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Sending Money to Portugal (How to Get the Best Rate Possible)

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If you’re living in Portugal, or spending a reasonable amount of time there, you’re probably going to need to transfer money to a Portuguese bank account at some point. This might be to pay for utilities, to hold money in Euros, or just to avoid foreign currency transaction fees if you’re constantly withdrawing money in another currency like Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.

I’m also going to assume that you already have a Portuguese bank account (or at least a Euro bank account). If you don’t have one, take a look at this article. If you just need a Euro bank account, consider opening a bank account with N26. It’s free and it’s easy.

Is Transferwise the best option?

Chances are you’ve probably heard of Transferwise, and you know that they offer much better rates than the banks. It’s true. Banks charge high fees, and often don’t give you a very good exchange rate either.

Take Halifax, a bank in the UK, for example. At £9.50, Halifax’s fees are actually lower than a lot of banks but still a lot more than Transferwise. They also don’t make up for it by providing a better exchange rate: in this example Halifax offered a worse exchange rate than Transferwise.

Transfering £100 to EUR

 Exchange RateSender FeesRecipient Gets
Halifax1.079£9.50€107.9
Transferwise1.11489£0.63€111.489

Transfering £1,000 to EUR

 Exchange RateSender FeesRecipient Gets
Halifax1.079£9.50€1079
Transferwise1.11489£3.95€1114.89

Does Transferwise offer the best rate, though? The short answer is no. 

Monito: A Currency Exchange Comparison Site

We use comparison sites to compare flights, car rental, insurance, and just about everything else, but (surprisingly) most of us don’t use a comparison site to compare currency exchange rates. Maybe that’s because unlike flights and car rental, FX comparison sites aren’t really a thing.

Enter Monito.

Monito compares multiple currency exchange platforms to show you which site offers the best deal. At the time of writing, Monito compared Skrill, Instarem, Currencyfair, Azimo, Transferwise, Western Union, WorldRemit, EasySend, TransferGo, OrbitRemit, MoneyGram, XendPay, and PayPal.

For small transfers this didn’t make a big difference. On a £100 transfer, the best option was £0.50 cheaper than the second best option and £0.78 cheaper than Transferwise, the 5th best option. For the sake of convenience, most people will probably just stick with whatever company they already have an account with: saving £0.50 isn’t a big deal.

Of course, it can make a big difference if you’re transferring £1,000 and especially larger amounts – say £10,000 or $50,000. 

Interestingly, although the top 5 companies were more or less the same when sending £100 or £1000, the results changed when sending £10,000, £25,000, and £100,000. The moral of the story: always do your research (in this case by using Monito).

Is there a better option again?

Revolut, the free multi-currency bank account, allows you to exchange up to £5,000 per month without any hidden fees. If you get Revolut Premium, there’s no monthly limit. 

Because Revolut uses the interbank exchange rate (and doesn’t charge any fees), rates were more or less the same as the top option on Monito. So, not better than anything Monito could find but some might argue easier than going through the task of comparing vendors (and then signing up with each company). 

Note: At the weekend and bank holidays (and a few other circumstances), Revolut adds a markup of 0.5% for 14 major currencies and 1% for the other fiat currencies.

Regardless of which service you decide to use, it definitely pays to do your research. Sometimes that’s just a few cents here and there but, if you’re transferring a lot more  money, it could really add up. 

Last updated in September 2019.
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