Openbank in PT

Has anyone tried Openbank in Portugal? They are a digital bank part of Santander. I am looking at their website and it looks like the account is fee-free and so is the debit card. 5 non-Santander withdrawals a month plus unlimited Santander ones.

Interesting, but the account seems to be held in Spain, and doesn’t appear to support Multibanco. It may not be useful for paying bills and taxes in Portugal.

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Is there any other free options besides Activo Bank?

Banco de Investimento Global is mostly free, and never has any lines. However, I wish to be clear that I am merely answering your question, not offering an endorsement.

I will endorse Activo as a bank where I can get problems solved if I’m willing to stand in line, and where compliance burdens are manageable.

Read between the lines.

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On the topic of banking, does anyone know whether Bison will start offering a debit card because of the recent regulatory change related to financial transfers? I don’t have a link handy but as I recall, any account that allows financial transfers going forward has to be associated with a debit card.

That would be helpful. For me I have little things come up and Bison charges for bank transfers which begins to add up.

According to the notice from MillenniumBCP on this regulatory change:

  • Pagamento de Serviços
  • Carregamentos de telemĂłveis
  • Pagamentos Ă  Segurança Social - Trabalhadores do Serviço DomĂ©stico
  • Jogos Santa Casa
  • Via Card

Bank transfer is not affected.

Yes, this seems to be the case. When you open an account online with Openbank, the will assign you an Spanish IBAN (starts with ES instead of PT).

Just get an Activo account. The app works nicely, it’s free, and the customer service is actually quite good - it doesn’t take me all that long to get a human on the phone, their English is passable, and they do make a good effort to be helpful. There are fees here and there for certain actions but they’re understandable (like wire transfers). There is a PDF of all charges and it’s pretty clear (as long as you read Portuguese).

The application process was fine as long as you don’t mind standing in line for a while and emailing your tax return to them. I tried paper but it confused them. I wasn’t thrilled about emailing my tax return but occasionally you have to set principle aside in the name of expediency. I would recommend the branch in Cascais - it’s in the mall; you walk in, register your phone number in the little kiosk, then you can go walk around the mall or go to the coffee stand; they SMS you when it’s your turn, you have like 3-5 minutes to walk back to the branch. Beats standing around in the branch. I don’t think the Chiado branch had that, I don’t recall clearly.

It’s a surprisingly pleasant banking experience.

Get a vodafone Easy plan SIM first, to tie the activo account to. Doesn’t work well if you don’t do that. Works fantastic if you do. EUR 10/yr well spent. I discovered there’s a “day pass” option - EUR 3,20 for an hour of talk time in a 24hr period. Damn handy for when you need to call Activo and you’re out-country. Don’t try calling using a US phone number. You can, but then when the call drops, they try to call you back - I know, wow, right, what bank does THAT? - but they won’t call a US number IME, they want to call YOUR number, the number you gave them. (Logical thing to do, right?) Just spend the EUR 3,20. It’s not like you have to talk to them often.

Once a year you have to take a picture of your ID using the app and answer a few questions. I’ve done this twice. It’s just worked; I get an email a day later saying “ok, thanks!” and that’s that. I understand this doesn’t always work well for everyone; YMMV on this.

zero regrets on this one.

Of course you have to go there to open one. But you have to go every year or so anyway…

And surprisingly, the debit card does not work seamlessly in gas stations across europe. However, this would not seem to be unique to activobank. I already carried two different cards for buying gas at unattended gas pumps in Europe, being uncertain of which one would work. I assumed a European debit card would work everywhere. Color me surprised standing at a gas station in France unable to make it accept my Activo card. Then it promptly accepted my HSBC card. WTF?! This just appears to be the way of automated gas pumps in Europe. 30 years of “progress”, and still nothing’s changed. Maybe this isn’t relevant to your life, though.

Fun banking fact: the PT IBAN has two check digits- the default one required by the IBAN spec, and a second one encoded as part of the account/branch number inside the envelope. So it is pretty near impossible to mistype or have someone misunderstand an IBAN over the phone and accidentally send your money to the wrong recipient. This is NOT standard practice worldwide. Hurray for Portuguese banking.


Jumping into this thread to ask about “proof of income” when opening a bank account remotely. We’ve hired Novomove (they were great for obtaining our NIFs), but we are private owners of rental homes and don’t use an accountant or lawyer, since this is all pretty straight forward in the US. Novomove wants a letter from a client or colleague on their letterhead stating that our bank account deposits are rental income and that we “own” our sole proprietorship. Just wondering if anyone had a work-around or success just submitting bank records.
Thank you.

What about sending Novomove a combination of the following documents?

  1. Title Deed to the property to prove that you own these
  2. Rental/lease agreements to prove that you have a tenant that pays you $ per month in rent
  3. Bank statements for the last X months to prove that you are receiving those $ from your tenant (amount should match).