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Home Finance Money Management International money transfers in Portugal
Last update on 15/06/2022
Joana Taborda Written by Joana Taborda

Learn how to make international money transfers in Portugal through traditional banks, mobile banking, and online services.

Moving to Portugal means moving your money too. Fortunately, transferring money between accounts is pretty simple these days. That said, it’s good to know your options, especially when you’re living abroad or want to exchange currencies. Banking in Portugal is relatively advanced, and it includes both mobile and online services. The system works for local and international payments. Still, there are alternatives to consider if you’re planning on sending or receiving money from abroad frequently.

To help you figure out what’s best for you, below is all the information you need about making international money transfers in Portugal. Topics covered include:

Wise

Looking for an easy way to move your money to Portugal? Look no further than the easy-to-use global money transfer platform Wise. You can also take advantage of their multi-currency account, letting you make and receive payments in euros without hidden fees. Get more from your money in Portugal with Wise.

International money transfers in Portugal

When planning an international money transfer in Portugal it is important to understand the pros and cons of the services available to you. Of course, you want to ensure that the money arrives safely. Firstly, you need to pick a trusted financial transfer service to manage the process. Once you request a transfer, that service will clear the funds from your account and forward them to the recipient. Thanks to the Single European Payment Area (SEPA) agreement this is a seamless process in most of Europe. However, if you wish to send cash outside the Eurozone, your money transfer service will need to convert your currency first. Usually, the prevailing exchange rate is used as a base, however, actual rates can vary. Keep in mind that this is an extra step that often comes with added fees.

money transfer: a woman makes a withdrawal at a cash machine in Lisbon, Portugal

In Portugal, it’s possible to transfer money internationally at an ATM (in the Eurozone) or the bank. For the latter, you can do this directly at your nearest branch or from home by logging in to your account. Alternatively, you can choose to use a mobile bank, an online international transfer service, or contact a foreign exchange company. In most cases, it takes at least two working days for the money to reach the recipient’s account. However, some providers can complete a transaction in just a few hours.

Online international money transfer services in Portugal

Many people prefer to use online international money transfer services in Portugal, such as Wise, Revolut, or PayPal. These can often provide faster transactions at a lower fee than a Portuguese bank.

Ideally, both you and the recipient will have an account with the same provider. Then all you need for the transaction is a contact, for example, an email or a phone number. If the recipient does not have an account with that service, you will need to provide their full name and banking details. In most cases, you can transfer the money instantly, either online or through a mobile app.

If you’re worried about using these services, rest assured that they are subject to strict regulation. In Portugal, money transfer services are regulated by the central bank. The Banco de Portugal (Bank of Portugal) is part of the Eurosystem and regulates all financial services in the country. Keep in mind that service provider registrations will vary. For example, in the United States, online providers like PayPal have a license for transactions that follow specific state and federal laws. While PayPal Europe is licensed by the Luxembourg financial regulator, the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier – CSSF. In Europe, Wise is licensed and regulated by the National Bank of Belgium.

To prevent money laundering, many companies have established a set of measures, including ID verification, transaction monitoring, and company audits.

Cost for transfers

The cost for a transfer will differ for each service. For instance, international transfers with Wise contain a cross-border fee starting at €0.46 + 0.47% of the transfer amount. As such, the total cost of the transfer will vary according to the amount you’re sending, payment method, and current exchange rate.

When it comes to exchanging currencies, money transfer companies rely on the mid-market rate, which is constantly changing. Alternatively, they can offer a guaranteed rate for a specific period. It’s a good idea to shop around. Comparison site Monito allows you to assess money transfer services. Simply put in your location, the destination country for the transfer, and the amount.

To help you get started, here’s a list of online transfer services for international payments active in Portugal:

International money transfers in Portugal by traditional bank

If you have a bank account in Portugal, you can easily transfer money abroad. The process is similar to national transfers and can be done in a branch, online, or through a mobile app. However, it will take a few more days for the funds to clear.

Furthermore, with the introduction of SEPA, it’s even easier to issue transactions between Eurozone countries. This convenient mechanism allows you to make international transfers with a similar cost as a local transfer. That said, some banks may still include extra fees. 

money transfers: signage for Caixa bank in Portugal

In general, bank-to-bank transfers are safe and secure. The Banco de Portugal is responsible for preventing money laundering and ensuring financial entities comply with the local legislation. The central bank’s oversight ensures that your international money transfer in Portugal is secure. However, there are a few disadvantages to using a traditional bank for international transactions. There’s an additional cost when converting currencies. Many banks have high transfer fees, making it an expensive option compared to other online service providers.

Costs of international bank transfers

While it is relatively easy to transfer money in Portugal, extra fees will apply if you are doing so to regions outside the Eurozone.

The cost for an international bank transfer may also vary according to the method you use (online, in person, ATM). Then there are factors like currency, the destination country, and the amount you send. Beyond this, some banks might charge hidden fees. For example, if you do not provide the SWIFT code (which is often optional), the bank may add a fee for completing that information.

Retail banks can charge between €20–€30 in fees. In addition, the exchange rates can be set up individually by each institution. With this in mind, you should always check the rates directly with your bank before proceeding with your transfer. Alternatively, you can consult Banco de Portugal’s price list.

How long do international bank transfers in Portugal take?

The time it takes to complete an international money transfer in Portugal differs from bank to bank. Factors like the destination country and the currency also impact duration. Usually, a transaction within the SEPA can take between one to two working days. However, for other areas, it can take around five working days. Still, this may vary according to the amount sent, the bank’s schedules, or any national holidays. For example, Portuguese banks usually close at 15:00. That means that any money transfer made in Portugal after that time will have to be processed the next day.

However, there are ways to speed up the process, for example, by paying an extra fee. In Portugal, you can do this within SEPA with an instant transfer (transferência imediata). The service can cost as little as €1.50 and can issue transactions in 10 seconds. However, the initiative is still in its early stages, so check with your bank if they provide this service first.

How to make an international money transfer in Portugal by bank

If you decide to make an international money transfer in Portugal with a traditional bank, the first step is to choose where to do it. You can transfer money abroad through the following methods:

Bank of Portugal building in Madeira
  • ATM (for SEPA only)
  • In-person at any bank branch
  • Online
  • Mobile app

Keep in mind that costs for a money transfer in Portugal will vary according to the method you choose. In most cases, it’s cheaper to do transactions at an ATM versus in-person at a bank branch.

Usually, for international transfers within SEPA, you only need to provide the IBAN of the recipient account. Outside this area, however, you may require the following:

  • Full name of the recipient
  • Account Number
  • SWIFT/BIC code
  • Bank name and address 
  • Reason for transfer

How to receive an international money transfer in Portugal by bank

To receive money from abroad in Portugal through the bank, you must have a local bank account. Once you have that, you will need to provide the same details mentioned above to the person or company making the transfer to you. Depending on where the money is coming from, your bank may charge a fee to receive it.

International money transfers via online and mobile banking

Most banks in Portugal offer online banking. Indeed, many people prefer to manage their finances online instead of queuing up at the bank. Additionally, some banks may provide a mobile app or other phone banking services. 

You can request an international money transfer in Portugal through any of these methods, and it will often be cheaper than visiting the bank’s branches. For example, international transfers within SEPA through the Portuguese bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) have an issue fee of €0.95 for online or mobile requests, while in-person it will be at least €4. The exchange rates, however, are usually the same for either service. 

To make or receive a money transfer in Portugal, you will first need to open an account with the bank. You can then log in online or download the bank’s mobile banking app using your account details. The same safety measures are in place for both traditional and digital banks.

Digital and mobile banking in Portugal is on the rise, thanks to the lower transaction fees. For instance, with Revolut, customers only need to pay a monthly account fee, ranging between €0 to €13.99 per month. In return, they have access to several free international transactions. The number will depend on the chosen plan, but the good news is that the transfer usually goes through in just a few hours.

You can use the following providers for international payments:

Wire transfers in Portugal

Wire transfer companies allow you to send or receive cash from abroad quickly. In Portugal, the most well-known services are Western Union and Moneygram. Typically, you can make a money transfer online, using a mobile, or even in-store at local branches.

The first step is to set up a free account with your chosen operator. Then you will need to select the country you want to send the money to. In addition, you will need to provide the recipient’s name, the amount, and the delivery method (cash or bank account). Finally, you will receive an email confirmation with a tracking number which you can forward to the recipient so they can retrieve the transfer.

money transfer: people gathered in Commerce Square, Lisbon
Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), Lisbon

The process can take between a few minutes and a couple of days. The time frame will depend on the company and destination. While it’s a convenient service, it does come at a premium price. Fees can range between 1% to 6% of the transfer amount.

Both providers comply with safety regulations in the countries they operate. Part of their measures includes requesting photo ID verification and providing a tracking number so you can make sure the money arrives in the right place.

Foreign exchange brokers in Portugal

Beyond the traditional banks and wire transfer services, you will also find specialized foreign exchange companies. These allow users to make international money transfers online. Additionally, many of them offer free transfers, lower exchange rates, 24-hour support, and the possibility to set a minimum and maximum exchange rate.

Some of the companies operating in Portugal include:

To make a transfer through these services, you will need to deposit the funds in your account first. The company will then exchange your money and forward it to the recipient. Luckily, you can easily do this online or via a mobile app. In some cases, the transfer is immediate, especially if the recipient already has an account with the provider. It’s also possible to set up regular transfers and lock in exchange rates.

You can check Monito’s online comparison tool to see the best exchange rates available and save on fees for your international money transfers.