What is the Best Portuguese Bank for Expats?

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Written by: | Last updated on July 24, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes

What’s the best bank in Portugal? That’s a difficult question to answer as one person’s opinion of “best” could vary from another’s depending on their experience. Also, as most people only bank with one or two banks, they aren’t able to give an objective, unbiased view of which bank is best – just which banks they’ve had good or bad experiences with. 

However, it’s an important question and we wanted to know. We looked at factors like which banks could you easily open an account with, which banks had branches in most parts of Portugal, and which banks were well-reviewed in expat forums and Facebook groups. 

You will normally need a NIF number in order to open a bank account, so be sure to arrange that first. Anchorless offer

Millennium BCP

Millennium BCP was the overall winner for a number of reasons. Firstly, they had branches all over the country, which is ideal for expats, particularly expats who aren’t quite sure where they want to live. This includes Madeira and some of the Azores islands. 

The app, web portal, and customer service are also well-reviewed. The majority of the website was also available in English, another important requirement for foreigners moving to Portugal. Like most other major banks, Millennium BCP offers a number of other products like credit cards, mortgages, and insurance products such as home insurance. 

  • Number of branches: ~ 450
  • Ease of opening an account: Non-residents can open an account using Bordr. It’s also possible to open an account at Millennium BCP’s London branch. 
  • Website in English: Yes
  • Website: millenniumbcp.pt
  • Phone: +351 210 04 24 24 (from Portugal or abroad)

Caixa Geral de Depósitos

Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) is a popular choice, particularly among the Portuguese, as it’s publicly owned and is seen as more stable than many other banks. It is the largest bank in Portugal, with more than 500 branches, including branches on Madeira and the Azores islands.  You can see a full list of locations here

Parts of the website are available in English but unfortunately, many sections weren’t translated. 

  • Number of branches: ~ 540
  • Ease of opening an account: Non-residents can open an account in-person. 
  • Website in English: Yes (some parts)
  • Website: https://www.cgd.pt/
  • Phone: +351 217 953 000

NovoBanco

NovoBanco is less popular, particularly among the Portuguese, due to its blemished history. The bank was formed in 2014 as part of the government rescue of Banco Espírito Santo (BES).

Novobanco is one of the largest banks in Portugal and has branches throughout Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores. Unfortunately, however, although some sections of the website are available in English, some sections are not. 

Santander

A subsidiary of the Spanish Santander Group, Banco Santander Portugal is one of the largest banks in Portugal. It has branches throughout Portugal, including on Madeira and the Azores islands. 

Unfortunately, the Santander website doesn’t have an English-language translation, which isn’t ideal for expats. 

  • Number of branches: ~ 360
  • Ease of opening an account: Non-residents can open an account in-person. 
  • Website in English: Yes (some parts)
  • Website: https://www.santander.pt/
  • Phone: +351 217 807 364

Activobank

ActivoBank gets the number three spot because it offers free banking. In fact, it’s one of the few Portuguese banks to offer a free bank account. The downside is that ActivoBank mainly has branches around Lisbon and Porto, with a few also in Cascais, Coimbra, Aveiro, and Braga. This doesn’t stop people in the rest of Portugal from opening an account, but it does mean they can’t easily go into a local branch. ActivoBank is a subsidiary of Millennium BCP, however, which means you can deposit cash in their ATMs. 

ActivoBank tries to be as paperless as possible. If you need to visit one of the branches, however, there are often long queues due to the limited number of branches. Phone support is generally quite good, and it’s usually possible to get through to an English speaker. 

  • Number of branches:  ~ 15
  • Ease of opening an account: Easy to do in-person. 
  • Website: https://www.activobank.pt/
  • Phone: +351 210 030 700

Atlantico Europa

Atlantico Europa isn’t a well-known bank in Portugal, but it has become well-known among expats as it is one of the few banks that allows non-residents, including Americans, to open an account online. However, while some people have an easy time opening an account, others report it taking months. Another downside of Atlantico is that they only have 1 branch, which is in Lisbon.

  • Number of branches:  ~ 1
  • Ease of opening an account: Can be done online. Some people report it takes weeks and even months to open an account, however.
  • Website: https://www.atlantico.eu/
  • Phone: +351 210 030 700

What about Revolut & N26?

Although banks like Revolut, Wise, and N26 allow you to hold a balance in euros and can be used in a lot of businesses in Portugal, they aren’t Portuguese banks: N26 is German and Revolut is British (Revolut Bank UAB is licensed and regulated by the Bank of Lithuania within the European Union). 

These bank accounts work perfectly well for withdrawing cash and paying by card with some businesses, but they have some restrictions:

  • You can’t use them for proof of funds on your residency visa application
  • Some Portuguese businesses won’t accept them (many only accept Portuguese bank cards)
  • You won’t be able to pay many of your bills as they don’t have Multibanco support

Other Banks

As well as the banks mentioned, above there are a number of other privately-owned banks that operate in Portugal. This includes:

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

You can contact James by emailing james@portugalist.com or via the site's contact form.

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Comments

  1. I opened my account with Millennium 2 years ago as a newly arrived Brit. It was very quick and easy and they have been brilliant with any requests. I would definitely recommend them.

    Reply
  2. We easily opened an account with Millennium as soon as we got our N.I.F. It is possible that is was so easy because I am retired and could verify my pension payments. My daughter, who has rental income, had a much harder time and had to wait to be accepted by a bank until she had completed her Portuguese tax return in order to verify her income. She ended up getting an account with Activo, which has free banking, and she is very happy with it.
    Millenium does not provide free banking. I personally pay 13€ a month and get charged on any foreign transactions. I can go into a local branch and speak to someone if necessary, and I have found there is usually at least one who speaks English.

    Reply

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