Transferring money

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Money Transfer into Brazil

To send money to a Brazilian person or business from the US or Canada, a convenient way is to use a remittance service. These services are used mostly by Brazilians living in the US and Canada to send money back home, but can be used by anybody. The fees and bureaucracy are less than sending a wire transfer at a bank. The exchange rates I received were within 2–3% of the interbank exchange rate, and the fee I paid was about US$15. That's much less than an international wire transfer fee at a bank which can be US$50–75.

The recipient must have a bank account, and the remittance service may require that the account be at a particular Brazilian bank (such as Banco do Brasil). Typical information that you'll need about the recipient is as follows:

  • name of the recipient (nome)
  • phone number of the recipient (fone)
  • CPF number of the recipient
  • bank name (banco)
  • city and state of the bank (cidade e estado)
  • branch number (agência)
  • account number (conta)
  • account type (variação), such as conta corrente (checking) or poupança (savings)

Here is a fictitious example of the data needed:

  • Paulo Lula Coelho
  • fone: +55-11-98765-4321
  • CPF: 123.456.789-01
  • Banco do Brasil
  • Sao Paulo, SP
  • agência: 0555
  • conta: 0234-5
  • var: poupança

In Canada and the US, you have separate account numbers for savings, checking, etc. At Brazilian banks, the client has a single account number which is divided into sub-accounts called variação (a literal translation would be "variation"), or var for short. Common sub-accounts are conta corrente (checking) and poupança (savings). Although the variação itself has a short code number, such as var 01 or var 51, you don't need the code number itself to do a money transfer. Typically deposits go to the checking account and the account holder has to transfer money to the other account types himself. You can however transfer to poupança (savings) if that's what the recipient wants.

An example of a remittance service targeting Brazil is Vigo Remittance Corporation. Vigo was bought out by Western Union in 2005. Though I haven't used Vigo, my experience has been that Western Union's fees are quite high and their procedures are cumbersome, so Vigo wouldn't be my first choice. My experience with small independent remittance services has been good.

Money Transfer within Brazil

For payment to another person's bank account when you are inside Brazil, you can visit any bank, but preferably the bank used by the recipient. You will require the following information:

  • name of the recipient (nome)
  • CPF number of the recipient (optional)
  • bank name (banco)
  • branch number (agência)
  • account number (conta)

Here is a fictitious example of the data needed:

  • Paulo Lula Coelho
  • CPF: 123.456.789-01 (optional)
  • banco: Itaú
  • agência: 0555
  • conta: 0234-5

It's a good idea to also have the recipient's CPF number, but it is not mandatory. If you supply the CPF, the teller is able to look up the account holder and verify that the account number is correct and that you're paying the intended person.

If you're paying in cash, no information is required about you (not your name, not your ID, nothing about you at all).

Contact Info

Corrections and comments about this article are welcome. Please email to:

dacanada [at-sign] nym.hush.com

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