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How to get the best exchange rate on international money transfers
Save on the exchange rate when you send funds overseas.
Finding great exchange rates is essential so that more of your cash ends up in your recipient’s pocket, rather than in the hands of a money transfer provider.
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Compare exchange rates of money transfer services
How important is an exchange rate?
An exchange rate shows the value of one currency for the purpose of converting it into another. Exchange rates fluctuate due to a wide range of factors that include interest rates, consumer confidence, inflation and political stability. For instance, when interest rates in a particular country rise, investors are able to achieve better returns in that country, increasing the demand for that country’s currency. This increase in demand then drives the value of that currency upward.
Exchange rates affect our everyday lives in two ways. The first way is in the cost of everyday goods you buy. If these goods were purchased from an overseas retailer, or constructed using foreign materials, then the exchange rate for those goods or materials will obviously affect how much they cost you.
The second way is much more direct: when you travel out of the US, send money overseas or purchase goods directly from other countries, exchange rates affect how much your US dollars are worth.
How can I get the best exchange rate?
For international money transfers, finding a great exchange rate can mean a difference of hundreds of dollars depending on the amount you’re sending.
Here are a few tips:
Know the mid-market rate for your currency
Also called the interbank rate, this rate is the midpoint between worldwide supply and demand for that currency — and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves. They make money by skewing exchange rates to make a profit. Use the mid-market rate as a baseline to compare against the rates they’re offering to learn who’s offering the better deal.
Get quotes from a few services
Compare the quotes from a range of money transfer companies to see which offers a better deal. Many offer a quick and easy way to get a quote online, and it should include transfer fees to give you a better idea of how much your total transaction will cost.
Think twice about using your bank
Banks can offer secure and convenient international transfers, but they don’t offer value for your money. In fact, they offer some of the weakest exchange rates you’ll find when comparing money transfer providers.
Peer-to-peer vs. bank
Lauren needs to send $1,000 to her mother in the UK. To find the best deal, she compares the services offered by her bank with a peer-to-peer money transfer service like TransferWise.
|US bank||Peer-to-peer transfer service|
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 0.52 GBP||1 USD = 0.55 GBP|
|Pounds received||507 GBP||548.90 GBP|
Considering the exchange rates and fees, Lauren’s mother would receive an extra £41.90 when transferred through a peer-to-peer service.
Consider your transfer options
If you’re sending recurring payments, look into setting up regular transfers to take advantage of fluctuating exchange rates and save more on fees over the long term. With a forward contract, you can lock in the current exchange rate for a transfer that will be placed days, weeks, or even months into the future. Another option is a limit order, which allows you to set up a transfer request that will only be executed when specified market conditions are met — such as the exchange rate reaching a certain level.
Think about a multi-currency bank account
If you need to send more regular transactions using commonly traded currencies, a multi-currency bank account could offer better exchange rates and lower fees. Also referred to as foreign currency accounts, these accounts allow you to hold funds in multiple currencies, meaning you can convert them into dollars at a time when the rate suits you.
Send a larger amount
Some providers encourage larger transfers by offering better exchange rates and lower — or even $0 — transfer fees. With a stronger exchange rate on $10,000, you could save a lot.
Find the best way to send a transfer of $50K or more, including a bitcoin comparison.
If you want the best exchange rates, you’ll typically get them from an online money transfer company. Providers like WorldRemit, Xoom, XE Money Transfer, and OFX offer higher exchange rates than you’ll find elsewhere. Some have other features to help you save money — for example, OFX charges $0 fees.
Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria all offer money transfers that your recipient can collect as cash at hundreds of thousands of agent locations worldwide.
If you’re sending money to one of the countries on its long list, PayPal might be an option. But with transfer fees calculated based on the amount you send, it’s better for small transfers only.
Compare the fees among six providers:
|Ria||MoneyGram||TransferWise||Wells Fargo||OFX||Xoom money transfer|
|Fees||$0||$4.99 from a bank account; $10 from a credit or debit card||flat fee + percentage of transfer||$0 for transfers of $500 or more||$0||$0 for transfers of $1,000 or more|
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