Business and taxes

Banking in Portugal: the best banks for expats and how to open a bank account

More than 150 banks operate in Portugal. They provide financial services to individuals and businesses. Unlike most EU countries, where third-country citizens are likely to be denied opening an account, Portuguese banks are more favourable to non-residents.

The average rates on consumer loans in Portuguese banks are 3.9% per annum, on mortgages — 3.3%. A new car can be bought on credit at 5%, and a used car at 11.8%.

Learn how the Portuguese banking system works, which banks are the best, and how a foreigner can open a current account or take a mortgage to buy a house.

The best Portuguese banks and opening a bank account in Portugal

Key points about banking in Portugal

Currency. Portugal is a member of the European Union and the eurozone. Since 1999, the country’s national currency has been the euro (€).

Euro is the default currency for banking accounts and transactions in Portugal. In addition, it’s possible to open foreign currency accounts in:

  • dollars: American (USD), Canadian (CAD), Australian (AUD), New Zealand (NZD), Hong Kong (HKD), and Singapore (SGD);
  • pound sterlings (GBP);
  • Swiss francs (CHF);
  • South Africa rands (ZAR);
  • Japanese yens (JPY);
  • Polish zlotys (PNL);
  • Krones: Norwegian (NOK), Danish (DKK), and Swedish (SEK);
  • and other currencies.

Banking regulators. Two regulators control the operation of the Portuguese banking system: the Bank of Portugal and the European Central Bank.

Security. Portugal follows several protocols to ensure the safety of banking transactions. Namely, the banking system is subject to the EU Regulation 2016/679 of 27 April 2016 and the Law 58/2019 of 8 August 2019.

Under the applicable rules, Portuguese banks use data protection systems and report any failures. They also ensure the confidentiality of provided services.

A low rate of card fraud is one of the signs of good banking security. The number of fraud activities per transaction in Portugal is 0.009%. It is one of the lowest rates in the European Union.

Bank types. More than 150 financial institutions operate in the country, including public and private retail banks and cooperative, investment and mobile banks. Branches of international banks operate in the country as well.

Business hours. Most Portuguese banks are open from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM, from Monday to Friday. Bank offices are closed on Saturday, but you can make payments or withdraw cash at ATMs.

Bank holidays in Portugal. Portuguese banks follow the calendar of public holidays. There are 13 holidays during the year:

  1. January 1st — New Year’s Day.
  2. The Good Friday — a Friday before Easter Sunday. In 2022, the Good Friday fell on April 15th.
  3. Easter Sunday: in 2022, it fell on April 17th.
  4. April 25th — Freedom Day.
  5. May 1st — the Labour Day.
  6. June 10th — the Portugal National Day.
  7. Corpus Christi — a movable holiday which is celebrated 60 days after Easter. In 2022, it fell on June 16th.
  8. August 15th — the Assumption of Mary.
  9. October 5th — Republic Day.
  10. November 1st — All Saints’ Day.
  11. December 1st — the Restoration of Independence Day.
  12. December 8th — Immaculate Conception Day.
  13. December 25th — Christmas Day.

Best Portuguese banks and their services

Banco de Portugal, or the Bank of Portugal, is the country’s central bank. It was established in 1846. The headquarters is in Lisbon; branches operate in Porto, Madeira and the Azores.

The Bank of Portugal is a member of the European System of Central Banks. Therefore, the Portuguese banking system operates according to the unified EU rules.

The central bank controls the activities of banks and other financial organizations, such as insurance companies, investment funds, credit brokers, and pension funds.

Caixa Geral de Depositos (CGD) is the only Portuguese public bank established in 1876. It ranks 179th in the Top 1000 World Banks by the Banker magazine

CGD branches operate in 23 countries, including the EU states, the UK, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, India, and China. 543 branches operate in Portugal.

The CGD provides services to individuals and businesses: deposits, corporate and consumer loans, mortgages, car loans, and life and property insurance.

Portugal Caixa Bank is the only public bank in the country
Caixa Geral de Depósitos is among the 200 largest banks in the world, according to the Banker magazine

Millennium BCP is one of the five largest banks in Portugal. The headquarters is in Porto. There are 458 branches across Portugal, and some more are located in Poland, Macau, Mozambique and Angola.

Portuguese citizens and foreigners can use the services of Millennium BCP: open a deposit, take out insurance, buy securities or get a loan.

In addition to loans and deposits for legal entities, Millennium BCP provides factoring services, online banking, and issues guarantees. For example, the Millennium app allows users to make payments from the company's current account and exchange documents and information with the bank without leaving an office.

Companies that sell goods and provide services with deferred payments may assign receivables to the bank. Millennium BCP's minimum factoring rate is 5.7%.

Novobanco is a private bank that includes 358 branches located from Lisbon to Madeira and the Azores. The Global Finance magazine named the bank as the best in Portugal in brokerage services and trust securities management.

Banco Santander Totta is also on the list of the 5 largest banks in Portugal. The bank has received the Euromoney Awards for Excellence, designed for the world's best credit organization by the Euromoney magazine.

According to Global Finance, the bank was included in the most reliable European institutions list. The rating participants were evaluated according to five criteria: financial stability and security, risk management, range and quality of banking services, knowledge of customers, and staff.

The Santander Totta headquarters is in Lisbon, and 368 branches operate throughout Portugal. The bank provides financial services to individuals and companies.

Banco Português de Investimento (BPI) is an investment bank headquartered in Porto. BPI won the national Cinco Estrelas Award for "brand trust" and "banking" based on a consumer survey.

The bank provides a full range of financial services for the country's citizens and residents and Portuguese companies: loans, deposits, overdrafts, life and property insurance, and brokerage services.

The financing of Portuguese farmers and agro-industrial companies is a priority to BPI. For these purposes, the bank opened a credit line of 95 million euros in total. Companies from other industries can also get a loan of up to 5 million euros from the bank.

11 best Portuguese banks

Bank HeadquartersNumber of branchesContact phone number
Caixa Geral de DepositosLisbon543(351) 217 953 000
Millennium BCPPorto458(351) 211 131 084
Banco Português de Investimento (BPI)Porto386(351) 217 241 700
(351) 222 075 000
Banco Santander TottaLisbon368(351) 217 807 364
(351) 217 807 396
NovobancoLisbon348(351) 218 ​​837 700
Banco MontepioLisbon329(351) 217 241 624
Banco BAI Europa (BAI)Lisbon89(351) 213 513 750
ActivobankLisbon16(351) 210 030 700
Banco InvestLisbon9(351) 213 821 700
Banco CarregosaPorto2(351) 226 086 464
Atlantico EuropaLisbon1(351) 210 403 400

Best international banks in Portugal

Several large foreign banks operate in Portugal, such as the German Deutsche Bank and N26, the French Oney Bank and BNP Paribas, the US Citibank, and the Spanish Bankinter and Wizink banks. They provide financial services to companies and residents of Portugal.

7 best international banks in Portugal

Bank Portuguese branchesContact phone number
Deutsche Bank9 branches in Lisbon, Porto, Setubal, Cascais, Torres Vedras, and other citizes(351) 213 111 200 
N26A mobile bank without offline branches(44) 2035 107126
(49) 303 6428 6881
both in English
Oney Bank3 branches in Lisbon(351) 214 126 800
CitibankIn Lisbon, R. Barata Salgueiro 30 5(351) 213 116 300
BNP Paribas2 branches in Porto and LisbonRequest a call
Bankinter7 branches in Lisbon, Porto, Cascais, and Coimbra(351) 217 911 100
WiZinkIn Lisbon, at the Centro Comercial Colombo(351) 218 700 500
(351) 915 589 900
(351) 965 995 600
(351) 931 549 900

Bank cards: types and cost of service

You can apply for a credit or debit card online or at Portuguese bank branches. As a rule, banks do not charge a commission for issuing and servicing debit cards. Credit card service fees vary from €0 to €50 per year.

The average rate for credit cards is 11—13%. For example, at Banco Santander Totta, the credit card rate is 13.1% per annum.

Portuguese banks issue two types of cards: regular and contactless. You can pay utility bills and shop in online stores with mobile banking apps.

The limit for purchases with a bank card without a PIN code is €50.

Fees for servicing bank cards in Portugal

BankBanking fees per year
Activo Bank€0
BNI Europa€23.9
Banco Big€33.2
Best Bank€41.8
Banco CTT€19.2

Other payment methods in Portugal

Cash is one of Portugal's most popular payment methods, as banking cards are not accepted everywhere. You can withdraw money at local ATMs. There are about 11,000 ATMs across the country.

The limit on cash transactions in Portugal is €3,000.

Multibanco ATM payments. Portuguese banks are connected to the national Multibanco payment system. It unites ATMs, payment terminals and online banking services into a single network. 

More than 90 different transactions are available through the Multibanco system. For example, people pay monthly bills and taxes, make social security contributions, transfer money between accounts, top-up mobile phones, and buy tickets. Multibanco ATMs accept all major bank cards such as Visa and Mastercard. 

There might be a limit: €200 per transaction or €400 per day. If you use a foreign bank card, a commission usually amounts to 2—3% of the transaction sum. Some international banks, such as Deutsche Bank, are members of the Global ATM Alliance, so they don't charge any commissions and fees on ATM transactions.

Online and contactless payments are made with:

  • banking apps, 
  • mobile payment apps like Apple Pay or Google Pay, 
  • digital wallets like PayPal.

Direct debits are usually made to pay bills. You can set up regular direct debits and cancel them at any time. But before revoking, you must inform the company the payments were charged to.

If a payer wasn’t informed of the charged debit amount and it’s unreasonably big, the payer can claim a refund. The claim must be submitted within 8 weeks from the payment date.

Payments by check are not widely common in Portugal anymore. Banks don't issue chequebooks automatically; they must be ordered separately. 

It is a criminal offence to issue checks without funds to cover them. The issuer is charged with fraud and pays a fine of 20% of the bounced checksum. The violation might also entail blacklisting by the Bank of Portugal.

The best Portuguese banks: where to find ATMs
You can find ATMs at a local bank office, supermarkets, airports, and hotels. The nearest ATM can be located with services for Mastercard, Visa or American Express

How to open a current or deposit account in the best Portuguese banks

To use banking services in Portugal, a foreigner needs to register as a country’s taxpayer. After registration, a NIF is assigned, which is an individual taxpayer number. The NIF is issued to the country’s residents and citizens upon contacting the tax service.

Non-EU citizens can get a NIF through a tax representative in Portugal. A lawyer or a law firm can act as such a representative. To not come to Portugal for a document, the tax number can be obtained through a tax representative or by e-mail.

Current accounts. Citizens and residents over 18 can open an account online. The registration procedure is similar in most banks and takes no more than 20 minutes. It is necessary to register an account on the bank's website and attach copies of:

  • a passport;
  • a residence permit card;
  • a NIF;
  • an employment contract, pension certificate or university enrollment document;
  • a certificate confirming the place of residence.

Some banks require the client to get a digital signature and certify the application for opening an account online.

An applicant calls a bank employee via a video link to verify their identity. The call can be scheduled at a convenient time during business hours. For example, at Montepio Bank, operators who answer video calls work Monday to Friday, from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM. On Saturdays and Sundays, they work from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

After the video call, the applicant activates their account and tops it up. Each bank sets its minimum account balance. For example, it is enough to deposit €250 into the Montepio bank account.

Banking fees are pretty high in Portugal. For example, Banco CTT customers annually pay €20.8 per account.

Representatives of companies registered in Portugal can also open a bank account online. A bank may request a list of shareholders, an extract from the National Register of Legal Entities, copies of the certificate of incorporation, and articles of association. Copies of the passports of the beneficiaries and those who will manage the account will also be required.

The current account activates when the first payment comes from any Portuguese account or the EU or Schengen countries.

In most cases, foreigners can open a current account only after a personal visit to the selected branch. However, some banks provide online services even to non-residents. For example, Banco Best offers to open an account and issue a debit card. The service cost is €19.5 per year. The client pays a one-time fee of €40 for opening an account.

A non-resident needs a passport, confirmation of the income legality and a NIF to open an account.

Deposit accounts. During the pandemic, many European banks introduced negative deposit rates. Depositors had to pay the bankers extra with their savings. For example, in the German Volksbank, the rate on deposits over €100,000 was -0.5%. Portuguese banks do not use negative rates, but some banks do not charge interest on deposits.

The minimum deposit amount is €125. All deposits are insured. If a bank has financial problems, the client is guaranteed to receive €100,000.

A bank deposit can be opened in euros or US dollars. However, the yield is higher for foreign currency deposits. For example, BPI does not charge interest on euro deposits. But if you deposit at least $250 for three years, the bank will charge interest of 0.9% per annum.

Deposit rates the best Portuguese banks

Bank Minimum sumMinimum deposit termMinimum interest rate
Caixa Geral de Depositos€500360 days0%
Millennium BCP€25060 days0.15%
Novobanco€25060 days0.05%
Banco Santander Totta€25060 days0.01%
Banco Português de Investimento (BPI)€2501 day0%
Banco Montepio€12530 days0.015%

Portuguese banks open deposits even to non-residents. However, a foreigner has to come to Portugal and personally apply to the bank.

If a foreigner deposits 1.5 million euros, they can get a residence permit under the Portugal investment program.

It takes 4 to 6 months to get a residency. After that, Portugal residence permit holders travel Europe visa-free, staying up to 90 days out of 180 in EU countries.

How to get a Portugal residence permit by opening a bank deposit

Ali and his wife took part in the Portugal investment program to freely visit their son in Austria and allow their grandchildren to get a quality education and work in the European Union.

See how the investor opened an account in a Portuguese bank and what solution the Immigrant Invest lawyers found so that Ali’s grandson received a residence permit.

Read the full story

How to get a bank loan in Portugal

Consumer loans. The country's citizens and residents can get loans for personal needs or buy a car in Portugal. Loan interest rates at Portuguese banks are lower than the average in the European Union. For example, in 2021, the average loan rate in the EU was 4.2%, while in Portugal, it was 3.9%.

The most common reason to get a loan is to buy a car. If the vehicle is used, the loan interest is higher. The loan interest rate for new cars is 5%, and it's up to 11.8% on used cars. For example, Santander Totta bank issues money for a new car purchase at 5.75% per annum, and for used vehicles — 9.4%. 

The main limitation is that you can sell the car before the end of the loan agreement only with the bank's consent.

The interest rate on consumer loans depends on the amount and terms of the loan agreement. Online loans are more expensive. The main advantages of such loans are that you do not need to go to the bank, and applications are considered in a couple of hours. The money is credited to the client's account immediately after the application approval.

Consumer loan interest rates if the loan is provided online

BankMaximum loan amountMaximum loan periodAnnual interest rate
Millennium BCP€10,00060 months8.5—11.5%
BPI€10,00060 months12.2%
Novobanco€15,00072 months6.45—8.8%

Mortgage. Both citizens and non-residents can get a mortgage to purchase housing in Portugal.

The average mortgage rate is 3.3% in Portugal. Mortgage rates are of two types: floating and fixed. Floating is pegged to the European EURIBOR interbank rate.

Suppose a borrower is approved for a loan at 2% plus EURIBOR for 12 months. On the payment date, EURIBOR is 0.058%. Loan payments will be calculated at the rate of 2.058%. The amount of monthly payments changes depending on how the EURIBOR rate has changed.

EURIBOR has been negative since 2017. Therefore, some banks equate the rate to zero. For example, at Banco Santander Totta, you can get a mortgage at 1.9% plus EURIBOR for six months. If desired, the borrower concludes a mortgage agreement for 10 years at a fixed rate of 1.6% to 2.5% per annum.

An applicant confirms their income to get a loan to purchase new or resale housing. The down payment for Portuguese residents ranges from 10 to 30%; for non-residents — from 20 to 50% of the property value.

€775
The minimum monthly income to get a mortgage

For example, Novobanco offers mortgages to non-residents. The bank finances up to 80% of the property value. The mortgage is provided only for the purchase of a resale property. The mortgage term is 2 to 30 years.

The maximum mortgage term is 40 years. The main limitation is that the borrower must be less than 75 years old at the end of the loan agreement. Portuguese citizens and foreigners over 18 can get a mortgage loan.

It is unnecessary to come to Portugal to purchase a villa or apartment. A mortgage agreement with a bank can be concluded through a trustee. Some banks publish a list of apartments and houses for which mortgages are approved on their website. For example, a list of properties with photos is on the Millennium BCP website.

If a non-resident acquired a property with a mortgage, such a property could be rented out.

Property examples for purchase under the Portugal residence permit program

Portugal residence permit by investment in real estate: a villa in Altura

Villas in a large residential complex in Altura. The price starts from €895,000

Portugal residence permit by investment in real estate: an apartment in Lisbon

Apartments in a hotel managed by Hyatt in Lisbon. The price starts from €770,000

Portugal residence permit by investment in real estate: an apartment in Algarve

Apartments in a hotel complex in the Algarve. The price starts from €534,000

The real estate investment will pay off as Portugal's housing boom continues. According to the Idealista website, property prices have increased by 8.4% in Portugal over the past year. The maximum growth is registered in Madeira — by 17.4%, Lisbon — by 10.1%, and Algarve — by 7.9%. 

The highest housing cost is in Lisbon, with an average of €3,252 per square meter. The lowest prices for villas and apartments are in the Azores: on average, they cost €1,044 per square meter.

Average property prices in Portugal according to Idealista

RegionPrice per 1 m²
Lisbon€3,252
Algarve€2,527
North Region€1,914
Madeira€1,872
Central Region€1,168
Alentejo€1,088
Azores€1,044

Foreigners who plan to purchase property in Portugal can also obtain a residence permit. Under the program terms, investors can buy housing in the Azores and inland regions of the country, for example, Castro Marim, Evora, Coimbra, and some areas of Porto.

The minimum real estate investment in the Azores is €280,000. It rises to €500,000 for modern housing in other regions of Portugal. After five years, the property can be sold. Under the "golden visa" program, an investor gets a residence permit in 4 to 6 months.

Frequently asked questions

What are the largest banks in Portugal?

The largest public bank in Portugal is Caixa Geral de Depositos. It has 543 branches throughout the country.

The largest private bank is Millennium BCP, with 458 branches in Portugal alone.

Learn more about the largest Portuguese banks

Which is the best bank in Portugal?

The best Portuguese bank is Caixa Geral de Depositos. It also is the largest and the only public bank in the country. The Banker magazine included Caixa Geral de Depositos in the top 200 world banks.

The best among private banks are Millennium BCP, Novobanco, Banco Santander Totta, and Banco Português de Investimento.

Are there any crypto-friendly banks in Portugal?

The Portuguese Millennium BCP, Novobanco, Banco Best, Banco BBVA, and Moey allow money transfers in cryptocurrencies. 

Criptoloja and Mind the Coin are the two cryptocurrency exchangers in Portugal. They have a license from Banco de Portugal, the country’s central bank.

Are banks safe in Portugal?

Yes, they are. For example, all deposits are insured in Portuguese banks. If a bank gets into financial difficulties, the deposit holders are still guaranteed to return €100,000. Portugal also has a meagre card fraud rate — 0.009% per amount of all transactions using banking cards.

What are the payment methods in Portugal?

The Portuguese use bank cards to pay for offline and online goods and services. Local banks issue debit and credit cards. The cards could be connected to payment systems like Apple Pay and Google Pay and digital wallets like PayPal.

The banks also provide mobile apps for money transfers and online payments.

Cash is also a very popular payment method in Portugal. People use Multibanco services at ATMs or direct debits to pay for monthly bills. Checks are used rarely.

How to open a bank account in Portugal?

Portuguese citizens and residents over 18 open a bank account online. The procedure is usually simple and takes about 20 minutes. 

The applicant registers on a bank’s website or a mobile app. The application should include copies of: 

  • a passport;
  • a residence permit card;
  • a NIF — a Portuguese taxpayer number;
  • an employment contract, pension certificate or university enrollment document;
  • a certificate confirming the place of residence.

Non-residents are usually required to apply in person. But a tax representative can act on the applicant’s behalf by proxy.

More about how to open a bank account in Portugal

Can foreigners open bank accounts in Portugal?

Yes, they can. Most Portuguese banks require a personal presence, so a Schengen visa might be needed. Some banks in Portugal are ready to remotely open deposits and current accounts for non-residents. For example, online services are provided by Banco Best.

What are the deposit rates in Portuguese banks?

The average consumer loan rate is 3.9%. The average interest rate on mortgages is 3.3%.

Unlike many European banks, Portuguese banks do not use negative deposit rates. 

Another advantage of Portuguese banks is that a recurring deposit can be opened for young people under 18 to save money for education.

If foreigners deposit 1.5 million euros, they can get a residence permit under the Portugal Golden Visa Program.

Can foreigners take out a mortgage to buy a home in Portugal?

Yes, they can. Some banks have special loan programs for non-residents. The down payment on the mortgage is 20—50%.

The mortgage rate depends on the amount of the down payment, the mortgage terms, and the borrower’s financial condition. The average mortgage rate in Portugal is 3.3%.

Banking in Portugal: the best banks for expats and how to open a bank account

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