“Hello there! We have just arrived in Portugal! What bank can you suggest to open an account? To have a card for free, an English app, deposits at a beneficial interest, and a good cashback?" - such questions are common in immigrant groups on Facebook. Usually, a person receives a bunch of comments in response, from which only one conclusion can be made: such a bank doesn’t and cannot exist in Portugal.
But there is no need to get upset prematurely. Yes, Portuguese banks need to learn what cashback is. Yes, bank deposits are offered here at miserable interest rates. Still, accounts and cards with free service and a convenient English app are a reality!
In this article, I will talk about Portuguese banks that offer service absolutely for free, mention some banks where the annual service is very cheap, and also tell you about an exciting option for those who use banking services minimally. At the end of the article, I will provide a list of documents needed to create an account in a Portuguese bank in 2023.
ActivoBank is a subsidiary of Millenium BCP bank. ActivoBank specializes in online services, but it also has around 15 physical offices in different cities where you can seek advice. Their main product is called Conta Simples. You can open it via the website or in person at a bank branch. The main conditions:
- Free account opening and maintenance, free issue of debit and credit cards.
- The minimum amount that should be put into the account: 100 euros (when opening an online account, as well as when opening a salary or student account) or 500 euros (when opening an account at a bank branch).
- All ATMs of the Multibanco network provide card service.
- Online bank and app in Portuguese and English.
- Free bank-to-bank transfers via the website, the app, or phone in automatic mode, without an operator.
- Free transfers in the MBWay system via the ActivoBank app.
- Free crediting of international transfers.
- Option to deposit money into the account via Millennium BCP branches. You may think, why would we do that if ATMs exist? But ATMs do not accept bills of more than 200 euros. So if you have just arrived with a wad of 500 euros bills, you can deposit them in person at the bank.
- Other available bank products: insurance, consumer loan, car loan, mortgage, investments, and bank checks.
- There are no opening and maintenance costs.
- You can open an account remotely via video call or Chave Móvel Digital.
- There are no requirements for the deposit amount when you open an account.
- The app is available in Portuguese and English.
- Free debit card (you can open a virtual card, as well as request a physical one).
- Free transfers, payments, and money requests to your contacts, including the ones via the MBWay system.
- NFC payments using a smartphone.
- No ATM withdrawal fees in Portugal and other countries of the European Economic Area (withdrawal of euros, Swedish krona, and Romanian leu).
- Moey! card won’t be accepted at Portuguese gas stations.
- Access to a consumer loan from Crédito Agricola.
As a subsidiary of the Spanish bank Santander, Openbank is also a Spanish bank. Although the account opened there will have a Spanish IBAN, it can be easily used to receive a salary in a Portuguese company.
- Free account opening and maintenance.
- Free euro transfers in Portugal and the EU.
- Free debit card.
- The app is available in Portuguese, English, German, Spanish, and Dutch.
- Free withdrawal of the funds in Santander ATMs and automated checkouts around the world.
- You can also withdraw euros from other ATMs in the European Economic Area. However, only the first 5 such withdrawals per month will be without fee.
- Customer support by phone (Portuguese number) and WhatsApp.
Unibanco is owned by a Portuguese company UNICRE, which specializes in developing payment solutions. The account is managed via a mobile app. With Unibanco, you can provide and receive transfers, pay for services and purchases in physical and online stores both in Portugal and abroad.
- The main feature of Unibanco is working through a debit card, which you can credit for any amount and set a daily spending limit from 10 to 5.000 euros.
- The card can be both virtual and physical. The physical card will be produced of environmentally friendly materials.
- No fees for account maintenance.
- Account opening via the app using Chave Móvel Digital.
- The app is available in Portuguese and English.
- Free transfers, including the ones via the MBWay system.
- Mobile payments using Apple Pay, Google Pay, Garmin Pay, and Fitbit Pay.
- Access to other financial products: credit cards, consumer loans, and insurance.
I can't definitely say which of these four free solutions is better. Personally, I use only ActivoBank, and I can say that it is well-suited for the simplest operations. But if you need something a little more complicated than a bank statement from the month before, you must address somewhere and pay for it. I assume that every free bank works on the same principle.
On the other hand, it is a huge advantage for me personally to have a physical office, where you can come and consult.
As for online banking and mobile app, ActivoBank has some operations that are simply unavailable there. The app is quite intuitive to use, but I could install it only recently when I bought a new phone. As it turned out, this app is not designed for my perfectly functioning Android 5.1 smartphone, bought 8 years ago. But the Moey!, Openbank, and Unibanco apps are available for this version of Android.
So here's my advice: if you are not using a smartphone of the latest version and if the ability to use the banking app is essential to you, first try to install this app, and then decide about opening an account in this bank.
Portuguese banks with a very cheap service
Below is a list of banks that offer some features for free but still charge for the necessary functionality.
Before 2020, you could open an account and get a card for free in Banco CTT. But now, the client will pay at least 40 euros per year for the account and debit card maintenance. Moreover, one should pay extra for any transactions carried out at a bank branch.
In this bank, you can open an account called Conta Global. It is required to deposit at least 2.000 euros into the account when opening.
No fees for account maintenance. But for the Mastercard debit card, you should pay 10 euros in the first year and 14 euros in subsequent years. A fee of 0.50 euros is charged for transfers to another bank.
In this bank, you can open a Conta Digital or Non Resident Account (EUR) account. There will be no fee for the maintenance of those accounts. Intra-bank and inter-bank transfers are free when made via online banking and ATMs. Maintenance of the debit card costs 19.5 euros per year.
Minimum package of banking services at a price of up to 5 euros per year
For those with no other account in a Portuguese bank and who plan to use banking services to a minimal amount, it is possible to open an account under the Serviços mínimos bancários system. You can transfer an existing account in any Portuguese bank into a Serviços mínimos account in the same bank. This product should also be available to the bank customer if the bank notifies him or her of the closure of his or her account. You can read more on the Bank of Portugal website.
Every Portuguese bank offer accounts with a minimum package. As of January 2023, the annual maintenance cost of such an account can be at most 4,80 euros.
Services included in the package:
- Opening and maintenance of one bank account and one debit card.
- Depositing and withdrawing cash via ATMs and bank offices.
- Payment for goods and services at physical payment points via ATMs and online banking.
- Payment for pre-authorization services Débito direto.
- Transfers to accounts opened in the same bank.
- Transfers to other banks: unlimited via ATMs and no more than 24 transactions per year via the online bank.
- Transfers via third-party payment apps (for example, MBWay): maximum 5 transactions per month, maximum 30 euros per transaction.
Frankly speaking, I don't understand why to open a paid bank account that has restrictions on transactions, while there are banks that provide services for free and without restrictions. But maybe someone doesn't want to change the bank they've been using for a long time and want to save money at the same time.
Documents that are needed to create an account in a Portuguese bank in 2023
You must provide documents verifying your identity, residential address, and professional status To create an account in the bank. The specific set of documents may vary slightly, depending on the bank, but in general, it will look like this:
- Portuguese ID (Cartão de Cidadão) or green card (Autorização de residência), or passport/ID of another country;
- Document verifying Portuguese taxpayer number, NIF (if it is not specified in the ID card);
- Document verifying residential address during the last 12 months (e.g., utility bill or Portuguese driver’s license, or an extract called Certidão de domicílio fiscal from the tax service portal. Foreigners may also submit a confirmed tax return from their home country or a document from the embassy);
- A certificate of professional status not older than 6 months:
For employees: a document from the employer confirming salary transfer or a work contract.
For individual entrepreneurs: invoice issued to the customer (Recibo verde) or a document on the start of activity as an individual entrepreneur issued by the tax service.
For self-employed/business owners: company registration document or an excerpt of the commercial register.
For unemployed: the confirmation of the unemployed status from the employment center.
For students: the confirmation of the university admission or student ID card.
For situations not described above: an account statement from another bank or a Portuguese tax return for the previous year.
I hope this article was helpful and you will find a bank that perfectly suits your needs.