How to open a bank account in Portugal


Although it’s possible for non-resident homeowners to do most of their banking via a foreign account using debit and credit cards and euro-cheques, you will still need a Portuguese bank account ( conta bancária) to pay your Portuguese utility and tax bills (which are best paid by direct debit).

If you have a holiday home in Portugal, you can have all your correspondence (e.g. cheque books, statements, payment advices, etc.) sent to an address abroad. Since Portugal became a full member of the EU on 1st January 1993, banking regulations for both resident and non-resident EU citizens have been identical.

It’s best to open a Portuguese bank account in person, rather than by correspondence from abroad. Ask your friends, neighbours or colleagues for their recommendations and just go along to the bank of your choice and introduce yourself. You must be aged at least 18 and provide proof of identity (e.g. a passport), your address in Portugal and your fiscal number.

If you wish to open an account with a Portuguese bank while you’re abroad, you must first obtain an application form, available from foreign branches of Portuguese banks or direct from Portuguese banks in Portugal. You need to select a branch from the list provided, which should preferably be near to where you will be living in Portugal. If you open an account by correspondence, you will need to provide a reference from your current bank. There may be a minimum deposit to open an account, e.g. €250.

It isn’t wise to close your bank accounts abroad, unless you’re certain you won’t need them in the future. Even when you’re resident in Portugal, it’s cheaper to keep money in local currency in an account in a country you visit regularly, rather than pay commission to convert euros. Many foreigners living in Portugal maintain at least two cheque (current) accounts, a foreign account for international and large transactions, and a local account with a Portuguese bank for day to day business and living expenses.


It’s a criminal offence to bounce a cheque (i.e. write a cheque without sufficient funds in your account to cover it) in Portugal, for which you can be charged with fraud. You will also have to pay 20 per cent of the amount of the cheque in interest and fees, and can be blacklisted by the Banco de Portugal and refused a cheque account in future.

In the past, the date on a cheque was irrelevant and post-dated cheques could be cashed or presented for payment at any time. However, under a new law banks now have to honour the date on a cheque and cannot cash (or attempt to cash) a post-dated cheque. If you pay a cheque drawn on a foreign bank into your Portuguese account, it may be credited immediately but can actually take up to three or four weeks to clear. In the meantime if you draw on an uncleared cheque you may incur high charges ( juros) until it’s cleared.

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