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Banking for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: September 2014

Portuguese bank accounts may be opened by both residents and non-residents. US expats may have some trouble because the FATCA makes it more costly for non-US banks to accept US citizens.

Providing you have all the required documents, the account opening process should be quite straightforward. In practice, you should plan for this several weeks in advance. Feel free to take half an hour to browse the websites of Portuguese banks. Unfortunately, an English version is often not available.

Foreign currency deposits may be available in Portugal, but they are not common.


Opening an account

As far as paperwork is concerned, you need at least:

Additional documents may be required, such as proof of address in the home country, residency card (Cartão de Residencia), or proof of employment or self-employment in Portugal.


Products available

Check if you are eligible for a special banking package, e.g. for young adults or senior citizens.

Bank accounts (Conta á ordem) are not necessarily fee-paying, but minimum balance requirements may apply. Current accounts may be interest-bearing, though interest is going to be paid only if you have a large deposit. Furthermore, interest rates on current accounts are quite low (typically no more than 0.4%).

When it comes to savings, you will usually need to apply for a term deposit because their interest rates are much higher. While interest rates in Portugal have kept going down recently, it’s still possible to get a yield of about 2%. In general, there is no particular need to lock up your savings for more than one year.

A standardised factsheet (Ficha de informação normalizada) should normally be available for each product sold by Portuguese banks, and this document can be viewed online. You should have a look at it before applying for an account.

Bank accounts in Portugal are guaranteed by the Deposit Guarantee Fund (Fundo de Garantia de Depósitos) up to €100,000.


Where to apply?

It is strongly advisable to shop around before selecting a bank. Feel free to compare the fees, the interest rates, the customer satisfaction rates, and the account opening process.

Reputable banks in Portugal include Banco BIC, Banco Comercial Português, Banif, Caixa Geral de Depositos, and Novobanco.

Banks are typically open from Monday to Friday, from 8.30am to 3pm.


Day-to-day account management

Do always check if you are paying a fee for something you don’t need, for banks make a lot of money from the charges.

Once opened, a current account should come along with a debit card at no additional cost. The debit card may be used to perform various operations at ATMs located across Portugal, including deposits and bank transfers.

Cheque books are not automatically provided. Generally, you can also get the following services free of charge:

An account may have an overdraft facility as well.



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