If you’re planning on living in Portugal, and you need to pay bills (such as those for utilities or a mobile phone contract) you will need a Portuguese bank account. Because Portugal works off its own banking system, the Multibanco system, a foreign bank account – even an EU bank account – won’t be enough. You’ll need a Portuguese bank account.
Having a Portuguese bank account also allows you to use MBWay, a payment app that Portuguese use to send money to each other (similar to Venmo in the US or perhaps Revolut in other parts of Europe).
Banks in Portugal (although with the rest of the EU) are protected under the EU deposit guarantee scheme, which protects €100k per person.
If you’re just staying for a short amount of time, it may make sense to get some form of Euro bank account, especially if you’re being charged to withdraw money. 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).
Choosing a bank
While Millennium and ActivoBank (both part of the same bank) are two that seem to be the most recommended if you’re living in a rural location, your options may depend on what’s available in your town.
And often it makes sense to bank with what’s in your own town as so much of Portuguese banking, including applying for a credit card or loan, is done on a face-to-face basis and not online.
Another factor to consider is what kind of insurance products they offer. A lot of banks sell insurance (everything from health to pet insurance) and there are usually cheaper rates for their customers.
Finally, if you can, it’s worth asking locally to see what people think is the best bank. There’s a lot to be said for somewhere that’s friendly and where the staff can speak English if you get stuck.
- Banco Santander Totta
- Caixa Geral de Depósitos
- Novo Banco
- Banco BPI
You’ll also find international banks like Santander, Deutsche Bank, Abanca, and ING Bank in Portugal.
Free bank accounts
Most Portuguese banks charge a monthly maintenance fee, which at somewhere between €5 and €10 per month isn’t huge, but it can be frustrating if you come from a country where free banking is the norm. There are, however, one or two Portuguese banks that offer accounts without maintenance fees.
- ActivoBank – A popular bank that’s primarily online. Unfortunately, it only has stores in a few parts of Portugal (like Lisbon and Porto).
- Atlantico Europa – A new bank that also lets you open up an account from abroad.
Opening a bank account in Portugal
If you’re already physically in Portugal, you can open a bank by visiting your nearest branch. Some banks, like ActivoBank, have an online account opening service as well.
You will normally need:
- A NIF – A 9-digit number used in Portugal when you make financial transactions.
- A Portuguese mobile number.
- Passport (or European ID card)
- Residency card (if resident in Portugal)
- Proof of address – 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 – some banks (like ActivoBank) require an initial deposit. In the case of ActivoBank, it’s currently €250.
Some banks don’t ask for the proof of income or initial deposit, but it’s probably a good idea to bring these things just in case.
Opening a bank account from outside Portugal
If you aren’t in Portugal yet, but need to open a bank account (perhaps for your visa application), you have a few options.
- Open a bank account with Atlantico Europa (currently the only bank that allows you to open an account online from abroad).
- Open a bank account by giving a lawyer ‘power of attorney.’ (Can give you more of a choice of bank accounts, depending on the lawyer).
- Visit a Portuguese bank that has branches elsewhere (e.g. Millennium BCP has a branch in London and Investors Bank-International Services in New Jersey also allows you to open Millenium BCP accounts).
Or, you could come to Portugal and open an account here. This may not make sense if you’re coming from somewhere like the USA but mightn’t be such a big expense if you’re coming from the UK.
See a longer article about opening a Portuguese bank account remotely.
Free Euro bank accounts
If you just want a € Euro bank account, you don’t need to open an account in Portugal. There are plenty of app-based accounts like N26, Revolut, Wise (previously Transferwise) and Bunq, which offer Euro accounts.