Transferring money from Canada to Europe

I did a lot of research when it was time to transfer a lot of money to buy our dream house in Spain.  It can be overwhelming to find the best way to move large sums of money in a timely manner at the best possible currency exchange rate.

The first step will be to open a Spanish bank account.  I will have a separate post on the subject of opening a bank account and why it is a good idea to get a mortgage even if you don’t need one when buying a property.  The actual opening of an account is relatively easy if you already have an NIE identification number which you obtain when you apply for the long-stay Visa. You can read the past blog here.

I read countless articles and blogs online to find the best and easiest way to transfer money.  I checked the currency rates daily and made comparisons  using different companies.  The two best companies to move money from Canada to Europe were Transferwise and Currencies Direct. 

I made several transfers with the two companies. Transferwise is my favorite way. There is a smart phone application which makes the process seamless. You can also use the website online access.  With Currencies Direct, you can do it online for amounts of less then 25,000 British Pounds but must speak to someone on the phone for larger amounts. In both cases, you must have a bank account in Canada and Europe. 

The exchange rate is about the same. When you compare online, the Currencies Direct rate will appear superior for amounts of more than $60,000.  They also say there are no fees but don’t be fooled.  When it was time to actually do the transfer, the rate was inferior and I had to negotiate with them to get the equivalent transfer amount as Transferwise.  For the big transfer, I preferred to use Currencies Direct because I felt more secure with speaking to a human instead of using the smartphone application.

You can use this website to compare rates by companies but this is only an indication, not a guaranteed rate. These are posted rates for large amounts. Transferwise uses the mid-market rate which is more accurate. Only the application will give you a guaranteed rate at the time of initiating the transfer. Cuex website link here.

There are several choices when making a transfer.  With Transferwise, on the smartphone application, I choose “pay an invoice”, it’s fast and has no additional costs. You then need to go to your bank’s internet bank site and pay the invoice in the name of Transferwise with your account number.  You get notifications at every step.  It takes about 3 business days to complete the transfer.  It is very efficient and painless.

With Currencies Direct, you must first make a wire transfer in the Currencies Direct bank account in the country of origin; in Canada, they use Bank of Montreal.  This requires you to fill out a wire transfer form with your own bank and pay a fee.  With our bank, Vancity, based in Vancouver, we paid $20 per wire transfer.  Vancity called us to verify our identity and then wired the funds to Currencies Direct.  It takes only one or two business days to transfer the funds to Currencies Direct’s bank account. Someone from their UK office contacts you when the funds have reached their account.  You then need to decide whether you want to make an immediate transfer to your Spain bank account or delay to a future date.  You can also decide to transfer only when you get the currency exchange rate you want.  The rate is somewhat negotiable as well if you can clearly demonstrate that you would have done better with Transferwise.  Since I was making big transfers, I would “squeeze” them a bit. For those who know me well, know that I can be very well prepared and persuasive!  It is worth asking. 

It definitely takes more steps with Currencies Direct but you have more flexibility in when to actually do the transfer if you have time to wait for the best rate.  Of course, waiting can also work against you.  It can be stressful to exchange large sums of money.  I did several transfers over several days to hedge my bets.  Our timing was very poor with a low Canadian dollar this past December and January.

Now that our large transfers are done, I will use Transferwise for our regular money transfers.  Their rate is highly competitive and there is no need to contact my bank or talk to anyone. It’s direct and super easy with the app.

Here are the two websites link. I do not get any compensation whatsoever and these are not formal recommendations. I merely share my own personal experiences on this blog.

Transferwise https://transferwise.com

Currencies Direct https://www.currenciesdirect.com/en

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