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Today, it’s easier than ever to send money overseas. You have more than a few options, and the best international money transfer service really depends on what you need.
Read on to learn the best way to transfer money internationally for your situation.
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5 Reasons to Send Money Overseas
People send money overseas often and for a variety of reasons. Here are the most common:
Send money to friends and family - If you grew up or spent your adulthood in one country and now live in another, your family may still rely on your income. Whether you send money back home regularly or once in a while, you need a way to send it safely.
Buying property abroad - Investing in property, a home for family, or buying a second home requires plenty of money transferred from abroad to purchase and pay the mortgage (if there is one).
Sending money to kids studying abroad - Students studying abroad have a great opportunity at their feet, but it gets expensive. If students run out of cash or parents supplement their funds, they may need to send money overseas.
Covering the cost of a destination wedding - If you or your child is getting married abroad, you need to transfer funds to pay for the services ahead of time.
Paying for travel overseas - Traveling overseas is fun and exciting, but also expensive. If you run out of funds while on vacation or you need to transfer funds to pay for services ahead of time, you need to send money internationally.
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What Is the Best Way to Transfer Money Internationally?
1. Your Bank
Check with your bank to see if they offer wire transfers (most do). This is often the simplest way to send funds because you already work with your bank and have an account there. Start by contacting your bank to learn the process as you usually have to activate overseas transfers (most accounts aren’t automatically set up for it). Once you’re set-up, your bank can transfer funds to the designated person overseas.
Rates: The rates vary by bank and depend on if you’re transferring funds to a branch of the same bank or a different bank.
Processing time: Most banks take 2 - 3 business days to process wire transfers.
Transferwise is one of the cheapest ways to send money internationally. Transferwise believes in fair fees and doesn’t charge markups. You’ll pay the same exchange rate you’d pay without a service.
Of course, like any company, they need to make money, but the Transferwise fees are among the lowest in the industry. If you use a bank account, the fees are the lowest - usually 1% of the amount transferred by you may also use a debit or credit card payment.
Rates: Exchange rates found on XE.com.
Processing time: Most transfers happen fast (instantly with debit or credit cards) or up to 3 business days for bank transfers.
Remitly is another option to send money overseas fast as they offer an economy and express option. The express option transfers money within a few minutes. You and your recipients have a few ways to send/receive money, including bank transfers and in-person pickups (in some countries). You may send up to $10,000 for the first 180 days after opening the account and eventually up to $60,000 once you have an established account.
Rates: Remitly has a markup fee on the exchange rate plus a transfer fee, although their transfer fees are among the lowest in the industry.
Processing time: Remitly offers same day (within a few minutes) transfers as well as economy transfers that may take up to 5 days.
Ria is available in almost 150 countries and has 370,000 branches. Many branches in the Dominican Republic, Philippines, Peru, and Vietnam offer same day pickup when available, but funds must be sent via bank account, not debit or credit card.
Ria only allows transfers up to $3,000 per day unless you transfer funds in person (inside a 7-11).
Rates: Ria charges a markup rate on top of the exchange rate plus a small transfer fee.
Processing times: Transfers typically take up to 4 days, but some bank account transfers occur within minutes.
5. Western Union
Western Union is one of the oldest ways to send money overseas, transferring funds between almost 200 countries. Western Union has physical branches around the world if you prefer to transfer funds in person rather than online, although they offer that option too.
If there’s a Western Union branch in your destination country, the recipient can pick the funds up there. You’ll pay higher rates for the convenience, but sometimes it’s worth it. Western Union is the best international money transfer service when you need money sent fast and without the hassle of paperwork and delays in receiving the money.
Rates: The average rates are 1% - 6% depending on the location, but transfers under $1,000 often cost only a few dollars.
Processing time: Transfers may take as long as one week for regular fees, but you can pay for faster processing.
PayPal is the fastest way to send money internationally and digitally. You send money from your PayPal account to your recipient’s PayPal account. The entire process takes place digitally. You link your bank account to send the funds via PayPal, and the recipient transfers the funds from PayPal to his/her bank account digitally.
Rates: PayPal charges a small percentage of the transaction (up to 2%) to send funds to friends or family abroad.
Processing time: If you send money to an existing PayPal account from a checking account, the transfer happens instantly. It may take a few days for the recipient’s bank to transfer the funds to their bank though.
OFX offers the cheapest way to send money internationally. They don’t charge transfer fees on any amount, but there are exchange rate markups to watch out for. You must transfer at least $1,000, but they don’t have a maximum amount you may transfer.
You can also set up single or recurring transfers. If you want to lock in a specific exchange rate, you must set up four recurring transfers to take advantage of the locked rates. If you transfer at least $30,000, you can also take advantage of the ‘buy now, transfer later’ option, which allows you to lock in a low exchange rate for a future transfer.
Rates: The markup rates are usually less than 1%, and they don’t charge transfer fees.
Processing time: It may take up to 5 - 7 business days depending on how long your bank takes to get the funds to OFX and vice versa on the other side.
Xoom, a PayPal company, offers fast international money transfers, with recipients receiving money in a matter of minutes in many cases. Because it’s a PayPal company, you can send money using your PayPal, but the funds must come from your bank account, not your PayPal balance.
Xoom has different ‘approval tiers, ’ which determine how much you may transfer. With a fully verified account, you may send up to $50,000 right away. But if you send more than $10,000 in one transfer, it delays the transfer by a few days.
Rates: Xoom charges hefty fees if you transfer funds via debit or credit card, but not a direct bank transfer.
Processing time: Xoom specializes in express transfers, but large transfers may take more time.
MoneyGram has more than 300,000 locations in over 200 countries, making it easy to send money internationally. They don’t have the lowest rates, but they offer speedy transfers in most cases, which is nice if you’re in a hurry.
You are limited to $10,000 transfers at a time as well as monthly, which can be difficult if you need to send higher amounts abroad.
Rates: MoneyGram charges a markup fee, plus they charge a transfer fee for everything except bank transfers.
Processing time: MoneyGram promises fast transfers, sometimes the same day, depending on the method of transfer (bank transfers happen the fastest).
WorldRemit is an online money transfer service that transfers funds in 56 countries. You can transfer funds to the recipient’s bank account, local pick-up, or even via mobile wallet, which a majority of WorldRemit transfers use.
WorldRemit is headquartered in the UK and has mostly positive reviews. They take security seriously and work hard to make transfers happen quickly.
Fees: WorldRemit charges a transfer fee, plus they mark up the exchange rates, making a profit there too, but because they are online, they have lower rates than other services.
Processing time: Most transactions complete in a matter of a few days, especially bank transfers.
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Are There Fees to Send Money Internationally?
Yes, most services charge money to send money internationally (that’s how they stay in business). Look for a service that charges the exact exchange rates or a small markup and/or low transfer fees to save the most money on your transfer.
How Long Does Sending Money Overseas Take?
Transfer time depends on the method of transfer. Many services conduct bank transfers within minutes or one business day at the most. Credit or debit card transfers, however, often take a few days to a week.
Are There Limits on How Much You Can Send?
Each service has limits. Some are higher than others, so if you need to transfer a large amount, make sure you pay attention to the limits. Many services require you to wait a few months after initially using their service to send higher amounts.
Find the Best International Money Transfer Service for You
The best international money transfer service for you depends on your needs. If you need a fast transfer, look for companies with fast speeds, but expect to pay more. If time isn’t as important as the cost or method, you have more options, but always consider the cost and how your recipients will receive the money. We recommend using TransferWise, Ria, or Remitly as your international money transfer service.