Portugal’s Magical Multibanco ATMs
In Portugal, cash access moves with the times, and its highly advanced Multibanco ATMs offer services for all ages, from utility bill payments and ticket purchases to cutting-edge app interfaces that enable no-touch cash withdrawals.
With some 36 bank branches per 100,000 people—around three times the global average—Portugal is well-served by over 150 banks, ranging from public and cooperative institutions to private national retail, international and new mobile banks. Used by around 86 percent of the population, the Multibanco system unites many of them, giving convenient access to cash and far more.
From any one of the 11,000 machines nationwide, users can withdraw money, check their balance and review recent transactions—services familiar to countries around the world—but there are also options to pay taxes, settle bills for services or shopping (both online and physical), add credit to mobile phones, buy tickets to shows and more.
Most popular among the younger generations, there is also an accompanying app that enables customers to request cash as they approach a machine, and have it served to them as soon as they arrive, with no need to wait or touch any buttons. This service is particularly valuable at a time of greatly heightened awareness of the risks of infections spreading by touch, and helps speed up transactions so people don’t have to queue as long.
Travel websites note that Portugal is a cash-centric nation, with coins and low-denomination notes especially essential in areas outside major cities such as Lisbon and Porto, where cards may not always be accepted. Expat news outlet Dispatches Europe reported in February that cash-only restaurants, cafes and consumer services persist, and customers making smaller purchases in particular will be expected to use cash. Notes and coins are also commonly-used in laundromats (either directly in machines, or to top up payment cards), on public transportation, and for tolls and parking.
I would recommend always carrying about 10 to 20 euros in cash just in case, as you never know which place might say ‘cash only’.