Millions of people visit Portugal annually with the hope of catching a glimpse of this hidden gem. While Lisbon is the popular destination for many, I believe no one should leave Portugal before visiting the island of Madeira or the Algarve. Whether you are just visiting or moving, Portugal always has a place for you.
You will be pleased to know that local businesses in the country are also rooting for you. They are counting on your business so they try their best to make it easier for you to spend money. One common way they do this is by allowing you to use credit and debit cards while in the country. So, before you leave for the golden beaches in Portugal, you should find out how credit cards work in Portugal.
Something worth noting about the Banking System in Portugal
You’ll be pleased to learn that Portugal has one of the most advanced interbank networks in the world through Multibanco. You will have access to more than 150 banks while in the country including mobile banks. This means that finding a reliable credit card will not be a problem for you.
The first thing to know about your new home is that Portugal tends to be cash-centric. So, it won’t hurt to carry a little spare cash while in the country. Carrying cash will be even more necessary when travelling outside Lisbon or Porto. However, don’t let this discourage you from finding a good credit card during your stay. The truth is, more businesses in the country are adapting to the paperless economy.
Credit Cards in Portugal
While credit cards are not as common as debit cards in Portugal, they still make up a large part of cashless payments. So, you can expect most of the banks in the country to offer them. To get one, you must open a Portuguese bank account then send an application to your bank. However, you should know that there are many credit cards available in the market.
Therefore, you should compare the perks and linked fees for different cards before deciding which one to get. I should also inform you that most if not all banks in the country will only offer you a credit card if you have good credit.
Most businesses will accept international credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. However, you are better off with a Portuguese credit card. Transaction charges apply to using international cards so it might end up costly for you.
Using a Credit Card in Portugal
Your best bet for making purchases in Portugal is getting a credit card that supports travel or movement. A good example would be the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. This card is effective for expats because you can buy stuff without charging currency conversion fees or foreign transaction fees.
You must be wondering by now what you might gain from using a credit card instead of cash in Portugal. Well, there are many pros and only a few cons in using a credit card. For starters, it’s a secure payment method since it is protected by pins. Similarly, credit cards are accepted countrywide so making purchases will be just a tad easier.
With a Portuguese credit card, you will not incur extra costs from currency conversion or transaction fees. Similarly, credit cards allow you to earn reward points on spending. These points can come in handy if you are looking to save costs.
However, with the good also come the bad. It won’t be easy for you to manage your budget with a credit card. I think we can all remember a time when your credit card bills sent you reeling at the end of the month. Some credit cards also include high withdrawal and cash advance fees. So, with a credit card you always have to be careful of your spending and keep track.
Credit Card Providers Accepted in Portugal
Well, Visa and Mastercard remain the providers that are widely accepted in Portugal. This is an advantage if you are planning to travel around Europe during your stay. You will discover that most EU countries accept these cards. However, the American Express credit card is fast gaining on these two. More businesses in Portugal are accepting it.
You should also know that with a Discover credit card, you will only be allowed to make purchases in a few places with the Diners Club logo. So, I wouldn’t recommend this card unless under special circumstances.
So which credit card fees can you expect in Portugal? The first obvious one is the foreign transaction fees. The fee can sum up to 3% of the amount of each purchase. For instance, if you use a credit card that charges foreign transaction fees, you might end up paying $120 in fees for every $4000 you spend.
The currency conversion fees, on the other hand, come in when vendors and ATMs offer you to pay or withdraw cash in dollars. It is popularly referred to as the Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). It is a really bad idea because in most cases it has poor conversion rates and could have additional fees.