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How to transfer money internationally from a bank account

Save on fees by discovering the best way to send money worldwide from your financial institution.

With growing competition, the best ways to send money internationally from your bank account may no longer be through your bank. Other traditional options like sending cash, a cheque or even a money order are also outdated — and risky. Many money transfer services will offer a better rate than your bank, all from the convenience of your home. Discover how to transfer money internationally for less, sometimes in as little as a few minutes.

How can I transfer money internationally between banks?

There are 3 main ways to transfer money internationally between bank accounts, and some of them offer additional options like delivery for cash pickup:

  1. International money transfers online. An online international money transfer will be made through your bank to your recipient’s bank.
  2. Online money transfer services. Services dedicated to sending money domestically and internationally can often beat the rates and fees offered by your bank.
  3. In-person international money transfers. Physically going to the bank to send your money internationally may be the least convenient option, but it’s an option nonetheless.

Making an international money transfer online from your bank

  • Pro: Convenient transfers through a bank you already trust.
  • Con: You’ll often lose money on fees and poor exchange rates.
Depending on the bank you use, you may be able to avoid visiting a branch by sending your international money transfer online. If your bank offers online transfers, follow these steps to send your international bank transfer:

  1. Go to your bank’s money transfer section. This will usually be found by visiting your bank’s main website, logging in to your account and looking at the top of the page for Money transfers, Send money, Transfer money or similar.
  2. Verify your sending limits. Banks often place limits on outgoing money transfers, so confirm that your bank’s limit is high enough for your transfer. When you need to send more than the limit, consider using a money transfer service instead.
  3. Enter your recipient’s bank information. International bank transfers usually require:
    • Name and address of your recipient’s bank
    • Recipient’s name, address and account type
    • Recipient’s account number or international bank account number (IBAN)
    • Recipient’s SWIFT or BIC code, which can be found by asking the recipient’s bank
  4. Enter sending amount and desired currency. Your bank will likely charge a currency exchange fee on top of a sending fee.
  5. Pay for the transfer and the fees. Most banks charge an outgoing transfer fee, and your recipient’s bank will likely charge an incoming fee as well.
  6. Wait for your transfer to arrive. International money transfers can take anywhere from a few business days to over a week, depending on how many banks the money has to move through to get to its destination. Check with your bank to find out the status of your transfer.

SWIFT vs. IBAN explained

DescriptionWhere you can find itExample
SWIFTA SWIFT number is an alphanumeric number containing information that identifies a bank and branch. It can be eight or 11 characters long, depending on which bank office it refers to.Bank statement, online banking system, inquire at the bankNFBKUS33
IBANAn IBAN number is an alphanumeric number containing information that identifies a bank, country and account number. With lengths fixed by country, IBAN codes can be up to 34 characters.Bank statement, online banking systemGB 29 NWBK 601613 31926819

What to know about SWIFT and IBAN codes

Using an online money transfer service

  • Pro: Save money by using a specialist service with bank-beating rates and fees.
  • Con: Finding the best specialist for your situation can take some research.
There’s a lot of competition between online money transfer services — which should benefit you while looking for the best deal. The majority of providers will allow you to transfer money from one bank to another, as well as offering cash pickup or delivery straight to a mobile device.

Some notable mentions to help you move your money internationally include:

  • Xe – Enjoy no fees and no sending limit with Xe, but look elsewhere if you want a mid-market rate.
  • OFX – If you need to send or receive in an uncommon currency, OFX supports a wide range of coins — but it’s only online.
  • Remitly – This transfer service boasts speed across its network, but its low maximum limits may not work for everyone.
  • Western Union – Brand awareness and a massive network might suit some, but watch out for high fees.

Sending an international money transfer in person at your bank

  • Pro: In-person assistance to complete your transfer at your bank.
  • Con: Restricted to sending during banking hours while often paying higher in-person fees.
If you like to keep your business in-person, you can head to your bank to send an international money transfer through a teller.

Be sure to bring:

  • Name and address of your recipient’s bank
  • Recipient’s name, address and account type
  • Recipient’s account number or international bank account number (IBAN)
  • Recipient’s SWIFT or BIC code, which can be found by asking the recipient’s bank
  • Proof of ID

The steps for sending an international money transfer in person from your bank are similar to those for sending online:

  1. Start your transaction: Ask the teller to start an international money transfer.
  2. Prove your identity: Provide documents and identification.
  3. Double-check details: Confirm details with the teller, double-check everything before sending.
  4. Pay: Pay for your transfer using cash or your bank account balance.
  5. Get proof: Get a receipt and keep it somewhere safe.

Some banks charge more for in-person money transfers than they would for online money transfers, so make sure you ask the teller if you could save money by making the transfer online instead of in person.

How do I compare international money transfer providers to my bank?

There are several factors to consider when choosing a company to handle your next international money transfer.

  • Compare exchange rates. The better the exchange rate, the better value for money you can get on a transfer. Search for the company that offers consistently competitive exchange rates, but remember there may also be higher transfer fees attached.
  • Check transaction fees. Fees can range from $0 up to $60, so it pays to compare fees across providers. Some online transfer companies also waive their fees when you send large amounts, sometimes as high as $10,000.
  • A range of transfer destinations. Check to see whether the country you want to transfer your money to is supported by the transfer provider you select, as well as whether you can send money in the currency you want.
  • Processing times. Cash transfers are usually quicker than transferring with a bank account.
  • Transfer options. Some providers offer one-off transfers only, others allow you to place forward contracts and limit orders to lock in the exchange rate you want.
  • Reliable customer support. If you have a problem with a transfer or need help with your transfer, look for a service that offers customer support — either through its FAQs, phone, email or online chat.

Bottom line

There are many methods for transferring money overseas from your financial institution. Choosing the best option may depend on how much you’d like to send and which country you live in. To get the best deal, be aware of rates, fees and other hidden costs. Though it can be convenient to transfer money from a bank account, always compare your options to ensure you get the best value.

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