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…