Figuring out the best way to send and receive money overseas can be extremely confusing. There are so many options and fees to get to grips with that it can be hard to figure out which money transfer service will offer you the best deal. Many have hidden charges or make a profit from offering you a bad exchange rate. This guide looks at some of the easiest and cheapest ways of transferring money across borders.
Finding out the current mid-market exchange rate is one of the first steps you can take towards understanding which service might offer you the best deal. You want to ensure that any money transfer service is offering you as close to the mid-market rate as possible (this is the rate banks use to trade with each other, also known as the ‘interbank rate’). A lot of money exchange services make money out of you by pocketing the difference between the actual interbank rate and the (bad) exchange rate they’re offering you.
The markets can change fast, but you can quickly and easily check the most up-to-date mid-market rates on websites such as www.xe.com. Once you know what the exchange rate is, you can see what the amount you’re sending equates to in the currency it will arrive in.
For example, if you’re sending $100 USD to Europe, at the time this article was written it would equate to €89.02, using today’s mid-market rate ($1 = €0.8902). Lists like ours of the best international money transfer services can help you achieve a rate as close as possible to the actual exchange rate, but remember that even the cheapest ways for international transfers won't help you obtain the exact mid-market rate, there is always a fee embedded somewhere.
Find out what the fees are for the money transfer services; you can usually find this online. Sometimes you’ll find that even if they seem to be offering a good exchange rate, the fees are high, or there could even be hidden fees.
Don’t know which international money transfer service to use yet? Read on to discover which are the best.
Insider Tip: Beware the Banks
Although the most obvious way to send money overseas might appear to be using your bank – stop and check the rates first. Banks very often offer the worst deals because they charge some of the highest fees to transfer money internationally. You’ll probably save a lot more money by checking out these other options instead…
Below we have put together a list of the top ways that you can transfer money between countries. Please be aware that some of the recommendations in this article contain affiliate links. While we may make a small amount if you decide to use one of these services, this costs you nothing, and in most cases, will actually save you money.
This is one of the most popular ways world travelers, digital nomads and expats are using to send and receive money overseas right now. The main attractions are it’s free to open a Wise Borderless account, there are no monthly account charges, you get a free Mastercard Debit ATM card and – importantly – Wise offers a mid-market exchange rate.
If you have a Wise account you can send money to over 40 countries for a small fee and receive money for free from over 30 countries. You can hold over 40 different currencies in your Wise borderless account and withdraw the balance to your bank account for a low fixed fee. All the transactions are done via the website or app. Fees depend on the amount you’re sending, how you pay, and the exchange rate.
But you can calculate it here and it’s currently one of the cheapest options in the world.
The drawback of new services like Wise is it is all 100% online, so if you want to send physical cash to somebody (I’m talking crisp notes or bills), you can’t with TransferWise because it’s all transferred by the magic of the internet. But, if you have a Wise Mastercard Debit, you can withdraw money for free (although there’s a limit) as cash from an ATM. There are some countries and states where you can’t get a Wise account yet, but the service is expanding fast.
Rather like TransferWise, Revolut allows you to hold, exchange and transfer money internationally with low fees in 29 different currencies, and they offer a free ATM card too. Some of the transfers from your personal account to an account in the same currency are free. In addition, it has a cryptocurrency exchange for cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin.
The drawback is you must have the Revolut app to use Revolut, unlike TransferWise, which offers a website as well as an app.
It’s currently available to anyone of any nationality as long as they have a European address, but it’s also being launched in the USA and Canada this year.
Xoom is a service from Paypal. It allows users in the USA and Canada to send money to a physical bank location (or anybody with a Paypal account) in 140 countries. So unlike with TransferWise and Revolut, you can wire money through desktop, mobile or app that can be picked up in cold, harsh cash. It can alternatively be sent via Xoom and deposited into your bank account. In addition, you can also use Xoom to pay bills and reload mobile phones.
The fees vary, depending on the payment method. If you send money using direct debit it’s cheaper than using a debit or credit card.
Xoom doesn’t make it easy to find out what its exchange rates are but the company is really open about the fact it makes its money on the exchange rate (so it isn’t as good as the mid-market rate offered by TransferWise). The fees in total including exchange rate typically end up two or three times higher than TransferWise or Revolut. The other downside is you can’t use Xoom to send money to America, only out of America.
These old-school ways of sending money by cash, direct debit or bank transfer to be picked up by someone in cash are still popular and fast methods used around the world but the international charges can vary a lot from cheap to very expensive. For example, sending $500 by Western Union from the USA to Mexico costs only $5 if it’s both sent in and picked up in cash, or it costs $7 to transfer it by credit/debit card to cash. But it costs $10-$75 in fees to send $500 from the USA to China.
There are too many variables for it to be possible to say whether Western Union is cheaper than Moneygram or vice versa, but neither of them offers a mid-market rate on the currency exchange. Therefore, it’s also hard to compare them to the new wire transfer services because there are so many variables such as the location in the country you’re sending the money to, and whether you’re doing it by cash, card or bank transfer.
Typically, Western Union and Moneygram offer a more expensive exchange rate but occasionally the wire transfer fees can be lower than TransferWise or Revolut’s wire transfers. However, it’s still one of the cheapest ways of sending actual cash to be picked up in cash.
The best bet is it calculate Moneygram’s fees and Western Union’s fees online, then compare it with the others to see which way is best to send or receive your money and what the best deal is for you.
This Australian online foreign exchange and payments company is a good option for transferring larger sums of money. Travelers and small businesses can use OFX, but it also provides money transfer services using a range of third parties including Travelex, MoneyGram, Xero, INGDirect, and Macquarie, so it’s kind of a one-stop-shop for money transfer solutions.
It offers “better than bank rates” and low to zero fees. OFX is particularly popular in Australia, the UK and continental Europe, the USA, Canada, and the Asia Pacific region.
CurrencyFair is an Ireland-based online peer-to-peer currency exchange that offers international transfers in 19 currencies. Typically, it works out to be eight times cheaper than a conventional bank transfer. One of the useful features of the website is you can set up a currency alert to track the exchange rates.
XE.com has long been known as a reliable resource for checking live market rates, but it now also offers online currency exchange services too. You can choose between personal transfers or business transfers. There are no fees or monthly charges, although occasionally a third-party bank might levy a fee.
Another advantage is you can track the transfer online and get notifications by email or text at every step of the process.
This Fintech company based in Singapore caters to both individuals and businesses, helping them to transfer money internationally. A handy feature of the Instarem website is you can compare their rates and fees with several other online money transfer companies such as Xoom and WorldRemit. It uses mid-market rates sourced right from Reuters and, uniquely, you can earn loyalty points upon joining and each time you make a transfer.
This service is already pretty well-known amongst the freelance worker community for digital payment services but did you also know it can be used by e-commerce marketplace sellers. Payoneer’s online system is linked up to your bank account so that you can get paid into your local account even from overseas.
You can also use it as an online “wallet” to store your money until you want to download it to your bank account.
Rather like the others, WorldFirst offers personal, business, and e-commerce transfers internationally. The transfers are pretty fast – usually within the same day – and it offers good FX rates with no fees.
Businesses and marketplace sellers can open local accounts to collect funds from global marketplaces like Amazon and businesses can use it to pay international staff or suppliers too by utilizing WorldFirst’s contract software. Another handy feature is you can use Firm Orders to only make a transfer immediately when the exchange rate hits the level you want it to reach.
This is a particularly good option if you’re making very big transactions across borders, such as buying a property overseas or paying college tuition fees in another country. Businesses can also use RationalFX too, which offers over 50 currencies. Same-day payments can be made in certain countries while others take around one to two days.
The website is also very transparent about the fees (£4 or equivalent) and uses exchange rates lower than those offered by banks.
As you can see, there are all kinds of options to choose from, depending on what your precise needs are. Thankfully, transferring money overseas is now nowhere near as expensive as it used to be; which helps make life as an international traveler easier than ever.
One more way of transferring money that is becoming more popular is crypto, so you should know how to buy bitcoin or other coins.