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Travel money guide: Portugal

Find out how to make different types of travel money go further in Portugal.

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Whether you’re planning to explore the cobblestone villages, relax on the golden beaches or indulge in the local cuisine, getting your travel money sorted out before you leave is crucial for a successful trip to Portugal.

Portuguese towns and cities have many banks and ATMs and using a major credit card shouldn’t give you a problem. If you can steer clear of the currency conversion and international ATM withdrawal fee, you’ll be spending smart and saving on fees. For some helpful tips and tricks, use our travel money guide to discover how you can spend for less while you’re in Portugal

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

One of the main differences to take into consideration when looking at different types of travel money is the exchange rate. It can also make sense to load money and lock in a rate on your travel card if you think euros are going to get more expensive to buy in the future. As always, you’ll want a credit card for emergencies and to score different travel perks such as complimentary insurance and rewards.

Whether you go for the sun, the olives or to explore the ancient cities of the once great imperial power, compare and apply for the right travel money so you don’t get buried in fees when withdrawing money or making purchases.

What should I budget for my trip to Portugal?

While Portugal is not as cheap as it used to be, visitors will find it much cheaper than other popular destinations in Western and Northern Europe. Whether you be someone who prefers to stay in a hotel or a hostel for cheap, Portugal can fit the budget of any traveler. Even eating out and exploring the city is quite affordable if you choose to go that route.Budget travelers can expect to pay about $45 a day, while those with bigger budgets can plan on $100 to $250 a day.

BudgetMid rangeLuxury
bldgHostel
$15–$30 per night
2-star hotel
$50–$100 per night
>5-star hotel
$100–$300 per night
utensilCasa de pasto
$4–$8
Dinner at a restaurant
$20–$30 per dish
5-star restaurant:
$35–$60 per dish
cameraFree entry to most museums
Free sightseeing of ancient ruins and castles
Lisbon Oceanarium
$20 for an adult ticket
Guided 7-day bike tour of Portuguese castles and vineyards (expenses included): $1,250

*Prices are approximate and subject to change.

How to send money to Portugal

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Should it be a travel card, a debit card or a credit card?

The national currency of Portugal is the euros and conveniently, all travel cards let you load and spend euros. Neighboring Spain and France also use the same currency, so a travel card can make sense if you’ll be going all over Europe.

Visa and Mastercard can be used everywhere and advances in contactless payments lets you use your credit or debit card for small purchases at major Portuguese retailers.

  • Tip: Most Portuguese bank ATMs (multibanco) do not charge a local ATM operator fee. To withdrawal money on the cheap, you should look for a card that doesn’t charge a fee for international ATM usage or currency conversion.

A quick summary of travel money options in Portugal

Travel money optionProsCons
Debit cards for travel
  • PIN & chip protection
  • Preload euros
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • Comes with backup cards
  • International ATM fees
  • Foreign transaction fees
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Euro is a supported currency
  • PIN & chip protection
  • Secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • Loading and reloading fees
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Exchange rates are lower than credit cards and debit cards
Credit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion or transaction fees
  • Rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks, complimentary travel insurance
  • Emergency card replacement
  • High withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Can be difficult to manage budget
Traveler’s checks
  • Secure
  • Easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo ID needed to cash checks
  • Banks and exchange offices won’t accept traveler’s checks in Portugal
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Limited acceptance
Cash
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

How travel money products work in Portugal

Using debit cards

Debt cards will have a wide acceptance throughout Portugal, but what you’ll want to look for is a card that can either waiver the international ATM fee, currency conversion fee or foreign transaction fee.

If a local merchant or ATM gives you the option to pay in local currency when using your card, always go this route because the conversion rate set in place by your bank will be much more favorable.

Using prepaid travel cards

The euro is a supported currency on all travel cards. Compare fees like charges for ATM withdrawals and loading and reloading your card. You can lock in a rate when you transfer your dollars to euros, which can be handy if you think the value of the dollar is going to drop.

Using credit cards

A travel friendly credit card will allow you to make day to day payments in Portugal without the charge for currency conversion. You could even fall into a pool of perks which would ordinarily be an out of pocket expense — travel insurance, for example.

Credit cards also offer interest free days on purchases when you pay your statement in full by the due date. Avoid using your credit card for ATM withdrawals. This is a cash advance that will accrue high interest immediately and you’ll pay a cash advance fee.

Using a credit card in Portugal

Using traveler’s checks

Banks and exchange offices in Portugal will likely turn your traveler’s checks away. Use the right credit card, debit card or a travel card instead. These travel money products offer all the advantages of traveler’s checks and none of the drawbacks.

Using cash

There are going to be situations when you need cash on your trip. For example, some places won’t take cards if you’re spending less than 10 to 20 euros – other merchants won’t take cards at all. If you pick the right card, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have euros in your pocket.

If you’ve brought dollars with you to Portugal, you won’t have trouble getting your cash changed to Euros on the street.

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $1,000. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
American Express® Gold Card
35,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
Earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Hilton Honors American Express Card
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
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Case study: Julie's experience

Julie profile photo
Julie

Interview with Julie in Lisbon

What cards did you take with you?

Julie took these products with her:

    • Travelex
        Travelex provides over 60 foreign currencies
      • load it with up to 6 different currencies:
  • euro
  • British pound
  • Australian dollar
  • Japanese yen
  • Canadian dollar
  • Mexican peso
    • No currency conversion fee
  • Barclaycard credit card
  • Discover Bank debit card
      • No fee on foreign transactions
      • No fee for international ATMs

Why did you take these cards?

Julie says she transferred money from her Discover Bank account to her Travelex travel card as she needed it. She did this so she could make over-the-counter purchases and ATM withdrawals without paying extra for currency conversion.

She brought her Barclaycard to use for emergencies and she took along her Discover Bank debit card incase she lost her Travelex cards.

Where could you use your cards?

Most of the time she didn’t have a problem using her cards. Though there was one instance where a restaurant was cash only, which was a little surprising since she said much smaller cafes accepted cards.

She recommends that you always ask whether they take card before you sit down to avoid awkward circumstances. She says that when she went out for drinks with her friends, the bars were mainly cash only.

What about withdrawing money from ATMs?

She had no problems using her Travelex card to make ATM withdrawals. However, she was charged a fee per withdrawal.

Do you have any travel money recommendations for Portugal?

She says the best thing she did was bring a prepaid travel money card which had the ability to lock in exchange rates, so she knew exactly how much money she had to spend and could stick to her budget.

What are your travel money tips for Portugal?

  • Skip the taxis in Lisbon. Julie says Lisbon is well serviced by a metro, train and bus system. She says you should buy a 7-day carris card for .50 euro and reload as you need — using the card gives you a discount public transit.
  • Ask about the price of sides. When she was eating out with her friends, restaurants gave them sides like bread and olives. They didn’t ask for it, but they were charged a couple of euros.
Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

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Get familiar with Portugal banknotes and coins

banknotes-portugal

Buying currency in the US

You can take as many euros with you as you want, but you have to declare if you’re carrying more than 10,000 euros.

Your options for changing USD to EUR include banks and foreign exchange services like Travelex. Travelex also has rather convenient airport pickup locations.

Cash pickup services in Portugal

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.838 EUR 835 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
$0 1 - 2 days USD 1.99 0.826 EUR 824 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Quick, affordable transfers around the world with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
$1 Same day USD 8.00 0.823 EUR 817 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 0.821 EUR 805 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

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Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.
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Find travel insurance for your trip to Portugal

A critical component of getting your travel money is order is getting the right travel insurance in place. Travel insurance offers protection from a range of losses including:

  • Cancellation
  • Loss or theft of luggage and personal belongings
  • Medical emergencies
  • Personal liability

Nobody wants to pay too much for their travel insurance. Compare quotes to help you save even further.

Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
Allianz Travel OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan
$50,000
$2,000
$1,000
Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
Allianz Travel AllTrips Basic Plan
$20,000
$1,000
$600
Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
Travelex Travel Basic
100%
$15,000
$500
$500
Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
Travelex Flight Insure
$10,000
$1,000
$100
Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
RoamRight Essential Travel Insurance Plan
100%
$15,000
$750
$500
Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
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