Practical Life in Sao Paulo

Bank services in Sao Paulo

Home > Expat Guides > South America > Brazil > Sao Paulo

The currency in Brazil is the Real, or Reais in Portuguese. In September 2010 the exchange rate was about 1.70 Reals to the US Dollar.

Brazilian banks operate Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm.

In order to open a bank account in Brazil several documents are required. First of all you’ll need:

  1. a CPF number – a tax identification number similar to the UK National Insurance number;
  2. you’ll also have to present a valid ID card as well as a proof of address, such as a utility bill.

Obtaining a CPF number will require you to visit to a branch of either the Banco de Brasil or Caixa, pay a small administration fee and fill out some forms. Eventually you will be asked to visit the local tax office (Receita Federal) before the number can be issued. You do not need to be a permanent resident of Brazil in order to get a CPF number although it makes the process easier.

The major banks in Sao Paulo are:


Brazil's currency is the real, often written R$. One real is made up of 100 centavos. Banknotes come in many different colors with different animal featured on each. There's a green one-real note (hummingbird), a blue two (hawksbill turtle), a violet five (egret), a scarlet 10 (macaw), a yellow twenty (lion-faced monkey), a golden-brown 50 (jaguar) and a blue 100 (grouper fish).


If you have some cash or traveller's checks to exchange, most banks or exchange offices casas de câmbio are able to complete this transaction. Banks tend to be have slower, more bureaucratic procedures, but better exchange rates (except for Banco do Brasil which charges R$40 commission for every traveller's check transaction). Cash and traveler's checks should be either in US dollars or euros for easy exchange. Amex is the most easily recognized traveller's check.

    To move all of your money from abroad, there are several different ways:
  • Wire Transfer : This is a simple and quick method to send funds either online or through a local agent, but does have higher fees.
  • Rechargeable Prepaid Debit Card : This method takes a few days if ordering within Brazil, but there are usually no credit checks and the fees are low.
  • Bank Transfers: The most straightforward way to transfer money, this requires the banks to work together and may take up to 5 business days.

Debit/ Credit Cards

Debit and credit cards can be used for most purchases and to make cash withdrawals from ATMs and banks. Visa is the most widely accepted card, followed by MasterCard. Amex and Diners Club cards are also useful.

Credit card fraud is extremely common in Brazil. Keep your card in sight at all times, especially in restaurants.

Update 13/12/2010


Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Addthis

Recommended Service Partners

International Movers
International Movers in Sao Paulo
Compare up to 5 quotes from our network of moving companies that can help you plan your international move and relocate your entire family.
Expatriate health insurance
Expatriate health insurance in Brazil
Apply online for free quotes on repatriation assistance and expatriate and foreign health insurance.
Hotels in Brazil
You will get discount hotel rates, last-minute deals, hot deals, special offers, with a real-time reservation and on-line booking.

Do you have comments or personal information to communicate about this article? Add your comment.

Go to the Forum to talk more about bank services in Sao Paulo, practical life.

Find more definitions and general answers on expatriation issues in the Expat FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).