How to open a bank account in Portugal

There’s no requirement for expats living in Portugal to open a bank account, but having access to one can make life in this beautiful country a little bit easier. A Portuguese bank account is useful for all kinds of tasks from paying highway tolls to getting a mortgage.

However, as a newcomer, navigating through the Portuguese bureaucratic maze can be baffling. I’ve made this journey myself and learnt most of what I know through trial and error. 

That’s why I’ve put together this in-depth article—to help you open a bank account in Portugal, the easy way.

Types of bank accounts in Portugal

Portuguese banks will offer you a choice of three types when you apply for a bank account:

  • Current account - This account type allows you to send and receive payments, withdraw cash at an ATM, pay utility bills, set up direct debits, and more. Some banks offer tailored current accounts for students without residency documents.
  • Instant-access savings accounts - Hoping to grow your nest egg during your stay in Portugal? Instant-access savings account help you to stick to your goals while keeping your money within easy reach.
  • Time-deposit accounts - Looking for maximum interest on your savings? Time deposit accounts offer higher interest rates than most other accounts but there might be restrictions as to when you can access your money.

Banking services offered in Portgual

Opening a bank account in Portugal opens up a world of financial opportunity. Once you’ve successfully opened a Portuguese bank account you could gain access to a range of useful services.

  • Current accounts - A popular options for expats looking to open a bank account in Portugal. These accounts are available with a range of tailored benefits from student and youth accounts to premium accounts with credit card options.
  • Savings and Investments - Those looking to open a Portuguese bank account might wish to enjoy the higher interest rates associated with savings and investment accounts.
  • Online and mobile banking - Most banks offer intuitive online and mobile banking options via their respective websites and downloadable banking apps. 
  • Mortgages - Looking to invest in a slice of Portuguese real estate? Most banks in Portugal offer lending facilities with various fixed and variable interest rates.
  • Insurance - Home, health, car, and life insurance options are available at most Portuguese banks.
  • Loans and overdrafts - Most banks in Portugal offer flexible loan and overdraft options that provide you with some added financial wiggle room.
  • Expat services - Many banks offer tailored services that make it easier for expats and foreign residents to get started with opening a bank account.

Do I need a Portuguese bank account to live in Portugal?

You do not require a Portuguese bank account to remain living in Portugal, and many choose to continue managing their finances via an overseas or offshore bank account. 

An offshore bank account is particularly useful if you are somebody who travels regularly for work or spends short amounts of time in various countries around the world.

However, if you do plan to stay in Portugal for a longer time, having a Portuguese bank account will grant you access to a range of useful financial possibilities. Some benefits of having a Portuguese bank account include:

  • Paying for Portuguese highway tolls
  • Paying for Portuguese household bills  
  • Receiving wages in Portugal
  • Getting a mortgage in Portugal

Make sure you have the right documents

The necessary documents required for opening a bank account in Portugal varies from bank to bank and depends on the type of bank account you want to open.

The following documentation is what’s commonly required to open a bank account in person at a Portuguese bank. This documentation could differ if you wish to open an overseas account or you want to open a Portuguese bank account online.

  • A valid passport or photo ID
  • A proof of address, e.g. a Portuguese utility bill
  • Your Portuguese NIF
  • Proof of employment, e.g. a work contract or payslips

One more thing: The minimum age requirement for opening a bank account in Portugal is 18 years old, although, many banks now offer junior bank accounts for minors. A junior bank account can be opened in your name, but you will need a parent or guardian with you to sign.

How to open a Portuguese bank account as a resident

Some banks require you to be a Portuguese resident before they open your bank account. If you’re a Portuguese resident, you shouldn’t encounter many problems provided that you possess the necessary documentation. Here are three simple steps for opening your first Portuguese bank account.

Step 1: Get a Portuguese NIF number

If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and acquire your Portuguese NIF. Don’t worry, it’s super easy and can be done in person or online. If you get stuck along the way you can refer to this no-nonsense guide to getting your NIF.

Step 2: Prepare your documents

Once you’ve researched your local banks and decided on the best one for you, it’s time to prepare your documents. You’ll need your passport or photo ID, proof of your Portuguese address, your Portuguese NIF number, and proof of income such as payslips or a work contract.

Step 3: Apply online or visit a local branch

Some Portuguese banks such as ActivoBank and Banco CTT are now accepting online applications which means you may be able to open an account before arriving in Portugal. If you’re wondering how you can get a NIF without being in Portugal, go ahead and follow this simple how-to guide.

If you prefer to head into a branch, make sure to make an appointment beforehand and—should your Portuguese be as impressive as mine—ensure somebody is working there who’s comfortable speaking in English.

Bring your documents with you (see above) and at least €250 cash, which may be required for a minimum opening deposit.

Fast way: Getting a bank account is A LOT of bureaucracy. There are agencies to which you can fully delegate the whole process.

How to open a Portuguese bank account as a non-resident

Not a resident? Not a problem.

You don’t need to be a resident of Portugal to open a Portuguese bank account. Perhaps you plan to stay in Portugal for a while but you don’t want to register as a resident. 

That’s okay. Opening a Portuguese bank account as a non-resident is simple and still grants you access to many of the benefits I mentioned earlier—nice!

If you want to open a Portuguese bank account as a non-resident, make sure you’ve got the following details at hand:

  • A mobile phone number capable of receiving SMS
  • Proof of income such as payslips or a work contact
  • Your Portuguese NIF number
  • Proof of address (Portuguese or foreign)

How to open an online-only (digital) bank account

Online-only bank accounts like those offered by N26 and Bunq offer similar benefits to traditional Portuguese banks accounts and can be acquired in a fraction of the time.

With an online bank account, you can manage your funds in much the same way as you can with a traditional Portuguese bank account. You can send and receive payments, make cash withdrawals, open savings accounts, and get access to a variety of other features like budget planners, biometric scanners, and live customer support messaging.

Signing up for a bank account with Bunq, for example, takes just five minutes. Once you’ve opened your account, you’ll enjoy a bunch of perks such as no foreign exchange fees, free cash withdrawals, and more.

The requirements for opening a mobile-only bank account vary, but you’ll typically need to provide the following basic information:

  • Personal details (e.g. full name, date of birth, and address)
  • A mobile number
  • An email address
  • Biometric data (e.g. fingerprint or face scan)

Most mobile-only banks are international and don’t require a Portuguese address or residency. Some banks will require a photo ID such as a citizen card or passport. In this case, you’ll probably need to scan the document using your mobile phone.

Decide what’s important before you choose a bank

The choice can be overwhelming when deciding with whom you’d like to bank. That’s why it’s useful to note down your priorities before you start shortlisting.

You might want to consider key points such as:

  • Do you need a Portuguese IBAN?
  • Can you make a minimum first-time deposit?
  • Do you need access to mobile or online banking?
  • What kind of interest rates are you hoping for?
  • What are the charges for foreign exchange?
  • Are there any yearly or monthly fees?
  • How secure are your funds?

Portugal is home to more than 150 banks, so finding one that suits your needs shouldn’t be a problem.

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