Travel Money Guide: Portugal

Find out how which travel money products will make your 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, organising your travel money in advance is crucial to a successful trip to Portugal.

Portuguese towns and cities are well serviced by banks and ATMs. Visa, Mastercard and American Express are accepted everywhere. Find a way to spend Euros without paying the fee for currency conversion and the international ATM withdrawal fee and you can use your cards for more or less the same price as you can in Britain. One surefire way to make sure you don’t end up forking out for withdrawal fees is to use a digital banking app. The big names in this field, such as Starling, Revolut and N26, offer zero transaction and withdrawal frees with their products. Mobile by nature, they can also be managed anywhere in the world and aren’t subject to the same restrictions that conventional travel money products are.

For some helpful tips and tricks, use our travel money guide to discover the travel money products you can use in Portugal and how you can spend for less while you’re abroad.

Which option is right for your next trip?

N26

Take an N26 card to Portugal

    • N26 is a great option to take to Portugal
    • Order now and it can arrive within 10 business days
    • No ATM fees
    • No transaction fees
    • Strong European presence

Promoted

Compare the best banking apps for going abroad

Updated December 7th, 2019
Name Product Foreign ATM withdrawals Foreign transactions fee Card cost Delivery speed
£200 free monthly
No fees
Free with finder.com, otherwise card delivery is £4.99
Up to 9 working days
App-based current account with loads of extra features. (e.g. Real time transactions, payment categorisation, save spare change, free international money transfers, buy cryptocurrency)
N26
1.7% of amount drawn
No fees
Free
5-7 working days
App-based bank account that can be used on the go in any EU country. All about the ease of sending and saving money.
Free
No fees
Free
Between 3-5 working days
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
Withdrawals of £200/$200/€200 or more – free
smaller withdrawals – a charge of £1.50 per withdrawal

No transaction fees (if you spend in one of the 18 wallet currencies)
Free
Between 3-5 working days in the UK, or within 10 days if you live outside the UK

Compare up to 4 providers

How many Euros do I need to bring to Portugal?

While Portugal is not as cheap as it used to be, visitors will find it much cheaper than destinations in Western and Northern Europe. Accommodation and shopping will be where you spend (or save) your money. If you prefer to stay in hotels your estimated travel expenses will be much higher than someone else who stays in hostels. Food, even eating out, and travelling from A to B are quite affordable all over Portugal. You will be able to find budget accommodation, food and activities right through to 5-star treatment.

Basic costs Mid range A royal experience
bldg

Hostel

£10 – £20 per night

2-Star Hotel

£60 per night

5-Star Hotel

£100-200 per night

utensil

Casa de pasto

£3 – £6

Restaurant

£12 – £25 per dish

5-Star Restaurant:

£30 – £50 per dish

camera Free entry to most museums
Free sightseeing ancient ruins and castles

Lisbon Oceanarium

£12 for an adult ticket

Guided 7-day & night bike tour of Portuguese castles and vineyards (expenses included): £6000+

*Prices are approximate and subject to change.

Exchange rate history

The GBP currency pair has been relatively unstable over the last five years, thanks to recent political events such as Brexit. Travellers to Europe from Britain will find that £1 is equal to around 1.1 Euros. If you think you know whether it’s going to be more expensive or cheaper to buy Euros in the future, you may want to lock in the exchange rate using a prepaid travel card.

Year Average annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Euro (EUR)
2012 1.233263
2013 1.177964
2014 1.240494
2015 1.377982
2016 1.224833
2017 1.155113
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Should it be a travel card, a debit card or a credit card?

The national currency of Portugal is Euros. Conveniently, all travel cards let you load and hold Euros. Most European countries, including neighbouring Spain and France, also use the same currency, so a travel card can make sense if Portugal is one stop on a European vacation, but how does a travel card stack up against a debit or credit card?

Visa and Mastercard can be used everywhere (look for the Visa [Plus] and Mastercard [Maestro/Cirrus] logos on ATMs and card terminals). Advances in contactless payments now mean you can also use your credit or debit card for small purchases at major Portuguese retailers, which somewhat eliminates the need to make ATM withdrawals.

  • Tip: Most Portuguese bank ATMs (multibanco) do not charge a local ATM operator fee, you should look for a product which doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals as well as currency conversion to withdraw on the cheap in Portugal.

A quick summary of travel money options in Portugal

Travel money option Pros Considerations
Debit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Pre-load Euros and make over the counter transactions
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • Comes with backup cards
  • Compare and choose carefully — the wrong debit card can charge you excessively
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Euro is a supported currency
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Pre-load and secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • While travel cards do not charge for international transactions (currency conversion fees), you may still be charged for ATM withdrawals
Credit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Access to funds up to your credit limit
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion/ transaction fees
  • Benefits including rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks, complimentary travel insurance
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
Traveller’s cheques
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo I.D. needed to cash cheques
  • Banks and exchange offices won’t accept traveller’s cheques in Portugal
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveller’s cheques
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 prepaid travel cards

The Euro is a supported currency on all travel cards. Compare the back and front end fees like charges for ATM withdrawals and loading and reloading your card. You can lock in a rate when you transfer Pounds Sterling to Euros, which can be handy if you think the value of the British Pound is going to drop. And you can avoid ATM charges by choosing a product which doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals — Portuguese bank ATMs are generally fee-free.

Using debit cards

If your bank is a member of the Global ATM Alliance (Westpac Group accounts), you can avoid international ATM charges by using Barclays Bank ATMs in Portugal. There are no Westpac Group cards which waive the fee for currency conversion.

  • Tip: Portuguese multibanco ATMs are fee-free. This means that if you choose a product that doesn’t charge international ATM withdrawal fees or currency conversion fees, you can make withdrawals for a similar cost as you would in the U.K..

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, and supplement your travel budget with 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.

  • Tip: Avoid using your credit card for ATM withdrawals. This is a cash advance. Cash advances accrue interest at about 20% p.a. from the time of the withdrawal, and you’ll pay a cash advance fee.

Using traveller’s cheques

It will be difficult to cash traveller’s cheques in Portugal. Banks and exchange offices won’t accept traveller’s cheques. Use the right credit card, debit card or a travel card instead. These travel money products offer all the advantages of traveller’s cheques and none of the drawbacks.

Taking cash with you

While Portugal has all the facilities to accept card payments you’d expect from a modern economy, there are going to be many instances when you need cash on your trip. Some places won’t take cards if you’re spending less than €10 – €20 Euros, other merchants won’t take cards at all. Banking reforms in Europe have made it cheaper than ever to make withdrawals from bank ATMs, and if you pick the right card, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have euros in your pocket.

  • Tip: While most supermarkets in Portugal will let you pay with your card even for transactions of only a couple of Euros, the Pingo Doce supermarket chain won’t accept card payments for transactions under €20.

If you’ve brought Pound Sterling with you to Portugal, you won’t have trouble getting your cash changed to Euros on the street. They are frequent in bigger cities and touristy areas. The worst rates will be at the airport or inside hotels, the best will be at independent offices in larger towns and cities. Most banks no longer offer foreign exchange services.

  • Tip: Following the EU’s austerity measures, Portugal raised its VAT (value-added tax) from 19% to 21%. Like everywhere in Europe, if you are leaving within 3 months of purchase, you can claim the tax back by requesting a form named “Isenção de IVA”. Upon your departure, present this form to customs for a refund.
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A guide to Portugal banknotes and coins

banknotes-portugal

Buying currency in Britain

You can take as many Euros with you to the European Union as you want. You have to declare if you’re carrying more than €10,000 cash. This includes bank notes and traveller’s cheques, gold bullion etc. It’s easy to buy Euros in the U.K. – you can exchange Pounds to Euros in almost any high street or online travel shop, as well as in the airport.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

Having a combination of travel money options is the best way to mitigate risk and finance your trip to Portugal. Whilst debit and credit cards are widely accepted and used in Portugal, there are many instances where there will be a minimum transaction or times where card won’t be accepted at all – so it’s always a good idea to have some cash on you.

One of the main differences between these travel products is the exchange rate. It can make sense to load funds 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 might want a credit card for emergencies as well as access to different travel perks such as complimentary insurance and rewards, however, never use a credit card for ATM withdrawals

Portugal is truly a beautiful travel destination, so 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 that you can have peace of mind that you won’t get smashed by fees when withdrawing money or making purchases using your cards.

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