Getting a bank account in Portugal is a top priority when living in the country. Thankfully, it isn’t quite the torturous task it has a tendency to be in some parts of Europe. Even so, it can still be a time-consuming process with some banks, and is therefore something you’ll want to get underway at a relatively early stage.
There are more than 150 banking options in Portugal, which in all instances adopt a slightly different approach to the account opening process. Some operate exclusively online, while others have established High Street presences, and extensive networks of ATMs.
Hence, rather than opening an account at random, it’s a good idea to first consider your requirements and pair them with a suitable provider.
Most major banks in Portugal offer three main categories of bank accounts:
The ‘standard’ bank account most people hold in Portugal, which can be used for cash withdrawals, everyday purchases, direct debit bill payments, and so on.
An account aimed more at those looking to save (rather than spend) money, with higher rates of interest but fewer features than a current account.
Higher interest rates once again, but with restrictions placed on when and in what quantities the money can be taken out.
For the vast majority of people setting up in Portugal for the first time, a current account is the best of the three options to get started with. The best known banks are Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Santander Totta, Novo Banco, BPI and Millennium.
If you do not currently have a registered address in Portugal, it is still possible to open certain types of Portuguese bank accounts. However, the application process can be slightly more complex, and the account you open may not have any many features as those of a more ‘conventional’ Portuguese bank account.
To open a fully-featured Portuguese bank account, you will need to get your Portuguese NIF, or “Número de Identificação Fiscal.” In order to get your NIF, you will need to provide evidence of your Portuguese address to your local tax office, complete with your passport. If you don’t yet have an address, you can still get a NIF through a “Representante Fiscal”.
As across most of the world, you also need to be at least 18 years old to open a bank account in Portugal.
Proof of your foreign address will also be required if setting up an account as a non-resident.
Depending on the type of account you intend to open, you may find that the easiest option is to simply walk into your nearest branch with as much evidence and paperwork as possible. Most major bank branches in larger towns and cities will have English-speaking employees, who will be happy to guide you through the process from start to finish.
Even so, it is always a good idea (where possible) to bring a Portuguese-speaking friend or colleague along with you.
After completing the application form and presenting the required evidence, your account will be opened, or you will be told what further documentation is needed to process your application. Assuming your application is successful, you will receive your card by mail within a few days.
If you would prefer to open a bank account in Portugal online, you may find yourself with fewer account options to choose from. Many major Portuguese banks only accept applications in person, but some of the more dynamic providers now offer online banking and mobile banking apps (for residents and foreigners alike). A popular example of this is ActivoBank.
The online application process is fairly straightforward, but you will need to submit scanned copies of the same documentation that would be needed to open an account in person. In addition, you may also need to visit your local branch to physically sign a contract.
Some of the international mobile banks currently operating in Portugal include N26, Openbank, and Revolut. Each of these can be used to make payments, withdraw cash and generally manage your finances, but are not formally recognised in the same way as conventional High Street banks.
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