When sending money to Sierra Leone, what factors should you take into account? Our handy guide covers everything you need to know.
Sending money to Sierra Leone used to be challenging, however there are now a few different money transfer options at your disposal. Very few Canadian banks will allow transfers to the African nation, since the currency is considered exotic, and the banks typically charge high transfer fees and give poor exchange rates.
With the emergence of specialist money transfer companies in recent years, these providers offer lower transfer fees, competitive exchange rates and faster transfer speeds.
Read on to learn about the factors you should compare when deciding on a transfer company, as well as tips and tricks on how to save money when sending funds to Sierra Leone from Canada.
Case study: Emmanuel sends money to Sierre Leone
Emmanuel moved to Canada a few years ago to pursue post-secondary education and has recently gotten a job. His family still live in Sierra Leone and now that he has an income, he would like to send money back to them each month. Emmanuel would like to send them around $1,000 Canadian dollars per month. Since he is dealing with an exotic currency, he cannot send the money using his Canadian bank.
Emmanuel realizes that he must research specialist money transfer companies in order to find a way to send the money back home to Sierre Leone. He compares two different companies and displays the results of his comparison in the table below.
|Money transfer service 1||Money transfer service 2|
|Exchange rate||CAD$1 = 5,680.91 SLL||CAD$1 = 5,768.32 SLL|
|Amount received for CAD$1,000||5,768,325.40 SLL|
|Transfer time||One to two days||Just minutes|
|Transfer options||Cash pickup only||Cash pickup only|
|Difference of||+ 87,412.40 SLL|
Emmanuel decides to use the first transfer service to send the funds each month, even though his family will receive less money. His reasoning is that the transfer fee is $36 lower than the second service, and his family will only receive an extra $14.50 with the second transfer service, meaning the first transfer service offers a much better deal. Since he isn’t in a rush to send the money each month, a transfer time of one to two days is suitable. This is why it is important to consider all of the factors before you lodge a transfer to Sierra Leone.
How do I compare transfer companies when transferring and receiving money via Sierra Leone?
Pay attention to these different factors when you’re comparing money transfer companies:
- Exchange rate and fees. Don’t rely on just one of these factors to make your decision: you will need to compare both the exchange rate and the transfer fees together. This is because an unfavourable exchange rate can accompany an offer with zero or low fees. Alternatively, the reverse can hold true as well, where a company offers competitive exchange rates but charges high transfer fees.
- Transfer methods. Banks that transfer money to Sierra Leone allow you to initiate the process online, over the phone or in-person at a bank branch. You can find specialist money transfer companies that let you send money to Sierra Leone online, in person or sometimes via the phone.
- Pickup methods. Your recipient may have a couple of different ways to collect the money, including cash pick-up at a specified location or receiving the money directly into their bank account.
- Transfer options. If you wish to send money on a few different occasions, you can look for a money transfer company that lets you schedule regular transfers. If you wish to make the most of the foreign exchange market, you can work with companies that offer forward contracts and market orders.
- Turnaround time. Transfer times can vary greatly depending on the service provider you choose. For instance, your recipient can pick up a cash transfer almost immediately, however not all cash transfers are available immediately. On the other hand, a transfer to a bank account will likely take between one to ten days to arrive.
- Minimum amounts. If you only want to send a small amount of money, you may run into some problems. Some providers set minimum transfer amounts, which can be as low as $5 and as high as $250. Alternatively, maximum limits may be in place.
- Customer service. Good money transfer companies offer different ways to contact the customer service team, which may include over the phone, via online chat, email or in person at a branch location. Check to make sure the operating hours work for your schedule and time zone as well.
How do I send money to Sierra Leone from Canada?
When sending money to Sierra Leone from Canada, you can choose from a couple of different options. These options include:
- Banks. Find out if you can send money to Sierra Leone through your Canadian bank. If you can, you may be able to do so by visiting a branch in person, calling the bank or logging into your online banking facility and lodging the transfer online. You can also consider sending a cheque, draft or a money order via mail, however this is the slowest way to send money overseas.
- Non-banks. Specialist money transfer companies such as Western Union, MoneyGram and WorldRemit let you send money to Sierra Leone from Canada. You can use their services to transfer funds directly to a bank account or send money to a cash pickup centre, where your recipient can pick the funds up in person. You can also transfer funds using the services of PayPal, provided both you and your recipient both have PayPal accounts. It only takes a few minutes to open a new PayPal account online and it is free of charge.
How do I receive money from Sierra Leone in Canada?
If you have to receive money from Sierra Leone, you can receive it in a couple of different ways, including:
- Banks. If you provide the sender of the money with your bank account details, you can get the money directly sent to your bank account. The sender can do this by using the services of a bank or a money transfer company that allow for direct bank transfers. You can also receive a bank-issued cheque, money order or draft via the mail. Also known as “snail mail”, this is the slowest way to receive money from overseas.
- Non-banks. Non-banking businesses such as Western Union and MoneyGram have numerous cash pickup centres across Canada. You can collect transferred money at any of these centres in person. Furthermore, you can use the services of PayPal to receive money from overseas, however you must have a PayPal account to receive the money. Once the money gets into your PayPal account, you can withdraw the money into your linked bank account.
Emergency cash transfers in Sierra Leone
If you find yourself in Sierra Leone without your wallet, the first thing you should do is report your credit and debit cards as lost or stolen. If you have been robbed, report the matter to the police as well and obtain a police report. Next, you can think about getting some emergency money in the following ways:
- Cash pickup. An easy way to get some emergency money is to ask a friend or a family member to send you some via a money transfer company like Western Union or MoneyGram. Locate an easily accessible cash pickup centre and pass the details on to the sender.
- Cash advance on a credit card. If you have an existing Visa, MasterCard or American Express credit card, you can get some emergency money in the form of a cash advance by visiting a local participating bank. Call your credit card provider or bank for more details.
- Travel insurance. Getting the right kind of travel insurance can work in your favour. This is because you can then receive emergency money to deal with situations such as medical contingencies, lost or misplaced baggage as well as flight delays and cancellations. Never travel without travel insurance.
Cash pickup locations in Sierra Leone
Money transfer companies such as Western Union, MoneyGram and WorldRemit have several cash pickup locations in Sierra Leone. To collect money from any of these centres, you’ll have to provide a valid reference number along with an acceptable form of ID such as your passport or driver’s license. If you plan to collect a large sum of money, call ahead to make sure the funds are available. Here are some cash pickup locations in Sierra Leone:
- Ecobank Sierra Leone
7 Lightfoot Boston Street
Open 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 10am to 3pm, Saturday, closed on Sunday
7 Main Motor Road Brookfields
Open 8:30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm, Saturday, closed on Sunday
89 Sewa Road
Open 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 10am to 3pm, Saturday, closed on Sunday
7 Bojon Street
Open 8:30am to 3:30pm, Monday to Friday, closed on Saturday and Sunday
54 Peninsular Road, Above Paddy Enterprise
Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday
27 Kissy Road, 1st Floor, Near Eastern Policy
Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday
2B Old Gerihun Road
Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday
Tips for picking up cash in Sierra Leone
When you’re picking money up from a cash pickup centre in Sierra Leone, the Government of Canada suggest that you exercise a high degree of caution. Sierra Leone has high levels of crime and bag snatching and pickpocketing are very common, as are instances of armed theft and violent assault.
Security risks increase noticeably after dark, so avoid walking alone at night. When driving, make sure you keep the doors and windows locked of your vehicle, especially when in slow moving traffic. Plan travel arrangements in advance and avoid using public transportation with large sums of money. This is due to instances of robberies carried out by associates of drivers as well as other passengers.
What are the steps to send money to Sierra Leone?
The steps involved in sending money to Sierra Leone depend on the method you choose.
- Transfer to a bank account. You’ll have to provide your recipient’s name as well as their account number, bank’s name and bank’s SWIFT/BIC code. If you’re sending money through a specialist transfer company, or through a bank other than your own, you’ll have to provide your bank account details as well as your debit card or credit card details in order to pay. Once you initiate the transfer, you will get a reference number, which you can use to track the transfer’s progress.
- Cash pickup. Sending money to a cash pickup centre requires that you provide your recipient’s name as well as a desired pickup location. If you’re sending money online or over the phone, you’ll have to provide your bank account number, as well as debit card or credit card details in order to pay for the transaction. The service provider will provide you with a reference number once you send the money. Your recipient will need this number in order to pick up the funds.