Lowest Cost International Transfer from Account in US to Portugal

Sympathies … it’s not easy. The customer service people at big American banks assume it just works, and it doesn’t. Another frequent and trustworthy poster got most of her test transfer bounced back to her originating account after 2 weeks in opaque limbo, minus around $100 in garbage fees. She was persistent with her Fidelity rep about going through the long form and specifying the correspondent bank, and it went through correctly on the second try.

I had the same challenge with Schwab. I solved it by first wiring the money to Fidelity, then wiring it from Fidelity to Bison. You will have to call Fidelity and be persistent on the phone, since they’ll try to convince you that the correspondent bank isn’t necessary. If you push them, they’ll research it and discover that you really do. I’ve been through this twice now; it goes down the same way every time. It takes about 2 hours on the phone but they’re generally pleasant and helpful.

I believe that Fidelity offers free accounts to any American citizen with a $1000 minimum. I am allowed to make 4 international wire transfers free every year, but that privilege may not be universal; YMMV.

You could try to be persistent with Chase but regardless of their “too big to fail” scale, I’m not sure they understand how to deal with complex international wire transfers at all. Also they have pretty high fees for wire transfers, though you can slowly dribble money over to another American account for free using ACH transfers if you don’t mind the time and effort.

It is weird that they don’t have a more robust and reliable mechanism for moving large amounts of money around. Apparently SWIFT is about as sophisticated and modern as a fax machine.

Thanks, appreciate your help

We had the problem with the transfer with Fidelity that @nevadaandonward mentioned. So, we didn’t have a problem convincing them to use the instructions from Bison the second time! :sweat_smile: If you really need to use Chase, I would try transferring a small amount first. You can ask Chase to cover the fees charges by the corresponding bank if it doesn’t go through. However, Chase may already have correct instructions for international transfers. What happened to us with Fidelity was because they sent the money via Caixa Central de Crédito Agricola Mútuo and they should have sent it via Caixa Geral de Depósitos. The garbage fee was charged by Caixa Central before the money credited back to our account.

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Yeah I ended up doing a small transfer. Fees are a blip compared to the headache if things go wrong so was an easy decision. It seemed like everything would work out with the transfer without the special instructions as well because I literally had to sit down with the person making the transfer for me and put in all the information Bison sent in a 140 character text box. It seemed like this information was redundant and is also sitting in a database somewhere that these big banks and networks already have. Hopefully, failure and success with the test is indicative of future result.

Pretty much. People still READ the transfers in many cases I think.

Test transfers to test the path are always a good idea. I always do them for anything over a few hundred bucks.

For people in the US, the customer service reps the average person will face generally have little clue as to how wire transfers international even work, because average folks in the US rarely do wire transfers at all, and international ones even less. Trying to do it through my credit union starts with a “are you sure this isn’t a nigerian fraud scam?” conversation and a faxed form. I’ve long since given up, and I keep an HSBC account in part because they have a portal for doing complex wire transfers that actually works.

There are people at Chase that understand wire transfers, I’m quite sure. Chase is one of the big correspondent banks. The issue is getting through to one of those people.

I ended up using Interactive Brokers and transferring in EUR, which was trivial. I didn’t even look at the USD instructions til now. Citi corporate to some Portuguese bank to Bison. Gah.

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If you are sending USD, it should be as simple as a domestic wire and you can list a random bank as an intermediary. I have used JP Morgan in the past. I don’t know how or even if they do a currency exchange in this case . If it is going to Bison bank USD account, then there would not even be any currency exchange at all I assume. I didn’t do these exact steps so I may be off but this process should work in general. I have used it many times for international USD wires.

So true. After the first failed attempt, we talked to the same Fidelity rep that put in the transfer order for us and he literally said, “We send the funds straight to Bison bank”. We had to educate him about correspondent & intermediary banks. :unamused:Then he probably looked at some other screens while we were talking to him and he agreed that we were right.

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The problem is that Bison isn’t on SWIFT directly. The money has to be routed through CGD. Fidelity routed the funds to the wrong correspondent bank on SWIFT (CGA rather than CGD), the money got lost in limbo for 2 weeks, and eventually got returned to sender minus a big whack of storage and handling fees.

Right, but if you are doing as a domestic wire, SWIFT is not required. SWIFT is only used for international wires. There is a difference in how the wires are processed domestic vs intl.

In my example, you send domestically and the intermediary bank just handles everything transparently on the backend.

Sure, but Bison is an international wire, even if it’s $ → $. It has to relay through CGD as the correspondent bank. There is no provision to wire money to Bison via domestic wire.

Ok. I understand the issue now.

Lol … I think Chase messed it up even with the instructions. I see this in the transaction description


The issue being “it’s all just a charlie-foxtrot” :slight_smile:

I’m looking to transfer funds soon for my investment.

Bison has been oddly reticent about providing anything other than an IBAN.

My brokerage, vanguard, demands a SWIFT for the destination and for the US correspondent bank, among other things.

Anyone have this problem?

At the moment, transferwise (even with the 200k USD per-tx limit) seems like my best option as they quote .4% fees (roughly). If I can use a wire direct to Bison, that’ll get me to .2% effective fee on the USD->EUR conversion, which would be nice.

Would love to hear if anyone else uses vanguard to transfer to bison

You have an account with Bison and they won’t tell you the Swift/BIC?

When you open an account with Bison, they give you a document that literally has nothing on it except your name, your IBAN, and the BIC. Also, Swift / BIC Codes are public:


Specifically they don’t seem to understand the correspondent bank bit. Perhaps they don’t have one and thus vanguard can’t send them money, but that seems unusual to say the least


CGD isn’t a us bank though, still not quite what I need I don’t think

Bison uses CGD, and CGD uses Citi in the US. So that is what makes it much more complex to send a wire to Bison. There are effectively two “correspondent” banks.

So while I have not been able to send wires successfully yet, I tried to use Citi as correspondent (for those US banks that even let you specify a correspondent bank) and then set CGD to be the beneficiary bank, and Bison bank to the beneficiary, and in beneficiary notes used a for further credit to (my IBAN and name). However, none of those wires have reached yet - so take all this for what that tells you :slight_smile:

UPDATE: I did end up getting ALL of the wires to show up… See this post for details on exact information I used to get the wires to work from Chase, HSBC and Vanguard. It did take my sending Nuno all the information for each of the wires, and his operations team doing followup for over a week for them to show up though.

Thanks Jim, that’s very informative.

Have you managed to send anything? Sounds like Transferwise might be my best bet at this point unfortunately

I ended up sending via IBKR - see my other post on steps to do so - TransferWise also works very well - just quite a bit more expensive.