How to open a bank account in Portugal

If you’re planning a move to Portugal to live, work, study or retire, you’ll probably be thinking of opening a Portuguese bank account. The good news is that Portuguese banks are usually happy to offer accounts to foreigners - including both people with full Portuguese residence, and non-residents who may only be in the country part time. Unfortunately, though, non-resident accounts in particular tend to come with monthly charges, and pretty steep fees for sending money from Portugal back to countries outside the SEPA area.

Don’t worry though - there are options. If you want to get your EUR account set up before you travel to Portugal, you might be better off with a specialist like Revolut or Wise. You might also save money, as online accounts like these are available with no monthly fees and low transaction costs. More on that coming right up.  

Go to Wise
Go to Revolut

What documents do I need?

While there are plenty of different banks, and lots of different account types available, the documents you need tend to be fairly similar, whether you’re applying for a resident account or a non-resident account option. The exact details might vary, but typically, you’ll need:

  • Government issued proof of ID

  • Proof of address

  • Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF number)

  • A recent payslip to show the source of your funds

  • Other information based on the account type:  a letter from your school if you’re a student or employment contract for example

The NIF number is a tax registration number which you can get locally in Portugal. If you’re applying for a non-resident account and don’t have a NIF number yet the bank might apply on your behalf for a non-resident tax number, and you can then switch it to a regular NIF if you move to Portugal and register with the tax authorities.

Proof of address may be a recent utility bill in your name, a bank statement or some official government correspondence. If you’re opening a non-resident account you’ll be able to use your foreign proof of address for this step.

Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut

Portugal’s banking system is very well adapted to foreigners, with accounts available for both people living full time in Portugal, and non-residents. However, there are a few downsides. Non-resident accounts may be fairly expensive - and even if you’re a resident you might find you’re forced to visit a branch in person to open your preferred account.

For an easier, faster, and often cheaper solution, check out alternatives like Revolut or Wise. Online providers like these are set up to make it easy to open accounts remotely, using the documentation you have from your home country. Apply online using your UK proof of address, and get an account that can hold and handle both EUR and GBP - and a range of other currencies for convenience. More on these providers later.

Read more about Wise in this review and about Revolut here.

How to open a bank account in Portugal

Non-resident accounts can often be opened remotely in Portugal. However, different banks have different rules, so you might find that to open a resident account as a foreigner you’re required to visit a branch in person to show your paperwork. Check with the bank you prefer to see what's offered.

Whether you’re applying in person or online, the basic steps to open a bank account in Portugal are typically:

  • Research banks and pick the right account for you

  • Check eligibility and gather all the required paperwork

  • Apply online or in branch

  • Pay your minimum opening deposit

  • Show your documents to complete the verification process

Go to Wise
Go to Revolut

Can I open a bank account in Portugal before arrival?

Yes. You’ll be able to open a non-resident account with a Portuguese bank before you arrive in many cases. However, it’s important to note that non-resident accounts may not have as favourable terms as resident accounts. That’ll probably mean you want to change your account if you move to Portugal full time, to make sure you get the best available deal. 

Alternatively, to save the hassle of changing accounts - and probably cut your costs overall, you could open an account with an online specialist like Revolut or Wise. Providers like these offer multi-currency accounts which can see you through, from the UK to Portugal, and beyond - with dozens of currencies offered, and low costs of currency exchange and international payments.

Which account is best in Portugal for foreigners? 

Let’s look at a review of the best bank accounts in Portugal for foreigners, featuring accounts available to non-residents from 2 of the biggest banks in Portugal and a couple of online providers for comparison.

Service

Wise

Revolut 

Santander

Novo Banco

Currencies covered54 currencies including EUR, GBP, USD and AUD

30+ currencies including EUR, GBP, USD and AUD

EUREUR
Non-resident accounts available YesYesYesYes
Open onlineYesYesYesOnline opening is not usually an option for non residents
Maintenance feeFreeUp to £12.99/monthMundo 123 Account has 8.60 EUR/month standard fee (can be lowered by making regular deposits)Up to 8.22 EUR/month for non-resident account. Other account fees vary
International transfersLow fee, varies by currencyFee varies by currency and payment value

Standard online SEPA payments  are free


Urgent SEPA payments, and transfers arranged in branch or via an operator - fees vary, 26 EUR to 52.10 EUR


Non-SEPA payments - 0.26% - 0.34% (minimum 15.60 EUR - maximum 192.40 EUR)




Exchange rate markup applies

SEPA transfers can be free online - up to 36.40 EUR in a branch


Non SEPA payments - online 13 EUR to 31.20 EUR


Branch payments under 12,500 EUR - up to 33.28 EUR


Over 12,500 EUR there is a 0.26% commission, minimum 45.76 EUR to maximum 124.80 EUR


Exchange rate markup applies

*Profiled accounts are Santander Mundo 123 Account and Novo Banco’s 100% RE account - other account options are available from these providers, which have their own fees and features 

Wise

Whether you’re looking for an account for yourself or your business, Wise could be a smart option. Wise multi-currency accounts can hold 54 currencies - including of course EUR and GBP - and come with your own local bank details for a range of currencies. That means you can get paid for free using a local transfer from over 30 countries.

Use your Wise account to send money to 80+ countries, or spend with your linked debit card. And whenever you need to switch from one currency to another you’ll get the real mid-market exchange rate with a low, transparent fee  - and no ongoing costs, monthly charges or minimum balance to worry about.

Account types: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay. You just pay a low, transparent fee for the services you use.

Eligibility: Wise offers accounts to customers in the UK and a broad range of countries - simply use your UK proof of address to get your account open and access EUR bank details to get paid fee free, hold a EUR balance and spend with your card. 

Is it safe? Yes. Wise is registered with the FCA in the UK and a range of other global bodies in the other countries it trades in.

Go to Wise

Revolut

You’ll be able to open a Revolut account whether you’re still in the UK or have moved to Portugal already. Just download the Revolut app or head to their desktop site to get started. There are several different account options, with free Standard plans or fee paid options which come with more features and higher transaction limits.

Accounts can hold 30+ currencies, making them a flexible option for people who travel or live internationally. You’ll also get some nice account features like budgeting and saving tools and Junior accounts for kids.

Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to £12.99/month.

Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore , Switzerland, Japan, and the US.

Is it safe? Revolut is registered with the FCA in the UK, and is a trustworthy provider to choose

Go to Revolut

Santander

Santander's popular Mundo 123 Account can be opened online, and is available to both residents and non-residents in Portugal. There’s a monthly account fee, but opening discounts may apply, and you’ll be able to cut the maintenance costs by arranging to pay your salary or pension into the account. Standard SEPA transfers are also often free - but the costs for sending money outside the SEPA area can mount up quickly.

Accounts come with a debit card, overdraft option, and some family insurance into the bargain.

Account types: Accounts available for both Portuguese residents and non-residents

Eligibility: If you’re not a Portuguese resident you’ll need to open the Non-resident Mundo Account - if you’re a resident you’ll be able to take your pick from a broad range of account options

Is it safe? Yes. Santander is one of the biggest banks in the world and overseen by regulators in all the regions it trades in globally

Novo Banco

Novo Banco is another good option, whether you’re a resident in Portugal or not. Residents will have a broad choice of accounts - but you’ll probably need to visit a branch in person to get started. 

If you’re a non-resident, the 100% RE Account may be the one for you. You’ll get a linked Gold card, overdraft option and discounts on insurance. Costs may apply for international payments - and they can get fairly hefty if you’re sending money outside of the SEPA area.

Account types: Range of accounts for both non-resident and residents in Portugal

Eligibility: The 100% RE Account is recommended for non-residents - but residents will have a broader choice available

Is it safe? Yes. Novo Banco is the 4th largest bank in Portugal, and is fully licensed and regulated.

What are the costs

You’re unlikely to struggle to find an account you’re eligible for with a Portuguese bank. However, the costs might be quite different to what you’re used to at home - and non-resident accounts in particular can be a bit pricey.  Double check the fees which apply to your account before you get set up - paying extra attention to costs like these:

  • Minimum deposit requirement

  • Monthly maintenance fee

  • Out of network ATM fees

  • International transfer fees

  • Receiving fees for domestic and international payments

  • Foreign transaction fees

Tips for transferring money

Sending international payments is a fact of life for people living overseas. However, it can also be a drain on your resources. If you’re moving your money across borders check out these tips to save:

  • Banks typically use a marked up exchange rate - compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the rate you find on Google to check

  • International transfer fees can vary depending on whether you arrange the transfer online or in a branch, and whether or not you’re sending within the SEPA area

  • Review the terms and conditions of your specific account to check if it’s cheaper to send your payment online - this is usually the case

  • Don’t forget that third party fees may be deducted as the payment is processed, and can mean your recipient gets less than you expect

Before you send your payment with a regular bank, take a look at a few online specialist services which can often move your money faster and for less.

Conclusion

Portugal has a large expat population and an advanced banking system - so it’s no surprise that there are a great range of bank account options - including some which are set up for non-residents and people who may not live in the country year round. However, it’s important to remember that the costs of accounts overseas are likely to be different - and quite possibly higher - than those in the UK. Non-resident accounts in Portugal in particular will usually come with a monthly fee and some steep transaction fees, especially if you need to send money outside of the SEPA area.

An alternative which might suit you better is an online and mobile specialist like Revolut or Wise. Providers like these are designed to serve people with an international lifestyle, offering multi-currency functionality, easy application processes, and low transaction fees when you’re moving money across borders. Compare some online provider accounts against some Portuguese banks before you decide which to choose.

Go to Wise
Go to Revolut

FAQ

Can a foreigner open an account in Portugal?

Yes. If you’re a Portuguese resident you can probably open an account with any Portuguese bank. As a non-resident you’ll also have options, but these accounts can be more restricted and expensive. Check out alternative online providers as well to make sure you get the best available deal.

How much do I need to open a bank account in Portugal?

Non-resident accounts from Portuguese banks usually have a monthly fee, and a minimum opening deposit requirement. Online specialist providers can often offer accounts with no monthly fees, no minimum deposits, and low transaction charges.

Can I open a Portuguese bank account online?

Some Portuguese banks let you open accounts online. However, this isn’t universal, and in some cases if you’re a foreigner living in Portugal you’ll find you have to visit a branch to get set up. Check out some online alternatives for ways to apply from home using your phone or laptop.

Can I open a bank account in Portugal before landing?

Non-resident accounts are available from Portuguese banks, which you can often set up before you arrive. However, you’ll probably want to switch to a regular account once you’re settled in Portugal, as non-resident accounts can be expensive and restricted.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated 28 April 2022