Banking in Brazil

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The Basics of Banking in Brazil

Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.

These days you can easily withdraw money at ATMs. MasterCard, Visa, Plus, and Cirrus ATM networks are all widespread in Brazil; if you see one of these emblems on the back of your ATM card, you should have no difficulty finding an ATM to accept your card. You may be charged fees by the Brazilian bank and/or your bank back home. You should try different options before settling on a bank in Brazil, as their policies differ.

You might also consider opening a high-yield investor checking account with Charles Schwab, which comes with a debit card. Although Schwab does not have branches in Brazil, and you may be charged a fee to withdraw funds via another institution here, Schwab reimburses you for those fees. You can essentially withdraw for free… and it works all over the world that way, not just in Brazil.

How to Open A Bank Account in Brazil

To open a bank account in Brazil, an individual will need at a minimum:

1) proof of address

2) a CPF

  • How To Obtain A CPF
    • A cadastro de pessoa fisíca is a personal tax ID number, much like a U.S. Social Security number. It’s not difficult to obtain and you don’t need to have permanent residency. Because a CPF is often required in routine transactions in Brazil (such as large purchases, even those in cash), you should obtain one if you plan to spend significant time in Brazil.
    • To apply, just complete the form and print it out (note, it’s all in Portuguese). Take it, with your passport and proof of address, to a Caixa or Banco do Brasil bank branch or a post office. Note that your card will be mailed to this address.
    • At the post office, submit the form and proof of address. The fee is currently 5.70 reais—about US$1.60. You will probably also be asked to provide your father’s and your mother’s full names. It’s easiest to have these printed out to hand over. You may also be asked to provide a phone number, which could be that of a friend. You’ll receive a long receipt.
    • Take all papers and the receipt to the nearest office of the Receita Federal, which is the Brazilian IRS. Present everything, and you should receive your CPF card by mail in about two weeks.

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3) a national ID card. Depending on the particular bank and the type of account you wish to open, other documents, such as proof of assets or income, may also be required.

Proof of address could be a rental contract or any sort of bill, such as a utility bill or cell phone bill. Even a letter from a landlord may suffice.

Obtaining a national ID, card can be the sticking point. Until you have some sort of legal residency established in Brazil you won’t be able to obtain a national ID card.

And, although the law doesn’t actually require a national ID card to open a bank account, you’ll find that as a practical matter banks simply won’t open an account—even a simple savings account—without one.

Once you have an ID a wide variety of account options will be available to you.

Discuss your particular needs with the bank manager. Do be careful about using credit in Brazil, however, as interest rates charged are generally high.

Moving Money into Brazil

You can also move large sums of money into Brazil—for example, to purchase a property—without having a local bank account. To do so you’ll simply need to enlist the services of professionals versed in providing these services.

Note that the Brazilian government imposes a foreign-exchange transactions tax (IOF) of 0.38%, in addition to any fees charged by your bank.

You’ll sometimes hear that moving money out of Brazil is difficult or impossible, but that isn’t actually true. You just need to complete some government forms and pay the necessary taxes and fees. Outbound transfers can be handled from a number of institutions. If you do have a local bank account, talk to your branch manager.

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