FREE private health plan in Portugal

Last updated on 25-Feb-2024

Since we started to do our research a couple of years before our move (and since arriving in Portugal in December 2019), we have been accessing and sharing information on online forums and groups, connecting with a number of expats who lived or live in Portugal + others who are in the process of (or interested in) making the move as well.

We often see questions and comments about the cost of living in Portugal (if interested, we have another post sharing our basic monthly expenses here), and one of the questions asked most often is about the cost of private health insurance. This seems to be a subject of particular interest to those coming from the USA, where health insurance can be quite costly.

So, did you know that if you live in Portugal you can access a free private health plan? Yes, FREE! 

Now, before we dive into this free private plan, we need to mention an important point: legal residents of Portugal qualify for the public national healthcare system, the “Serviço Nacional de Saúde” or SNS (which is not entirely free, but heavily subsidized – perhaps this is a separate post for another day), and having private health coverage is optional (as an example, we haven’t purchased private health insurance here so far). Portugal has both a public healthcare network as well as a private network of hospitals and other health services.

We are not trying to discourage anyone from having private health insurance… just want to share something we learned here and believe others may not know about yet, especially if they are new to the country. We understand that many people exercise the choice to pay for health insurance to access private hospitals and service providers if that better suits their situation, preferences and budget, and there are several health insurance companies in Portugal, but we want to tell you about one health plan that costs you NADA – yes, nada, zero,  zip! – and still allows you to access services from the private network at a discounted rate

So, does that mean you can get a full-service, premium private health insurance coverage plan and pay nothing when you use it, nor monthly costs? No, that’s not it. Keep on reading…

What is “covered” or “included” in private health plans depends on the premiums and different levels of coverage. Some of the most “complete” health insurance options (with higher premiums) include a certain number of services at no (additional) cost and others for a base fee. If you use up your limit, or for services not covered in full, clients would pay a “co-participation” fee (co-pay), which is usually still lower than the regular price charged without insurance at private providers. Other more “basic” health plans have a lower premium and may provide you with the co-participation option only, so clients can access services, consultations, exams, and procedures at a lower cost.

And then there’s the star of this post: the FREE option that Continente (yes – the supermarket chain!) offers to its clients: the “Plano Keep Zero Wells” (Wells Keep Zero Plan) in partnership with AdvanceCare. By simply applying to the FREE Continente loyalty/points card (in-store or by downloading the App Cartão Continente), besides the grocery savings and coupons, you can start enjoying the benefits of the Wells Keep Zero plan right away. There are no costs, no monthly premiums, no contracts, and no obligations with Continente either. Plus, each card can cover up to 12 people in the same family/household.

Wells is the healthcare arm (pharmacy, optical, medical, diagnostic, dental, and aesthetic services) of the Continente parent company, Sonae Group. They also have several Dr Wells Clinics offering a variety of private services in locations across the country. The brand Keep Wells currently offers four coverage levels: one free health plan (Keep Zero) as well as three other health insurance options with monthly fees. Further details on the options and the difference in costs/inclusions can be found here

In essence, if you have the Continente card and want to book a consultation, exam or procedure using the free plan, you can look up the participating private providers on the KeepWells website for a location near you and contact them to book an appointment. Then make sure to present your card or show the app when registering with the service provider. The costs are listed online, but it may be a good idea to confirm with the provider in case the Wells website is not fully up-to-date, so you know in advance how much you will be paying, and there are no additional deductibles, monthly fees or other costs. 
Important: This free plan is not a reimbursement or claim model plan. Continente and KeepWells DO NOT reimburse or pay themselves for any portion of the costs. Instead, you qualify for discounted rates for the services you use. 

The Keep Zero Wells plan is an “a la carte” option, where you only pay (a discounted rate) for the services you use and when you use them. And there’s a BIG BONUS: you collect 10% “cash back” on the amounts you pay for the services, which accumulate as a credit – in actual € Euros, NOT points – on your Continente card. Then, you can use the credits to pay for groceries and other purchases at Continente and Wells (+ other partners), online or at the stores!

For example, let’s say I need to get a dental cleaning done. I can check the website to find participating providers in my area. Compare prices, locations, call and book an appointment with the provider I select. Then go for my cleaning, show my Continente card/app, pay the discounted rate I saw on the website and that’s it!


  • No cost to join
  • No membership costs
  • No monthly fee or annual fee
  • No contract
  • No age limit
  • No exclusion of pre-existing conditions
  • No usage or spending limit
  • For the whole family (up to 12 people per card/household)

Another advantage of using the Wells plan is having access to a centralized online catalogue and a selected network with thousands of Clinics, Hospitals and various types of health and wellness services, with costs already disclosed on the website, full contact information, etc. 

Depending on where you are coming from, this may all sound “too good to be true”, so you may be wondering what’s the catch… Well, so far we honestly have not found any. We know it’s not the same as having comprehensive private health insurance coverage, but at the very least you will get discounts and pre-negotiated prices, without surprises. And the cashback doesn’t hurt either!

So, what do you think about this free plan option? If this is news to you, would you use the Keep Zero Wells plan? And if you have used it, how was the experience? Let us know in the comments below!


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12 thoughts on “FREE private health plan in Portugal

  1. Hello. Thanks for your article. I have been looking into this as I have a Continente card. It states 44 Euro for a consultation. In your experience is this at all listed providers? Thanks.

    1. Hi Lynsey, from what I’ve seen, prices may vary a bit depending on the type of consultation and specialty. There’s a tool on the Wells website where you can find a list of providers in the Wells network, get their contact info and an estimate on the costs. When you contact the provider, you can confirm the cost (with the basic Continente card plan) for the service you are looking for.
      This is the link
      Hope it helps. Thanks for visiting the blog! 🙂

    1. Hi Di, the Dr Wells Clinics are owned by the Sonae Group = the Continente parent company, so they are “sister companies” with the Wells health plan. They offer a number of private services, and they are associated with the Wells free plan under the general Wells brand umbrella, offering discounts for clients in the same way as other private providers who have partnerships with the plan. You can see the Wells plan listed on the “Acordos e Parcerias” page (Agreements & Partnerships) at Hope this clarifies the relationship. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

  2. hI Helen,
    Thanks for the information. I am a little unclear. Does the Wells plan qualify for the insurance requirement for the D7 visa?

    1. Hi Teresa, no the Wells plan doesn’t meet the requirements for the D7. It’s not a health insurance plan and it doesn’t cover or reimburse any healthcare expenses you may have. It’s simply a discount plan. So if you want to access services in the private system, the professionals available through the Wells plan offer lower rates to plan users.
      Hope this clarifies the difference for you. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

  3. Wow! I am blown away by your amazing blog! We are trying to get to Portugal asap. I’m a bit weary of booking our recon trip due to covid, but I’m actively working on finances, etc. to get there in the next year or so. By then my husband will be 60 so I’m not sure if that’s too old for the free healthcare plan. I think we must prove we have insurance to get visas so maybe after we have that for the first year, we can look into the free plan. Anyway, thanks for this important information.

    1. Hello TJ, thanks for visiting the blog! Life is still different due to covid and travelling can pose risks, but things are slowly going back to some normalcy. Hope you can materialize your plans soon.
      As for healthcare, for people with temporary status or to qualify for certain types of visas, having private insurance is still required. However, legal residents and citizens in Portugal can access the public healthcare system (not totally free, but heavily subsidized). Once you become a legal resident or citizen, private health insurance is no longer mandatory, but many people still choose to have it in addition to the public coverage.
      Also, the free health plan we mentioned in the post is a simple “pay-per-use” plan, which gives users access to private services at a discount, and it’s not the same as the private health insurance you may be used to. It offers the same discounts to people of any age, and you don’t have to “qualify”, just sign up for the Continente loyalty card. I hope this clarifies the differences.
      If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks for visiting!

    1. Hi Hilda, we have some info on the blog posts and we’ll try to share other details here regularly. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. All the best with your plans in Portugal! 🙂

  4. Thank you Hellen!! This is a very important matter that we discussed it often as we hope to move to Portugal from US next year. I’m glad that we found your blog, your posts are very informative and the food looks mouthwatering 🙂

    1. Hi Dorin, I’m glad you are finding some information you can use and we will keep sharing more posts regularly. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer. We love food and there’s no shortage of good options here, hope you try some of our recipes and ideas. All the best with your plans for the move to Portugal! 🙂

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