If you’re living in Portugal, or just spending a lot of time here, it’s quite likely that you’ll need to transfer money to a Portuguese bank account at some point.
- You may need to transfer your pension from another country
- You may need to transfer money to a Portuguese bank account for your visa application (e.g. for the D7 or golden visa)
- You may need to transfer money to buy a house
- You may need to transfer your savings over
When you’re an expat living in Portugal, transferring money isn’t necessarily something you just do once. In fact, a lot of people keep their money in non-Portuguese banks or have businesses outside of Portugal, and so international transfers are a regular part of life. Because of this, it makes sense to find the best deal possible and, generally speaking, that usually isn’t with your bank.
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Comparing currency exchange sites
Most expats are savvy enough to know that high street or brick-and-mortar banks typically give you a bad deal when it comes to international transfers. Many charge fees of €10 or more, and the exchange rate they give is usually well below the mid-market rate.
Wise (previously Transferwise) is typically touted as the best service for sending money abroad and, overall, it’s fantastic. It offers great rates, it’s fairly easy to use, and it comes with a number of additional great features like its multi-currency account.
But it’s not the only service. There’s also Currencyfair, PayPal, XE, Skrill, and Xoom, to name but a few. Then there are the more old-fashioned wire services like Western Union and brokers, based both inside Portugal and outside.
How do you know which one is best?
For many people, Wise is the easiest to use and typically offers great rates. It’s sometimes a few euros more expensive than new currency transfer sites, particularly if they offer a sign-up bonus, but it’s one of the easier sites to use, particularly for small to medium-sized transfers.
Another popular option is Revolut, the popular app-based bank. Revolut allows you to exchange up to €1,000 per month (previously €5,000) without any fees and it’s instantaneous. If you get Revolut Premium, there’s no monthly limithttps://www.revolut.com/revolut-premium. Just try to avoid transferring money at the weekend and holidays (and a few other circumstances) as Revolut adds a small markup (typically around 1%)https://www.revolut.com/en-US/help/my-accounts/exchanging-money/what-foreign-exchange-rate-will-i-get. It’s not the end of the world, but you’ll get a better rate if you make the transfer during the week.
Sending large amounts
If you’re transferring £1,000 or $1,000 to euros, the difference between sites like Azimo, CurrencyFair, Transferwise, and Skrill is often one or two euros, and Wise is typically one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest. If you’re transferring a larger amount, like $200,000 to buy a house, then it can really pay to shop around. That means both comparing the sites mentioned, but also looking at currency exchange brokers as well.
OFX.com, in particular, is worth looking at as they don’t charge fees and have some of the best rates on the market. They usually have a minimum transfer amount of USD $1000https://www.ofx.com/en-us/faqs/what-is-the-minimum-transfer-amount/.
Day to day Spending
You don’t necessarily need a Portuguese bank account to take money out, particularly if you’re living in Portugal short-term or just visiting. However, you should make sure that your bank account is travel-friendly.
Most traditional banks will charge you a fee to withdraw money abroad, and sometimes that’s a fixed fee and the percentage of the amount. Many of the newer challenger banks, on the other hand, offer free withdrawals abroad (up to a certain amount).
Revolut, which is available in a number of counties, including both the UK and US, is a popular option as it offers a reasonable number of free ATM withdrawals per month. Wise is another popular option, but it, unfortunately, has tighter limits on free ATM withdrawals. For those in the EU, another option is N26. If you’re a digital nomad or regular traveller, you may want to consider getting more than one of these accounts.