By setting up a bank account before you move to Portugal, you will be able to move quickly to pay your deposit as soon as you find your dream home.

The first thing you will need to know about Portuguese personal banking is that it’s not always free. Current accounts can cost around €5 per month and additional fees will often need to be paid for things like replacement debit cards or counter withdrawals. The good thing about these costs, however, is that in return you will receive a much more personal style of banking than you will be used to in the UK, with an assigned manager who will call you regularly to check on you. You will be given their direct line and mobile number, and when you go into your branch you will be able to talk with them in person.

You will receive a much more personal style of banking than you will be used to in the UK, with an assigned manager who will call you regularly to check on you.

Which bank to choose?

When opening your account, you will have the option of remaining with a familiar bank – such as Santander, for example – but there is unlikely to be any connection between the Portuguese and British branches. Outside of the rural areas, you will find that the employees of the more local banks, such as Millennium and Banko Espirito Santo (BES) will generally have some command of English – which will always be useful.

The Multibanco card

The Multibanco card is the most important aspect of the Portuguese banking system, which is actually one of the most advanced in the world and central to the lives of most Portuguese residents. This is not only used to withdraw money, but the machines can also be used to pay bills, top up mobiles, buy train tickets and even organise fishing licences. This does mean that you can sometimes feel like you are waiting for ages to draw cash while some else in front of you organises their entire life!

The Multibanco card is the most important aspect of the Portuguese banking system, which is actually one of the most advanced in the world.

Obtaining credit

The banking sector in Portugal was drastically affected by the global financial crisis, and while recovery is in process, obtaining credit is sometimes still hard to come by – especially when you are an expat and have no financial affairs in Portugal. Unlike in the UK, there is no credit referencing system, so these decisions will usually be made solely by your bank manager or “sent to Lisbon” – and you will usually need a whole rainforest’s worth of paperwork for any application, so it’s important to ensure that your Portuguese residency and tax affairs are in order. Even in these circumstances, don’t be surprised if you finally get that much-needed credit card or overdraft and only find your limit is just €500!

Current and savings accounts

Generally Portuguese current accounts are combined with savings account, so be warned that every so often the bank may automatically move money into your savings when you reach a certain balance. The money will also automatically move in the other direction should you need it.

Download your free Portugal Buying Guide

The Portugal Buying Guide is designed to support you through each stage of buying property in Portugal, providing relevant, up-to-date information and tips from Portugal property experts and expats who have been through the process themselves. The guide helps you to:


  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying abroad

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