to bank.
Almost all banks, even the online ones, offer credit cards to their clients. They are either at a certain extra cost or free of charge, but with a certain interest on the debt. The Portuguese banks will rarely take the initiative to offer a credit card to their clients, but you can apply for one if you have such a need.
The average interest charged on the credit card debt is around mid-teens (i.e.16%) in Portugal.
Student Bank Accounts
University students are able to open a student bank account in Portugal at Caixa Geral de Depósitos. It is a governmental financial institution that provides certain benefits to students, who open a bank account there.
The account offers low fees and costs. It is also possible to apply for a credit card as a student. The limit starts small, but increases as the deposited amount in the bank account increases.
Another popular bank of choice among students is ActivoBank, mainly because it does not charge any account maintenance fees.
Checks in Portugal
You may be saying that checks are almost archaic and that they belong in the museums. You are right. Nevertheless, it is still possible to request checks at Portuguese banks.
Opening hours of banks in Portugal
Throughout Portugal, the banks’ opening hour is 8.30 AM and the closing hour is 3 PM, Monday to Friday. ActivoBank is the only exception, which is open until 8 PM, as it has branches inside shopping malls.
You can also find ATM machines easily all across Portugal, which allow you to withdraw money 24 hours of the day, including weekends and national holidays. In Portugal, ATMs are named Multibanco (MB) and can be found in the streets of most cities.
Trivial Fact about Banks in Portugal
If you visit any bank branch in Portugal, you will notice that there are no revolving doors or security at the entrance, instead, you will only find a simple glass door. It’s a nice foreshadowing to the trust and the safety the country has overall.
Send Money Internationally to Portugal
Sending money from outside of Portugal to Portugal through traditional Portuguese banks is generally expensive and slow. Instead, money sending platforms like Transferwise or Western Union are cheaper and much more effective. So if you need to send money internationally it’s better to use a platform.