Moving to Portugal?
Your guide to expatriate banking services in Portugal
Portugal, situated in the far south-west of Europe, is bordered by Spain to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
The Portuguese banking system has changed considerably in recent years, with many Spanish banks opening branches in the country. The Portuguese banking sector emerged from the recent global financial crisis unscathed, and the sector has benefitted from increased competition between private and state-owned banks in recent years, resulting in a wider range of services available to retail banking customers.
The euro (EUR) is the currency in circulation in Portugal, and as of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately €1.14 EUR to £1 GBP (pound sterling).
Banks in Portugal
- Banco de Portugal
Commercial banks in Portugal
- Banco BPI
- Banco Comercial dos Açores
- Banco Comercial Português (BCP)
- Banco Efisa
- Banco Espírito Santo
- Banco Popular Portugal
- Banco Internacional do Funchal (BANIF)
- Banco Português de Negócios
- Caixa Central de Crédito Agrícola Mútuo
- BNP Paribas
- Deutsche Bank
Bank opening times in Portugal
Banks in Portugal are normally open from 8.30am – 3pm, Monday to Friday, with a number of branches also offering Saturday opening hours. In major towns and cities, along with popular tourist resorts, bank branches may open in the evening, primarily to offer currency exchange services.
Banking in Portugal
Portugal is able to offer both residents and non-residents a range of banking services and products, either through its own national banks, or through the network of foreign banks in the country. Services such as internet banking are widely available, but many only offer the service in the Portuguese language only, with no English translation available.
In recent years, many bank branches have been established in supermarkets, and Portugal has one of the most developed supermarket banking networks in Europe, with these outlets tending to use telephone banking for the provision of personal banking services.
The main types of bank account in Portugal
The main accounts offered by banks in Portugal include;
- Current accounts – current accounts are typically used for everyday banking. Interest rates paid on current accounts are generally low, but current accounts provide customers with services such as internet banking, standing orders and debit cards, in addition to giving easy access to funds
- Savings account – savings accounts generally pay higher rates of interest than current accounts, but may limit access to funds. Savings accounts may also require a minimum account balance be maintained, and should be considered as a medium to long-term account
- Fixed-deposit account – these accounts are primarily for long-term saving, often with higher interest rates than either current or savings accounts. However, deposit accounts may offer limited or no access to funds until the account matures, and minimum account balances are generally higher than savings accounts
In addition to these broad account types, many banks will offer expatriates accounts that can be opened in a range of foreign currencies, including pound sterling and US dollars.
Opening a bank account when you arrive in Portugal
Each bank has a number of forms which you must complete when applying to open an account. These forms are typically a generic application form, a Terms & Conditions acceptance form, along with a form detailing your personal information.
As an EU citizen, in addition to these forms, you will need to provide a number of documents for verification of your ID. These forms of ID include your passport, a residency card, proof of residence/address (e.g. utility bill) and a tax number.
Opening a bank account before you arrive in Portugal
A number of the main Portuguese banks have UK or European branches in the main cities, so it is possible to visit these prior to you arriving in Portugal, and open an account in person.
An alternative to opening a local Portuguese bank account is to open an international account. International Accounts can be opened before you move to Portugal, and provide expats living and working in Portugal with a convenient way to manage their finances abroad.
In addition to giving you access to a range of access to a range of savings and bank accounts, you will also benefit from a comprehensive range of international banking services, including online banking, international payments and online money transfer services.
Automatic teller machines (ATMs)
In Portugal, once a current account has been opened, account holders will receive (dependent on the account opened) a Multibanco card, which acts as a multi-functional electronic card, allowing customers to make cash withdrawals, account deposits, account payments, money transfers, pay taxes and even mobile phone top-ups. The Multibanco card can be used at ATM machines to access these services, in addition to being used for payments for goods and services at hotels and retail outlets.
It is also possible to apply for a ‘multi-function’ Multibanco card, which acts as a combined credit and bank card. Account holders are able to specify when making purchases, for example, whether the payment is to be taken from their current account, or deducted from their credit card account balance. Since the range of services that these cards can be used for is extensive, it is advisable to clarify the fee structure for using a Multibanco card prior to use, as certain services will incur a fee.
Cheque usage in Portugal, as with many of the major European countries, is largely on decline, with the issuing of cheques now largely limited to businesses. A key factor of this is the increased use of electronic ‘chip-and-pin’ and electronic ‘point-of-sale’ services, and a drive to minimise fraudulent payments.
Major credit cards, such as Visa and MasterCard, are welcomed in Portugal by the majority of the larger establishments and retail outlets. However, not all establishments accept credit card payments, and a surcharge is likely to be incurred when making a payment with a credit card. Credit cards can be used in many of the ATMs, but customers using this service will be charged a fee.
Money transfers to and from Portugal
In addition to the money transfer services provided by both the national and international banks in Portugal, there are many specialist money transfer services in Portugal, particularly in the main towns, cities and tourist areas.
Regulations relating to the import and export of foreign currencies are subject to change, so it is advisable to consult with the national bank or customs department for details on foreign currency regulations.
As Portugal is a member of the EU, the regulations relating to the import/export of foreign currency that are applicable to all EU member states apply. Therefore, whilst there are no limits of the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into the country, currency that exceeds €10,000 in value (approximately £8,900 GBP) must be declared to Customs when entering or leaving the country.
Whilst many bank accounts and financial services in Portugal benefit are provided free of monthly fees and charges, services outside of the ‘core’ account features are likely to incur a charge, so before you open an account or request a service, clarify the fee structure, including monthly fees, commissions payable and one-off fees that apply.
Banking in Portugal – other information
How numbers are written
In Portugal, numbers are generally written using a comma to denote a decimal point (e.g. 8,5% APR), and a decimal point to display large numbers (e.g. 1.000.000 = one million)
If you have any complaints or issues relating to financial services in Portugal, contact the Banking Ombudsman. Details are at http://www.provedor-jus.pt
More information on banking with Barclays Wealth International
For further information about the benefits of opening an International Account before you move to Portugal, you can speak to a specialist adviser at Barclays Wealth International by calling +44 (0) 141 352 3902.