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

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.


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.

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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!

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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:

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

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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.

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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


I highly recommend not using Currencies direct for transfering your money from USA to Portugal. Had huge problems with them last year. Wise was good but I only used that for smaller amounts.

Hasn’t anybody used XE or OFX for larger amounts of money transfers? I ran a quote on Wise and the fees were atrociously high…as high as the bank for larger transfers. Reviews I read confirm this. XE and OFX seem a lot more reasonable priced. OXF has some pretty strict security measures, such as uploading a video of your face and recording of your voice.

I believe all money transfer options have been discussed extensively on this forum.
The ranking so far is this:

  1. IBKR
  2. Wise
  3. traditional bank wire transfer

My lawyer told me that I need to use the bank transfer option due to the need for traceability of the transfer. However, in that case, I do think it is important to also check and see which is better for the conversion - either have it converted to euros by the sending bank, or by the receiving bank. In my case, the Portuguese receiving bank had a much better exchange rate.

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Apparently not. Try it and let us know.

You pay for the safety of the major transfer paths. Assuming of course even they are safe. SWIFT transfers are not for the faint at heart.

I’ve used XE in the past many times. Their fees are ok. Better than other alternatives? shrug Would I move 350k through them? Nope. Wouldn’t use wise either, unless I did it as drips and drabs.

What you’re paying for:

  1. obscurity - how many US citizens do international transfers in the first place?
  2. scale. Most US banks do NOT have international currency desks or access to deep liquidity. When they do a trade, they’re paying someone else. Citi and JPM have real desks. That’s it. Everyone else is basically paying them. How many correspondent accounts sit at JPM? There’s a reason. Hell, if you pay attention, you’ll note that IB itself routes JPM Germany to get to the continent. But they’ve no incentive to give great rates to RandoBankX who is moving a little cash occasionally.
  3. currency risk. There is no such thing as a single market for currencies. They’re all traded OTC between counterparties. The liquidity you see on IB is really you only trading against counterparties on IB itself, the arbitrage they may be doing against other platforms - and IB’s own market making group itself. But all that means is that there’s no clear single market - you’re paying for that arbitrage and slippage for price signals to reach between liquidity pools. Meanwhile whoever you’re dealing with is taking a currency risk on your behalf, for the time between “accepting your trade” and “actually doing the exchange wherever they can manage in a size that the counterparty will accept”. This is real shit. if you want to trade 100k but the average block size is 1mm, either your side’s gotta ball together enough individual trades enough to get to size and accept the currency risk, or the other side will treat you as an odd lot and screw you for it.

When you’re used to Schawb or Robinhood charging low to no commission on displayed spreads that are penny-wide, you miss the fact that you’re still paying anyway - just via PFOF and a mid-market that’s getting pulled around such that it is displaying what Citadel needs it to be to make the PFOF fees make sense. There is ZERO meaningful liquidity at the displayed mid-market. It just looks good to you the consumer. Any market-maker worth their salt has algos that are adjusting their expected execution price based on their predictions of what the real liquidity is. Don’t believe me? Go try to hit that displayed liquidity with any size and watch the market literally run away from you as toxic.

The rest of the world’s markets do not work like this. So you can’t really expect it.

You can also focus too much on fees. Currencies move 1-2% in a day or two. Great, you got a 20bip cheap transfer. The currency then moves 100bp against you. You’re still hosed. Maybe by less, sure.

I’m not saying to let yourself get screwed, but squeezing the last penny out for something you’re going to do exactly once anyway?

I imagine you will get better exchange rates on the European side, at least out of the major banks. I can see where say BIson would do a better job, since they’re wealth mgmt anyway and tied off-continent so they’re changing currency all the time.

One word to the wise: Don’t just transfer the entire lot in one go. Do a EUR100 wire transfer. Make sure it actually goes through using the instructions you give them. Then transfer more.

I just recently tried to move a mere EUR400 to Activo, using Activo’s instructions. Real straightforward. HSBC has a nice, clean interface, Activo has a SWIFT mnemonic, and it’s tied to Millenium anyway. Easy, right? Nope, bounced. Took me two weeks of waiting because Activo wouldn’t investigate until it’d been two weeks. Then they couldn’t find it. Finally talked to HSBC who said someone bounced it, I think JPM, with an invalid routing instruction through what appeared to be some correspondent account. It was a frustrating experience. But it was $400, and it cost me $35 in fees on what was supposed to be a fee-less transfer since HSBC lets me wire without a wire charge. EOD, if I’d lost it… I’d have been really annoyed, but not hurt. I really need to wire several grand for a bunch of fees, though. Imagine if that’d have gotten lost somewhere, or had a percentage whacked out in fees for mis-transfers?

(I ended up using IB and SEPA. But I’m a long time customer of IB. If you aren’t, I don’t think it’s going to work out well for you. Not that I know.)

Thanks for the follow up. I hadn’t seen this particular post.

Kerry Antoniadis

Exactly my thoughts, hence I chose for myself the ‘safest’ path #3.