Compare international money transfer services
Compare to find the best rates and lowest fees for your next international money transfer from Canada.
Wondering how to send your next international money transfer? Not sure whether you should send a bank wire transfer, use an online money transfer app like Wise or Remitly or send cash through a service like Western Union?
We’ve searched the market to find the best international money transfer services based on low fees, strong exchange rates, fast delivery and flexible options. Here’s what you need to know.
Compare international money transfer services
What is an international money transfer?
An international money transfer is the process of sending money between people or financial accounts in different countries. Every day, trillions of dollars are transferred between people and businesses all over the world.
Typically, you need to give a bank or money transfer service your recipient’s details and the money you want to send. The bank or transfer service then converts your funds to the currency in which it will be received and electronically sends the payment to your recipient.
Depending on the money transfer service, you may be able to send funds online, via mobile app, over the phone or in person.
How can I pay for my money transfer?
Not all money transfer services accept the same payment methods, but you may be able to pay by the following:
- Debit card
- Credit card
- Bank transfer (requires your account number)
If you want to pay in cash, you’ll need to visit a bank branch or money transfer agent in person. If you transfer funds online or via mobile app, you can only pay electronically by card or bank transfer.
How can my recipient receive the money?
Again, receiving options vary between transfer services, but your recipient may be able to receive funds the following ways:
- Bank account
- Mobile wallet
- Cash pick-up at a bank or money transfer location
- Airtime top-up
What are the benefits of using an online money transfer service?
While it might be easy to assume that big banks are the best way to go when sending an international money transfer, there are many reasons why an online money transfer service might be just as good if not better:
- Security. Similar to banks, online transfer services usually follow industry-standard security practices to protect your money and personal information. This often includes encrypted data transfer, SSL certificates, two-factor authentication, security questions/answers and personal identity verification.
- Regulation. Money transfers are regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI).
- Cost savings. Online transfer services often translate to lower fees and stronger exchange rates
- Fast. Online money transfer companies often use the latest financial technology to get your money where it needs to go fast.
- Easy. Mobile apps and convenient online platforms make it easy to send money anytime from anywhere. Additionally, many money transfer services offer features that let you set up recurring transfers, making it easy to pay bills, send regular remittances, manage international business payments and more.
How do I send money overseas?
There are multiple options to consider when sending money overseas:
|Online money transfer service||Electronic funds transfer through an online money transfer service.|
|In-person money transfer service||Cash or electronic transfer by visiting a money transfer service location in person.|
|Bank||Wire transfer or international money transfer through a bank.|
(Note: All major banks support wire transfers, but not all offer additional in-house money transfer services.)
|Cheque||Write a check and mail it to your recipient.|
|Money order||Get a certified money order printed and mail it to your recipient.|
How to send money using an online money transfer service
Online money transfer services are increasingly competitive with big banks, in many cases offering more flexible options and lower fees. Sending an international money transfer through an online service is simple:
- Compare services, and select one that suits your needs.
- Create an account by entering personal details like your name, email, address, phone number and Social Insurance Number (SIN).
- You may need to submit a scanned copy of your personal ID (i.e. passport photo page or driver’s license) to qualify for higher transfer limits.
- Link your bank account, debit card or credit card to your newly-created account, so you can pay for transfers. Alternatively, you may need to transfer funds from your bank account.
Most of the time, you can access your account immediately after submitting all the required information. For some services (particularly transfer services for businesses), there may be a delay while your information is reviewed and a transfer specialist is assigned to your account.
How to send money through a bank
Bank transfers have long been regarded as reliable and safe. The steps for sending an international money transfer through your bank are generally as follows:
- Login to your online banking portal.
- Navigate to the international money transfers section of your account. It’s usually a good idea to check your bank’s exchange rates before sending money.
- Typically, you need the address and SWIFT code of your recipient’s bank and their account information. SWIFT codes are used internationally to identify banks.
To send a bank wire transfer or money order, you need to visit your bank in person. You may also be able to get money orders at other financial institutions like post offices, credit unions, retailers and even some convenience stores and gas stations.
What do I need to send and receive money abroad?
Make sure you have the following on hand when sending an international money transfer.
- Your personal details. Name, phone number, and government-issued identification like a driver’s license or passport. Additional details may be required for security purposes, particularly for very large transfers.
- Your recipient’s personal details. Name, phone number and residential address.
- Your recipient’s bank information. Bank name, address, routing number, SWIFT code and your recipient’s account number.
- Payment. Check beforehand what types of payment methods are acceptable. For example, not all money transfer services accept credit cards.
What documents do I need to send money abroad?
To send money abroad in Canada, you will need a driver’s license, passport or other government-issued ID. Some services allow you to send transfers without ID, but they may require your SIN. You will also need your recipient’s name as it appears on their ID, along with their phone number, bank account details and routing number if sending to their bank.
Canada does not regulate or tax most gifts of cash sent into the country. Citizens can basically receive as much cash as they’d like without triggering a gift or capital gains tax.
How much does it cost to transfer money internationally?
The cost of sending an international money transfer varies between service providers. Factors like the type of transfer, destination country and amount being sent can affect your total cost.
Generally, banks and money transfers services make money from international transfers in two ways:
- Transfer fee. This is typically a flat fee or a percentage of the transfer amount.
- Exchange rate margin. Most banks and money transfer services make a profit by taking a fee worth a small percentage of the mid-market rate (the “true” exchange rate between two currencies). This fee is called a “markup.” To save money, look for services that have as small a markup as possible.
Transfer for cash pickup can cost more than transfers to a bank account. Some companies charge higher fees for large transfers, while others will actually slash fees for large transfers.
Companies that offer fee-free transfers may make up for it with a poor exchange rate. This is why it’s important to look at the total cost of your transfer, not just the transfer fee or exchange rate.
Best money transfer services in Canada
- CurrencyTransfer – Best for large transfers
- XE – Best for small transfers
- Instarem – Best for fast transfers
- Remitly – Best for cash transfers
- OFX – Best for business transfers
- Wise – Best for exchange rates
CurrencyTransfer – Best for large transfers
If you need to make a large money transfer, you will want to find a provider with no transfer limit but that also offers strong exchange rates and low fees.
CurrencyTransfer is just such a service. When we compared the rates and fees for transfers of $25,000, CurrencyTransfer proved to be the most cost-efficient. We found the combination of its exchange rate and lack of transfer fee made it the cheapest option for a transfer of that size.
Here’s why CurrencyTransfer is our winner for large transfers:
- No maximum limit
- Competitive exchange rates
- No fees
- Positive user experience and easy-to-use platform
- Personal account manager
- Trustpilot score of 4.9 out of 5
XE – Best for small transfers
When it comes to small money transfers, you don’t want the cost of fees or weak exchange rates to eat into the amount your recipient gets.
We picked XE as our best money transfer for small transfers as it has no fees and good exchange rates, resulting in the lowest cost for a $1,000 transfer. You can also “buy now, send later” and lock in a rate in advance. XE does charge a small flat fee for transfers below $500, but anything above that amount has no fees and strong exchange rates when compared to other providers.
Another decent option for smaller transfers is CurrencyFair, but due to its relatively limited reach, it’s best used for major currencies only.
Here’s what made XE our winner for small transfers:
- No fees on most transactions
- Competitive exchange rate for smaller amounts
- Worldwide network
- Forward contracts available
Instarem – Best for fast transfers
It was neck and neck when it came to picking the best money transfer service for fast transfers. Instarem narrowly won out over Wise because – as the name suggests – it specialises in making instant transfers.
When using Instarem you can expect your money to arrive at your chosen destination within minutes or on the same day. The exact time varies depending on the currencies involved. But if you want to ensure an early arrival, pay with your debit or credit card for an almost instantaneous transfer.
Here’s what we liked about Instarem for fast transfers:
- Most transfers arrive instantly or within the same day
- Zero transfer fees for many popular destinations
- Earn loyalty points for every transfer you make
However, it is worth mentioning that if you are willing to pay a fee – or are happy to pay by credit card (and therefore risk a cash advance fee) – then there are a good amount of providers that support faster transfers.
Remitly – Best for cash transfers
In an ever-increasing digital world, providers that have a large network for cash transfers can be hard to find. But sometimes when your recipients don’t have a bank account or need cash on hand, cash pickup is the best option for your transfer.
Remitly has partnered with banks across a range of countries in order to provide 100,000s of cash pickup locations for its customers. It has a cash pickup locator in order to help you find the perfect spot to send your transfer. Recipients can also receive a text message to let them know when their cash is ready for pickup.
Here are some of the reasons we picked Remitly for cash transfers:
- 100,000s partner cash pickup locations
- Promotional fees and rates for new customers
- Delivery promise
OFX – Best for business transfers
If you are a business that makes regular international money transfers, you will be looking for a service which offers tools such as recurring payments or forward contracts to help you lock in the best rate in advance.
We compared the best business transfer services around and our top pick is OFX. It has a feature which means that you can easily set up recurring transactions to pay salaries or invoices. Added to this there are no transfer limits and flexible options. So you can fix your rate up to 12 months in advance using a forward contract.
It was a close-run competition between OFX and CurrencyTransfer, but we picked OFX for its wide reach of over 50 currencies and 190 countries.
Our main reasons for picking OFX as our top pick for business transfers are:
- Recurring payments
- Forward contracts and limit orders
- Wide range of currencies
- No transfer fees
Wise – Best for exchange rates
It’s hard to beat Wise when it comes to exchange rates as it is one of the few providers to offer the mid-market rate. The mid-market rate, or the interbank rate, is the one banks use to exchange currencies with each other. Money transfer providers typically add a markup to the mid-market rate in order to make money from the transfer.
Wise prides itself on offering the mid-market rate, choosing instead to add a transfer fee as its way to make money. This means that whatever exchange rate you are quoted by Wise is going to be the best exchange rate around. However, exchange rates are just one piece of the puzzle, so it is still worth comparing the overall cost of the transfer to make sure you are getting the best deal for you.
Close runners-up were OFX and Remitly. OFX offers competitive exchange rates but doesn’t quite have the same reach or easy-to-use user experience as Wise. Meanwhile, if you are a new customer with Remitly, you can benefit from a promotional rate which makes them very competitive. But if you are an existing Remitly user, then the exchange rate is comparatively weak.
Make sure you transfer your funds to the right account
- One in four (26%) Canadians have sent money to the wrong bank account.
- Just over half of those people (14% of total population) were able to retrieve their funds.
- The remaining 12%, the equivalent of 3.7 million people, lost their money due to an incorrect transfer.
- Canadians lost around $1,500 on average due to a transfer mistake, with a total national estimated cost of $5.4 billion due to incorrect transfers.
- Protect your funds by using a trusted provider and double-check the transfer details.
Tips to save money on your international transfer
Looking for low fees and strong exchange rates isn’t the only way to save on your next international money transfer besides. The following tips can also help keep your costs down:
- Use a service that offers zero markup the exchange rate. The mid-market rate is the “true” exchange rate between two currencies. While most transfer services add a margin on the mid-market rate to make money, some don’t. Instead, these services prefer to make money through transfer fees and possibly other charges. Depending on the type of transfer, it may work in your favour to use such a service.
- Send larger transfers. Some services offer discounted or waived transfer fees if you send at, or above, a minimum amount.
- Use forward contracts and limit orders. A forward contract lets you lock in a favourable exchange rate for future transfers. This means you’ll avoid unpredictable movements in exchange rates. A limit order allows you to wait until a favourable exchange rate is found before locking in your transfer.
- Watch out for scams. With the number of scams increasing each year, it’s important to keep an eye out for the most common money transfer scams. It’s usually best to avoid sending money to anyone you don’t know personally.
- Pay attention to taxes and regulations. Every country regulates money transfers differently. Make sure your recipient is aware of any tax or reporting obligations that apply to your transfer.
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