How to save money on your international transfers.
Sending money abroad is much cheaper than it once was thanks to the competition between banks and independent transfer service providers. Compare your options below to see how much you can save.
Receive more money. Compare your options below.
You can now send funds to loved ones overseas using a variety of different methods including reputable providers such as Western Union, MoneyGram or your bank, as well as through new companies dedicated to undercutting the competition to get you a good deal. These providers include companies like TorFX, TransferWise and WorldRemit.
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What are international money transfers?
An international money transfer, also known as an international remittance, is when you send funds overseas. A transfer happens when you send money, either as cash or from a bank account, to an intermediary transfer service or bank, which then sends the money to your recipient in another country.
Fees are almost always added to your transfer and your recipient may also have to pay when receiving the money. This will depend on the service you choose to send the money with and the bank your recipient is with.
Exchange rates also play an important role when sending money abroad, since sending money overseas usually involves changing currency from one type (usually CAD) to another (the destination’s local currency).
Since most banks can send money overseas directly from your bank account, exchange rates and fees tend to be less competitive because banks rarely try to lessen the costs of money transfers. On the other hand, transfer-focused services can sometimes offer better rates, lower fees or faster transfer speeds.
A money transfer happens when you send money internationally, either as cash or from your bank account. Here is an example of a money transfer sent to a loved one overseas using cash:
Juan has been living in Canada for over 15 years after moving from Mexico as a young man. His parents and brothers still live in Mexico and run the family business. Juan sends money to his family occasionally to help them with one off expenses like bills and business purchases. Juan wants to send $1,000 to his family to help repair a damaged roof which is stopping their business from opening and trading. He visits his closest MoneyGram agency and hands them the $1,000. They let him know their exchange rate at the time of transfer as well as the fees he will be paying. Since his father’s business predominately operates with cash, Juan sends the money to his father and has it made available as a cash pickup. Juan‘s father receives the money on the same day and is able to begin roof repairs immediately.
Juan sends money to Mexico
Juan has been living in Canada for over 15 years after moving from Mexico as a young man. His parents and brothers still live in Mexico and run the family business. Juan sends money to his family occasionally to help them with one off expenses like bills and business purchases.
Juan wants to send $1,000 to his family to help repair a damaged roof which is stopping their business from opening and trading. He visits his closest MoneyGram agency and hands them the $1,000.
They let him know their exchange rate at the time of transfer as well as the fees he will be paying.
Since his father’s business predominately operates with cash, Juan sends the money to his father and has it made available as a cash pickup. Juan‘s father receives the money on the same day and is able to begin roof repairs immediately.
The example above does not take into account the variety of options Juan had to send the money internationally. Here are all of the ways you can send money abroad:
With a cashier’s cheque
The slowest way to send money overseas is to send the money via snail mail. This method will involve going into your bank and giving them the details of the transfer, including who and where you are sending the money. You will also usually have to pay a transfer fee at this point. Next, you will need to mail the cheque overseas to your recipient. Not every bank will be able to do this, and service fees can vary if they do offer the service.
Another common way to send money overseas is to send it through your bank account as a wire transfer. Wire transfers may be completed at your bank branch, online or over the phone, and just like sending a cashier’s cheque, you will need to supply the bank details of your recipient. A wire transfer often comes with a hefty transfer fee, and your recipient may also have to pay fees once they receive the money. Sending wire transfers from your bank account is generally only recommended if you are sending larger amounts, although some banks offer services for smaller amounts too.
Nowadays, there’s a large variety of money transfer providers, including well-known wire transfer services and newer online-only services. Money transfer services can work in the following ways:
- Cash-to-cash transfers. Services like Western Union and MoneyGram allow you to walk into a branch with cash, send it to your recipient overseas, and then have it picked up as cash from a branch near your recipient.
- Bank account to bank account transfers. With these types of services, you send your money to a transfer service’s bank account from your own bank account, then the funds are sent to your recipient overseas. Established services like Western Union, MoneyGram and PayPal offer this service as well as newer companies like OFX, WorldRemit and Remit2India.
International money order
International money orders can be exchanged for cash at your local Canada Post office using MoneyGram or postal money orders. With postal money orders, you can send up to $999 in value, which costs $7.50 to send. Check your recipient’s country since money orders are not accepted in every country. The benefit of a money order is that if it’s lost or damaged it can be replaced. MoneyGram has paired with Canada Post to help people send and receive money to and from countries around the world. The fees when using MoneyGram differ greatly depending on the amount of money sent as well as the destination country.
Many transfer services allow your recipient to pick up or receive their cash very quickly, making it almost instant. Larger payment networks like the ones listed below also allow for almost instant transfers:
Canadians do business and have personal relationships with people all over the world, which ensures that almost all currencies are available. Larger transfer service networks such as Western Union will have the most currencies available, while smaller banks and services will usually have a limited number of currencies they support. These currencies may include:
There is no single best way to transfer funds overseas since it will depend on factors such as how much money you are sending, how soon your recipient needs it, and the exchange rates available. However, here are some tips you can consider when sending money overseas.
- Send more money per transfer. Many services discount the fees or waive them altogether when you send larger transfers. For example, OFX will waive fees for all transfers above $10,000. Sending less than this amount will come with a maximum fee of $15.
- Utilise forward contracts and limit orders if regularly sending money. A forward contract essentially allows you to lock in a favourable exchange rate for transfers you will make at a later date. This means you avoid any bad movements in exchange rates. A limit order allows you to wait until a favourable exchange rate is found, which is then locked in for your transfer.
- Send same currency transfers. It can sometimes be cheaper to transfer CAD dollars to your recipient, allowing them to transfer the dollars into their own currency when they receive them. Depending on the situation, the fees your recipient will pay can be lower.
What are the best international money transfer services?
Out of the money transfer services featured on finder Canada:
- Which money transfer service is the cheapest with the lowest rate and fees? TorFX allow free transfers.
- Which money transfer service is the fastest? Western Union, MoneyGram and WorldRemit can transfer funds overseas within minutes.
- Which money transfer service allows you to send the most amount of money? TransferWise allows you to transfer the equivalent of £1,000,000 GBP in USD at the current mid-market rate. This means you can transfer large amounts well over $1,000,000.
- Which service has the lowest minimum amount you could send? TransferWise allows you to transfer $1. PayPal allows as low as $5.
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10 Popular Money Transfer Companies
The following money transfer companies were selected based on popularity in general and are listed in no particular order. As mentioned, you should select a money transfer company that best suits your needs, which will depend on the amount of money you are sending and the country you are sending the money to.
- Western Union
- UAE Exchange
- Canada Post money orders
Below are some of the important ways you can compare money transfer services. The importance you place on each will depend on your situation:
- Exchange rate. The exchange rate is the rate at which your money will be converted to your target currency. Some transfer services will offer low fees but a poor exchange rate, while others may charge no fees and instead make a profit from the margin between the interbank rate and their rate. Other services may offer higher fees but less competitive rates, and some services may offer both great fees and rates.
- Fees. Your bank or transfer service will generally charge fees for making a transfer. These can vary greatly depending on who you’re transferring with. Look at the below table for an indication of the fees you would pay for sending money to India, as an example. All prices reflect sending $1,000.
|Fees||$29.30 (2.9% + 0.30 cents||$12||$6.99||$0||$0||$0|
|Exchange rates (1 CAD = INR)||51.32||51.52||51.32||51.83||51.29||50.77|
- Transfer options. Some transfer services like OFX will allow you to make forward contracts and limit orders, which can get you a competitive exchange rate. Others allow you to make regular payments, which can be beneficial if you are paying off a mortgage on an overseas property for example. Another important option is how you can send the money overseas in the first place. If you need to send cash then you’ll want to compare options including TorFX, TransferWise, MoneyGram, Western Union and others.
- Receiving options. Depending on your recipient, you may need to send money which can be picked up as cash. Alternatively, they may want the transfer in cheque form. Compare providers based on how the money can be picked up by your recipient.
- Getting lured in with mid-market rates. Many transfer services and banks will display competitive exchange rates to lure you in. The problem is that these rates are not always what you will actually receive. Instead, they are the competitive mid-market rates banks get access to. The real rate you will receive will have a margin added onto it, so ensure that you compare rates based on actual quotes and not advertisements.
- Sending cash overseas yourself. Some reading this may wonder why they shouldn’t just convert the cash and then send it overseas in the mail. The reason is this: cash cannot be replaced when lost, stolen or heavily damaged. This means if the unthinkable should happen to your letter, for example the postal system loses it, then your whole transfer is also lost, leaving you responsible for sending the funds. If you cannot send a cashier’s cheque, but still want to send a physical transfer overseas, consider a money order.