My Banking Experience in Portugal…

Banking Experience in Portugal
Banking Experience in Portugal

When we opened our first bank account in Portugal the only thing I remember was our lawyer marching us up the road to a bank. The rest of the proceedings were a complete blur because said “proceedings” were conducted in Portuguese. Various pieces of paper were passed back and forth across the desk, our signatures requested and eventually the account was opened. Then the fun began.

The bank clerks seemed to be anti anyone who could not converse fluently in Portuguese. I thought Mr. Piglet was making a fuss until I experienced the “attitude” first hand. I was convinced all you had to do was “smile” nicely and be polite. Wrong!

The final straw and the decision to change banks came when I needed to pay some money into our account. I confidently joined the queue and waited smiling at other customers and throwing in the odd “Bom Dia”. However, when it was my turn to be served the cashier deliberately kept his head down; apparently engrossed in some important paperwork. There was not a grunt of acknowledgment or even the momentarily meeting of eyes to register my existence. Nothing! Mr. Ignorant continued to ignore me until his colleague on the next desk took pity on me and beckoned me over. Mr. Ignorant immediately became “available” and warmly acknowledged his next customer who was Portuguese.

The episode with Mr. Ignorant was the last straw. Why should we have to pluck up courage every time we went into our bank? It was ridiculous so we decided to change banks.

We had heard excellent reports regarding the
Banco BPI
and decided to investigate further.

What a difference; the staff are welcoming and friendly going that “extra mile” to help us.

A recent demonstration of their exemplary customer service was the time I needed to draw out some cash but was reluctant to use the cash machine. I went to the counter and the clerk enquired (in a nice way) why I had not used the machine, was there a problem? When I confided I did not feel confident as the machine had previously “swallowed” my card he immediately signaled to a colleague to take his place at the counter.

He escorted me outside to the multi-banco machine and patiently gave me a step-by-step idiot’s guide; translating the Portuguese into English. This is just one example of the excellent customer service we have received.

The icing on the cake, however, is that when we have a query we can telephone our branch directly and actually speak to someone who recognises us as a customer rather than being transferred to an indifferent call centre in India or outer Mongolia. We feel we are people rather than just an “account number” What a refreshing change from banking in the UK and of course at the bank of “Mr. Ignorant”…

Do you have to contend with a “Mr Ignorant”?

What do you like or dislike about your bank?

31 thoughts on “My Banking Experience in Portugal…

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  1. No one has a chance to be rude or otherwise here- in Japan- as an unemployed spouse, I’m not allowed to conduct bank business even though I’m a joint holder of the account. My transactions- and conversations- are limited to the ATM machine. All conversations with a live person end after the account is retrieved with, “Have your husband call this number.”


  2. I’m with BPI in Porto and have had the exact same positive experiences. Only knowing “bom dia” in the beginning, they were extremely accommodating.

    I’m interested in knowing who the first bank was though as I may have to switch companies soon for work reasons …


  3. Goodness what a frustrating and aggravating experience. I agree with your leaving, wouldn’t have trusted the first bank you all had. I’m glad you found a better bank. I think it’s important to feel comfortable in a bank that has your money and knows about your finances.


  4. Hi Pip. Fortunately our experience with Credito Agricola in Luz for the past 15 years has always been very good but the staff all speak English. This is the key as we went into the same bank in Lagos and had a similiar experience to you except we waited even longer as he decided to go to lunch!! He could not or would not speak English and we dealt with his colleague. We should have asked for the complaints book but did not think of it.


    1. Hi Knight,
      I can’t believe the guy went off to lunch without telling you – I would have been absolutely fuming….!
      I think sometimes we accept bad service, at times, because we are living in a foreign country and just don’t want to make a fuss. It’s amazing just the mere mention of the complaints book suddenly makes you “visible”



  5. I don’t know how they do it but there always seems to be a queue – never enough cashiers. I remember once saying to a cashier after waiting about 20 minutes to be served that my poor flowers I’d bought whilst in town had wilted because I’d been stood there that long – raised a smile amongst the other members of the queue!
    I also don’t like the lack of privacy, everyone can hear your private conversations.


    1. Hi nuggets and pearls. Have you noticed that there is less staff on at lunchtime…when people want to use the banks in their lunch breaks :)? I know staff need to have lunch as well, but if I was managing a branch I would stagger breaks to coincide with the least busiest times 🙂

      ..I think the lack of privacy at a lot of banks is a BIG problem.


  6. We’ve been very lucky that our bank was recommended to us and our estate agent took her to see her bank manager herself.
    He spoke fluent English and has been nothing but helpful every time we’ve gone in (which is, thankfully, rare!)
    Never had any problems with staff (yet!) either but I do know what you mean.
    Out of interest, which bank was it that you switched from?


    1. Hi Tracey,
      Unfortunately, I can’t mention the name of the bank Mr Ignorant was working for…but to be honest none of the staff had a smile on their face 😦 The staff in the new bank can and will speak English and for those that can’t we just exchange smiles 🙂


  7. I think customer service all over has gone downhill. Like Rose, I mostly use the machines, bank online, and have our paychecks are automatically deposited, so I rarely venture into the bank. But when I do, luckily for me, the people there are wonderful. Calling the customer service number is a different story. There, I’m just another account number.


    1. Hi Shell,
      Talking of banking online we were watching a TV program this evening re the dangers of your wireless connections and people hacking into your computer to steal your passwords. Made me smile the TV program virtually showed people how to do it!


  8. You hit the nail on the head Piglet … Complacent customer service is the death of many a business… I’d also say thank God for choices because monopolies are dangerous! You must be a saint to have moved to the next teller without asking to speak to the manager… Pity really! 🙂
    Good plug for BPI. I must say I never had any banking issues in the UK nor anywhere else. This was enlightening!


    1. To be honest Mr Ignorant’s attitude was typical of the whole branch. I could have written in the compalints book but it would ahve been very difficult to prove.
      I also detest monopolies and where possible we do try and support the local farmers and shops. 🙂


  9. I’m with you. Customer service makes a huge difference. I walked out of my bank yesterday being shown to the door by the bank greeter and was asked if my needs had been met–with a smile. We have enough of machines in this world. The people touch and hospitality go a long way with me.


  10. So glad my bank is good but the same can be said of so many companies in the UK we have switched many amenities and service providers because of the non UK call centres. Mind you it can be as bad getting a Scottish or an Irish accent sometimes… we can’t win, hooray for cash points and debit cards though. M


    1. The non UK call centres were a stumbling block for us when we were in the UK – if I was put through to India I just put the phone down and made an effort to go into town to the bank. I think many companies were beginning to take the hint. ..that there customers were not happy and were voting with their feet.


  11. Good for you for changing banks! Good customer service is #1 on my list for banks, grocery stores, etc.

    I’ve only had one bank that I did not like. Like you, I switched banks. Problem solved.

    Glad that your current bank treats you right.


  12. That kind of customer service makes me want to pack my bags and move to Portugal right away! I wish I could speak to someone actually inside my local branch instead of the uncaring anonymous jerk on the end of a phone.


    1. Hi Noobcake,
      My experience of banking in Portugal is that of banking in the UK 30years ago.
      I agree with your comment “uncaring anonymous jerk on the end of a phone.” and that’s if you can figure out the multiple choice questions …press one for xxx 2 for nnnn and 3 for arrgggg etc etc 🙂 that’s before you are even connected to said jerk LOL 😉


  13. Wow, glad it all got worked out in the end but sorry you had to switch banks. I only dealt with a Ms. Ignorant when trying to order a drink here in Arizona at a Mexican grocery store. The woman assumed I didn’t speak Spanish and gave me a larger size drink than I had ordered. I don’t go there much because there were just too many Mr/Ms. Ignorants. Not to mention queue cutters.

    I like the bank I have. They do drive me crazy with all their fees but on the other had they have pretty good customer service and they also offer a cash advance for direct deposit accounts. This has been very useful in emergency situations.


    1. Hi akamonsoon – we have also been ripped off at cafes in tourist areas. They made a few extra cents on that day…but when the tourists go home we have a long memory and don’t support them in the slow winter season.


  14. Hi PiP, I prefer to use the machines and my debit card so I rarely go into a bank, but when I have they’ve usually been pretty good here in Canada.

    What I don’t like is when I do go to the bank for more information on something and all they do is direct me to their website. This isn’t the bank teller but a senior staff member. 🙂


    1. Hi Rose,
      That’s one thing our Portuguese bank does not do. If we want to know something we pop into the branch and ask…and the guy explains in detail. They are really helpful and never fob us off.
      When we were in Canada we did find the level of customer service very good!


  15. Hi Piglet,

    by my personal experience (but I am Portuguese) the second one is the rule in Portugal.
    We have a lot to learn with respect to treat customers. However the banks are already doing it very well. You should have choosen the only idiot in the village.

    I bet the problem was that Mr ignorant couldn’t speak english….


    1. Hi Baião,
      The level of customer service is improving and the staff in the supermarkets are usually so helpful. With regards to Mr Ignorant…he could speak English he chose not to. However, I already had my little speech prepared in Portuguese so was disappointed I did not get to use it 🙂 Hey ho…he did us a favour!


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