8 Best Banks in Portugal in 2023 (Foreigner’s Experience)

Written By Adrian Volenik Reviewed By Tim Doman

With more than 100 online and traditional banks to choose from, it might be difficult to know which one to go with. Luckily, you’ve found this article where I’ll help you find a good bank based on my experience. 

A little bit of background on myself first. I’ve been living in Portugal for almost two years now, and I am a small business owner. I have (or did have) six bank accounts from the list I’m about to show you. 

I also took out a mortgage and a car loan, so I think I have more than enough experience to guide you through the Portuguese banking system. 

How to Open a Bank Account in Portugal (as a Foreigner)

Opening a bank account in Portugal is fairly easy. However, you will have to visit a physical branch. Some banks, such as Millennium, Santander, and others, have branches in other European countries, too. 

You can leverage that information if you don’t want to travel to Portugal specifically to open a bank account. 

There are also international digital banks that let you open an account online; however, these won’t give you a Portuguese IBAN. 

Here’s what all banks asked from me when I was opening an account:

  • ID card or passport
  • Portuguese tax number (NIF)
  • Proof of address (water bill/light bill/cable TV bill…) or Driver’s license or IRS Statement/Note of reimbursement
  • Wage receipt or Employee card or Statement issued by the employer or a Self-employed receipt (so-called Recibo Verde)
  • €250 opening balance

These may warry from bank to bank, but not by much. You’ll also need to register as a taxpayer in the country. That means you must obtain the NIF number (Número de Identificação Fiscal). 

Getting a NIF won’t make you a tax resident in Portugal as long as you use a non-Portuguese address.

You can also give them non-Portuguese proof of income and proof of address. 

It’s best to come when the banks are opening their doors, so 10 am. This will ensure you don’t wait in line for hours, and the bank tellers will still be relatively fresh. If you don’t speak Portuguese, don’t worry, most of the bank staff speak English. 

Opening an account is typically a lengthy process that can take about an hour and will require dozens of signatures!

Best Bank in Portugal Overall – Millennium bcp

millenium bcp

  • Name of the bank: Banco Comercial Português 
  • Brand name: Millennium bcp
  • The largest private financial group in Portugal and the second in terms of market share
  • 408 branches in Portugal
  • Worldwide, the bank has 1,240 branches and more than 6.4 million customers
  • Present in Poland, Brazil, the UK, the US, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Angola, Mozambique, China, and Macao
  • Named five times “Best Investment Bank in Portugal” by Global Finance Magazine
  • BCP’s profits rose 50% in 2022 to 207.5 million euros

BCP is a modern Portuguese bank founded in 1985 and rebranded as Millennium bcp in 2004. It’s also the second-largest private bank in Portugal.

This is where we opened our first bank account in Portugal. Unfortunately, as non-residents at the time, we couldn’t open a Portuguese bank account online. 

That meant we had to go there in person and sit for an hour behind the desk (not counting the queuing time) and sign dozens of papers.

Luckily, it was all descent from there, and we have stuck with the bank ever since and have personal accounts, as well as a joint account. 

I still find the bank to be the best overall. It’s good for day-to-day banking, it has a great mobile app, and the customer service isn’t too bad too. 

Were there hiccups along the way? Of course, but nothing major. 

Millennium is a full-service bank offering personal and business accounts, credit cards, all kinds of loans and mortgages, insurance, savings, investments, institutional, corporate, and private banking. 

Here’s a pro tip for you. If you live abroad, you can open your account at one of their representative offices in Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Brazil (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro), or at Banque BCP, in France.

Don’t forget to bring all the necessary documents.

Best for Everyday Use – Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) 

Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD)

  • Founded in 1876, the largest Portuguese financial institution 
  • The only bank in Portugal wholly owned by the Government
  • CGD has one of the largest international networks among Portuguese financial groups (22 countries on 4 continents)
  • Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) achieved the highest profits, of 843 million euros in 2022, 45% more than in 2021

Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) literally translates to general cash deposits. It’s the largest financial institution in Portugal and is fully owned by the government. It was founded all the way back in 1876 during the reign of King Luís.

Like most other banks on my list, CGD offers a full range of financial services and could be your one-stop shop for all things banking. 

We, too have an account with CGD, as well as credit cards.

I have to say, there have been no issues with the bank so far, and we have used the app and the card extensively in shops and online. 

I find the app on par with Millennium, but I prefer Millennium’s layout. This is obviously subjective, and for you, it could be the other way around. 

Opening an account was straightforward as we already knew what was required and how long it would take. 

READ ALSO: 11 Best Digital Banks in the EU (All Account Types)

Best for Mortgages – Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) 

Caixa Geral de Depósitos 2

CGD is also where we got our mortgage, as it had the fastest process, and we got the best quote from all the banks we tried. 

It was all done through a mortgage broker, and everything was handled over emails, basically, except when it came to opening the account itself and the final deed. 

I do realize that for someone else, another bank might be better. For that reason, it’s best to use a broker so you get proposals from as many banks as you can. 

Regarding the deposit, we gave around 20% of the total value, but you can also give 10%. Then there’s the home and life insurance, as well as a mandatory credit card (that some other banks might not ask for).  

Best Mobile App – Millennium BCP

Millennium BCP

I already mentioned that I prefer Millennium’s app over CGD’s.

In fact, I think it has the best app out of all the banks I’ve tried. Although Millennium isn’t a digital bank like Revolut, N26, and others, it has nailed it with its app.

I really have to hand it to Portuguese banks.

Although they can be clunky at times, the market is super-competitive, and that’s why most banks have excellent mobile apps and easily accessible services online. 

Best for Savings – Abanca

Abanca

  • Founded in 2011 under the name NCG Banco
  • Present in 11 countries in Europe and America
  • Over 70 branches in Portugal and more than 700 in Spain
  • Entered the Portuguese market in 2018 with the acquisition of Deutsche Bank’s PT business

In 2018, Deutsche Bank announced the sale of its national retail business, Private and Commercial Clients (PCC), in Portugal, to Spanish Bank Abanca (literally, the bank). 

The acquisition included a loan portfolio of €2.4 billion, €1 billion in deposits, and €3.1 billion in assets under management.

They also have around 70 branches all around the country, but mainly in Porto and Lisbon. 

All banks here have very low or even non-existent savings rates. In these conditions, Abanca comes on top with a slightly better rate for 12-month term deposits.

The minimum amount you can deposit is €500, and the maximum is €100,000.

Best for Loans – Novobanco

Novobanco

  • Formed in 2014
  • Successor of Banco Espírito Santo (BES)
  • 1.5 Million Customers, 4090 employees
  • 292 branches, 20 corporate centers, and 2 centers for large companies
  • The Lone Star Fund has a 75% stake through Nani Holdings, S.G.P.S., S.A.
  • The bank tripled its profits in 2022 to 560.8 million euros

Novobanco, or Novo Banco, is a new bank formed in 2014 that rose from the ashes of Banco Espírito Santo (BES) after historical losses of €3,577 billion. 

The Bank of Portugal intervened to save the good assets in the form of the new bank, and the bad assets were transferred to a different entity. 

It seems like the bank turned a new leaf in 2021 when it made a profit for the first time (€184.5 million). In 2022, they tripled it to €560.8 million.

I love their physical branches, although I found the employees are hit-and-miss. But I guess that can be said for most banks. 

Although all Portuguese banks have loans, I found that NB had the best personal credits in Portugal.

You can take out general personal loans, car loans and leases, healthcare loans (although it’s generally free in PT), and long-term credit for studies.

There are also loans for renewable energy, construction works (I took out this one), and other projects up to €75,000. 

Best for Business Accounts – Santander Totta

Santander Totta

  • Owned by the Spanish group Santander
  • Founded in 1988, has 2.9 million customers
  • Banco Santander Totta materialized from the merger between Banco Santander, Banco Totta and Banco Açores, and Banco Crédito Predial Portuguese in 2004
  • In 2022, the second bank with the best positive results of 606.7 million euros (90% more than in the previous year)
  • Private bank with the most profits in Portugal

Santander Totta, or simply Santander, is a financial group led by Banco Santander, the largest in the eurozone and fourth in the world, originating in the city of Spain by the same name. 

Santander is a popular bank and the largest private bank in Portugal, in front of Millennium bcp. The bank has 4,664 employees and 339 branches around the country. 

I chose Santander for its great-value business account. There are three account options:

  • Conta Ready (€3.90/m)
  • Conta Start (€11.90/m)
  • Conta Grow (€15.90/m)

The best value is arguably the middle account called Start Account (Conta Start). 

This account provides you with prepaid and debit cards, access to digital channels, income savings, virtual and mobile POS, SEPA, and 5 credit transfers per month. However, if you need a business credit card, you’ll have to go with the Grow account. 

Of course, Santander also offers short, medium, and long-term business loans, access to European funds, all kinds of insurance products, and more. 

Best for Mixed Cards – Crédito Agrícola

Crédito Agrícola

  • Founded in 1911 with roots all the way back to 1498
  • 617 branches, more than 430,000 members, and more than 2 million customers
  • 71 credit institutions (cooperatives) hold the entire share capital
  • Offices in Luxembourg, Paris, Geneva

The historical roots of Caixas de Crédito Agrícola Mútuo can be found in the Santas Casas da Misericórdia, founded in 1498.

However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that everything was put on paper, and the institution was officially founded. 

Fast forward to now, and the bank is one of the major players in Portugal, with branches around every corner and a strong following in terms of members and clients. 

Where CA shines for me is the dual-use bank card. With it, you can have both a debit and a credit card in one.

It’s a product I’ve seen all over the world, but it’s still underutilized. The card itself costs €13.50.

Best Branches – Novobanco

novobanco branch

Of all the branches I’ve visited in Portugal, and I’ve visited all the major ones, Novobanco has the best-looking branches – by far.

They are new, modern, and well-thought-out. The interior is all-natural wood and textiles, and the color scheme is eye-pleasing.

You also get greeted by a person you can actually talk to and not a queuing machine.  

Best for Insurance – Banco Português de Investimento (BPI)

Banco Português de Investimento

  • Founded in 1981 with the creation of SPI – Sociedade Portuguesa de Investimentos
  • Part of the Spanish CaixaBank Group
  • 4th largest bank in terms of business volumes
  • Present in 27 countries
  • In the insurance business, BPI has a joint venture with Allianz
  • BPI’s profits grew 19% in 2022 to 365 million euros

BPI is part of the Spanish CaixaBank Group, the third-largest bank in Spain, only behind Santander and BBVA. 

The bank is notable for a couple of things.

First of all, it was the first private bank created after the reopening of the sector to private initiative following the nationalizations of 1975.

And also for becoming the first bank listed on the Portuguese Stock Exchange in 1986.

However, it’s the bank’s partnership with Allianz that put it on the list as the best bank for insurance products. 

From various health and dental insurances to domestic services insurance, personal accidents, insurance against third parties, against surfing accidents, sailing protection, condominium, as well as hunting and weapons insurance. 

There are also classic car and home insurance and a complete package for home security brought in partnership with Securitas Direct company.  

Best for Private Banking – Banco Finantia

Banco Finantia

  • Founded in 1987
  • A global and independent bank of Portuguese origin
  • In 1988, Finantia joined Goldman Sachs and became an investment company
  • Private, corporate, and investment banking

Finantia is an independent bank founded in 1987. Apart from Portugal, the bank is present in Brazil, the UK, the US, and, of course, Spain. 

The bank is specialized in investment, private and corporate banking, and less so in the personal and business aspects.

With Finantia, wealthy clients get personalized, competent, discreet, and confidential advice.

Its services include:

  • Time Deposits 
  • Certificates of Deposit
  • Investment Consulting
  • Investment Funds
  • Purchase and Sale of Securities
  • Custody Services
  • Accounts in Foreign Currency

Other Notable Banks in Portugal

ActivoBank

activobank

  • Founded in 1994 as the first telephone bank in Portugal
  • Owned by Millennium bcp
  • Digital bank with 16 physical branches
  • Free and paid plans
  • Full range of services

ActivoBank is notable for being the first telephone bank in Portugal, having been founded in 1994 by Millennium bcp, almost 30 years ago.

Since then, the bank has undergone a couple of transformations and is now known as a digital bank accessible mainly through the app. 

Unlike independent digital banks like Revolut, Wise, bunq, or N26, ActivoBank has almost 20 physical branches and offers a full suite of financial products and services. 

These include mortgages and other loans, ten kinds of insurance, as well as savings and investment products, including a dedicated app for investing called ActivoTrader.  

The plans are as follows:

  • A Sua Conta (free)
  • AB Plus (€3.99/m)
  • AB Premium (€8.99/m)

The paid plans have cashback on household expenses, some free instant transfers, pet insurance, family liability insurance, and more. 

Bankinter

  • The bank entered Portugal when it acquired former branches of Barclays in 2016 for €86 million
  • Owned by the Spanish bank of the same name
  • In Portugal, it has 81 branches, 4 private centers, 12 corporate centers, and more than 220 thousand customers

Bankinter was founded in Spain in 1965 as an industrial bank through a joint venture by Banco de Santander and Bank of America.

In Portugal, it hasn’t been that long. They entered the market in 2016, acquiring Barclays’ retail business for €86 million. This also gave them more than 80 branches nationwide.

It also offers a full range of services, as well as a highly-rated mobile app and online mortgage applications. 

Banco CTT

  • First established in 1911 as Caixa Económica Postal (CEP)
  • In its current form, Banco CTT was incorporated in 2015
  • 100% owned by the post office
  • One of the largest banks in the country

Banco CTT is 100% owned by Correios de Portugal, or the Portuguese postal service. 

Therefore, all its branches are coupled with local post offices.

This, of course, makes it very convenient for clients, especially in rural areas where other banks typically won’t have a branch. 

The bank offers most, if not all, financial and banking products typically offered by traditional banks. 

BBVA

bbva

  • In Portugal since 1991
  • Founded in Bilbao, Spain in 1857
  • Spain’s 2nd largest bank after Banco Santander
  • One of the largest banks in the world with around 90 million customers in 30 countries
  • 6,040 offices, 115,615 employees

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria or BBVA for short is one of the biggest banks in the world with tens of millions of customers.

In Portugal, the bank has been present since 1991 and has 12 branches – mainly in Lisbon and the northern part of the country (Porto, Coimbra, Braga). 

Although BBVA is one of the largest banks in the world, it doesn’t have that many customers here. Only around 50,000. One of the reasons is, of course, the lack of branches countrywide. 

However, the bank offers a full service for people and companies and is a fairly good choice, especially knowing its strong international background.

I love that they offer account switching services, something that’s common in the UK and some other countries. 

This way, you can simply swap your Portuguese bank accounts instead of opening a new one and closing the old one. 

Banco Montepio

banco montepio

  • The oldest financial institution in Portugal
  • Founded in 1844
  • Changed its name in 1994 to Caixa Económica Montepio Geral, and in 2019 it adopted the commercial name – Banco Montepio
  • 239 branches and 3.406 employees

Banco Montepio is the oldest financial institution in Portugal that includes a bank and a group of companies with services ranging from insurance to the management of residential centers.

With more than 230 branches, you’re never far away from the bank if you really need to visit them. For everything else, you can use the popular but poorly rated mobile app.

The bank offers personal and business accounts, loans, insurance, investments, saving, and even mobile phones and home appliances with the ability to buy them on credit. 

Openbank 

openbank

  • Launched in 1995 as the first telephone bank in Spain
  • Subsidiary of Grupo Santander
  • In 2019, launched in Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands
  • Digital-only bank without branches 

Openbank was on the frontiers of digital banking since the 90s. In 2011, the bank released apps for Android and iOS and it came to Portugal and some other EU countries in 2019.

How many customers it has in Portugal isn’t known, however, I like the app as it’s on par with similar digital banks backed by big banks. For that reason, it also offers more financial services than independent digital banking apps. 

It even offers a beautiful metal card with travel benefits and free ATM withdrawals worldwide. It was obviously inspired by the Revolut Metal plan and card as even the monthly price is the same (€13.99/m). 

Nickel

nickel

  • Nickel (formerly Compte-Nickel) is a French alternative banking service
  • Launched in 2014, came to PT in 2021
  • Acquired by the BNP Paribas in 2017
  • A free account and a free card available

Nickel is a digital bank that’s almost ten years old that comes from France and is present also in Spain, Belgium, and Portugal. 

Here it offers a debit card, and soon a premium card with travel insurance, as well as a metal card. 

The accounts include a classic or a personalized Mastercard debit card (€2.50/y more), withdrawals and cash deliveries across the network of ATMs and Nickel agents, free payments in the EURO zone, and…

Well, that’s it. You’ll have to wait for the Premium or Metal accounts for more features, I guess. 

To open an account, head online to their website, download the app, or open it at one of almost 400 Nickel agents nationwide. These are primarily kiosks, tobacco shops, cafes, and similar establishments. 

Do Banks Charge Monthly Fees?

Almost all banks in Portugal charge monthly maintenance fees that typically range from €5 to €8 per month. This can be less, too. For instance, CTT charges €20 annually or essentially €5 every quarter plus tax.

Activobank, the digital bank, has a free account. Then there are so-called Minimum Banking Services accounts. 

They cost only a couple of euros per year and offer all the essential banking services, coupled with a banking card. To get such an account, you can’t have other checking accounts open. 

Are There Digital Banks in Portugal?

There are digital banks with Portuguese IBANs.

To my knowledge, these are the aforementioned Activobank, Openbank, and Nickel.

Activobank has 16 physical branches, so they aren’t a “real” digital bank, as these typically have no branches at all.

Digital banks like Revolut, Wise, N26, bunq, Monese, and some others are also available in Portugal, but you won’t get a Portuguese IBAN. You do get several other IBANs from countries like Germany, Lithuania, the UK, Spain, etc. 

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About the Author

Chief Editor at TopMobileBanks

Adrian is a fintech expert who has tested hundreds of financial apps, cards, and accounts. His love for testing digital banks, payment apps, and financial products, in general, is unmatched.

How many digital banking accounts can one man have?

Not enough, if you ask Adrian. As his wallet will soon explode if he doesn’t cut back on the number of cards.

On the plus side, they have enabled him to create awesome How-To Guides that you can read on our site.

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