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International bank transfer: find the best way to transfer money between banks

Learn more about transferring money internationally between banks.



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With new players in the market, the best ways to make an international bank transfer is no longer through your bank. Other traditional options like sending cash, a check or even a money order are outdated and risky. Instead, many money transfer services will offer a better rate than your bank with the same level of security — all from the convenience of your home. Discover how to make an international bank transfer in as little as a few minutes.

What’s an international bank transfer?

An international bank transfer usually refers to a bank service that helps you send money from your bank account to a recipient’s account located in another part of the world. You can use this for personal purposes — like sending money to family — or business purposes — like paying your suppliers. While bank transfers were offered only by banks in the past, you can initiate bank transfers with digital banks, wallets and money transfer services today. This means that there are now more options than ever for you to consider when making quick and affordable international bank transfers.

How can I make an international bank transfer?

There are three main ways you can make an international bank wire transfer:

  1. Online bank transfers. An online bank transfer can be made through your bank to your recipient’s bank. You can typically access your bank’s online transfer services through its mobile or internet banking platform. Navigate to the transfers section, create and transfer and send your desired amount. All you need is a working internet connection and your recipient’s bank details.
  2. Online money transfer services. These services are dedicated to sending money domestically and internationally, and can often beat the fees offered by your bank. Such platforms allow you to open an account online and add money to your account either by card or bank transfer. You can then make transfers easily by providing your recipient’s information.
  3. In-person bank transfers. This involves physically going to the bank to send your money internationally, which may be the least convenient option but it’s an option nonetheless. You might opt for this if you aren’t comfortable with making transactions online or would like some additional guidance when making an international transfer. Most banks in the US will have in-person bank transfer services.

Make an online bank transfer

  • Pro: Convenient transfers through a bank you already trust.
  • Pro: Quick transfers since banks often communicate frequently with each other.
  • 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 something 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.

Make an in-person bank transfer

  • 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.

Find an alternative money transfer service online

  • 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.
Alternative money transfer services are online providers that specialize in money transfers. Getting started with these providers is simple — you can open an account online, deposit your money into your account and begin a transfer. Common account top-up methods include bank transfer, and credit or debit card payment. Here are some common money transfer services you might have heard of:

  • Xe – Enjoy no fees and no sending limit with Xe, but look elsewhere if you want a mid-market rate.
  • Wise – Wise (formerly Transferwise) offers strong exchange rates and fast transfers but watch out for transfer fees on large transfers.
  • OFX – If you need make a large money transfer, OFX is a good option as they they no transfer limits, forex tools to hedge your risk and support a wide range of currencies.
  • PayPal – PayPal offers quick and affordable wire transfer services — its fees begin at 2.9% of your transaction amount and vary depending on your chosen currency.
  • WorldRemit – WorldRemit tends to be better known for small transfers to Asia, Africa and some parts of Latin America.
  • 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.

What is needed to transfer money internationally between banks?

Regardless of which method you choose to make an international money transfer, here’s what’s typically required of you when you transfer money internationally between banks:

  • Name and address of your recipient’s bank
  • Value of the transfer amount
  • Recipient’s personal details like name, address and bank account number
  • Recipient’s bank routing details, SWIFT or BIC code depending on which applies
  • Reason for bank transfer

SWIFT transfers

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions, or SWIFT, is a type of international bank transfer. It gives each bank a unique identification tag to help you make your transfers quicker and safer. This 8 – 11 character code is known as the BIC, bank identifier code, or simply SWIFT ID. The benefit of SWIFT is that this secure international transfer method typically takes up to five business days. However, one downside to note is that it often comes at an additional fee.

How to choose the best transfer option for me?

There are several factors to consider when choosing which option to use for 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 method and provider 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 waive their fees entirely 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.

Compare international money transfer services

Our table lets you compare the services you can use to send money abroad. Compare services on transfer speeds and fees, then click Go to site when you're ready to send.
1 - 10 of 10
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
Within minutes
From $1.99
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
Within minutes
From $0
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Within minutes
From 0%
New Instarem customers will get a special FX rate and zero-fees on their first transfer.
Instarem offers zero transfer fees on all transfers.
Wise (TransferWise)
Within minutes
From 0.41%
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
24 hours
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
OFX International Money Transfers (Business)
24 hours
Business customers: Send safe, no-limit transfers with no fees and competitive exchange rates.
Currencies Direct (business)
24 hours
Minimizes costs of international transactions and offers custom solutions for business clients. Currencies Direct may call you to confirm your transfer, so be prepared for a phone call shortly after initiating a transfer.
Currencies Direct
24 hours
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates. Currencies Direct may call you to confirm your transfer, so be prepared for a phone call shortly after initiating a transfer.
24 hours
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
Within minutes
From $0
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.

What is the cheapest way to make an international bank transfer?

The short answer is alternative money transfer services, like online money transfer providers. Traditional banks, like Citibank, Bank of America and Chase charge administrative fees of up to $50. They also markup exchange rates by 2 – 4%. To make matters worse, intermediary banks and your final recipient’s bank might also charge administrative fees of $10 to $20. These small costs could add up and eat into the amount you’re transferring. Online money transfer services, on the other hand, typically have much fewer processing fees and more competitive spreads.

However, it’s often more complicated than this. While online money transfer services usually offer more competitive fees, certain banks might offer discounts to premium members or newbies which could make their international transfer rates more competitive. How much you’re charged also depends on where you’re sending money to and how much. Consider these factors and compare providers across different transfer methods in order to find the cheapest international bank transfer for you.

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.

Frequently asked questions

Can I transfer money to another country bank account via phone?

Yes, you can. This works just like placing an in-person transfer at the bank — just that it’s done over the phone. Collect all the data you need, including your recipient’s details and your intended transfer amount, then follow the instructions given by your bank’s customer service team.

How long does it take to transfer money to a foreign bank account?

Most international bank transfers take up to three business days — but this could vary depending on your transfer method, chosen provider and destination country.

Can a bank transfer work internationally?

Yes, if you use an international bank transfer either offered by your bank provider or an international money transfer service.