Moving money from US to Portugal to buy a house strategy?

Hello. Would appreciate your advise on the best way to transfer around 350K Euros from the US to Portugal in order to buy a house. I have accounts with Schwab, Wise, US bank, FNBO bank and in Portugal I should hopefully have a Millenium account soon. What strategy would you use to pay less fees and get a better exchange rate? Thank you very much.

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I had good luck with two strategies. One isn’t really applicable to your circumstances, so I’ll stick to the second.

  • Open an Interactive Brokers account (free and easy)
  • Buy Euros in the FX market for wholesale rates
  • Move Euros almost instantly from IB to your Portugal IBAN via direct SEPA transfer, for 1€

I’ve used IB for over 10 years and traded several $million through them. It was perfect until last year. Now they ask for documents and proofs with every €10,000 top-up. I don’t know how you are transferring 300-500k through them without going through mental extermination of proving the source of your funds, especially when you have like 3-5 different sources.

It’s even more crazier that they ask for proofs when transferring within EU from a personal bank account in a Tier-1 European Bank. It’s like the bank is not doing any compliance or source of funds verifications. So Interactive Brokers must have a lot of vacant staff doing nothing and they’re happy to undertake bank’s job and double down on it.

Compliance in Europe is f**ing nuts these days.


Compliance in America isn’t any better, I’ll venture.

Guess which 800 pound gorilla is responsible for all of this worldwide AML / KYC penance…

Yes, most of this compliance is being dictated by U.S. - not sure which institution (probably, you mean IRS) - but what I heard it’s much lenient in the US itself. For instance, “it’s hard to open a bank account, but when it was opened for you, you are usually left alone”. Seems to be the case with my corporate LLC account. Also, besides Interactive Brokers I broker with Schwab - they never asked me for any proofs in 10 years, just non-US person tax forms. But IB has gone bonkers nowadays…

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Thank you all for your input

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For stupid bureaucratic compliance reasons, I had to open a new bank account last year when I moved. At the first bank, a local savings bank chain, the branch manager asked probingly what I wanted an account for. He didn’t like my answer that I wanted to deposit my salary and pay my bills online. I felt like I was being aggressively interrogated as a felony suspect. He told me that they didn’t want me as a customer–completely baffling. Maybe he didn’t like my shoes.

Another bank was friendly enough but there was so much paperwork and verification! It would have been even worse, but I already had a co-branded credit card with them and was spared the full intensity of trial by fire.

It had been years since the last time I had opened a bank account, and the situation had definitely evolved–negatively. I think that old customers are grandfathered in, but new customers are subject to intensive scrutiny and arbitrary rejection. Fun times here and everywhere.

Oops… I am now even happier with my Portugal bank experience by comparison.
My account was opened in literally 1 business day in the bank’s rep office outside Portugal with minimal docs required. They did not even ask for a NIF.

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Many banks don’t want more customers. Too many deposits can become a liability. Though this tends to apply to the larger banks, not the locals, who knows.

That said, what answer would a bank expect besides using them as … a bank? Isn’t that what people do with banks, deposit income then perform transfer transactions to pay bills? Weird.

Maybe you just need to go semi-anonymous and use one of the online banks like Third Federal or whatever. Or go talk to a credit union.

I hang onto banking relationships. I’ve had the same account at the same CU for 40-odd years now. I have a credit card that I originally got 20 years ago or something. Is it a guarantee I won’t get pitched the moment I’m inconvenient? No. But history does mean something sometimes.

That is odd. Maybe the rules are different in the EU? Are you a US resident or EU resident? I had no troubles moving 6 figures. I truly doubt IB has spare staff around to do stupid stuff - it isn’t the Peterffly way. Minimal customer service, weird crappy tools, and fantastic execution, that’s what they do. Maybe if you are doing a bunch of “small” transactions on a regular basis they don’t like that because they don’t want to be used that way?

Don’t forget the online FX brokers like OANDA and They may do better on size than Wise.

Regarding Wise, I did use them for some occassional small amount transfers, and it was fine.
But I would be very apprehensive using them for anything large. Just check the reviews on Trustpilot. Nice overall rating, tons of 5-star reviews regarding regular small transfers, but check the 1-star reviews - they are all about large transfers, either being unable to transfer due to ‘anti-money laundering’ questions, or worse large sums being stuck with Wise for very long time.

I have transferred large amounts with wise with no issue. Great rate and fast service!

I am EU resident. But not EU citizen. IB staff has contacted me asking “why my bank account is opened in a different country to where I live?”. I was stunned by this question. Apparently they think if I bank in a low-tax (tax haven) jurisdiction, I might be doing something nefarious. And basically a broker is now acting as a tax authority by questioning my bank accounts and questioning my sources of funds coming from regulated EU bank accounts.

(PS: It might get even crazier. European crypto exchange Bitstamp compliance once asked me - why you’ve accessed your Bitstamp account from a different country to where you live? That just exploded me. I went on to withdraw all funds from them to never ever come closer again. The compliance in Europe is beyond nuts these days).

I understand your reaction to such questions, but to be fair there are always two sides to these questions with one being the ‘bank’ trying to protect themselves but also trying to protect you as their client from online fraud.
I remember Paypal once blocked my account just because I tried to access it from India while on a business trip there. Took some time and effort to restore it but still I did not really blame them too much. It’s a rather standard security practice to monitor/limit/block access based on IP geolocation.

Yes, I always try to consider both sides. However, in this particular case this had nothing to do with “protecting customer”. My account is protected more than enough by 2FA (at every step) with e-mail confirmations (at every step). Their questions had nothing to do with protecting me. If they indeed locked my account upon “suspicious access” and/or contacted me immediately (soon) after there was a suspicion of an unauthorized sign-in… that would have been a different case and I wouldn’t be writing about it. Nope. Their compliance was asking me for some documents and asked why several months ago I was accessing their exchange from another country! This is absolutely nuts. They had history of me (being nomadic) accessing this account from here and there over the years. But only now something made them feel empowered and inquisitive as they please, asking silly (and intrusive questions) when requesting necessary documents (which I was happy to provide). Compliance is getting crazier and crazier, you’ll remember my words :wink:

Oh sure, I have no doubt about that, especially knowing what has being going on since around Feb 2020…

Seconding the Wise nomination. I always send a token $100 first to make sure it goes through OK before sending anything large and I’ve had no problems.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been sending my real estate purchase money over via Wise, without difficulty so far. If you don’t consider their fee a difficulty. I didn’t try to transfer it all at once. The exchange rate I’m getting looks right, and the fee is a small fraction, it’s just a small fraction of a large sum.

Still thousands of dollars more expensive than going via interactive brokers