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

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

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.

For example:

  • You may need to transfer your pension or social security from another country to Portugal.
  • You may need to transfer money to a Portuguese bank account for your visa application (e.g. for the D7 or D8).
  • You may need to transfer money to buy a house in Portugal.
  • You may need to transfer your savings over.

If you’re moving from another country that uses the euro (e.g. France) transferring money is free and easy, thanks to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). However, if you’re moving from outside the eurozone, e.g. the US or UK, you’ll be transferring from one currency to another (e.g. dollars to euros or British pounds to euros).

Because of this, it makes sense to find the company that offers the best possible deal.

Tip: that’s unlikely to be your bank! Online money transfer services like CurrencyFair typically offer much better deals. And if you don’t have a Portuguese bank account yet, be sure to read out article on opening a bank account in Portugal.

Is Wise the best site?

When transferring money internationally as an expat, it’s important to find a service that offers competitive rates and low fees. While high street banks often charge high fees and offer poor exchange rates, there are several online alternatives to consider:

  • Wise (previously Transferwise):
    • Easy to use, particularly for small to medium-sized transfers.
    • Offers great rates, but may be every so slightly more expensive than some competitors.
  • Atlantic Money (currently only available in the UK and EU):
    • Charges a fixed £3 fee, regardless of the amount sent.
    • Often the best option for larger transfers (e.g., €10,000 or more).
    • Can save you hundreds of euros compared to Wise when sending large amounts.
  • Revolut (available in the UK, EU, and US, among other locations):
    • Great for sending smaller amounts (less than €1,000 per month).
    • No fees for exchanges up to €1,000 per month (or no limit with Revolut Premium).
    • Instantaneous transfers
    • Avoid transferring on weekends and holidays to get the best rates as Revolut charges a small markup (typically around 1%).

What About Regular Transfers?

When it comes to regular international transfers, you may wonder whether it’s best to transfer smaller amounts monthly or larger sums all at once. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Fees:
    • Services like Wise typically have lower fees for larger transfers.
    • Atlantic Money charges a fixed £3 fee, making it more cost-effective for larger, less frequent transfers.
  • Exchange Rates:
    • Some people prefer to wait for favorable exchange rates before transferring.
    • However, predicting currency fluctuations is nearly impossible.
  • Budgeting:
    • Monthly transfers can help with budgeting and managing cash flow.
    • Transferring larger sums all at once may make it easier to lose track of spending.

Ultimately, the best approach depends on your individual circumstances and preferences. If you’re using a service with tiered fees like Wise, it may be more cost-effective to make larger, less frequent transfers. However, if you’re using a service with a fixed fee like Atlantic Money, the frequency of your transfers won’t impact the overall cost.

While some people try to time their transfers based on exchange rates, it’s important to remember that currency fluctuations are unpredictable. Attempting to wait for the “perfect” rate may lead to missed opportunities or even losses.

Consider your budgeting needs and personal preferences when deciding between monthly or all-at-once transfers. If you prefer a more structured approach to manage your cash flow, monthly transfers might be the way to go. However, if you’re comfortable managing larger sums and want to minimise fees, transferring all at once could be the better option.

What about the other options?

Wise, Revolut, and Atlantic Money are just three of many currency transfer services available. Other options include PayPal, XE, Western Union, Remitly, and Zoom. However, in our tests, we didn’t find them to offer better rates. For large amounts, consider a currency broker like OFX, although it may be hard to find a better deal than the aforementioned services.

It’s also worth speaking to your bank, especially if you’re transferring a large amount, as some people feel more comfortable using their bank for significant transfers. However, banks often have higher fees and less competitive exchange rates compared to online services.

In summary, when transferring money to Portugal as an expat, research and compare various online money transfer services to find the best combination of fees, exchange rates, transfer speeds, and security that suits your needs. Don’t forget to consider country-specific requirements and any additional fees that may impact your transfers.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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There are 34 comments on this article. Join the conversation and add your own thoughts, reviews, and stories of life in Portugal. However, please remember to be civil.

Comments

  1. 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.

      Reply
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  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, 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. Hi James,

    I currently live in South Africa and would like to open a bank account in Portugal as I am planning to relocate there very soon with my family. I have money coming in from my dad’s inheritance as he passed away almost two months ago and do not want to put the money in my bank account here in South Africa. Can you please advise?
    Thank you Isabel

    Reply

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