Banks, Banking & Finance
Madeira is well blessed with banking organisations, with at least 7 banks well represented on the island. Outside of Funchal, which hosts the Bank Of Portugal and other international banking institutions, much smaller towns on Madeira will have branches of some if not most of these banks. Hence the customer is king and can pick and choose who they do business with for the best terms and conditions available.
The Main Banks are:
Bank of Portugal (Funchal)
Barclays Bank (only in Funchal)
Banco Espirito Santo (BES)
Banco Santander Totta
Banif (Banco Internacional do Funchal)
BPN (Banco Português de Negócios)
Caixa Geral de Depositos
As well as multiple branches across Madeira, internet banking is also available to manage accounts, bills and services, but not all have English language versions of their websites (BES & BPI definitely do).
All the usual services are available, such as personal current and savings accounts, cheques, cash withdrawals from ‘multibanco’ machines, direct debits for bill paying, credit cards, loans, mortgages, insurance and investment products, and a similar range of products and services for business customers.
The ATM machines, or cashpoints, are called ‘Multibanco’ machines. They are widepread in larger towns, and have numerous functions. As well as cash withdrawals, one can use them to pay bills, set up direct debits, transfer money to other bank accounts, to name just a few facilities. The instructions come up in Portuguese if using a Portuguese bank card to access, but with bank cards from other countries the language presented should be English.
Some key aspects of the banking system on Madeira are the almost instantaneous interbank money transfers, a speedy cheque clearance system, and the ability to manage accounts in different ways by branch, internet, and multibanco machines to the extent of setting up your own direct debit mandates.
Some Madeiran banks charge a monthly fee, others charge certain transaction fees, and some operate on practically no fees whatsoever for normal daily transactions. Banks don’t normally pay interest on current account balances.
To open a bank account you need to choose your ‘supplier’ and go along with your ‘numero de contribuinte’ (taxpayer reference) issued by your local Finance office. Take along also your passport, residência card (if you have one), and proof of address (utility bills). If you don’t have a Madeira address, you can still open an account, but check what documents you need.
If you don’t speak portuguese, you might be well advised to find a bank branch in Funchal or another major town, as explaining your needs and problems can be a little tricky.
If you have savings or wish to put some money away to earn interest, ask to link a savings account to your current account. You might not get the highest interest rate, but the convenience of an easy transfer between the two accounts may make it worthwhile until you find something better.
Normal banking hours are 8.30 am until 3.00 pm weekdays, though some larger branches stay open later for appointments and other services. Visitors to Madeira may be surprised to find that most bank staff sit or stand behind counters with virtually no security arrangements … long may it continue!
Banks on Madeira offer currency exchange, as do banks elsewhere, and also in some Funchal hotels. If you are just taking a holiday, then you can use those facilities, but take note that the exchange rate may be poor, and there may be commission charges.
To move large amounts of foreign currency to a Portuguese bank account may also incur conversion charges and a poor exchange rate. There are specialist currency exchange companies that operate low cost exchange deals on high value transactions, and its worth checking some of these out in order to convert your currency at the best rate before sending it to your bank.
There are other currency exchange offices, mainly in Funchal. The usual opening hours are 9.00 am until 1.00 pm, and 2.00 pm until 7.00 pm, Monday to Friday. Saturday hours differ. Portugal and Madeira use the Euro (€) monetary system, which has been in place since 1999.
The notes used are €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10, €5, the coins are in denominations of €2, €1, 50 cents, & 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cents.
The Euro monetary system bank notes are standard across the Euro using countries (15 in 2008), but each value of note is different in size and colour to assist with easy identification.
The coins are designed by the individual members to a European specification, with their own images one side, but are otherwise identical across the user countries.
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