Expats Transfer Guide: Competitive International Money Transfers With Low Fees

Moved to Hong Kong? Here’s how to send more money back home.

If you’ve moved to Hong Kong and want to send money overseas then there are exchange rates and fees to think about.

Fortunately there are ways to pay no fees and get better exchange rates. Find a foreign money transfer service with no fees which will also match competitor’s exchange rates, and make each dollar go further.

Send money home using a transfer service

Rates last updated January 17th, 2020
Name Product Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Services Description Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received
CurrencyFair International Money Transfers
CurrencyFair International Money Transfers
1 - 2 days
Online, Bank Account to Bank Account
Get bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
TransferWise International Money Transfers
1 - 2 days
Online, Bank Account to Bank Account
Make online transfers with transparent exchange rates, low fees and low minimum amounts.
Exclusive: InstaReM International Money Transfers
USD 50
1 day
Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account
InstaReM offers simple and quick international money transfers with zero-margin exchange rates. Earn loyalty points on sign up, referral and every transaction.
WorldFirst International Money Transfers
USD 1,000
1 day
Online, Phone
A higher exchange rate applies to non-finder customers.
Send money in more than 130 currencies.
WorldRemit International Money Transfers
Within an hour
Online, Bank Account to Bank Account, Cash Transfer
An online money transfer service with cash pickup, bank account to bank account and airtime transfers available.
OFX (Ozforex) International Money Transfers
USD 150
1 day
Online, Phone, Agent
A higher exchange rate applies to non-finder customers.
Send money in 45 currencies.
CurrencyTransfer International Money Transfers
GBP 5,000
1 - 2 days
Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account, International Money Order
TorFX International Money Transfers
USD 2,000
1 day
Online, Phone, Agent

SingX International Money Transfers
1 - 2 days
Online, Bank Account to Bank Account, Cash Transfer
Transfer money to over 30 countries with nominal fees and the mid-market exchange rate.
The ‘Rate’ and ‘Amount Received’ displayed are indicative rates that have been supplied by each brand or gathered by Finder.

Exchange rates are volatile and change often. As a result, the exchange rate listed on Finder may vary to the actual exchange rate quoted for the brand. Please confirm the actual exchange rate and mention “Finder” before you commit to a brand.

Compare up to 4 providers

Should I use a bank or an international money transfer company?

  • International currency transfer services make their profits from many currency exchanges at small margins and small fees to cover costs. Their exchange rates are usually 1-2% less than midmarket rates, which means they make about that much on currency changed. Their income depends on offering great deals to attract a lot of users. To stay profitable they usually have minimum amounts that can be sent per transaction.
  • Bank overseas currency transfers make their profits from fees for everything and currency exchanges at big margins (worse rates). Its exchange rates are usually 2-4% less than midmarket rates, meaning they make about that much on currency changed plus all their fees. They income depends on making as much money per transaction as possible.

Because they have so many fees, banks do not have any minimum amounts per transaction but smaller sums may be entirely lost to fees.

This is how international currency transfer services are able to offer much better value for money.

If you want to make international money transfers then you may want to consider avoiding banks. In many cases you can only use banks for transfers when you have an account with them and you will end up paying whatever rates and fees they demand, wait for however long it might take, and have fewer options for sending and collecting.

Dedicated currency transfer services have more choices so you can compare options to find the best, then transfer money overseas with no fees, great rates and collection options that work for the recipient, whether it’s cash, cheque or a direct transfer to their bank account.

BankMoney transfer service
  • Higher fees
  • Lower fees
  • Worse exchange rates
  • Better exchange rates and price matching
  • Slower transfers
  • Fast transfers
  • Usually need an account with the bank
  • Can be used by anyone

Bank fees are BIG

Bank fees mean you might spend hundreds of dollars on just one transaction. The fees might be more than the amount of money you are sending.

  • Fees for sending: They will typically charge you a flat HKD$50-115 fee. Some service providers charge you around 5%.
  • Fees for changing currency: Not only are the conversion rates worse, but they may charge another flat fee for converting the currency which can be around HKD$20.
  • Handling fees: If money is being transfer from different banks, a transaction fee will be charged. These are dependent on the banks and the amount you are transferring but will usually range from HKD$10 – 30.
  • Fees for receiving: To receive the money a fee will be charged. If the receiver is living in a different country or using a different currency, banks will typically charge a higher fee which can be over HKD$30. They will also have to pay another separate fee for the bank that they are using to receive the money.
  • Extra fees if you want to pay the receiving fees: You can pay for the recieving fees ahead however bank will charge a fee of HKD$40 or higher as a standard handling fee. This option is only available in some service providers. Please ask for details.
  • Fees for tracing the transfer: If you want to find out how much longer the transfer will take, or if it did not arrive and you want to find out what happened to it then the bank will look into it. A fee of around HKD$25 may be charged.
  • Fees for transfer changes: If you need to change details regarding the transfer, a HKD$25 will be charged
  • Cancellation fees: If you have realised the fees are too high and want to cancel the transfer then you can. A fee of around HKD$25 be charged.

Currency transfer service fees are small

  • International money transfer services have small fees.
  • Set fees: Some providers require you to pay a flat fee from HKD$5 – 15 per transfer.

Any other fees?

If the money has to be transferred through banks on the way to its destination, then these banks might each take a cut. This is beyond the control of international money transfer services, but at least they won’t also charge you an extra correspondent fee for it.

How do I set up regular overseas payments?

If you want to set up regular money transfers, such as every week or fortnight, then you can. This is sometimes one of the first things people do when they have just moved to Hong Kong and found a new job. Many currency transfer services let you do this online, over the phone or in person.

  • Banks may charge administration fees for setting up regular payments
  • Banks apply hefty flat costs to each transaction
  • Banks will usually charge extra for amending payment schedules
  • Banks offer poorer exchange rates on each transaction
  • Most international money transfer providers will set up regular payments without any fees
  • Many money transfer companies will not apply any flat fees to transactions
  • Money transfer companies will typically let you adjust payment schedules free of charge
  • International currency transfers bring good exchange rates to every transaction

If you want to set up regularly scheduled overseas payments then resist using a bank. Currency transfer services are simply better when sending overseas.

Fees for receiving money into your bank account

  • Banks will charge you fees just for receiving money internationally
  • International currency transfer services have no fees for the recipient

If you are in Hong Kong receiving money from someone overseas, such as if you are still finding your feet after arriving, then your Hong Kong bank will charge a flat fee, typically over HKD$10 each time, just for collecting the money, plus flat currency exchange fees. The worse international currency exchange rates offered by banks, compared to transfer services, also mean more money is lost along the way. Bank transfers can generally only be paid into your account with fees automatically deducted.

However when you receive money with an international currency transfer service it can be deposited directly into your bank account without any extra fees and at better exchange rates while some providers will let you collect it as cash or a cheque.

Don’t let your overseas acquaintances send money with a bank. Ask them to use an international currency transfer service instead so you don’t have to pay any fees.

How to compare international money transfer services

Send more money overseas with currency transfer services and find the provider that’s right for your needs by comparing a few simple things.

Find a provider that works for you by making sure they accommodate your minimum transfer amount, required transfer speed and services available. After that, compare their rates and fees against the amount you are sending to find out which is more cost-effective.

Finding the right money transfer company can be as simple as that.

What to look for


What it is


With banks


With money transfer services
RatesForeign currency exchange rates. This makes a big difference in larger transactionsBad rates, typically 2-4% less than midmarket valueGood rates, typically only 1-2% less than midmarket value
FeesFlat costs you must pay when sending moneyBig fees for sending, receiving and exchanging moneyA small fee for sending money, or no fee at all
Minimum transfer amountsThe smallest amount you can send in one goNo minimum, but fees cost more than small transfersVaries widely
Transfer speedsDelivery time for sending and receiving money1 – 5 working daysAround 1 to 2 days including weekends
Services availableHow you can make transfersOnline, over the phone or in person and moreUsually online or over the phone, but in person with some providers

Jennifer’s money transfer plans

Jen had just moved to Hong Kong with a new job lined up for her. Her new income was more than enough to pay her modest bills and living expenses, so she wanted to set up a regular transfer of money back home to America to pay for her father’s growing medical needs. Her plan was to transfer $1,000 every month, to be converted into American dollars.

Jennifer’s first thought was to go to her bank. She looked at their options, then looked at their fees and realised it would take a big bite out of the money she sent. Casting around for other options, she soon discovered a typical international money transfer service. To compare both side by side, she drew up this table.

Sending $1,000 per month

The Bank (HSBC)

Money Transfer Service (Western Union)


Exchange RatesUSD$1 = HKD$7.78USD$1 = HKD$7.78
FeesHKD$115 per transactionHKD$15 per transaction
How much money arrives back home each monthUSD$113.8USD$126.6
How much arrives in a yearUSD$1,365.60USD$1,519.20

Using a money transfer service instead of the bank meant that over the course of a year Jen sent an additional USD 1,519 home, It was a whole month’s difference from using a bank.

Jennifer compared all the banks she could find, and all the money transfer services she could find, and found similar differences across the board. Her mind was made up, and she resolved never to use banks for international currency transfers as long as there was a single good money transfer service.

How to do an international currency transfer

For seamless international money transfers, follow these steps.

  • Know the details of the bank account you want to send money to. This might be your own bank account outside of Hong Kong, or the account of someone you are paying. To transfer money to an account you must know the recipient’s SWIFT/BIC code, which indicates the country and location of the receiving bank, as well as account number which specify the individual bank account. You can find SWIFT/BIC codes online or by contacting the bank, and should get the account number from whoever you’re sending money to.
  • Compare the international currency transfer options. They may have different exchange rates, different minimum transfer amounts and possibly some fees. To compare effectively you should know the currencies to be converted, the amount you are sending and how quickly it needs to arrive. Rule out the options that are too slow, don’t exchange the currencies you need or have other problems, and then compare the remaining by price.
  • Contact your chosen international money transfer service. You will generally need to open an account with them. Once you have, all you need to do is give them the SWIFT/BIC codes and account number of the recipient and they can transfer money efficiently and without hassle. Their fees are usually minimal, and they will tell you if there are any additional costs.
  • You can now send money overseas without losing huge chunks of it to bad exchange rates or sizeable fees. Do it online or over the phone, set up automatic transfers and make use of any discounts available. You’re now good to go!

Did you have these questions around expat money transfers?

Are international money transfer services safe?

Yes. Many large money transfer services use the same electronic security systems as the banks. There is no undue risk when using a reputable and well-known money transfer service.

How long does it take to transfer money?

Banks will typically give a timeframe of anywhere from two to five business days. Money transfer services will typically tell you exactly how long it will take, generally either one or two days.

What is the best money transfer service?

It depends on where you want to send money, how much you are sending and the situation. Larger sums mean it’s worth paying a fee for a better rate, while smaller sums mean it’s not. If you need it transferred quickly a fast provider is preferable while certain currencies or locations might be better with certain companies than others. Compare options to find the best money transfer service for your needs.

Some brands of money transfer for you to consider:

  • Western Union
  • Emperor Financial Services Group
  • Paypal
  • Global Payments – SHK Forex
  • World Remit
  • UAE Exchange
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