Cash, ATMs, tipping, and US Dollars in Portugal

Many travelers have questions about using cash, ATMs, tipping, and US dollars in Portugal.

Having cash is useful in Portugal. 

Not all businesses accept credit cards, and some only accept European credit cards.

Some business except both cash and cards, and some now accept Apple Pay as well. You never know what you will find.

Using your card for purchases will give you the best exchange rate.

Can you use dollars in Portugal?

No.  You cannot use US Dollars in Portugal.  No one wants that.  Just like American waiters do not want to be paid or tipped in pesos or Canadian dollars.

You could ask your bank to exchange dollars for Euros (not thousands, but one or two hundred might be useful) one month before you go to Portugal.  One month should be enough time for your bank to order the currency and deliver it to you.

You should also make your bank aware that you will be using your ATM card in Portugal, so that the sudden foreign activity does not look fraudulent to the bank.

You might also find it useful to have two cards with different numbers that can access the same checking account, in case one is lost while travelling.  You can cancel it immediately and still have access to the same checking account funds.

ATMs in Portugal

Look for MULTIBANCO / BPI ATMs.  They have the lowest fees. Avoid EURONET machines. EURONET machines have much higher fees.

You will be asked to accept the conversion at the machine.  Do not do that.  You will be asked twice. Decline both times, and allow your bank to handle the conversion.  You will come out ahead.

Make the purchase in the local currency or your own currency?

When using your card to purchase a meal or an item, you will be asked if you want to pay in the local currency or pay in your own currency. Choose to pay in euros and allow your card issuer rather than the vendor or local bank to do the currency conversion.

Tipping in Portugal

Portugal is not a traditional tipping country.  You are welcome to tip, and it is appreciated.  But waitstaff and bar tenders in Portugal are professionals, and they are paid a living wage, unlike in the United States.  Of course tips are appreciated.

A tip of one Euro is fair. Some people go as high as 10%.  With small purchases, like coffee, you can leave your coins.

Check your change

Some people will try to give you Canadian or Asian coins, or give you an incorrect amount of bills.  Pay attention.

If you have other common questions about Lisbon, or Portugal, see my article, 25 things people want to know about Lisbon, Portugal

In my article, 10 things you should not miss in Lisbon, Portugal (plus a few more, if you have time), you can learn about all of the must-see and must-do things in Lisbon.

If you have lots of time and want a more expensive list, then check out my extensive 205 Things to do in Lisbon – The Ultimate Guide