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

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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. 

For example:

  • 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.

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 limit[1]https://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%)[2]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 $1000[3]https://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.

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Comments

  1. Hi James,

    Do I have to pay tax in Portugal on the money I receive to my Portuguese bank account from a friend's USA bank account even if he has already paid tax on it in the USA? Will it fall under the gift tax? I am a non-habitual resident of Portugal (Married to a Portuguese).

    Reply
  2. 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
  3. 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.

      Reply
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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, 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.

        Reply
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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.


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      Reply
  10. 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.


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      Reply