Comparison of Money Movement Options from US to Portugal

Ok - so I sent test money transfers via a number of channels to my Bison account to see what works and how long it takes, and how to go about doing it via each way. I tried 3 EUR transfers (Wise, IBKR, OFX) and 3 USD transfers (Chase, HSBC and Vanguard). If you do USD transfers to Bison, you will need to have Bison convert to EUR there, and so I have added the exchange rate that Bison offered me vs the mid market rate around that time. Bison rate is harder to get real-time as you have to wait to get the rate via email from Nuno, and it is a couple of hours off.

Wise
Currency: EUR
Timing: took 1 day! of course, the larger transfer may create more hassles due to its size.
Costs: The only downside here is the fees - they charge 0.36%-0.4% + $4 wire fee which is over $1600 in fees.
Comments
This was the SIMPLEST, EASIEST and FASTEST option. Note I did not mention cheapest - that is the only downside as it is a little more expensive route to take when amounts are larger. However, for small transfers - this is DEFINITELY the way to go, as it may actually be cheaper than any other route too.

OFX
Currency: EUR
Timing: Took over 6 days + ACH transfer time of ~1 day
Costs: The worst exchange rate of the lot - by a WIDE margin - see below for rates
Comments
Was easily the WORST option on almost all dimensions. AVOID at all costs. Wanted bank statements, etc. to send $13 to my own account at Bison. And 3 days later, and 3 phone calls later, they are still processing… it was not yet even sent - and the exchange rate FWIW was worse than Wise. After 3 days of insisting that they are waiting for my money from my bank, they pointed to a term in their agreement that apparently requires a 3 day “security” hold if you transfer money to them via ACH. All this for a $13 transfer. I can only imagine what transferring 350K will do to you. After the $13 transfer was completed, they asked for the investment agreement that the transfer was for!! The rate I got was worse than Wise was offering at exactly the same time. DEFINITELY DO NOT RECOMMEND

Interactive Brokers
Currency: EUR
Timing
About 5-6 days to complete the transfer - It can take about 3 days of withdrawal hold (assuming wired funds) and 2 days of currency trade settlement time .
Costs
This was the best by FAR of the total cost and exchange rate. There is a $2 trade fee for the currency trade, plus 1€ fee for the SEPA transfer (1st transfer each month is free) and rates are pretty much the best you can get.
Comments
Very predictable but slower process given the hold periods and trade settlement times. More detailed post on this method is here

Chase
Currency: USD
Wire Instructions
Beneficiary Bank: Caixa Geral de Depósitos / CGDIPTPLXXX
Beneficiary Bank Address: Ave Joao XXI, 63, Lisbon, 1000-300 Portugal
Beneficiary Name: Bison Bank S.A.
Beneficiary IBAN/Account: PT50 0035 9520 0059 9459 9739 4
Beneficiary Address: Rua Barata Salgueiro 33 Piso 0, Lisboa 1250042 Portugal
Message to Recipient Bank: Caixa Geral Depositos Account at Citibank CITIUS33 (Intermediary) 10959653
Message to Recipient: For Further Credit To: Your USD IBAN / Your Name
Timing: 15 days
Costs
Depends on your relationship level with them - $0 to $40. There are intermediary bank charges that seem to be roughly $20-$22
Comments
They do not let you specify the intermediary bank - and they seem to have sent it via Banco Santander in Spain. The wire transfer information page gives you information that needs to be passed to Nuno at Bison to “find” the wire. After about a week of research, they found the wire.

HSBC
Currency: USD
Wire Instructions
Beneficiary Bank: Caixa Geral de Depósitos / CGDIPTPLXXX
Beneficiary Bank Address: RUA FERNANDO LOPES GRACA, LOTE P1, Lisbon, 1600067 Portugal
Beneficiary Name: Bison Bank S.A.
Beneficiary IBAN/Account: PT50 0035 9520 0059 9459 9739 4
Beneficiary Address: Rua Barata Salgueiro 33 Piso 0, Lisboa 1250042 Portugal
Recipient Notes: For Further Credit To: Your USD IBAN / Your Name
Timing: 15 days
Costs
Depends on your relationship level with them - $0 to $40. There are intermediary bank charges that seem to be roughly $20-$22
Comments
They also do not let you specify the intermediary bank. The wire transfer information was hard to find after the wire was sent and customer service was not all that helpful finding it either. However printing out the wire debit information at HSBC Nuno at Bison enabled their team to “find” the wire. After about a week of research, they found the wire.

Vanguard
Currency: USD
Wire Instructions
Correspondent Bank: Citibank N.A. / CITIUS33XXX
Beneficiary Bank: Caixa Geral de Depósitos / CGDIPTPLXXX
Beneficiary Name: Bison Bank S.A.
Beneficiary IBAN/Account: PT50 0035 9520 0059 9459 9739 4
Beneficiary Bank Reference: CAIXA GERAL DE DEPOSITOS account 10959653 at Citibank
Beneficiary Reference: For Further Credit To: Your USD IBAN / Your Name
Timing: 15 days
Costs
Depends on your relationship level with them - $0 to $40. There are intermediary bank charges that seem to be roughly $20-$22
Comments
The wire transfer information was very detailed and provided a lot of information - a call to customer service provided two other reference numbers for the wire. Passing all that information to Nuno at Bison enabled their team to “find” the wire. After about a week of research, they found the wire.

All the bank wire models assume USD wire, with conversion into EUR at Bison. While Bison generally offers competitive rates, one one day that I did a check very close in time I got (hard to make it truly real-time as Bison rate has to be discovered via email which takes a while): Also, Bison was unable to tell me which bank any wire came from - it just says Wire from Third Party Bank.

Exchange Rates

                              MidMarket
Wise			0.8451			0.8456
IBKR			0.8463			0.8462
Bison			0.8439			0.8465
OFX           	0.8212			0.8467

As you can see Bison was worse than the mid-market. EUR transfers from the banks will typically give you REALLY bad rates, and more likely will be better off paying Wise’s fee than take the bank rates.

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Thanks
I didn’t do your level of detail but my single “whole GV investment” Wise fee still made me about 5% better off than using my bank (HSBC, GBP - €) simply on a better exchange rate

Wise (from US → EU) was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned. Used it about a dozen times so far. Quick account setup, fast transfers, good exchange rates. The fees are not absolutely the lowest, but low enough that it’s usually not the deal-breaker.

IBKR was the most unbelievable of the lot - it would have cost me only $72 in fees to send all ~$430k! In the end I decided against it so my transactions would have legitimacy (i.e. they would show as sent by me rather than “Interactive Brokers”).

I ended up doing USD wire transfers from my Bank of America account - they did not require intermediary or correspondent banks and the money would arrive next day. Bison’s exchange rate markup is supposed to be 0.20%, but due to the delay I measured the overall markup around 0.28%, which is still way better than Wise.

My transfers cost me ~$1,700 in fees and markup. I don’t beat myself up about that - instead I beat myself up about not waiting for a better exchange rate - I could’ve saved $8,000 at the current rate! :sweat_smile:

Good analysis and post, my compliments!

I’m already done with my business, but I commend you for contributing high quality content to the community.

Fully agree about OFX. They waste so much time with demands, phone calls, emails, etc. And I was dealing with different person every time! With Wise, the transfer to pay lawyer fee was done in minimal steps and so quick. Peace of mind. Merrill account rep said they transfer any amount at spot market rate for a flat fee of $24.95 (sizable, longterm account with them).
Still debating whether continue with GV…

I wired money from HSBC US to a Banco Santander account and was disappointed in my exchange rate. I get an excellent exchange rate with HSBC when I use my credit card or withdraw cash with no fees. I leaned about their wallet which allows me buy Euros and hold them in a wallet to pay bills. I got an exchange rate that was almost as good as the credit card and no fees. I am setting up a Euro account in France. It has been a pain in the ass but when done I should be able to move money from dollars to Euro at a bid ask spread that I am hoping will be the same as the wallet or better. They do not charge for wire transfers between two US dollar accounts and I am told they have the same policy between Euro accounts, the former has been tested as I move money into HSBC from my other US accounts but the latter I won’t test until I am established overseas. I do like the idea of having dollars and Euros all in one bank.

On a side note I decided to secure a French visa before getting my Portuguese one because it was far less complicated as a retiree and only took one week. I have family in France and figured I would be traveling between the two countries anyway. Once I have my resident card I plan on applying for a D7 as a European resident. By then I hope to have bought a home in Portugal.

Yeah I was disappointed at their wire transfer rates. They have no real excuse for it either.

Wires are only free for Premier customers though, IIRC. And HSBC is shedding its non-premier customers onto Citizens and someone else and overall downsizing the US footprint, so it’s def not an option for everyone. I find it disappointing but HSBC has been shedding its worldwide footprint for years and is hardly now the World’s Global Bank, which kinda sucks because that was what was really cool about it. I’ve kind of started to wonder why I’m remaining a customer - free and easy wire transfers is nice but hardly a reason to tie up assets, and I still do most of my retail in a local bank out of sheer laziness over re-plumbing all of the myriad bill-pays anyway. I went to HSBC because of the cool global footprint bit (it was cool when they had branches in Costa Rica even) but if they don’t have one then what’s the point, esp when you can use IB for money management and just get retail accounts where you need them?

(If you are in Portugal then you need a local bank for multibanco network access. You might look at Santander, they have local footprint and are also probably in France.)

I agree, there is no point in going with HSBC if you’re not a premier client. I do wish they had a branches in Portugal. But I like that premiere clients of HSBC pay freno fees altogether. I thought of Santander but don’t they have monthly fees? A lot of people on the AmericanPT FB group have gone with Activo bank.

I take it this a a rounding error based in the Sri ate of what the market is as it appears IBRK is giving a better rate than the market.

More likely a timing error - meaning they were just taken at slightly different times when the price was moving quickly. But basically the point is that they were at market.

Right. That was my interpretation. Thanks so much for this analysis. I may just move my fidelity account to IB.

FWIW, I opened an IBKR account for the transfer of funds, and I have been really pleased with the interface there. I’m thinking of moving more holdings over there for active management.

Of course, I haven’t actually withdrawn any money yet, so I don’t know how easy that will be! (My bank account opening in PT seems totally in limbo, which is a bit frustrating.)

Yeah I’m 10 days post-documents being received by Bison, no word yet. Sent an email but today is a holiday (All Saint’s day) so don’t expect a response until tomorrow.

Argh! I totally forgot that it is All Saint’s Day today. I was looking forward to maybe getting a response on a Monday, but that will have to wait. We are waiting on Banco Atlantico (depository account) not Bison, but it is much the same. In case others are curious, we started the opening process on 8 Oct, signed the documents on 20 Oct, and the documents arrived in Lisboa on 22 Oct, fwiw.

My Bison timeline for opening and wire transfers is here… Bison: A Review - subtitled: My (not so great) experience so far

Thanks for sharing that. I don’t know if it makes me feel better or worse, but it is good for comparison!

I am in the process of getting my GV application processed by December 31 (really by December 17 due to Holidays in Portugal). The attorney I have engaged has been generally helpful, detailed and responsive (I am happy to share more detailed experience and contact info if you are interested).

I have selected Pela Terra Fund and Alex who is the Fund Manager has been very helpful smoothing out the document wrinkles to facilitate things getting done. (I am also happy to share my experience with this Fund and rationale for choosing this fund over others).

So Far I am happy with BiG, Bank manager has been responsive. I hope to have my account open by the middle of next week at latest. Their fees appear to be reasonably competitive (not reasonable by US Bank standards) with other PT bank fees seen here on the board.
Initial Fund subscription fee = 0.15% + 21e taxes == 546e
Annual Custodial fee is 0.1% +80.50e (VAT tax) = 430.50e/year
Fund Termination fee is 0.15% + 21e taxes = 546e

My attorney selected BiG Banco over Banco Atlantico because BiG can currently process documentation faster, which is important given my timeline. I was surprised to learn on the Zoom call with the Bank Manager that BiG DOES NOT accept wire transfers via WISE because she stated they do not feel it is as secure and If I understood correctly it is harder to them to trace the money as being from my account (which my bank account statements is part of the documentation they require to prove source of investment funds). I believe they are strict due to concerns about anti money laundering and anti-terrorism etc. which is a valid concern all banks have. It may also be so they can receive financial benefit from receiving USD into the account and then BiG conversion to Euro so they get that transaction fee instead of Wise. The GOOD NEWS is that their spread rate was quoted to be 0.12% (which for 350k euros = 420 euros) which is much cheaper than the approximate Wise transfer fee which would have been about $1600 for transfer of about $420k. BiG uses an instantaneous conversion rate, so one can monitor and instruct them when you wish to engage the conversion - so some control if I understand this.

My main options currently appear to be:

  1. Wire transfer from dollars from USAA Bank to BiG, then convert to euros at BiG. OR
  2. Convert dollars to euros at USAA Bank, then wire transfer euros to BiG account.

I plan to compare fees and check with USAA Bank what their wire charges are and what their typical practice/fees are to convert $410k to euros, and then wiring euros from US to BiG so I can see which option is more cost effective.

If anyone has comments or advice about my understanding of the transfer ie are their other fees I am missing, or alternative options/suggestions, please chime in…

Thank you all for sharing your advice and experiences so we can all learn and benefit.
Roger

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Very interesting. I am also investing in Pela Terra. My attorney has me going through Atlantico because of processing times, and they have quoted a conversion spread of 0.5% which is more than the Wise transfer fee, but maybe not enough to stress about. There has been no mention of a subscription fee or termination fee, but there is the 0.1% custodial fee as well as 5 EUR a month for the account maintenance, and 250 EUR for the ARI document for the Golden Visa. I would say you lucked out with the 0.12% spread!

FWIW, my wires took FOREVER to get to my Bison account from 3 different banks (as noted in the original post) - so if you want quick and predictable IBKR was the fastest and very predictable (not to mention cheapest) path.