Best Bank Accounts in Portugal for Foreigners: Your Guide for 2024

Are you navigating the Portuguese banking scene looking for the best bank accounts in Portugal suited to your lifestyle? Whether you’re a resident or a recent arrival, our clear-cut comparisons of fees, features, and conveniences among leading Portuguese banks will arm you with the knowledge to secure the account that best aligns with your financial requirements.
Dean Fankhauser
April 4, 2024

Are you navigating the Portuguese banking scene looking for the best bank accounts in Portugal suited to your lifestyle? Whether you’re a resident or a recent arrival, our clear-cut comparisons of fees, features, and conveniences among leading Portuguese banks will arm you with the knowledge to secure the account that best aligns with your financial requirements. Stay ahead with our precise insights and ease your path to the ideal banking partner.

Do you want to open a Portuguese bank account remotely? We can help with that.

Key Takeaways

  • Portugal has a diverse banking landscape catering to locals and foreigners with traditional, digital, and international options, including major banks like Caixa Geral de Depósitos and Millennium BCP and digital banks like N26 and Activo Bank.
  • Digital banks are becoming increasingly popular in Portugal due to their convenience, lower fees, and innovative features, such as easy online account setup, comprehensive digital banking services, and customer-friendly platforms.
  • Security in Portuguese banking is robust, with protection measures enforced by Banco de Portugal and the European Central Bank, including technical and organizational measures, encrypted communication, and comprehensive surveillance and reporting systems.

Navigating Portuguese Banking: Top Accounts for Your Needs

Various Portuguese bank cards and a mobile phone with banking app

In Portugal, there are over 150 local and international banks, each offering a unique suite of services to suit a broad spectrum of financial needs. Among the most well-known banks are:

  • Caixa Geral de Depósitos
  • Millennium BCP
  • Banco BPO
  • Novo Banco
  • Banco Santander Totta


Did you know Movingto can open a bank account for you remotely? See more here.


These banks have earned a reputation for offering efficient and reliable banking services to both locals and foreigners alike. Regardless of your residential status, you can open a bank account in Portugal, either by visiting a branch or applying online with digital and mobile banks.

Portuguese banks offer traditional checking account options, which are essential for day-to-day financial transactions. With the Euro as the default currency, having a Portuguese bank account simplifies processes like receiving wages, paying bills, or shopping at local stores. Choosing an appropriate bank and account type may seem challenging. To assist you, we’ll examine the features of Portuguese bank accounts and compare various account types, providing you with the information you need for a well-informed decision.

Essential Features of Portuguese Bank Accounts

Whether you’re considering a traditional bank or a digital one, the sign-up process often begins online. However, traditional banks might require an in-person visit to a branch to complete the process. Once your account is set up, you’ll receive a debit card, typically with chip-and-pin technology. Some banks may offer instant issuance of cards upon account opening, while others send them via mail.

Additionally, most Portuguese banks provide mobile banking apps, allowing you to manage your finances at your fingertips. These apps usually offer services ranging from paying utility bills to making online purchases.

Comparing Account Types

Portugal offers a variety of account types, each designed to cater to specific financial needs and habits. Current accounts are primarily used for daily transactions and receiving wages, often including services such as debit cards and ATM access. If you prefer easy access to your savings with some growth potential, you might consider an instant-access savings account. However, these typically come with lower interest rates.

Conversely, time-deposit accounts provide higher interest in exchange for reduced access to funds, which can lead to benefits like reduced fees due to fewer transactions. Each account type has its own unique fee structure. Understanding these fees before deciding is key to avoiding unexpected charges.

Digital Banking Revolution: The Rise of Online-Only Banks

Person using a laptop for online banking

With technology permeating every aspect of our lives, banking is no exception. Portugal has witnessed a rise in digital banks, which offer financial services exclusively through online and mobile platforms. Online-only banks are popular because of their convenience, lower fees, and innovative features. Many people are drawn to them for these reasons. For instance, they allow customers to open personal and business accounts, obtain insurance, and make payments entirely via digital platforms. Moreover, the digital tools used by these banks simplify customer relations and provide opportunities for enhancing long-term partnerships.

The digital transformation in Portugal’s banking sector has prioritized accessibility, offering 24/7 service through online channels. This revolution has streamlined processes and facilitated real-time information flow for all core products and services. But how does this digital revolution impact you as a customer? We will explore the offerings of digital banks and explain how to establish a digital bank account in Portugal.

Navigating Digital Bank Offerings

Digital banking services have significantly grown in Portugal, catering to the modern, mobile-first customer who prefers managing their finances on the go. N26, for example, offers a quick online bank account setup, the ability to manage limits and card security, and no-fee transactions globally. Activo Bank, part of the Millennium BCP Group, was one of the initial digital banks in Portugal, combining mobile banking conveniences with investment product offerings.

Meanwhile, EuroBic and Caixa Geral de Depósitos provide comprehensive digital banking services, including online account access, digital transactions, and mobile banking through Caixadirecta.

Setting Up Your Digital Bank Account

Opening a digital bank account in Portugal is a straightforward process that typically requires providing the following documents:

  • Personal details
  • Valid photo ID
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of employment
  • Portuguese NIF number issued by the Portuguese tax authority

The process can be completed within minutes with digital banks like N26, involving the selection of an account type and identity verification through a video call. This is a significant streamlining of the traditional banking process, which typically takes about a month.

Just like traditional banks, digital bank accounts offer core services such as money transfers and deposit insurance, but with the added advantage of managing your bank account online without needing to visit a physical branch. However, before starting the online account setup, it’s important to confirm that the selected bank provides the option for online account opening, especially for individuals not physically present in Portugal.

Traditional Banking Powerhouses: Portugal's Largest Banks

Exterior of a traditional Portuguese bank branch

While digital banking is making strides, traditional banking still has a strong presence in Portugal. The country’s largest private retail banks, such as Millennium BCP, Santander Portugal, and Novo Banco, continue to serve millions of customers with a diverse range of services. These major banks offer everything from personal and business accounts to savings and investment products, credit and loans, and insurance products.

In addition to their comprehensive services, these banks have also embraced digitalization. For instance, Santander Portugal has led the way in digitalizing mortgage processes, transitioning branches into advisory points. Even as digital banking grows, traditional banks like Caixa Geral de Depositos continue to hold market dominance.

We will examine the services provided by these major banks in detail and evaluate their accessibility and branch network.

Comprehensive Services at Major Banks

Major banks like Caixa Geral de Depósitos and Millennium BCP provide a full spectrum of banking services, catering to both individuals and businesses. They offer:

  • Current accounts are designed for different customer segments, from the Minimum Banking Services Account to the Caixajovem Account, Millennium Account, and accounts tailored for young people and students.
  • Corporate banking services
  • Private banking services
  • Investment management services
  • Insurance products

For business owners, opening a business bank account involves providing company-related documents, such as company registration and details of owners and directors. Additionally, these banks have also digitalized the mortgage process, significantly reducing the deed signing process to about 20–25 business days, with services specifically designed for non-residents. As for loans, interest rates vary by purpose, with rates for new cars at 5%, and used cars at up to 11.8%.

Lastly, these private national retail banks offer a variety of savings and investment products, complementing their traditional personal and business banking services.

Accessibility and Branch Networks

When it comes to accessibility, the following banks offer extensive networks of branches and ATMs:

  • Novo Banco: It has an extensive network of branches and ATMs across Portugal, making it easy for personal banking customers to access their services.
  • Millennium BCP: It provides easy access to banking services with its significant presence, boasting a large number of branches both in Portugal and internationally.
  • Banco CTT: Even newer players like Banco CTT are expanding their services and branch network, quickly growing in accessibility and catering to the banking needs of personal customers.

ATMs are conveniently located throughout Portugal in various locations, including:

  • Bank branches
  • Airports
  • Train stations
  • Central areas
  • Shopping centers

These ATMs provide widespread access to cash and banking services. Major banks in Portugal, such as Millennium BCP, Eurobic, CGD Group, and Novo Banco, offer online ATMs and branch locators to help customers find the nearest facilities.

It’s also important to note that the standard operating hours for local banks in Portugal are from 08:30 to 15:00, and these banks typically close on weekends.

International Banks Serving Global Citizens

Diverse group of people using digital devices for banking

In addition to local banks, Portugal is also home to a variety of international banks that cater to both local and expat communities. These include institutions from countries such as Brazil, China, and Angola. Citibank, a United States-based bank, has been operating in Portugal since 1979, serving a diverse clientele, while Banco Atlantico Europa provides a range of services including savings and investment solutions, real estate investment guidance, and transaction management for corporate clients.

Even Caixa Geral de Depositos, a major Portuguese bank, operates in 24 countries, offering international banking services. For global citizens, non-resident accounts in Portugal are accessible, though these may come with certain restrictions and require additional documentation.

Advantages of Banking with International Institutions

International banks in Portugal offer a host of benefits, especially for expats who may move between countries or travel frequently. These banks often have a significant global presence, making it convenient for customers to access their services anywhere in the world. They also provide customer service in multiple languages, catering to expats from diverse backgrounds. Some of the benefits of banking with international banks in Portugal include:

  • Global presence for easy access to services
  • Customer service in multiple languages
  • Convenient online banking options
  • International money transfer services
  • Competitive interest rates and fees

These benefits make international banks a great choice for expats in Portugal.

Moreover, many international banks in Portugal offer multi-currency accounts, aiding expats in managing finances in multiple currencies. Expats also benefit from the global financial expertise that these banks offer, which can help navigate financial challenges while living abroad.

How to Choose an International Bank in Portugal

When choosing an international bank in Portugal, it can be beneficial to opt for a bank with which you already have a relationship back home or that has a significant global presence. It’s also important to consider banks that offer specific services tailored to your unique needs, such as offshore bank accounts and efficient international fund transfers. Selecting a bank that provides competitive exchange rates can also be crucial for saving money during currency conversions. And, of course, the ease of accessing your money is vital; therefore, international banks like BBVA, Banco Santander, Deutsche Bank, and Crédito Agrícola offer ATM locators in Portugal.

Finally, understanding the terms related to account closure or transfer is vital to guaranteeing a smooth financial transition should you decide to leave Portugal.

Fees and Charges: What to Expect from Your Bank in Portugal

International money transfer and currency exchange

A key aspect of banking in Portugal is understanding the associated fees and charges. Here are some typical fees and charges to be aware of:

  • Monthly service fees for bank accounts are around €5–7 plus stamp duty, and current accounts may charge additional monthly maintenance fees.
  • Using debit cards or ATMs outside the bank’s network usually incurs costs.
  • Foreign bank card usage at Multibanco ATMs results in a commission of 2–3% of the transaction sum.
  • For credit card users, you can expect an average credit card rate of 11–13% and annual charges that range between €15–50, with premium cards potentially costing more.

For international money transfers, charges are usually less than €15 for amounts less than €50,000, and can be €30 or more for larger transfers. However, it’s important to note that banking fees in Portugal can vary depending on the specific bank, type of account, and the services required. For example, ActivoBank offers an option for free banking.

Now, we’ll explore strategies to avoid unnecessary bank fees and clarify the fee structures of Portuguese banks.

Avoiding Unnecessary Bank Fees

Avoiding unnecessary bank fees is all about smart banking. Choosing a bank account type that aligns with your financial habits can lead to lower fees. For instance, if you tend to maintain a significant balance in your bank account, you might be able to evade the monthly maintenance fees charged by some Portuguese banks. Banks that provide accounts without maintenance fees or those with low-cost alternatives can significantly cut down on your banking expenses.

Furthermore, using banks with an extensive ATM network can help you avoid charges tied to ATM withdrawals outside of your home bank. Similarly, selecting banks with minimal fees for common services such as ATM withdrawals and SEPA transfers ensures cost savings.

Understanding Fee Structures

Understanding the fee structure of Portuguese banks can help you make informed financial decisions and avoid any unexpected charges. These banks typically have a fee structure that includes monthly maintenance fees, ATM withdrawal charges, and international transaction fees. To fully comprehend the fee structure, it’s important to understand the specific services offered with an account, like overdraft facilities and loans. Charges on cross-border credit transfers within SEPA countries cannot be higher than the charges applied to domestic credit transfers, thanks to standardized rules across member countries, including Portugal.

Lastly, the Multibanco system in Portugal offers over 11,000 ATMs with services like withdrawals, bill payments, and ticket purchases, each with potentially different fee structures.

Seamless Transfers: Managing Money Across Borders

In today’s globalized world, managing money across borders is a crucial aspect of banking, and Portugal is no exception. The country’s participation in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) facilitates easier international money transfers throughout Europe, typically with no fees involved. SEPA transfers in Portugal usually complete within 1–2 days, making them a swift option for transferring money across European countries.

International money transfers can be initiated through traditional bank branches or via online banking platforms. However, it’s important to note that non-SEPA international money transfers typically take between three to five working days to process when sent from Portuguese bank accounts.

Cost-Effective Transfer Solutions

While traditional banks offer reliable international money transfer services, they may not always be the most cost-effective option. Alternative services like online money transfer platforms offer competitive exchange rates and lower fees compared to traditional bank transfers. Peer-to-peer transfer services are another cost-effective way to send money internationally due to their lower overheads.

Additionally, many banks in Portugal offer the additional service of opening a foreign currency account to facilitate international money transfers.

Regulations and Limits

When making money transfers in Portugal, it’s important to be aware of the following regulations and limits:

  • The maximum limit for cash transactions is €3,000, applicable to both individuals and businesses.
  • If you’re traveling in and out of Portugal with sums of money above €50,000, you’re required to declare it.
  • Customers are only obligated to pay their payment service provider’s charges for cross-border credit transfers, ensuring the full transferred amount is sent without deductions.

It’s also worth noting that enterprises, excluding microenterprises, and government bodies in Portugal must use the ISO 20022 XML format for transmitting payment batches. In case of non-compliance or fraudulent activities, the Banco de Portugal holds the authority to impose sanctions.

Safety and Security in Portuguese Banking

Security is a prime concern when it comes to banking, and Portugal takes it seriously. Banks in Portugal are well-regulated under the security measures enforced by Portugal’s central bank, Banco de Portugal, and the European Central Bank. The Banco de Portugal ensures the security of personal data with technical and organizational measures, using an internationally certified secure environment and HTTPS encryption on its websites.

They also record data on individuals in restricted areas and employ video surveillance systems with defined data retention periods to maintain high security standards.

Protecting Your Finances

Protecting your personal and financial information is crucial while banking in Portugal. The Banco de Portugal advises customers to:

  • Use secure forms and channels for communicating confidential information
  • In the event of a lost or stolen wallet containing personal documents, file a report with the local police and keep the incident report as a record
  • Report the lost or stolen documents to the Bank of Portugal using an online form, which requires attaching the police report.

For protection against banking fraud, it’s advisable to use a secure banking system, be it through mobile, online, or traditional means.

Dealing with Fraud and Theft

Dealing with lost or stolen bank cards can be stressful, but knowing the immediate steps can prevent unauthorized transactions. Upon noticing that a bank card is missing or stolen, the cardholder should immediately report the incident to their bank. Cardholders must contact their bank or SIBS (Sociedade Interbancária de Serviços) directly at the specific number 808 201 251 to ensure the card is canceled quickly.

Taking immediate action to cancel a lost or stolen card is crucial to safeguarding against the financial implications of unauthorized transactions.

Achieving Financial Goals with Investment Banking Services

Investment banking services in Portugal can help you achieve your financial goals. Banks such as Banco Português de Investimento (BPI) focus on corporate and retail banking, providing specialized investment banking services, asset management, and insurance. Novobanco also offers a comprehensive set of financial services, including retail banking, investment banking, and insurance. These investment banks offer a range of specialized financial services, supporting clients in various aspects of financial growth and asset management.

Global Finance magazine has recognized Novobanco as the top provider for brokerage services and trust securities management in Portugal. Novobanco has been specifically recognized for these achievements.

Tailored Investment Advice

Private banking in Portugal plays a crucial role in delivering personalized investment advice catered to individual client needs. Clients utilizing private banking services can benefit from custom-made investment strategies aligned with their distinct financial situations.

Complementing these investment strategies, wealth management services provide customers with a comprehensive approach to managing and growing their wealth.

Accessing Investment Products

Portuguese banks like Caixa Geral de Depósitos and Millennium BCP offer a variety of investment products, including investment funds and retirement savings plans. Their investment services encompass financial insurance, life insurance, and financial management of investment funds.

International banks operating in Portugal may also provide access to exclusive investment opportunities not available through local banks.

Specialized Banking: Private and Cooperative Options

Beyond traditional and digital banking, Portugal offers specialized banking options that cater to specific communities and financial needs. For example, to open a cooperative account with Credito Agricola, an individual must provide:

  • Portuguese citizen card or passport
  • Portuguese address
  • NIF number
  • Proof of economic status

Benefits of Private Banking

Private banking in Portugal offers several advantages, including:

  • Expertise in private banking and wealth management
  • Tailored financial services
  • Access to specialized financial products, such as crypto-friendly options

Bison Bank, for instance, is known for its expertise in private banking and wealth management, providing tailored financial services to its clients. Clients of private banking services have access to specialized financial products, such as Banco Montepio’s investment portfolio that includes crypto-friendly options.

In addition, private bank clients enjoy exclusive perks such as priority banking channels, which often come with reduced fees.

Community-Focused Banking with Cooperatives

Cooperative banks in Portugal play a vital role in supporting the agricultural sector and rural communities. They offer financial products tailored to these specific needs, aiding the economic development of local communities. Some of the services provided by cooperative banks include:

  • Loans for farmers and agribusinesses
  • Savings accounts with competitive interest rates
  • Insurance products for agricultural risks
  • Financial advice and support for rural entrepreneurs

By focusing on these services, cooperative banks actively contribute to local economic development.

With democratic input in governance, members of cooperative banks can influence the priority given to the economic and development needs of their community. Banking with regional cooperatives allows individuals to contribute to and benefit from financially sustainable solutions designed for community prosperity.


In conclusion, Portugal’s banking sector offers a diverse range of options, catering to both residents and expats. Whether you’re leaning towards the convenience of digital banking, the comprehensive services of traditional banks, the global presence of international banks, or community-focused cooperative banking, you’re sure to find a banking option that fits your needs. By understanding the unique features, fee structures, and security measures of each banking type, you can make an informed decision that will aid you in managing your finances effectively. Remember, choosing the right bank is a significant step towards achieving your financial goals in Portugal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can US citizens open a bank account in Portugal?

Yes, US citizens can open a bank account in Portugal by providing documentation like a passport, proof of address, and a tax identification number (NIF). The minimum age requirement is 18.

Do any US banks have branches in Portugal?

Yes, Citibank has a branch in Portugal, specifically in Lisbon.

What is the best bank in Portugal?

The best bank in Portugal is Caixa Geral de Depósitos, which is the largest bank in the country. Following it are Millennium BCP, Novobanco, Banco Atlantico Europa, Banco Santander Totta, Banco Português de Investimento, Banco Montepio, and EuroBic.

What are the benefits of digital banking in Portugal?

Digital banking in Portugal offers convenience, lower fees, and innovative features such as the ability to open personal and business accounts, obtain insurance, and make digital payments, providing a seamless banking experience.

What fees are associated with banking in Portugal?

In Portugal, typical monthly service fees for bank accounts range from €5 to €7, along with stamp duty, and additional monthly maintenance fees may also apply to current accounts. Using debit cards or ATMs outside the bank's network often comes with additional costs.

About Movingto

Movingto is a leading immigration law firm that specializes in helping individuals and families navigate the complex process of relocating to Portugal. With a team of experienced lawyers and immigration experts, provides tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of each client.

Why Choose Movingto?

  • Expertise and Experience: Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of Portuguese immigration law and years of experience assisting clients with various visa applications, including the D7 Visa, Golden Visa, Startup Visa, and Family Reunion Visa.
  • Personalized Approach: We understand that every client's situation is different. Our lawyers take the time to listen to your goals and provide personalized advice and guidance throughout the process.
  • Comprehensive Support: offers a comprehensive range of services beyond legal advice, including assistance with document preparation, property search, and relocation planning.
  • Competitive Fees: We offer competitive fees and transparent pricing so that you know exactly what to expect.
  • Exceptional Client Service: Our team is committed to providing exceptional client service. We are responsive, attentive, and always available to answer your questions.

Whether you are an entrepreneur seeking to establish a business in Portugal, a retiree looking to enjoy the country's favorable tax regime, or a family seeking to reunite in Portugal, is here to guide you every step of the way.

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