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A guide to using ATMs in Portugal

Last updated: November 2019* | 40 Comments

In Portugal, there are basic ATMs and there are also Multibancos. Multibancos in Portugal aren’t just used for withdrawing cash; you can also use them to pay utility bills, pay your VAT, pay your income tax, pay for concert tickets, and pay your social security contributions.

All of this is quite impressive until you’re stuck behind somebody who’s doing all of those things and, yes, sometimes people do spend 10 or 20 minutes doing all of those things.

Unfortunately, you will need to visit the ATM quite a bit when you visit Portugal. Although Portuguese card machines have gotten a lot better at reading non-Portuguese bank cards, it’s still a good idea to carry cash on you. Even if you do end up paying by card – for example, at a restaurant – it’s a good idea to have some cash on you for the tip.

Bank fees: it’s probably your bank

Most banks (everywhere in the world) charge you if you withdraw money when you’re abroad. Sometimes it’s a set fee (e.g. €2 per withdrawal), sometimes it’s a percentage (e.g. 5% of whatever you’re withdrawing), or sometimes it’s a combination of both.

Now, most countries have at least one bank that’s travel friendly. In the UK, Metro Bank is pretty good for travel within Europe. Revolt and N26, the app-based banks, are also very travel-friendly and available throughout Europe. Unfortunately, you’ll have to open those accounts in advance of your trip to Portugal: there’s not a lot that you can do once you’re here except work out which of your bank cards charges the lowest fees for use abroad.

Of course, there are exceptions like Euronet ATMs.

Warning: Euronet ATMs

Euronet ATMs

When going to an ATM, it’s best to go to an official bank ATM like Santander, BPI, Crédito Agrícola, etc. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, if your bank card gets stuck in the ATM (it’s happened to me before) you can just go into the bank and get it back.

Secondly, and most importantly, their fees (if any) are going to be reasonable unlike say Euronet ATMs which have been popping up all over Portugal. The last time I used one of these was in Germany, and I was charged a €5 ATM fee and I shouldn’t have been charged anything. I think I only withdrew €20.

The worst part: it never said “this is going to charge you, do you wish to proceed?” I didn’t know until I was checking my bank statements a few days later.

These ATMs are now all over Portugal, but especially Lisbon, Porto, Madeira, and the Algarve. They’re usually blue and yellow (the logo is blue and white) and are usually placed somewhere that’s incredibly convenient.

Avoid them if at all costs. You’ll typically pay a fee of somewhere between 7.5% and 20% on whatever you withdraw.

ATM Limits

Most ATMs have a withdrawal limit of €200 per day. That’s enough cash to last for a few days, but not for an entire week. The problem isn’t having to go to the Multibanco, but whether your bank back home will issue a fee every time you make a withdrawal.

Some banks charge a fee that’s a percentage of the total withdrawal, while others charge a fee for every withdrawal or both.

To avoid ATM fees, you should:

  • Pay online, where possible: Hotels, train tickets, and car hire can all be booked online.
  • Order currency before you go to Portugal: Visit your bank, Bureau de Change, or online currency shop and get Euros sent to you before you leave for Portugal. (Normally the latter is the cheapest option).
  • Pay by card, where possible: While many banks charge for ATM withdrawals abroad, some credit cards can be used abroad without incurring any fee. If this is the case, save your cash and use your card when you can.

Should I accept the conversion?

If you are trying to use a non-Euro bank account at the ATM (for example: Sterling or Dollars) you will be asked whether you want to accept the ATM’s conversion rate or go with the as yet unknown conversion rate that your bank will give you.

You are always better off saying no and going with whatever conversion rate your bank offers you. It will almost always be better than the rate the ATM offers you.

6-digit pins?

When the ATM asks for your pin, you might see space for six digits e.g. – – – – – –

All you need to do is enter 4.

I’ve never actually met anyone who has a 6-digit ATM pin, but there must be some reasoning to it.

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40 comments on “A guide to using ATMs in Portugal”

  1. Hi
    I have been fined Eur 6.62 for passing a toll station. I have the reference numbers for paying using a Portugese bank but I am now back in the UK and we don’t seem to have the same system for paying bills. Any ideas?
    Thank you
    Ann Thomas

    • Hi Ann,

      Not sure.

      It sounds like you have the multibanco payment system which, as you say, is unique to Portuguese banks.

      I think you’ll need to contact them and say that you need to do a bank transfer and ask them what you should use as the reference number. They may have a system for paying by card as well.

      Failing that, https://www.pagamentodeportagens.pt/ is supposed to be suitable for non-Portuguese residents to use.

  2. First of all, I am grateful that you provide a stern warning about EURO-NET ATM machines and their rip-off tactics. So I knew I had to stay with Multibanco machines. I am using a Canadian-issued debit card and a Canadian-issued credit card (VISA). After more than two dozen occasions, I can state with conviction that all Multibanco machines refuse the debit cards with the same screen “Operation not Authorized”. However, a cash advance on the VISA card worked on two different occasions (on the same machines that had just refused my bank debit card), and again, I am grateful for the advice to decline (twice!) the “offer” of a portuguese bank conversion.
    I checked my credit card statement, and the rate I obtained is sensationally close to the official conversion rate. I will now have to pay “cash advance interest” until I have the opportunity to square up with my bank, but that amounts to less than 10% of the penalty I would have paid, had I used the EURO-NET rip-off machines. So, overall, I am happy that the VISA cash advance worked, but I am still puzzled, why Multibanco refuse Canadian bank cards. I have used the same bank card successfully (this year!) in Shanghai, Hongkong, Paris, Zurich, San Francisco, Vienna and Venice (and at home in Canada), only to have had it refused in Porto and Lisboa. Go figure…

      • “Operation not Authorized” message appears on all Multibanco cash withdrawal attempts when we use our RBC bank cards. It used to work fine last month and now it doesn’t…
        Tellers in the bank are of no help. They suggest to check with your bank…
        We did there’s nothing wrong with our cards according to RBC customer service.
        Visa cash advances go smoothly, no problems there.
        It’s a mystery…

          • Hi,

            I am also from Canada and currently travelling into Portugal. I have a Desjardins card. I was able to withdraw money 2-3 weeks ago but I now get the same message as DJ and Meinrad.

            My institution in Canada couldn’t help nor did the people at the banks I visited..

            Any idea what could cause such problem recently?

            Thanks!
            Tristan

  3. Hi James, I’m presently in Lisbon and was worried about ATM fees and wanted to share my positive experience. I heeded your advice and stayed away from the Euronet ATMs (which really are everywhere!). I looked for an ATM that was attached to the wall of a physical bank and found two at a BPI bank location. Nothing on the ATM or its user interface lead me to believe it was officially a BPI ATM but since there were two and they looked pretty similar to how an American bank would do an ATM, I rolled the dice anyways. When using the ATM, I needed to decline the Euro-> USD conversion twice (Want to convert? Are you sure you don’t want to convert??) and I was never prompted for a bank fee the transaction (like I’m accustomed to in the USA) which really scared me. The ATM supported up to 6 digits for a PIN, but mine was only four.
    My US bank is Ally, whose service states they charge “up to 1%” for foreign transaction fees. The Euro -> USD conversion rate was 1:1.10 on the day I took out the money. I took out €200 which showed up in my Ally statement as $222.85. I don’t know if the ATM charged a fee or Ally charged me very little, but that comes to a cost of only $2.85 for using the ATM. I’m happy!

  4. My wife’s wallet was stolen in Lisbon. She is about to go to Porto. Anyone know of any touchless ATMs in Porto where she’d be able to get cash via our ATM card that she just set up with Apple Pay?

  5. I need to pay a bill to a private doctor in the Algarve, what is the sequence on an ATM machine, I have the identity and reference numbers, do I assume the payment is for private and obviously not state, always confused with the ATM

  6. I was in Lisbon 2 weeks ago and used my US ATM card at several MultiBanco ATMs from different banks. In every case, I was given the option of allowing the local bank to do the conversion to dollars (and it told me what the conversion would be) or allow the network (Visa, Mastercard etc.) to do the conversion. Allowing the network to do the conversion always gives a better rate, though the ATM will ask you if you really want to make a transaction at an unknown rate. The rate I got was about $1.13 per euro and there was no ATM fee charged by the Lisbon banks. Visa/Mastercard will charge a fee of about 1% and your US bank may also charge a fee.

    I was also warned not to use the Euronet ATMs since they have high conversion fees as well as other fees. These are not bank ATMs.