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 from a foreign bank account 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.
Is Wise the best site?
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.
For many people, Wise (previously Transferwise) is the easiest service 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.
And Wise is a great option. We wanted to send the equivalent of €100 to a person in Portugal and Wise beat competitors like Atlantic Money, Currency Fair, and Xe.com. However, once we started testing larger amounts (first €1,000, then €10,000, and then €100,000), Atlantic Money started to come out on top. This is because regardless of how much you’re sending, Atlantic Money charges a £3 fee. If you’re sending a large amount of money, say the equivalent of €100,000 to put towards a property purchase, you could save several hundred euros by using Atlantic Money as opposed to the frequently recommended Wise. For much smaller amounts, say €100, Wise seems to work out better due to Atlantic Money’s fixed fee. As mentioned, it pays to shop around.
(Unfortunately, Atlantic Money is currently only available in the UK and EU).
Another popular option is Revolut, the popular app-based bank, which is great for sending smaller amounts of money (e.g. less than €1,000 per month). 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. 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%). It’s not the end of the world, but you’ll get a better rate if you make the transfer during the week.
Revolut managed to beat Atlantic Money when there were no fees (e.g. less than €1,000 per month) but Atlantic Money was the winner for bigger transfers e.g. €10,000 or €100,000. However, Revolut was only just behind Atlantic Money and usually ahead of Wise.
Revolut is available in the UK, EU, and US, among other locations. Wise, on the other hand, is available in most of the world.
TLDR: Wise is great, but it’s often beaten by either Revolut or Atlantic Money. There might only be a few euros difference when sending a few hundred euros at a time but it could be a few hundred euros difference when sending big payments like €100,000. However, Wise is available in most countries whereas Revolut and Atlantic Money aren’t.
What about the other options?
Wise, Revolut, and Atlantic Money are just 3 of money currency transfer services. There are plenty of other companies like PayPal, XE, Western Union, Remitly, and Zoom.
In our tests, we didn’t find them to offer better rates.
When sending large amounts, it is worth looking behind these companies and perhaps considering a currency broker like OFX. However, it seemed hard to find a better deal.
It’s also worth speaking to your bank. You’re probably not going to get a better deal, but you might if it’s a large amount, and many people feel more comfortable sending large amounts of money via their bank rather than an online service.