Banking in Portugal can feel unusual to visitors from other countries. Some aspects are far superior to elsewhere, while others can cause a little frustration. Here is the good and the bad of Portugal’s banking system.

Banking in Portugal is a fascinating blend of old and new; The electronic Multibanco ATM system is highly sophisticated and versatile, and customer care is still alive and well. However, some elements of the banking system can feel slow and old fashioned.Banking in Portugal is a fascinating blend of old and new; The electronic Multibanco ATM system is highly sophisticated and versatile, and customer care is still alive and well. However, some elements of the banking system can feel slow and old fashioned.

Personal banking is rarely free in Portugal.

Many expats are surprised to find that they have a proper “bank manager,” who they can telephone or pop into the branch to see at any time. This is a fantastic contrast to the impersonal style of banking that people put up with elsewhere, especially in the UK.

However, those same expats are often equally surprised when €5-10 disappears from their account every month in fees and taxes. This is because personal banking is rarely free in Portugal – so the customers do actually pay for that service. Many believe that’s a fair compromise.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the good and the bad of banking in Portugal.

 

The positives and negatives of Portuguese banking

 

The Good

1. The Multibanco ATM system is fantastic. Customers with Portuguese accounts can pay bills and do anything from arranging fishing licences to booking train tickets from any cash machine.

2. It’s often possible to speak to a “real person” by calling into a branch. This is a huge contrast for people used to automated phone systems and off-shore call-centres.

3. Internet banking is sophisticated, and for the benefit of expats is that it’s usually possible to switch it to English.

4. While plenty of paperwork is usually required, opening a bank account as a foreigner isn’t too complicated. People moving to Portugal from the UK can even visit London branches of Portuguese banks to open accounts in advance.

People moving to Portugal from the UK can even visit London branches of Portuguese banks to open accounts in advance.

The Bad

1. The friendly local bank managers seem to have varying levels of autonomy. For example, one day it may seem that they can provide a credit card with the stroke of a pen, while on another day a loan application can involve reams of paperwork and a slow decision from Lisbon.

2. Branch opening hours are often short in smaller towns.

3. Some people don’t like having to pay a fee just for having an account. In some cases, fees are waived for customers who maintain a solid credit balance at all times.

4. Despite the sophistication of the Multibanco system, there’s often a lot of “paper-shuffling” involved in Portuguese banking. Anyone needing to achieve anything complicated is advised to carry a copy of every possible piece of identification!

Getting a good deal is often a question of good planning and research. Download our guide: How to Negotiate Abroad to give yourself a head start. 

Although banking in Portugal is far from perfect, on balance it’s generally a more pleasant experience than it is in the UK. As ever, if you can keep your weekly expenditure to a euro or two below your weekly income, banking is even more pleasant.

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