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How to get the best exchange rate on international money transfers

Learn about the mid-market rate and how to get the most money for your US dollars.

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  • Competitive exchange rates that are often better than banks
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The best exchange rates will help you get more foreign currency for your dollars, and understanding how to exchange money is key to saving money. We compared dozens of ways to exchange money and found that the best methods typically avoid banks and in-person exchange kiosks.

Tips to get the best exchange rates

When transferring funds internationally or exchanging currency for a trip overseas, you want to get the most bang for your buck. In short, to get the best exchange rates possible:

Do

  • Use non-bank exchange services: Providers like OFX, WorldRemit, Wise and similar services offer competitive exchange rates and low margins, giving you better value. If you’re sending money overseas, these companies typically charge lower fees than traditional banks and provide 24/7 customer support.
  • Convert cash when rates are favorable: If you know you need to make an international transfer or you will be traveling overseas, monitor the foreign exchange rates and exchange your cash when rates are favorable to you. Carry out your conversion at an exchange provider that charges low fees and has a competitive rate, and you’ll benefit by saving money.

Don’t

  • Exchange money at airports or train stations: Although such booths may be convenient, they never offer the best currency exchange rates. They take advantage of people’s need to exchange their currencies and charge highly for their convenience.
  • Use a credit or debit card abroad: Unless you know for sure, chances are your card will charge international fees and offer poor exchange rates when used abroad.

How do I get the best exchange rates on international transfers?

It’s always best to shop around and compare your options when sending an international money transfer. And the more time you can leave yourself before needing to send the transfer, the better. A few tips on how to get the best exchange rate:

  • Know the mid-market rate for your currency. Services make money by skewing exchange rates in their favor. Use the mid-market rate as a baseline to compare against the rates they’re offering to learn who’s offering the best currency exchange rates.
  • Get quotes from a few services. Compare the quotes from a range of money transfer companies to see which offers a better deal.
  • Skip the bank. It may seem counterproductive given that we use banks to store money, but banks almost never offer the best exchange rates.
  • Use transfer tools to save money. Consider using recurring payments, forward contracts and limit orders to get a stronger exchange rate.
  • Use a multicurrency bank account. Send regular transactions using commonly traded currencies with a multicurrency bank account that offers strong exchange rates and low fees.
  • Send a larger amount. Many money transfer services offer stronger rates for larger transfers.

Compare exchange rates of 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.
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer) Learn More
OFX
24 hours
$0

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OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
CurrencyTransfer
24 hours
$0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally £5,000)

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Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
Dunbridge Financial
Dunbridge Financial
24 hours
$10

View details
Dunbridge Financial offers diverse transfer options to more than 120 countries.
XE
Within minutes
$3

View details
XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Wise (TransferWise)
Within an hour
From $2.26

View details
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers

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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.
WorldRemit
Within an hour
From $1.99

View details
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Western Union
Within an hour
From $0

View details
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
MoneyGram
Within an hour
From $0

View details
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Where to get the best exchange rate when traveling internationally?

When traveling internationally, you’ll typically get the best exchange rates at banks, ATMs and post offices. Using an ATM — especially if you have a bank card that doesn’t charge international ATM fees — will almost always be the strongest and most convenient option when traveling internationally. It may be possible to exchange money at your hotel, but double-check the rate it’s offering against the mid-market rate to see how strong it is. In short:

Do exchange money at:

  • ATMs
  • Post offices
  • Banks
  • Your hotel

Do not exchange money at:

  • Tourist destinations
  • Street-side exchange bureaus
  • Airports, train stations, bus stations and the like

Depending on where you’re traveling, some local shops and restaurants may offer to accept payment in your native currency. For instance, several tourist destinations in Mexico will accept both US dollars and Mexican pesos. This is convenient, but you’ll almost always be overpaying when using dollars instead of pesos — but it might be worth the convenience depending on your situation.

Where to get the best exchange rate in the US?

Preparing for a trip can be an exciting time, and holding a foreign currency for the first time comes with its own special thrill. If you’re eager to get your hands on some international bills, here’s how to get the best exchange rates for your USD:

  • Check your local bank
    Even small banks can often order money from larger branches. If you bank at one of the larger bank chains in the US, they will almost certainly be able to sell you a wide range of foreign currency. Just beware of poor exchange rates.
  • Use a currency ordering service
    Travelex allows you to order more than 50 currencies and have them delivered straight to your doorstep. As with the bank, though, you won’t be getting the mid-market rate.
  • Use an international transfer service, but have it delivered for cash pickup at your destination
    Use the following quiz to find a provider that can deliver your transfer to an agent location and have it waiting for you when you arrive.

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How important is an exchange rate?

When exchanging large amounts of money, a small variance in the exchange rate can lead to hundreds of dollars lost or gained when exchanging. Exchange rates are calculated based on what people are willing to buy and sell foreign currencies for. You’ll often hear the phrase “mid-market” rate thrown around when looking for the best exchange rates — pay attention to this.

Let’s crunch the numbers: Money transfer service vs. bank

It may seem counterproductive given that we use banks to store money, but banks almost never offer the best exchange rates. Take this example of sending $1,000 to Europe using live exchange rates accurate as of November 16, 2020.

Wells FargoWise
Exchange rate1 USD = 0.8011 USD = 0.844
Transfer fee
$25$8.24
Euros received
780.98 EUR836.65 EUR

Considering the exchange rates and fees, using Wise instead of the bank sends about €56 more.

Bottom line

There’s no straightforward solution to finding the best exchange rates since the best option changes based on so many variables. But by understanding how to calculate the strength of an exchange rate, knowing what to avoid and comparing your options, you can save money and maybe even secure the best exchange rate. Learn more about how to compare your money transfer options to get started today.

Frequently asked questions

Which bank is best for currency exchange rates?

Many of the major banks don’t publish their foreign exchange rates online and won’t provide live exchange rate data to you by phone or in person unless you’re an account holder. However, we found the data for Bank of America, Wells Fargo and TD Bank to compare their rates.

Of those three, Bank of America had the strongest foreign currency exchange rates as of July 7, 2020. Comparing the rates for USD-MXN, USD-PHP and USD-EUR, average mid-market markups were:

  • Bank of America – 5.75%
  • Wells Fargo – 7.5%
  • TD Bank – 9.2%

What do I do with extra foreign currency after my trip?

Try and spend the coins while abroad, as they’re harder to get rid of. If you have extra bills, consider selling them to a friend who has a trip planned or saving them for the next time you visit that country.

Should I withdraw money from an ATM while traveling internationally?

Check the rates and fees offered by your bank. If your bank gives you free international ATM withdrawals, this may be one of the cheapest options to get cash while traveling abroad.

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2 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    JuneMay 9, 2017

    What was the rate of CAD TO EURO on the 5th of may 2017?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      HaroldJuly 3, 2017Staff

      Hi June,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      While we do not represent any company that we feature on our pages, we can offer you a general advice. You can check the current rates at the section “Compare exchange rates of money transfer services” for your review and comparison.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Cheers,
      Harold

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