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Whether moving permanently or simply spending a holiday in Portugal, it helps to know details about the currency and how to change or access your money.
Between February and March 2002 the currency of Portugal changed from the Escudo to the Euro. Notes used in Portugal are €500, €200, €100, €50, €10 and €5. Notes are different in size and colour depending on the denomination, and the larger bills can be difficult to change: a lot of smaller shops won’t accept them. The coins are €1 and €2 as well as 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.
If you're coming from a non-Euro country it’s worth noting that often you will get up to 2% less for your money if you change it in Portugal rather than at home. Exchange rates and fees can vary so check before you travel to decide where to change money. On the whole, airports and hotels give lower rates than banks and Cambios (foreign exchange shop).
Cambios or foreign exchange shops are plentiful in tourist areas and larger towns in Portugal and are generally open seven days per week.
Banks sometimes give a better rate than Cambios but may charge a commission. It’s always worth comparing, particularly if you need to exchange a larger sum. Also keep in mind that both banks and Cambios will exchange the most common currencies, but will not be able to change less popular currencies.
For significant amounts, like transferring money to set up bank accounts in Portugal or to pay for a car or a property down payment, it’s worth using a currency exchange company. There are several companies which provide these services and have branches locally as well as online.
ATM machines and credit cards
If you use your foreign credit or debit card to get money from ATM (Multi Banco) machines or to pay a shop or restaurant, keep in mind that your bank might offer a poor rate of exchange as well as charging you for using a foreign ATM that is not associated with your bank. It’s worth checking with your bank what the charges are before you travel.
Depending on your card’s limits, cash withdrawals are usually restricted to €200 per day at Portuguese ATM machines.
Not all merchants and restaurants in Portugal accept credit cards so check before you buy. The same applies to many mini markets, restaurants, cafés and bars in smaller towns and villages
Your passport or other photo ID is needed to change Travellers Cheques at the Cambios. Note that other than Cambios, few places will cash travellers cheques.
Wherever you change your money, be sure to keep it safe! Don’t leave money in cars or hotel rooms, and use a safe at home. If you’re carrying large sums with you, use a money belt. Keep smaller amounts in pockets or wallets so that others can’t see that you have a lot of money on you when you go to pay for something. These simple precautions can make it easier and safer for you to enjoy life in Portugal!