How to Open a Portuguese Bank Account (Including Online Options)

By James Cave / Published: March 2021August 10, 2021.
Posted in: Money & Finance

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Bordr.io have a bank account opening service, which can be done online. This costs €350 (or €340 when you use the code PORTUGALIST)

Discount Code: PORTUGALIST

If you’re planning on living in Portugal, you will most likely need a current account with a Portuguese bank for day-to-day living. While it is possible to pay some bills from a foreign bank account using IBAN, in Portugal bills are normally paid using the native Multibanco system and this is only available with a bank account from a Portuguese bank. So, if you have utility bills or a mobile phone contract, you’ll most likely need a Portuguese bank. And, if you’re moving to Portugal on a residency visa such as the D7, you may need to show evidence of a funded Portuguese bank account before moving here. It’s also worth noting that many shops won’t allow you to pay by card unless the card is from a Portuguese bank.

This article covers how you can open an account

  1. If you’re opening it from abroad
  2. If you’re opening it from within Portugal

Opening an account from abroad

For whatever reason you may want to open a bank account from outside of Portugal as a non-resident (someone who doesn’t officially live in Portugal).

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The most common reason is that more and more consulates are asking people moving to Portugal to have a Portuguese bank account before they move to Portugal in order to get their visa approved. If you’re applying for a Portuguese residency visa (such as the D7) this may be something that you come up against. Unfortunately, it seems to need to be a Portuguese bank account and not just a Euro bank account like those offered by Wise, Revolut, or N26. Another reason is if you’re buying a Portuguese property as a non-resident and aren’t able to come to Portugal to open the bank account.

So just how do you open a Portuguese bank account remotely? The most common way is through a lawyer.

Bordr.io offers this service for €350 (€10 discount when you use the code PORTUGALIST) and will open the account with Millenium BCP, one of the most popular, prevalent, and most recommended banks in Portugal. If you need a NIF as well you can get the two for €450 (saving you €50). They’re not the only company that offers this service, and most relocation companies will offer this as a service in some form or other.

Do you need to get both the NIF and the bank account? It depends. If you’re coming to Portugal on a scouting trip before putting in your visa application, you could get the NIF and then open the bank account while you’re in Portugal. If you aren’t coming to Portugal before, you’ll more than likely need to get a lawyer or relocation company to remotely open a bank account on your behalf.

If you decide to go down the lawyer route, check which bank they offer accounts with and make sure that bank has branches where you’re likely to live. It’s also worth comparing prices against other lawyers and relocation companies as prices can vary considerably.

There is actually a DIY option that doesn’t require you to go through a lawyer.

Most Portuguese banks won’t allow you to open a bank account online if you’re not a resident yet, but one exception is Atlantico. This isn’t a very well-known bank, and you won’t find branches throughout Portugal, but many people moving to Portugal have used it to meet the residency visa requirements. To open an account with Atlantico, you’ll need to download the MyAtlantico app, submit the required documents, and then do a video interview to confirm your identity. Once you’ve completed the interview there can be a long waiting process waiting for your account to be opened, but at least this option can be done remotely. The account opening service also isn’t available in every country.

If you are a resident already, you’ll have more options e.g. Novo Banco allow you to open an account online.

Finally, there’s one more option, depending on where you live. Some Portuguese banks have branches outside of Portugal and many people have been able to open a Portuguese bank account this way. 

Millennium BCP, for example, has a branch in London which many UK residents have visited in order to open an account without visiting Portugal. You will most likely need a NIF in order to do this, although some people have said the bank offered them a ‘temporary NIF’ in order to bypass this requirement. 

Opening an account in Portugal

If you’re already physically in Portugal, even if you’re just visiting, you can open a bank by visiting your nearest branch. You don’t always need to be resident to do this; you can open a bank account as a non-resident as well.

You will normally need:

  • A NIF number (there’s a whole article on NIFs, if you’re not sure what this is)
  • A Portuguese mobile phone number (not always required, but it may be needed for login codes)
  • ID such as a passport or European ID card or Residency card (if resident in Portugal)
  • Proof of address such as utility bills (gas or electric or a mobile phone contract)
  • Proof of income – Payslips (that ideally state your profession) or a letter of employment for employees, pension slips for pensioners, and a tax return for the self-employed
  • Initial deposit – many banks require an initial deposit, which is usually around €250

Some banks may ask you for your recent payslips or proof of earnings. It’s a strange requirement that some Portuguese banks have. If you’re a pensioner, your pension slips should suffice and if you’re self-employed, show your most recent tax returns. 

Which bank is best?

ActivoBank, which mainly has branches in Lisbon and Porto, is one of the most recommended because it doesn’t have maintenance charges. Millennium isn’t free, but is usually recommended and has branches throughout the country.

In fact, most mainstream banks in Portugal aren’t free. With the exception of Activobank, banking generally isn’t completely free in Portugal. However, it’s worth noting that most banks offer a basic bank account or conta de serviços mínimos bancários[1]https://clientebancario.bportugal.pt/en/institutions-provide-basic-bank-accounts. This may not be advertised, and the person at the bank may not suggest it, but if you ask for it, they should provide it. As a basic bank account provides a debit card, online banking, and direct debits, it’s more than most people need. The Bank of Portugal sets a maximum annual fee for basic bank accounts which, in 2022, was no more than €4.35[2]https://www.bportugal.pt/en/page/what-basic-bank-account.

When choosing a bank there are a few things to consider:

  • 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 Millenium)?
  • 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)

Besides Millenium and Activobank, a few other banks include:

Online/App-based banks

  • Moey (a Portuguese version of Revolut or N26)

Free Euro bank accounts

If you’re just staying in Portugal for a short amount of time, it may make sense to get some form of Euro bank account. This is useful for holding money in Euros and withdrawing those Euros without getting charged.

A free bank account, like the one offered by Activobank, could be ideal for this. Alternatively, many people find that N26 and Revolut are fine for day-to-day transactions (although some shops won’t accept non-Portuguese bank cards) and cash withdrawals. There are plenty of app-based accounts like:

Note: Some of these banks have a limit on the number of free withdrawals they offer per month. This is typically around €200 per month or three withdrawals. For some people this may be enough, but others may need to combine several free Euro bank accounts.

32 thoughts on “How to Open a Portuguese Bank Account (Including Online Options)”

  1. So how about self employed people? I can't seem to find a solution for my case as the physical banks all require payslip or job contract to open an account ( I am self employed, with a professional activity already registered here in Portugal) while all the digital banks only open accounts to Portuguese citizens (something I can apply for in 5years time)...any ideas how a self employed EU expat can open a bank account please?

    Reply
      • A tax return from another country in a foreign language? surely won't fly 🙂 and I'd get my first tax return of the self-employed activity in Portugal in May next year so...stuck stuck stuck with no account, thus problems with a million other services..

        Reply
  2. Hi James,

    Thank you for all the beautiful info.
    I have a Portugal nationality but i do not have a valid NIF.
    I am resident in Turkey.
    Is it obligatory to get a NIF in order to open a bank account in Portugal ?

    Many thanks,

    Reply
  3. HI James,
    Great info as ever. When you say Atlantico has a "long waiting process" when opening an account, are we talking days or weeks here?
    Many thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Joss,

      At the time of writing, people were saying it was taking weeks. I'm not sure what it is currently, but hopefully someone else can comment.

      Reply
    • weeks/Months. I uploaded the required forms on the Atlantico app. got an email for more docs and attached those docs to the email reply. then did a video call which was supposed to be the last step. Got an email about a week later that the process didn't go through and had to do the video verification again. I repeated that video call about 4 times and eventually gave up on the process.

      Considering visiting Portugal when I travel to Europe in Feb 2022 to process the NIF and bank Acct myself if I can do all in under 1 week

      Reply
  4. Ola James,

    My wife is from Portugal and has a Portuguese passport and up to date NIF. We live in NZ but would like to open an account in Portugal from here, in preparation to move to Portugal in mid 2022.

    Is this possible and if so, what bank would you recommended?

    Muito Obrigado,
    JR

    Reply
    • Hi JR,

      Some Portuguese banks allow you to open an account online, but normally require that you're resident. If your wife has already been a resident and has a family address there then maybe it'll be possible. Otherwise, you'll need to use a lawyer (discussed in the article above).

      Millennium Bank (and the fee-free Activo Bank if you're going to be in Lisbon/Porto especially) both tend to be recommended (at least based on what I hear). It's not the only option of course, but a good place to start.

      Reply
  5. Hey James,

    Thanks for the information. Greatly appreciated. I tried both Atlantico and Best Bank and not finding those to be good options for me. I feel way more comfortable going with Millenium, even if I have to pay to get set up. Kinda pricy (Bordr.io) for me but I believe it will be well worth it in the long run. Going through Bordr.io as you suggest and I entered your code. Hope they give you a nice commission for the referral. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Yes, better to get a bank account with a bank that actually has branches in Portugal. Atlantico Bank is an Angolan bank. With Millenium you'll be able to go to your local branch if there's ever a problem.

      Reply
  6. Thanks for the information, James. Do you know whether a friend in Portugal would be able to open an account on my behalf?

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,

      If you want to open an account remotely, the easiest thing is to use a service like Bordr or open an account directly with Atlantico (both mentioned in the article). If you want to open an account face-to-face in Portugal, this article explains what's needed a little more: https://www.portugalist.com/portuguese-bank-account/

      Reply
  7. Hello James, thank you very much for such detailed information. Very very helpful! Could I please check with you on opening a bank account (say Activobank) on a scouting trip to Portugal - when I show up at the branch, for proof of address, can I still use UK address (eg driver’s licence, etc), or would they require for me to have a proof of address in Portugal? Thank you very much in advance.

    Reply
  8. James,
    Good info here and thanks for it. Question...which does one do first...open the bank account or get the NIF? It seems like you need a NIF to open a bank account? How does one get a NIF?

    Many thanks

    Reply

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