Banking in Portugal: A Change you Need to be Aware Of

If you do any banking in Portugal, you should be aware of a recent banking change that could cause confusion when it comes to bank transfers.

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As of 1st February, Portugal’s banks have made a subtle change to customer account numbers. 

 
It’s a small change, but one that could cause issues with interbank transfers, particularly if you make regular transfers and have account details stored in the old format. 
 
Portugal is essentially doing away with the NIB (Número de Identificação Bancária), which is the long number most commonly used to transfer money between different Portuguese bank accounts. 
 
To better align Portugal’s banking system with that of other banks in Europe, this is now being replaced by an IBAN (International Banking) number. In practice, this number consists of the old NIB, with the addition of a country code, which for Portugal is “PT50.”
 
“Portugal’s banks have made a subtle change to customer account numbers.”
 
To complicate matters, ATM (Multibanco) machines in Portugal have no facility for customers to enter alphabetic characters, so people doing transfers via cash machines will actually continue to use old NIB numbers. However, customers will be expected to switch to IBAN numbers when using online banking or when doing transfers “in branch.”
 

Who will be affected by the changes?

This change affects every Portuguese bank account, but it will have most impact on those who transfer money to other accounts within Portugal, for example, to pay rent, or other bills. Anyone who has a NIB noted or stored will now need to switch this to the IBAN. 
 
Anyone unsure of their own IBAN number will usually find it on their statements, or via Internet banking. 
 
Once the change has bedded in, the new system is actually simpler, as people will be able to use an identical account number for both international transfers and for domestic transfers from within Portugal.  
 
"If you are using an ATM in Portugal you will actually still need to input your old NIB number"
 

Advice for expats in Portugal

As this is a subtle change, there’s no need to panic, but expats who regularly transfer money to other Portuguese accounts should have a look at their Internet banking and make sure these are going through, swapping NIBs for IBANs where needed.
 
One exception to this change is for transfers from one account to the other within the same bank. These can still be carried out using just a twelve-digit account number. Similarly, bill payments will still be handled via an entity (entiade) and payment reference number.

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