In Portugal is no easy thing to redraw money from an ATM. If you don’t want to pay extravagant fees, that is.
Our story – a little bit of context
When I first came to Portugal I never imagine the fact that I can’t go to the first ATM that I see on the street and just redraw money without commission. Because this is how things run in my country (Romania) and I thought that the time of the commissions for redrawing money in Europe has long past. Well, it’s not like that at all, not in here, in Portugal.
And just for context, you should know that I am not talking about redrawing money from a foreign card in another currency. No, I am talking about a Portuguese card, issued by one of their banks with euros on it!
And for even more context, the ATM’s that you must absolutely stay away from, that are like the plague and effectively rob you of your money, they exist in my country but in Romania they don’t charge commission in relations with Romanian banks!
We’ve got lucky because Flavus reads anything and everything is written everywhere before pressing the OK button (I guess it’s a lawyer’s thing) and this is how we managed not to be one of the victims of these ATM’s that you see everywhere.
In some places, like for example Albufeira, you see only these ATM’s and you think that they are OK since they are place at every corner of the street and you don’t find any others.
You need cash in Portugal
And if you are thinking you are going to pay everything by card, well, this is not possible. In a touristy area, they often say that “the ATM it’s working today” which is code for “today we are not declaring our income”. In off season it’s the same business, as they are not so many verification from authorities and they often skip the use of the ATM.
In smaller town is another story, not just because they don’t declare the income but also because they try to avoid ATM and bank fees. So you need to carry some cash with you.
But let me tell you everything you need to know about ATM’s in Portugal as an expat or a foreigner in vacation.
Euronet ATM’s – you need to stay away from these!
If you take something from this article, let it be this: avoid Euronet ATMs like the plague! You will see this phrase splashed all over the internet, as many people got burned using these.
They charge ridiculous high fees without informing the users of this. They are placed in the most convenient locations like touristy areas, airports and these days you will going to see them all over Portugal.
Another thing they started to do is placing them along side the Portuguese ones, giving them an appearance of an ATM from another bank. You, the foreigner, maybe for the first time in Portugal, will most likely use the one that speaks English and has a more friendly menu, right?
So you can understand better the outrage of the people using these, you will be charged, without you knowing if you don’t check your bank account, around 8 euro for withdrawing 50 euro. This is just the commission for withdrawing, not to mention the conversion rate.
So what to do? Use Multibanco ATM’s (see below) or better yet see also below how to save on commissions and avoid high exchange rate expenses.
Money often costs too much.
Multibanco system and ATM’s
Multibanco is a network of ATM’s from 27 Portuguese banks. So the Portuguese people will use exclusively the Multibanco system because they can do everything inside the system: withdrawing cash, paying their bills, paying for the highway tolls, paying taxes, recharging the phone sim – all from this ATM.
Also, all the supermarkets and the shops will have Multibanco POS and some of them will accept you paying by card only if you have Multibanco. This means only if you have a card issued by one of the 27 banks. This happens of course, in smaller towns or smaller shops.
But even if you don’t have a Portuguese card, you can use and should Multibanco for withdrawals. As a foreigner you will pay a small fee. This happens because your own bank will charge you for the operation, as the banks in Portugal are not allowed to charge money for withdrawals.
This is why, even if Multibanco is an awesome system (the most advanced bank system in Europe), as a foreigner you still need a multicurrency card like Wise or Revolut – if you want to save money.
How not to pay fees or lose on the exchange rate
Most banks charge you fees for withdrawing money in another currency. And even if you have a friendly bank or a premium account and you don’t pay fees, you will loose a lot of money from the exchange rate (from your currency into euro). Your bank will exchange the money at a very bad exchange rate, one chosen by the bank itself.
What to do
In order to avoid all of that you have to do 2 things: have a card from a platform like Revolut or Wise and use it to make payments and withdrawing money when you are abroad.
How is this card different from your own bank card?
First and foremost, these multicurrency cards give you the very best exchange rate you can possibly find anywhere. So you move your money in your own currency on this card and then exchange it in EUR at the very best exchange rate. Then you will use this card to make the payments in Portugal (or anywhere in EU) and you can also withdraw some money from it.
The amount of money that you can withdraw from these cards without paying any commission is limited – depending on what card you choose, you will have different limits per month. However, the commission you will pay to withdrawing above this limit is smaller than your bank commission. You can check on the link below to see the exact conditions.
So by all means, stop exchanging your money at the ATM and get a debit card for travels such as the ones mentioned.
I know some of you don’ trust “these online companies”. I understand you perfectly as myself don’t keep a lot of money on these card (a couple hundred euros on monthly basis). But these companies have come a long way, they have all sorts of authorizations and also guarantee your money up to a sum – like any other bank.
If you still don’t trust these companies over your bank, just put on the card as much as you will use for 2-3 days or even one week of travels. When the money runs out, you can add up some more. The transfers are realized in second in you transfer money into the SEPA system!
Withdrawal limit from ATM in Portugal
There is a standard withdrawal ATM limit in Portugal and this is 400 euro/day. But in practice you will encounter an even lower limit, that is 200 euro/attempt of withdrawal. So the thing to do is to try again to withdraw another 200 euro, from the same machine or if this is not working, another machine, thus “beating the system“!
Don’t you get a sense of satisfaction when you manage to do that – beating the system? I do, but only when I find the rule unjust, according to my own system of belief. As a professional (I am an accountant) I perfectly understand why “life without cash” is a good idea, but as a plain citizen I find it… sometimes restrictive.
PORTUGAL’S SIX DIGIT PIN
Don’t worry if the ATM asks you for a 6 digit pin. Just put your 4 digit pin and the ATM will be happy with that too.
Words in Portuguese at ATM
When we first found ourselves in front of an ATM in Portugal – I remember it was in Albufeira, were we first stayed when we came to Algarve – we spent like 20 minute before successfully redraw money.
This happened because back then we didn’t understand the words in Portuguese. We google each and everyone of it, this after we tried and pushed all the buttons on the ATM, and obviously nothing worked!
So I thought that these words are a must to know. Just take a picture of your screen with these words to have them with you.
- Levantamento means “Withdraw”
- Retirar o seu dinheiro means “Please take your money”
- Recibo means “Receipt”
- Consulta de saldo means “Balance inquiry”
- Fora de serviço means “Out of order”
When you are at the ATM try to get close to it and listen to the words (change the language in English but listen in Portuguese also if you can’t change it). A lot of times, because the light is very bright, you will have a hard time actually reading the ATM menu. Pressing the buttons of the ITM will be difficult and you can press by mistake the wrong one if you don’t see properly.
Don’t let yourself be hurried by the line waiting. Best to wait until everyone is finished and then make your transactions in peace, or find a more remote ATM and do everything in your own time – like we did with our first one.