Opening a Bank Account in Portugal: A Step-By-Step Guide for Expats

Welcome to the ultimate guide on how to open a bank account in Portugal. Whether you’re an expat, digital nomad, investor, or a new resident, this guide covers everything you need to know, from the types of accounts available to the necessary documentation and insider tips to make the process as smooth as possible.

Why You Need a Portuguese Bank Account

Having a Portuguese bank account is essential for managing your finances efficiently. Here are some key reasons why you might need one:

  • It’s typically a requirement for residency visas such as the D7, golden visa, or digital nomad visa.
  • Paying bills such as rent, utilities, internet, and phone services.
  • Avoiding currency fluctuations by holding savings in euros.
  • Avoiding transaction fees if your main account is in another currency.
  • To obtain other services such as mortgages or insurance products.

Steps to Open a Bank Account

There are two ways to open a Portuguese bank account: 1) in-person or 2) online through a third-party.

In-Person

  1. Choose a Bank: Research banks based on your needs. Popular options include Millennium BCP, Novo Banco, and ActivoBank.
  2. Schedule an Appointment: Call ahead or visit during opening hours (usually 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM).
  3. Gather Documents: Ensure you have all required documents (see below).
  4. Visit the Branch: Arrive early to avoid long queues. Bring a Portuguese-speaking friend if needed.
  5. Complete the Application: Fill out forms, submit documents, and make the initial deposit.
  6. Receive Your Card: Some banks issue cards immediately, while others mail them.

Online

If you don’t live in Portugal, it usually isn’t possible to open an account online with a Portuguese bank. However, you can use a third-party service to open an account on your behalf. Expect to pay around €250-€400, depending on the company and whether you also need a NIF number.

  1. Choose an Account Opening Service: Fill out the form to compare options based on price and speed of delivery.
  2. Upload Documents: Provide copies of required documents such as ID, proof of address, NIF number, and proof of income (e.g. salary, freelancing income, pension or social security, proof of unemployment).
  3. Verify Identity: Complete a video call for identity verification.

Compare Bank Accounts

Find the cheapest online bank account opening services.

Compare Bank Accounts
millenium bank portugal in Campo de Ourique

Required Documents to Open a Bank Account

For Residents and Non-Residents:

  1. Proof of Identification: Valid passport or EU ID card.
  2. Proof of Address: Utility bill, rental contract, or bank statement.
  3. Portuguese NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal): Portuguese tax identification number.
  4. Proof of Employment or Income: Pay slips, employment letter, or proof of pension or social security.
  5. Portuguese Mobile Number: May be required for SMS verification.
  6. Initial Deposit: Typically between €200-€300.

How to Obtain a Portuguese NIF

To get a NIF, visit a Loja de Cidadão or tax office (Finanças) with your passport and proof of address. Alternatively, you can use online services or a lawyer to obtain it remotely.

Special Considerations for Non-EU Residents

Due to money-laundering regulations, it has become increasingly difficult for non-EU residents to open a bank account in Portugal. If you come to Portugal with the aim of opening one, don’t be surprised if many bank tellers say they can’t open one.

Although there’s a fee, it’s much easier to use a third-party to open an account for you. Alternatively, if you come to Portugal to open an account, expect to spend some time going to different banks (and different bank branches).

How To Choose A Bank

Most online services only open accounts with Millennium bcp or Novobanco, so that limits your options.

  • Does this bank have branches where I’m going to live (if you don’t know yet, pick somewhere with a lot of branches like Millennium)?
  • Does this bank offer other products (like credit cards, health insurance, savings accounts, and mortgages)?
  • Do the staff seem friendly and is there someone there that speaks my language?
  • What are the maintenance charges and other costs (a monthly charge is a fact of life with many current accounts, but usually isn’t more than around €7.50 per month)*

Types of Bank Accounts in Portugal

Current Account (Conta Corrente)

  • Purpose: Day-to-day transactions, including receiving wages, paying bills, and making purchases.
  • Features: Debit card, online banking, ATM withdrawals, and direct debits.
  • Fees: Typically around €5-7 per month, but some banks such as Activobank offer fee-free accounts.

Basic Bank Account

  • Purpose: Low-cost access to essential banking services.
  • Features: Debit card, online banking, ATM access, direct debits, and intrabank transfers.
  • Fees: Limited to 1% of the social support index (around €5.09 annually).

Instant-Access Savings Account (Conta Poupança)

  • Purpose: Saving money with easy access to funds.
  • Features: Higher interest rates compared to current accounts, easy withdrawals.
  • Fees: Usually minimal or no fees.

Time-Deposit Account (Conta de Depósito a Prazo)

  • Purpose: Long-term savings with higher interest rates.
  • Features: Fixed-term deposits with withdrawal restrictions.
  • Fees: Generally no fees, but early withdrawal penalties may apply.

FAQs

Can I open a bank account as a non-resident? Yes, but due to money-laundering regulations, banks are increasingly wary about opening bank accounts for non-residents. This is especially the case for non-residents from outside of Europe.

What if I don’t have a NIF? You can obtain a NIF in-person at Finanças (the tax office) or Loja de Cidadão. Non-EU/EEA residents will need a fiscal representative with them. Alternatively, you can use a paid online service and they will act as your fiscal representative.

Are there any fees for maintaining an account? Yes, most banks charge a monthly fee, but all banks have basic accounts and a very small number of banks offer fee-free options.

Do I need a Portuguese address? No, you can use a non-Portuguese address.

How long does it take to open an account? In-person accounts can often be opened on the same day. Opening an account online usually takes around two weeks, depending on the service you use.

What’s the minimum age for opening an account? The minimum age for most bank accounts is typically 18 years of age. Many banks offer special bank accounts for those under 18 years of age.

Can I open an account with Revolut or Wise? Absolutely. Banks like Revolut, Wise, and N26 allow you to hold a balance in euros, which is great for travel. However, these banks are typically not accepted for residency visa applications (e.g. the D7 or golden visa). They also lack the Portuguese Multibanco technology, so you won’t be able to pay bills as easily with them.

Can I open an account with an international branch? If it’s a Portuguese bank operating in another country, this may be an option. Millennium BCP, for example, has a branch in London which many UK residents have visited in order to open an account without visiting Portugal. 

Conclusion

Opening a bank account in Portugal is a crucial step for anyone planning to live, work, or invest in the country. By following this comprehensive guide, you can navigate the process smoothly, whether you choose to apply in person or online. With your Portuguese bank account, you’ll be well-equipped to manage your finances and enjoy all the benefits of living in this beautiful country.