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Brazil - Banking

The banking industry in Brazil is quite advanced and inflation is under control since the adoption of the Brazilian Real in 1994. One Brazilian Real consists of 100 centavos.

Brazil has two major state-owned banks: the Banco do Brazil and Caxias Economica Federal. The Banco do Brazil was initially known as the Central Bank of Brazil. With over 4000 branches in Brazil and various branches in 22 countries, it is the largest bank in Latin America. The two banks have a stake of about fifty percent of the Brazilian banking sector. Bradesco and HSBC are also among the largest banks in Brazil. Banking is quite expensive with high government imposed taxes and interest rates on every transaction.

There are also regional banks that are owned by the different states in Brazil, with the largest being Banco do Estado de São Paulo. The banking industry continues to grow and many state owned banks and financial institutions are being privatized. There are a few private banks such as Banco Tieu, Unibanco, and Banco Bradesco. In addition, there are several foreign-owned banks with branches in various cities in Brazil. These banks have emerged to make banking easier for expats who would like to access certain financial services in Brazil.

Foreign-owned banks have helped foreigners on both short-term and long-term stays to access financial services that they could access in their home countries. Examples of foreign-owned banks with branches in Brazil include:

Banco Santander
Phone: 55-11-35533300, 55-1-55386000
Fax: 55-11-35537797

Tel: +55 11 3757-7000

J.P Morgan
Phone: 55-11-49503700, 55-11-30483700
Fax: 55-11-49503817

These banks offer expats the same services as the ones they receive at home.

Banks in Brazil operate from Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm. Brazilian banks offer a wide range of financial products including stocks, mortgages, insurance, and retirement plans. Business and personal banking services such as interbank transfers, electronic bill payments, and internet banking facilities are available. Most banks have ATM facilities that accept foreign credit and debit cards. Expatriates are able to access bank services and open accounts. For a foreigner to open an account in Brazil, they need to have a residence visa. The extensive banking network has popularized the use of ATMs. VISA, Cirrus, MasterCard, and Maestro are among the internationally used debit and credit cards. However, it is advisable to carry as much cash as you can when in Brazil because some restaurants, hotels, and businesses do not accept card payments.

You need a resident visa to open a bank account in Brazil. Once you finish opening the bank account in any of the Brazilian banks you will be given a debit card. To qualify as a credit card holder you need to be at least 18 years old. You will be required to submit proof of residence in Brazil and proof of income. The minimum wage to get an international credit card is 1200 Real.

Almost all banks have embraced the use of ATM facilities, with most of them accepting both foreign and local debit and credit cards. You can see the labels of ATMs that accept foreign cards on cash point devices. Most banks have a limit on withdrawals of 1000 Brazilian Real per day. In addition, you can only withdraw a maximum of 500 Brazilian Real after 10pm. If the withdrawal fails, make sure you take the receipt, because sometimes the account ends up being charged even when you do not receive any money. For your security, use ATMs located inside buildings whenever possible. In addition, check all cash machines before using them to ensure that they do not have devices attached to them that could be used by criminals to copy your banking data.

Most travel agencies and hotels accept travelers’ checks. In general, exchange fees are high, with cash exchanges being a bit less expensive. You will require your passport to exchange money. It may be difficult to find an open bureau de change during the weekend. Therefore, consider finding one during the week so that you have enough money to last you throughout the weekend. Alternatively, consider exchanging currencies once you arrive at the airport. Be sure to exchange the Brazilian Real to your home currency before leaving Brazil because the Brazilian Real cannot be exchanged outside Brazil.

Opening a bank account in Brazil is quite simple for foreigners, provided they have a residence visa. Some banks give you the option of opening the account online though you will still need to come to the bank to present the required paperwork. Other documents required to open a bank account include the National tax ID number also known as the CID, identification documents such as an ID or passport, the Foreigners issued identity card (CIE), proof of residence, and proof of employment.

There are different types of account that you can open such as the Conta Corrente, which is a current account, or the Conta de Popanca which is a savings account. Current accounts can be used for daily money transactions and an account holder receives a debit card. Savings account can be used to save money because they attract interest. Consider opening a Conta salario, or salary payment account, once you get a job in Brazil. This type of account is not different from a current account, but it comes with additional benefits such as lower transaction fees.

Expats have the opportunity to access loans from banks provided they have an account in a Brazilian bank. However, to avoid forfeiting loan payments, their visa is used to determine the amount that they qualify for. It is considered unreasonable for an individual to get a huge loan and receive a longer payment plan when the person might be in the country for a short period. The interests charged are high and tend to discourage people from acquiring loans. To qualify for a loan, you need to prove that you can pay it back, which can be seen in your savings record. Loans can be issued to those who have a longer stay period so that they will be able to pay back the loan before they leave the country.

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