5 MIN READ
At one point, you might need to send funds to a friend or family member who is in another part of the world. You have several choices if you’re planning to send money abroad. Prices, convenience, and speed can vary greatly. We’ve distilled the Top 5 options for sending money abroad.
In-Person Money Transfer Companies (Western Union, Money Gram)
Best for: Instant and Convenient Cash Transfer
If you are sending cash in-person or the recipient needs to pick up the money in cash, money transfer companies like Western Union and Money Gram. These two giants have branches in more than 200 countries, and the recipient can receive the funds within minutes.
Money transfer companies allow you to send funds in a branch or through a bank account. The recipient can claim it in any branch located in their country or through their bank account.
The funds are usually available in a few minutes if sent through a branch. Some companies also have mobile apps that can help facilitate your transfer.
Money transfer companies may charge transfer fees. These companies also make money through currency exchange. So, expect the conversion rate for the transferred funds to be lower than the current exchange rate. Fees may differ depending on the location, channel, and other factors. You can check the estimated rates for Western Union and MoneyGram online.
- Secured way to transfer funds
- Available in-store and via direct bank transfer
- Higher fees proportional to the amount being sent
- Cash pick-ups are only available during a branch’s operating hours
Things to Know
- Depending on the country, funds transferred to a bank account may not arrive instantly - they may arrive the next day. In some countries, the funds arrive in an hour or on the same day. Delays may happen due to bank holidays and weekends.
- If your recipient is picking up the funds in a branch, they will need to show sufficient identification to claim the funds and may need to show a reference number.
Bank Wire Transfer
Best for: A secure transfer or high volume transfer
If you plan to transfer funds to an account in another country, you can opt for an electronic bank wire transfer. Banks manage these transfers through S.W.I.F.T. codes – the acronym stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
Each bank has a unique code assigned to make the process more convenient. You should confirm the SWIFT code with your bank if you need it for transactions involving wire transfers.
You may request for a transfer online, in person, or through the phone, depending on your bank.
Your bank determines the fees for wire transfers. Check your bank’s policies for the exact amount. Usually, the fee is $0 to $30. In general, there are fees for sending and receiving funds to and from abroad. Some banks allow recipients to received funds for free, but others charge a fee.
- The most secure channel for sending funds
- Allows you to verify the identity of the bank account holder
- Funds will be available from one to five days
- Sender cannot recall the transfer unless the receiving bank rejects the funds
Things to Know
Banks file Currency Transaction Reports for wire transfers over $3,000 and transactions over $10,000 to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. These reports are automatically submitted.
Banks also have to submit Suspicious Activity Reports if they detect any deception on the customer’s part. Suspicious activities include canceling transactions after getting notified that transactions over $10,000 will be reported, reducing the amount of transferred funds after receiving such notification, or strategically transferring amounts just under the reporting threshold.
US citizens and residents who are receiving more than $100,000 from a foreign individual or estate or more than $16,076 from a foreign partnership or corporation have to file Form 3520. You also have to file this form if you are the owner or manager of a foreign trust or if you sent or received money to or from a foreign trust whether you own it or not.
Online International Money Transfer Services (PayPal, Payoneer)
Best for: Buying and selling online
If you’re regularly conducting business online as a buyer or a seller online, money transfer services can make the process easier.
PayPal and Payoneer are two companies which allow users to receive funds and make use of an "online wallet." Transfers from one PayPal account to another only takes a few minutes. The same goes for Payoneer.
It’s up to the recipient if they wish to keep their funds in the online wallet or withdraw it to a local bank account.
- Allows you to transfer funds without dealing with a bank or money transfer agency
- Lower transfer fees
- Users can only receive their funds if they set up an account
- Daily limit imposed on fund transfers
Things to Know
Maximum transfer amounts may apply. Transfers to a bank may take a few business days.
Personal Checks by Mail
Best for: People who prefer to transact by mail or in person
You can pay with a check across international borders. However, it may be costly and inconvenient.
While there are still businesses who accept international checks, the process can be costly and inefficient and has driven the creation of online money transfer mechanisms.
Banks will charge fees when you cash or deposit an international check. Fees can differ, so check the fees imposed by your bank. It can be challenging to cash the check unless your bank has a local presence in that country. A bank may even turn the recipient away or charge a hefty conversion fee.
- Recipient doesn’t need to have a bank account although it may be challenging to find a place to cash the check without one
- Checks are a safe and secure way of sending funds
- Cashing an international check is expensive and some banks may refuse
- Claiming funds requires a strict verification process
Things to Know
Some countries and banks may not accept the international check or there could be a lot of steps involved to cash the check. It’s best to coordinate with your bank if you plan to use personal checks to settle an international account.
Foreign Exchange (FX) Broker (OFX, Oanda)
Best For: Getting the Best Exchange Rates
Foreign Exchange Brokers provide another option to send money abroad that many people don’t often consider. However, these companies provide higher exchange rates than regular banking institutions.
There are different foreign exchange brokers in the market and when dealing with these companies, look for a company regulated by a local body. Among the popular choice for currency brokers include Australia-based OFX and US-based company OANDA.
Most brokers don’t have transfer fees. They make money through the exchange rates. There could also be minimum withdrawal amounts.
- No maximum amount for transfers
- Transfers available through with mobile and online platforms
- Minimum transfer limits
- Transfers can take days
Things To Know
Funds are usually available to an international bank account usually within two days
Most foreign exchange brokers offer 24/7 customer support and allow users to transact through mobile and online platforms.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Currency Exchange Markets (CurrencyFair, Transferwise)
Best for: Transacting without using brokers and banks
Peer-to-Peer Currency Exchange is a new method of transferring funds abroad. Two popular companies operating under this model are CurrencyFair and Transferwise although there are significant differences in their model.
There are differences between the models used by CurrencyFair and Transferwise. On CurrencyFair, users set the rate, but on Transferwise, there is a market rate that prevails during the time of transfer.
- No minimum transfers
- Rates close to actual exchange rate
- Transfers are not real-time and could take four days
- Fees charged as a percentage of the transferred amount
Things to Know
P2P platforms match buyers and sellers, but it allows users to maintain their anonymity.
If there are no currency matches, the platform will do the exchange with you.
Tips for Sending Money Abroad
Tip #1: Shop for the best rates. Remittance companies impose exchange rate markups – so, the exchange rate you are getting is lower than the prevailing rates. It’s best to compare the rates between different providers to know which one offers the best price.
Tip #2: Don’t send money to someone you don’t know personally. It can be complicated or impossible to cancel a transaction.
Tip #3: Always keep your receipt. Use the unique transfer code to verify if the recipient claimed the funds.
Comparing is key.
Sending money home, receiving your pension while in another country, purchasing a vehicle or purchasing a property may require you to send money abroad. When this happens, you'll want to select the most economical and secure means of sending funds.
Fees will depend on the country where you’re sending funds to and from, the amount, and the mechanism. Don’t forget to check reviews for transferring funds to your country and your bank. Services and transfer times can differ depending on your location and your bank.
Related Article: How Much Money Can I Bring On A Plane Into the US?
Related Article: Remitting Money Across Borders? What You Need To Know