The most common and convenient way to use a Portuguese bank account is through the Multibanco system. The Multibanco system (Caixa Automático MB) was set up with the co-operation of all the banks in Portugal in 1985, and is now widespread throughout the country, with ATM (cashpoint) machines on just about every commercial street in the country and in every shopping centre in the country.
Once a bank account has been opened in Portugal a Visa Electron card/Multibanco Card (Cartão Multibanco) will be sent within three weeks to the home address. A PIN code will arrive separately some days later. The PIN number can be changed (Alterar Código) in the bank or at a Multibanco machine. Cards are typically valid for one year.
As well as being used in cash machines most shops, restaurants, supermarkets, cafés, airports, stations, garages and commercial places accept Multibanco cards and have special swipe machines where the purchaser simply keys in their personal PIN number and presses the green OK button. The amount is debated automatically and instantly from the card holder's bank account. Sometimes at peak periods the transaction may take a few minutes. If there are not sufficient funds in the account the transaction will be rejected. If the card is suspected stolen or registered lost or stolen the shopkeeper or retailer has the duty to retain the card.
Normally the minimum purchase value for Multibanco use is five euros.
The card can be used at any ATM machine to access a range of services, including:
A bank account holder can apply for a joint Multibanco card and credit card. When using this card the client must state if the transaction is against the credit card account or direct debit from a bank account.
A Portuguese Multibanco card with a Visa Electron sign can be used in most ATMs abroad using the personal PIN code. A transaction fee will usually be charged by the entities in both countries.
Cheques are now rarely used except in business payments. Unlike some countries where banks issue a cheque book automatically, in Portugal a customer must order cheques separately, and there may be a fee for this. The cheques come loose but numbered in a plastic wallet or paper envelope (Livrete de Cheques), and include a transaction record sheet. They are written out in the same way as in most countries – to the order of/pay (à ordem de). They must be signed and dated.
Cheques will contain the following information: Account Number (Conta Numero), Cheque Number (Cheque), Name (Nome), Signature (Assinatura), payable to (à ordem de) amount (à quantia de). At the bottom of the cheque is a 10-digit cheque number (Número de Cheque), 11-digit account number (Número de Conta) and an 8-digit Interbank number (Z.Interbancária).
Note: The Portuguese are extremely strict about bouncing cheques. If more than three cheques are written without sufficient funds in the account to cover them, the client will be charged and will be prohibited from ordering cheques for two years. The client's name will also appear on a Bank of Portugal blacklist and be circulated to all other banks in Portugal. The person paying in the cheque will also incur a fee.
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