Brazil - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing
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Financing / Banking

Today, the Brazilian banking system is increasingly efficient and sophisticated. With the arrival of fintech over the past several years, major banks now offer web and mobile options for most of their products and services. However, in-person banking remains prominent in Brazil and there are approximately 17,000 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 in other cities may also handle routine operations involving trade finance. All Brazilian banks have at least a few correspondent banks around the world, facilitating the connection to the Brazilian financial market for U.S. exporters.

Number of Foreign Banks and Origin

According to the Brazilian Central Bank (BCB), of the top 10 banks in Brazil ranked in December 2022  by net equity, two are state-owned banks: Banco do Brasil (2nd) and Caixa Econômica Federal (4th); and six are private Brazilian banks: Itaú-Unibanco (1st), Bradesco (3rd), Safra (7th), BTG Pactual (6th), Sicoob (9th), and Sicredi (8th) . Additionally, two foreign banks appear in the list: Banco Santander (5th), with headquarters in Spain, and Citibank (10th), from the United States.

According to the BCB, of the top 50 banks in Brazil, 22 are foreign-owned or controlled. As of September 2022, the top U.S. banks in terms of net equity are, Citibank (ranking 10th overall), JP Morgan (12th), BofA Merrill Lynch (25th), and Goldman Sachs (32nd). Since 2018, when Fintechs were first regulated by the National Monetary Council (Conselho Monetário Nacional, CMN), they have made inroads in terms of number of clients. Brazilian digital bank, Nubank, is now ranked fourth with 77.7 million clients, surpassing banks like Banco do Brasil and Santander, with 74.6 million and 64.4million clients, respectively.


The Brazilian currency is the Real, with seven banknotes (R$ 2.00, R$ 5.00, R$ 10.00, R$ 20.00, R$ 50.00, R$ 100.00 and R$ 200.00, and six coins (R$ 0.01, R$0.05, R$0.10, R$0.25, R$0.50, R$1.00).  Reais can be obtained at banks or approved foreign currency exchange shops. The exchange rate between the US$ and the Real (BRL$) varies on a daily-basis and in 2022 held an average exchange rate of US$ 1.00 = R$ 5.14.).

Though there is no limit on the amount of money that foreign visitors can bring into or take out of the country, amounts over R$ 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 up front. The Commercial Service highly recommends that U.S. companies work with EXIM Bank insurance or other financers to ensure payment. For more information about the methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the Trade Finance Guide.

Credit and Collection 

Credit information on Brazilian companies is available for a fee from Dun & BradstreetEquifax or Serasa, a Brazilian commercial information service company. 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 provide a list of reputable local law firms. 

Foreign Exchange Controls 

In Brazil, accounts can only be maintained 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 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. 

To access Brazil’s ICS section on financing, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statement. website.