Although it’s possible for non-resident homeowners to do most of their banking via a foreign account using debit and credit cards, 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.
It’s best to open a Portuguese bank account in person, rather than by correspondence from abroad.
Ask your neighbours or colleagues where they bank to find the best service and charges – personal recommendations are always best I find. Your branch should preferably be near to where you will be living in Portugal. You must be over 18 and provide proof of identity (for instance your passport), your address in Portugal and your fiscal number.
If you wish to open an account with a Portuguese bank from abroad, you will need to obtain an application form, either from foreign branches of Portuguese banks or direct from banks in Portugal.
Once you have your application form completed you will need post it, accompanied by a reference letter from your current bank. Minimum deposits to open new accounts are around 250 euros.
Many foreigners living in Portugal maintain at least two current bank accounts: an account for time spent in the UK, whether you live there or just visit, and then a Portuguese account with a Portuguese bank for day to day business and living expenses in Portugal.
Just one thing to bear in mind here: you would be well advised to transfer your funds from the UK to Portugal - and back if needs be - via a currency company like Smart Currency. This is a far cheaper option than the banks will give you, both in terms of bank charges and better exchange rates. Give them a call on 0207 898 0541 and have a chat about this.
Bear in mind that it’s a criminal offence in Portugal to write a cheque without sufficient funds in your account to cover it - you can actually be charged with fraud. You will also have to pay 20 per cent of the amount of the cheque in interest and fees, may be blacklisted by the Banco de Portugal and refused a cheque account in future.
Many people have found the service at banks in Portugal to be of the old fashioned and personal variety and have been pleasantly surprised by the friendly reception they receive at their local bank. Charges are also fairly reasonable and, if you only have a holiday home in Portugal, you can have all your correspondence (e.g. cheque books, statements, payment advices, etc.) sent to your UK home abroad on request.