Opening a Bank Account in Portugal

Opening a bank account in Portugal 

Speaking Pordunglish

After a few questions from the slightly nervous Dutch couple Tom and Inge about opening a bank account in Portugal, I decided to offer my help to go with them to the bank.

When we arrived at the bank we asked for an English-speaking employee. We got the best they had: João. Luckily, I know my Portuguese fairly well by now and I told to him that they want to open a bank account. We all sat down around his desk and the nice man really tried to make himself understandable in English but I understood him better when he finally switched to Portuguese as a last resort. Using three different languages between us 4 (Portuguese, Dutch, English) during this ‘bank opening scene’ it soon became clear that it was not going to be an easy one.

Computer Says No….

Everything went well so far, passports, fiscal numbers were handed to João. Then he asked proof of residency in Portugal or a statement of the water or electricity bill. After explaining him that they are here to buy a holiday house and that they would need a Portuguese bank account to have water or electricity bills, he was happy with the signed promissory contract of the house.

The next question required information about their professions. Tom told João that he is self-employed in the Netherlands and that triggered João to become extra needy. João needed to see income statements from Tom’s company and company registration information. Well, Tom brought a folder full of organized  paperwork where even the official fiscal number documents were plastic-coated. But Tom didn’t expect to need company statements on his Portuguese house purchase holidays. After some frowned eyebrows and questions about the reason behind all this, dear João explained that they would like to know more about their clients and that it is Portuguese law to have this information recorded in their bank system.

Finally, João said that a proof of subscription of the company would be enough. With a sigh of relief we directed him to the website of the Dutch chamber of Commerce (KVK) where Tom could easily find his company details by doing a search using his registration number. But João didn’t look so happy and after a long silence, he said he needed to see the date of subscription of the company. To acquire that, the website asked for € 7,50 and Tom needed his KVK account details to enter the secured area. After one last try to call Tom’s accountant we weren’t going to succeed in obtaining this information, so I asked João if it would suffice to get a monthly salary statement of his wife Inge and that they would register the bank account only on her name. Yes, that was possible! So Inge called to the company she works for and asked them to e-mail João the statement.

After 45 minutes inside the bank, nothing had been done yet.

The Big Bank Book

João continued filling in the impressive number of fields on his computer. Time passed slowly and we were listening to the ticking clock and the keyboard. Then João suddenly paused and asked for the names of the parents of Inge. Trying to hide her surprised reaction and a suppressed laugh, she wrote down the name of her father and mother.

After everything seemed to be done, João hit the print button and it looked like he hit the print button for the entire Wikipedia database.

João presented the book with the question for Inge to sign: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, we asked him if he was going to explain in English what was written in the book she was signing. The forced and insecure smile we got in return, said it all.

1,5 hour later we thanked João very much for his time and once outside, we took a deep breath of the fresh Portuguese air.

Share YOUR story!

Does this sounds familiar to you or did you have an entirely different experience? Maybe it was better….or worse… I would like to hear it! Share you experience, leave a comment. Thanks!

Read more information about bank accounts in Portugal on the websites below:

For your entertainment a small sketch from Little Britain :)

Computer Says No


4 thoughts on “Opening a Bank Account in Portugal”

  • @

    Nice title and a funny story!
    For sure, João had not so much to do that day and he was also very uncertain about how to handle with new bank accounts for foreigners; looks like hedging, the more signatures, the better …. I think no one will read the ‘book’ ever. But finally and the most important: Tom and Inge have their bank account! To be sure, I would suggest to Tom and Inge to check the first financial transfers.
    Dealing with a village bank could also be reason why it went so awkward.
    We had better experiences for the same case with a bank in Portugal in Castelo Branco with a totally different approach which looks like if you open a bank account in the Netherlands.
    Perhaps we were lucky that time and that we had a more experienced guy.

  • Melanie

    Yes it was obvious they didn’t have a lot of experience with foreigners. Luckily, everything worked out fine, but it took a ‘little’ longer than expected :) As a foreigner you need to be prepared to be asked anything. To be absolutely sure you have no trouble, bring your passports, fiscal number document, promissory contract or escritura, a payment slip/proof of registration if you are self-employed, or just say you are unemployed :) Most banks also ask for a direct deposit (this one didn’t), so also bring some cash with you!

  • Anny

    We went to the BPI office in Tomar, took us 30 – 40 minutes. Chap who sorted things out for us spoke excellent English, we had our NIFs, IDs, promisory note for house purchase and EUR 100,- in cash. My husband is retired, I don’t work at the moment and all we needed to do was give him an approximate sum of what pensions would be coming in. No problem, no silly questions. Portugal is a modern European country, things don’t run any less smoother than anywhere else.

    • melanie

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience Anny. Great to hear that everything went smoothly for you! The bigger banks in the cities have a lot more routine and there is always someone who speaks English.

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