Banks vs. online service providers

Find the best way to send your international money transfer.

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A slew of online money transfer providers promise to slash fees with stronger rates than you’ll find at your local bank branch.

Look beyond traditional banks to independent money transfer specialists competing on expertise, costs, turnaround and options when it comes to getting your money to friends, family and businesses worldwide.

Banks vs. online service providers: How they work

Among all the services in a bank’s roster, sending your money for international deposit at banks worldwide accounts for a small chunk of its business. Even factoring in exorbitant commissions, banks stand to make far more money on their bread and butter lending money.

This is where overseas money transfers specialists shine. Focusing their business on moving and exchanging money exclusively, they’ve become bigger experts than even the biggest banks, offering you stronger exchange rates at lower fees with faster turnaround and better customer support.

Banks aren’t the only experts in town.

Which offers lower fees?

Banks

Who hasn’t looked over their bank’s wire transfer fees and sighed — or fumed? And banks seem to be getting only more expensive, charging fees that can range from $20 to $60 or more, depending on where your recipient lives or conducts business. Not to mention hidden fees in the form of high markups on the mid-market exchange rate.

Online service providers

Online money transfer companies can offer a safe, affordable alternative with transparent fees — if they charge anything at all — and strong exchange rates to more than 200 countries worldwide, depending on which provider you choose. Some even let you lock in an exchange rate on future transfers.

Banks are known for overcharging.

Which is faster?

Banks

Initiated online or in a branch, the typical wire transfer at your bank can get hung up five days or more in processing. This is because banks work through networks that require at least a day or two of sorting and batching on each end. A frustrating wait time in a high-tech world.

Online service providers

Digital money movers like TransferWise and OFX have perfected the easy, quick money transfer, offering bank deposit delivery within a day or two. And if you’re willing to pay a premium for even faster service, Western Union, WorldRemit and others can speed up the process with cash pickups at worldwide agents and storefronts almost instantly.

Banks don’t offer the fastest turnaround.

See how other services compare to banks

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 0 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 0.892 EUR 4,458 Offering no maximum and no minimum limit transfers with $0 fees. Go to site Show details
USD 1 1 - 2 days USD 40.00 0.895 EUR
4,441
Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.892 EUR 4,454 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
GBP 1,000 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 0.886 EUR 4,432 Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
For larger transfers, get no transaction fees and no maximum send limits.
Go to site Show details
USD 1,000 1 day USD 0.00 0.886 EUR 4,432 No-maximum limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies. Go to site Show details
USD 5,000 1 day USD 0.00 0.886 EUR 4,432 Venstar will support you through the entire process of your international transactions, from start to finish. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Which requires more information?

Banks

Whether you choose a bank or an online money transfer company, you’ll need to open an account or register as a customer first. But that’s where the similarities end.

Even if you already hold a bank account, your branch may not offer online wire transfers. If they do, they may require an additional account or even ID with each wire transfer you initiate.

Online service providers

Online money transfer providers streamline the process with intuitive forms and minimal steps to indicate how much you want to send, where it’s going, how you’re paying and how quickly you want it there. And with the best provider, you can get it all done in a few minutes flat.

Banks require a lot of information.

Which offers more transfer options?

Banks

There’s no question that wire transfers are easy: You simply visit your branch or sign on to your online banking platform to initiate the process. Payment is usually withdrawn from your bank account, with delivery limited to bank account deposits. But what if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account?

Online service providers

Many online money transfer specialists offer secure, convenient cash transfers for quick access to the finds you send. And it’s not just better-known providers like Western Union or MoneyGram. WorldRemit sends money to more than 120 countries for cash pickup at local bank branches — and often at fees that beat the most familiar storefront providers.

Some digital providers even let you top up mobile wallets and reload minutes, with a few delivering your funds directly to your recipient’s front door in select countries.

Banks often only transfer your money to other banks.

Which offers wider transfer ranges?

Banks

Banks exist to make a buck, evident in the ranges of transfer amounts they allow. Adding to the confusion is that ranges can be one thing for domestic accounts and another for international banks.

Online service providers

Given the variety of money transfer providers available online, you’re bound to find those that specialize in both money transfers of $100 or less — like TransferWise, which accepts transfers starting at just $1 — and remittances of $50,000 or more.

Banks don’t always support the widest range of transfer amounts.

Which is more secure?

Banks

Banks use 256-bit encryption to keep your data safe when you’re sending online, and strict government regulations mean banks have to know who their customers are.

Online service providers

Most online service providers also use 256-bit encryption to secure your data and require ID verification to send money. But overseas providers may not have the same kind of regulations, so you’ll need to make sure the company you’re using is secure.

Both can be fully secure, but you’ll want to use a reputable provider.

Bottom line

Both banks and specialized money transfer providers can help you get your money to its intended recipient— but transfer providers tend to be cheaper and faster. To get the best deal, compare money transfer providers before getting started.

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