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It is important to get your money matters sorted out as soon as possible: know when to move cash and where to keep it - particularly if you're changing currencies. Here's how to do the research on opening up a bank account before (or when) you arrive. You may need to get advice from a financial advisor to make sure all your finances are in order - it's important to find out if that's the case before it's too late.


Brazilian banking system


The Brazilian banking system offers a substantial range of services for both individuals and companies. Banking rules are strictly enforced, and all banking business is closely monitored by the banks themselves and by the Central Bank of Brazil (Banco Central do Brasil).


In addition to the extensive branch network of the major retail banks, many of which have self-service ATM halls, most services available at the bank itself are also available via internet banking.


Brazilian banks offer chequing accounts, savings and investment accounts, credit and debit card services, personal loans and overdrafts, and, in some cases, foreign exchange services. Local banks will also set up standing orders and accept payment of utility bills and local, state and federal taxes.

They also accept installment payment books (carnê). Installment books are issued in stores if a person doesn't have a credit card and wishes to pay in several installments. The installments are payable either in the store itself or through the banking system.


How to open a bank account in Brazil?


Opening a bank account in Brazil is relatively complicated. This is no formal rule preventing foreigners from opening bank accounts, but each bank has their own policies. And even more frustratingly, each bank branch has their own interpretation of their bank’s policies.


There are large amounts of paperwork that need to be done and you will probably have to try a few time before managing to open a bank account. Our advice: if the person attending is not willing to help, change branches or banks.


There are 6 main banks in Brazil: Itaù, Banco do Brasil, Bradesco, Santander, Caixa and HSBC and most of them don't accept temporary visas or visas that last less than a year. Santander and HSBC, as international banks, are more flexible.


Documents required to open a bank account in Brazil


The documents required to open an account will differ from one bank to another. However, following you will find a rather complete list of documents that might help avoid having to go back and forth several times.

  • CPF

  • RNE

  • Passport with visa

  • For students: student card or acceptance letter from your Brazilian university

  • For working people: the carteira de trabalho with the last three wage slips

  • A proof of residency (water, gas, electricity), maximum 3 months old

If utility bills are under a different name, ask the person whose name it is in to write you um comprovante de residência which will need to be certified in a cártorio.


Important facts about banks in Brazil


In general, an hour is needed to open a bank account in Brazil and then you will be sent your debit card within 7-10 open days.


Most banks don't provide a security pin code and you will be asked to choose one yourself. Additional security procedures may be implemented. For example, Bradesco has a complex digital palm reading system, that will make you loose more time than anything.


Banks are open from 10am to 4 pm and withdrawals are allowed until 10pm. Past this time, only 24h atm allow transfers and withdrawals.


The first ten days of the month are particularily busy as many Brazilians receive their salary in cash and pay their bills directly at the counter.