Brazil - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing

It covers payment methods and information on, banking systems, foreign exchange controls, and U.S. and correspondent banking.

Last published date: 2022-01-23

Financing / Banking 

Today, the Brazilian banking system is increasingly efficient and sophisticated. With the arrival of fintech over the past several years, most major banks now offer web and mobile options for the vast majority of their products and services. However, in-person banking remains prominent in Brazil and there are approximately 15,000 bank branches throughout the country. International operations are typically centralized at the bank’s headquarters, usually in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, although major branches at larger cities may handle routine operations involving trade finance. All Brazilian banks have at least a few correspondent banks around the world, making connecting to the Brazilian financial market easier for exporters.

Number of Foreign Banks and Origin 

According to the Brazilian Central Bank (BCB), of the top 10 banks in Brazil ranked in December 2018 (the latest figure available) by net equity, two are state-owned banks (Banco do Brasil and Caixa Econômica Federal) and five are private Brazilian banks (Itaú-Unibanco, Bradesco, Safra, BTG Pactual and Votorantim). Only one is foreign (Banco Santander headquartered in Spain). 

Of the top 50 banks in Brazil, 26 are foreign-owned or –controlled. As of December 2018, the top U.S. banks in terms of net equity are, Citibank (ranking 12th overall), JP Morgan (14th),  BofA Merrill Lynch (28th), Morgan Stanley (30th), GMAC (33rd), Goldman Sachs (34th) and John Deere Bank (45th).  

Currency 

Since 1994, the Brazilian currency is the Real, with seven banknotes (BRL$ 2.00, BRL$ 5.00, BRL$ 10.00, BRL$ 20.00, BRL$ 50.00, BRL$ 100.00 and BRL$ 200.00, and six coins.  Reais can be obtained at banks or approved foreign exchange shops. The exchange rate between the US$ and the Real (BRL$) varies on a daily basis and in 2021 held an average exchange rate of US$ 1.00 = BRL$ 5.37. (Average 2021 exchange rate as of November 2021). 

Though there is no limit on the amount of money that foreign visitors can bring into the country or take out of the country, amounts over BRL$ 10,000.00 require documentation (a Currency Carry-on Electronic Declaration must be filled out in such cases). 

Methods of Payment 

Imports in Brazil are primarily handled using traditional letters of credit (L/C) or collections through established banks with correspondent banking agreements overseas. To a lesser extent, U.S. exporters may choose to operate on an open account or cash in advance basis once they have established a trustworthy relationship with their Brazilian buyers. (Note: given high-interest rates and intermediary spreads, Brazilian buyers are likely to push for an open account or cash upfront. We highly recommend that U.S. companies work with EXIM Bank insurance or guarantees to ensure payment). For more information about the methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the Trade Finance Guide available at https://www.trade.gov/trade-finance-guide-quick-reference-us-exporters

Credit and Collection 

Credit information on Brazilian companies is available for a fee from Dun & Bradstreet (https://www.dnb.com/), Equifax (https://www.equifax.com/) or Serasa, a Brazilian commercial information service company (https://www.serasaexperian.com.br/). In the event of a commercial dispute or non-payment by a Brazilian importer requiring legal action, the U.S. exporter should contact a reputable legal firm with experience in international collections. Local collection agencies do not handle international disputes. The U.S. Commercial Service in Brazil can furnish lists of law firms through our services. 

Foreign Exchange Controls 

In Brazil, accounts can only be kept in local currency. For a Brazilian importer to remit funds to a seller in the United States, the importer must purchase the corresponding foreign funds by means of an exchange contract at any bank authorized by the Brazilian Central Bank. The exchange rate and related fees are negotiated directly between the purchaser of the foreign currency (the importer) and the bank. 

The Brazilian Central Bank is the federal agency entrusted to implement the federal government National Monetary Council’s (Conselho Monetário Nacional) policies to improve and stabilize the national financial system. Its functions include the control of foreign capital flows.