How to Send Money to Portugal (& Get the Best Possible Rate)

The small print: Portugalist may generate a commission from mentioned products or services. This is at no additional cost to you and it does not affect our editorial standards in any way. All content, including comments, should be treated as informational and not advice of any kind, including legal or financial advice. The author makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or damages arising from its display or use. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement.

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 buy a house. You may need to transfer spending money to a Euro bank account. 

Moving to Portugal Made Simple Cover Wish moving to Portugal was a little more simple? 

Now it can be. Get the book Moving to Portugal Made Simple from Amazon.

When you’re an expat, 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. 

Bank transfers within the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) — or to put it more simply: between EURO bank accounts — are free, but transfers from other currencies (like USD and GBP) usually incur a fee. 

To get the best deal, not only do you have to look for currency exchange services that charge the lowest fees but those that also give the best rates. Thankfully, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds. 

The best currency exchange sites

Most expats are savvy enough to know that high street banks typically give you a terrible 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.com, Skrill, and Xoom, to name but a few. Then there are the more old-fashioned wire services like Western Union. 

How do you know which one is best? 

Having done multiple tests for different amounts and different currencies: one thing is clear. There is no one best site, and you need to look around. It depends on how much you’re sending, which currencies you’re transferring, and whether or not you already have an account with that particular site (some companies offer deals for new customers). 

Doing all of that is time-consuming, and it’s much easier to use a comparison website. 

Comparison Website: Monito

Monito compares multiple currency transfer websites like Currencyfair and Transferwise in one go, making it easy to see which company offers the best deal for that particular transfer. It isn’t the only currency transfer comparison website, but it’s easily the best. 

Revolut: Another contender?

Revolut, the free multi-currency bank account, allows you to exchange up to €1,000 per month (previously €5,000) without any 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 1%. Basically, don’t use it at the weekend.

However, despite Revolut being the cheapest option, it’s important to point out that Revolut is not currently a bank and does not have FSCS protection. This is important when you’re exchanging a considerable amount of money.

The price of convenience

Sending $100 to a Euro bank account? If you search on Monito, you may find that there’s anywhere from €0.02 and €1 of a difference between all of the different currency exchange sites.

Is it worth signing up to a completely new company? For some people, it’s worth going through the hassle of registering and getting their ID verified. For others, it’s easier to just stick with Transferwise, Currencyfair, or whatever site they commonly use.

Tips for Larger Amounts

If you’re transferring £1,000 to Euros, the difference between sites like Azimo, CurrencyFair, Transferwise, Skrill, and all of those other funny-sounding websites is around €10. If you compare one of these services to a traditional bank like HSBC or Barclays, the difference might be as much as €50. 

It pays to shop around — or at least to use a comparison service — and that’s definitely true when you’re sending large amounts, say £100,000. 

Once you get into the bigger numbers, foreign exchange companies (also known as Forex brokers or currency brokers) are worth exploring as they often can offer better rates. Note: they don’t always. 

Monito does include a few brokers like Currencies Direct and Frontier Pay, but it may still be worth looking at other options. 

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 $1000.

FAQs

How do I send money to Portugal from the USA?

The majority of the sites mentioned, including Transferwise, operate in the USA, however, the best thing to do is to use a comparison site like Monito to see which company is offering the best deal for sending money from the USA to Portugal.

How do I send money to Portugal from the UK?

Most UK citizens use Transferwise, and this works extremely well in the UK, but again the best advice would be to use a comparison site like Monito to see which company is currently offering the best deal for sending money from the UK to Portugal.

How can I hold money in Euros?

One option would be to open a bank account in Portugal, but bank accounts here often have monthly charges and this may not mean it’s cost-effective. If it’s just for spending money, a free bank account from N26 might be more than suitable, however, if you want to pay bills in Portugal, you will probably need to open a Portuguese bank account so you can do Multibanco payments.

Is it better to send money in one go or in smaller payments?

For peace of mind, you may feel more comfortable sending payments in smaller amounts rather than in one big amount.

There doesn’t seem to be a big difference between sending €100,000 and 10 X €10,000. Be aware, though, that the currency will fluctuate during the time it takes for you to make 10 individual payments.

Written by

Hi, I'm James. I'm the main writer at Portugalist and the author of the book Moving to Portugal Made Simple. I started Portugalist because I felt there was a real lack of good quality information about Portugal and I wanted to change that.

This article was originally published in September 2019.

31 thoughts on “How to Send Money to Portugal (& Get the Best Possible Rate)”

  1. What about sending a large money from transferwise to a portuguese bank account such a Millennium. Does the bank hold the money for review (such as providing a prof of source of the money) or release it immediately? Do i have to report the money received to IRS and pay taxes for it.
    Im planning to receive money from my father to help me buy a house

    Reply
  2. Hi James,

    May I ask you a few questions?
    1.lf I use Wise to transfer money to a Portuguese bank account from Canada, it usually takes how many days for money to deposit to the Portuguese bank account?

    2.As I'll need the Portuguese bank account statement to show that I have deposited enough money in the bank for D7 visa. Could you please tell me how to get the bank statement after transferring money to the Portuguese bank by Wise?

    3.If my visa was denied, how can I transfer money back to Canada from Portuguese bank account? (I mean I am not in Portugal)

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Annie,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      1. I don't know about Canada, but I've found that it takes around 1-2 working days to receive money from the US. If your Portuguese bank decided to do any checks, this would obviously hold it up, but that's usually how long it takes from Wise's end.

      2. All bank accounts are different, but most have some form of online statement. It's hard to say specifically as it depends on the bank's website.

      3. If your visa was denied, you could send the money back to your Canadian bank account using Wise again. This should be easy, assuming you have access to online banking for your Portuguese bank account. In both cases (transferring it to Portugal or to Canada) you would transfer it to Wise's account first and they forward it on.

      Reply
  3. I am a US Citizen (but British by birth) and have lived in Florida for 30 years. I am looking to move permanently to Portugal in 6 months. I was thinking of moving my money to a CitiBank account from a Bank of America account before I move. I have a credit card with Citibank and I know that Citibank operates in Portugal. Would this work better for me than opening a Portugese bank account or should I have both? I have a small pension from the UK that comes from Citibank and I receive a Social Security payment from the USA. Any advice would be welcome!
    Liz

    Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I think Citibank has one branch in Lisbon, but I don't know what services they provide. They're definitely not available throughout the country, so I think you're going to need to set up a Portuguese bank account.

      It's worth finding out if it's cheaper to transfer from Citibank US to Citibank PT as this could help moving your money to Portugal at least.

      Reply
  4. I am moving to Lisbon and I am in the process of opening an account at Millinium Bank. I need to transfer my funds from the USA and I am planning on doing so through Transferwise OR from my online bank account with Discover ($30 Wire fee no matter how much). Discover states that they only send US Dollars and the conversion is done by the Portuguese Bank. My Portugal bank will be only for spending, paying rent and I will have a savings account too.

    I would like your thoughts on the way I am going to proceed regarding transferring funds from US to Portugal using Transferwise (I have been a customer with Transferwise for 5 plus years.)

    Question: How do I get a fairly good conversion rate? What is the normal difference in the conversion rate for Portugal?

    A BIG THANK YOU.

    Reply
    • Hi Kathryn,

      Personally, I would probably go with Transferwise over the bank as they're known for having better rates than the banks. The $30 flat fee is tempting but at least with Transferwise you know exactly how much everything is going to cost upfront.

      Looking at Transferwise's site, it looks Transferwise will charge you $30 in fees on $4000 so the other option is only worth looking into if you're sending more than $4k.

      If you decide to go the other route, you would need to contact the bank and ask what they conversion rate they're offering and whether they will charge a fee for converting for USD to EUR. Then you'll be able to make a decision.

      Reply
  5. James,
    I've been told by a friend that clients with a Wells Fargo or Charles Schwab account can make transfers from a U.S. account to a Portuguese account with small or no fees.

    Would you happen to have any knowledge of this?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      As far as I know, Wells Fargo charge a transfer fee of around $30/$40 and give slightly below the mid-market rate so it's unlikely they would be better. I'd speak to them to confirm this though.

      Charles Schwab are great for international ATM withdrawals (they're essentially free) but I believe they charge a $25 fee for international transfers. Again, worth confirming this.

      These are the standard rates. If you're transferring a large amount of money or have a large account with them, they may offer you better rates if you ask.

      If you find out otherwise, please report back. I'm sure others would like to know.

      Reply
      • Hi, I have an account at Payoneer in the US to receive USD.
        when money arrive in this account, it is transfered immediately to my PayPal account in USD.
        PayPal is not offering good rates But by converting on a need to you cover the risks.
        Also, Millenium has created a neo bank, Activobank, with no fees, and you get a free Visa card accepted in MultiBanco and includes MB way.

        Reply
        • Hi Paul,

          This sounds like a lot of transferring.

          Have you tried the borderless account from Transferwise. You can receive in USD and easily transfer to your EUR bank with Activobank. I don't know how the fees compare, but it would definitely be more straightforward.

          Yes, the Activobank is great.

          Reply
  6. We are in Lagos and I just ran across your excellent Website...we will live here some day soon, so I will be reading (gobbling up) content and this website is well written, concise and a good resource. I am also going to check with Chase as they are claiming all of my transfers are free with my Priv Client account but I never trust a Bank for their words (I worked in the Banking industry, and I will leave it at that but believe me, Bankers are not trust worthy generally).

    Reply
  7. Thanks for the great info. Monito is a great resource. Will try World Remit for our next transfer.
    We have used Zoom, expensive, and the first transfer took 10 days even though they had our money in 1 day. The other transfers with them are usually in an hour, but still not a good exchange rate compared to the other companies.
    We also tried Remitly, the first transfer took 8 days, second transfer was a lot faster, but they charged a higher fee than was stated on their web site.

    I would steer clear of them both!

    Reply
  8. I have used XE numerous times to exchange USD for Euros and transfer that to Europe. Their rate for 100 EUR in July this year was $112 at an exchange rate of 0.8891 EUR per $, and no additional fees( basically at the international rate, no significant added commissions and no transaction fee). A check of Monito shows every site charging a fee of $6-12 in USD for that amount. You should include XE in your recommendations. On top of near zero fees, their customer service has been outstanding.

    Reply
    • Hi Greg,

      XE are one of the sites that are compared by Monito (they are listed on the page of results but under foreign exchange companies).

      According to Monito, anyway, XE don't charge fees but their exchange rate isn't as good as services like Transferwise and Skrill. The other charge fees, but offer closer to the mid-market rate. When you add all of these things up, XE didn't rank as well.


      Get the book Moving to Portugal Made Simple on Amazon now

      Reply
  9. How about safety? I'd like to save money but I know and have used Transferwise.
    Also, I used a bank when I bought my house. They were better than
    transferwise.

    Reply
    • Safety is definitely a big concern - especially when you're sending over enough money to buy a house with.

      Personally, I would probably consider Transferferwise for that amount as I've used them a lot. I'm not sure I would go with a company I hadn't heard of, though.


      Get the book Moving to Portugal Made Simple on Amazon now

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Confused? Moving to Portugal Simplified.

Available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format.