How to avoid ATM fees and conversion charges in Portugal

Ok this is just a super quick post because this question has been popping up a lot recently and I hate seeing how many people are getting caught out by crazy fees. I’ve been living in Portugal since 2016 and when I first arrived I was getting stung by fees and conversion rates by my bank in the UK. I searched high and low to find a way to avoid this and a Wise card was my solution. I’ll talk more about that later, but first let me help with some other questions…

Which ATM’s should I use in Portugal?

ONLY use ATM’s that say ‘Multibanco’ to withdraw.

Most ATM’s have a choice of languages including English that you can select at the beginning. If not, just take your time reading the information; most of it is self explanatory.

The most important piece of advice is to avoid the stand alone (tourist) ATM’s completely. If it doesn’t say ‘Multibanco’ don’t use it to withdraw. These types of ATM’s are usually located in popular tourist locations and outside small shops and cafes (Euronet is one example). These machines will charge you €4 or €5 (sometimes more) to withdraw. Not to mention the conversion rates – ouch!

Secondly, and this is also very important: Always decline the ATM conversion. It will ask you twice if you want to decline. Always decline. This is their way to charge you a very poor exchange rate.

Thirdly, always choose euro (not your home currency).

Follow the above tips and you will already save a tonne on fees, but there is one more way you can make it even better.

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The best way to avoid expensive conversion fess is to sign up for a currency card such as Wise, Revolut, Monzo etc. I’m going to recommend Wise here because I have personally used them for the last 6 years I have been living in Portugal. In fact, my Wise card is my main account, and I use it for everything. 

Why get a multi currency card such as Wise?

It’s free to set up.

You can hold multiple currencies. For example I live in Portugal so I use euros for most things but I also get paid in GBP. I also use this card to buy product in countries such as Indonesia and Mexico so I often have multiple currencies in use at a time. I’ve traveled all over the world with this card including Thailand, China and Vietnam.

You can convert between currencies very easily (in seconds) but more importantly, it is very cheap to do so. Conversion rates are as close to interbank rates as you’re going to get, and I guarantee they are a lot better than your average bank account. Fees are very small. For example to convert €500 to USD the fee is €2.34. As you can see this is a very cheap and logical way to convert money.

I checked my spending limits to find out the following:

You can have 2 x up to 200GBP withdrawals a month free. After this there is a 1.75% charge SO it is best to use card to pay and if you are withdrawing cash get a larger amount at a time. Please note this may be different for USD accounts so please check with them.

Wise doesn’t charge any withdrawal or transaction fee so whether you are withdrawing cash or paying on card you don’t have any extra fees to worry about.

LEARN MORE ABOUT WISE

These cards are accepted in most (but not all) places in Portugal. The only place I have to use my actual Portuguese bank card instead of Wise is on the toll roads. So for these times it is best to hold some cash on you. 

For complete transparency – the WISE links are referral links. It means if that if you click on the link, apply for a wise card and convert some currency I get paid a small commission. It doesn’t cost any extra for you to use these links, in fact you get a free transfer of up to £500 (or equivalent in your currency) so its win for you too. I can recommend it because I use it every day.

However if you choose not to use my link thats obviously fine. You can just search for the card on Google and it won’t be difficult to find.

I hope this has helped you avoid any ATM and conversion fees. Wishing you safe, happy and money-problem-free travels around beautiful Portugal.

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