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How to compare money transfer fees

Don't overpay when sending an international money transfer.

Transfer fee and the exchange rate are the two most common charges when you need to send money overseas. Save on these fees by comparing banks and transfer services to find which offers the lowest fees and still meets your needs.

How do banks and transfer services make money on transfers?

Banks and independent money transfer services charge fees per transfer. These fees can be a flat transfer fee — for example, $25 per transfer — or a percentage of the total amount you’re sending.

What fees should I look out for?

Depending on your bank or money transfer service, you could pay:

AAmendmentFee for changing the details of your international money transfer.
BBank-to-bankA fee for transferring money to a competing bank, much like an ATM fee.
CCancellationCharged if you decide to cancel your transfer — the receiving bank can also charge a cancellation fee.
DDisbursementSometime call outgoing fees. The recipient’s bank may charge a fee to receive an international money transfer. You can pay this fee upfront to make sure your loved one can get the full amount you intended to send.
IInvestigationThis fee is charged if you inquire on the status of the transfer.
IInternationalFor sending or receiving money from an overseas bank account.
MMarginThis is applied to the exchange rate and is often a hidden cost. Cross check the interbank rate against exchange rates published on the international payment service provider’s site to find out the margin.
OOnlineOnline banks often charge this fee for international money transfers.
PPayment methodA fee based on how you’re paying for the transfer. For instance, some banks charge more if you pay by phone or at a branch (rather than online), and you’ll often pay higher fees if you pay by credit or debit card.
RReceivingSometimes called incoming fees for receiving money overseas.
TTransfer amountA percentage-based fee based on the amount of the transfer.

International money transfer provider fees

Typically, with a money transfer provider, you will only incur one fee — a transfer fee — and some charge no fee at all. Most providers do not charge the receiving party a fee, and tracking the transfer is also free. The amount of the transfer fee can vary from provider to provider, and depending on the method of transfer — online or at an agent location — and the method of delivery — cash pick-up or bank deposit. But you will likely encounter only one fee. However, don’t neglect to weigh the exchange rate as well when deciding which provider to go with.

Institutions that don’t charge a transfer fee

There are a number of international transfer companies that don’t charge a transfer fee. For example, TorFX makes money by applying a margin to the exchange rate (but it still ends up being significantly cheaper than using your banking institution). Be sure to compare quotes from providers that do and don’t charge a transfer fee. You may find that paying a higher transfer fee leaves you better off at the end of the day because of a more favorable exchange rate.

Institutions that charge a low margin on the exchange rate

If you want to get the best deal you can, it’s a good idea to compare non-bank international money transfer providers. Peer-2-peer (P2P) international money transfer companies can give you an exchange rate that is just a touch above the market foreign exchange rate. While it’s difficult to get the market rate if you’re an everyday consumer, these P2P companies can give you access to some of the best foreign exchange rates around.

Pay attention to the fees when you send money overseas. Although some of them can’t be avoided, others can, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t shop around to find the best deal when sending money overseas. And don’t forget to take the exchange rate into consideration when determining which provider to use. A company that doesn’t charge a transfer fee might make up for this by offering a poor exchange rate.

How can I compare money transfer fees?

How much you’ll pay for a money transfer depends on factors like:

  • If you’re sending or receiving money. With a bank, incoming transfers tend to be cheaper than outgoing transfers, for which the sender bears the brunt of costs.
  • How you’ll send the money. Find out if the company you want to use charged to make transfers with a credit or debit card or if you have to pay to make transfers over the phone.
  • The frequency you need to send money. By scheduling more regular payments, you can often save a few dollars.
  • The exchange rate. Banks aren’t always forthcoming about the margin they add to the mid-market rate. Confirm the rate you’ll receive before handing over your cash.
  • The amount you send. Some online money transfer services will waive their fees for larger transfer amounts of $1,000 or more.

In general, you’ll pay more for an international wire transfer through your bank than if you use an independent money transfer service like Wise, which offers stronger exchange rates and lower transfer fees.

Find out how to get the best foreign exchange rate when you send money overseas.

Case study: Sending $1,000 to Australia

Lilli needs to send $1,000 to her host family in Sydney ahead of studying abroad. While she’s comfortable with the security and familiarity of her local Bank of America, where she holds an account, she decides to compare its rates and fees against a popular online money transfer service.

Here’s a breakdown of what Jessica could pay to transfer $1,000 to Australia:

Bank of AmericaOnline money transfer service
Transfer fee$35 (outgoing international fee)$5
Exchange rate1 USD = 1.28 AUD1 USD = 1.32 AUD
Transfer methodOnline depositOnline deposit
Transfer speed1–2 days1–2 days
Total AUD received1,235 AUD1,313 AUD

Jessica’s learns that her bank not only charges an outrageously high transfer fee but also offers a weaker exchange rate. By going with a money transfer service like OFX or Wise, Jessica could save $30 in fees and send 78 more Australian dollars to her host family — a lot more to help them in preparing for her stay.

Just how much do banks charge for transfers?

Do smaller money transfers incur lower fees?

Smaller transfers don’t mean lower fees. But you do have options when sending $100 or less.

You’ve seen ads for providers offering low or no fees on international money transfers. Those ads don’t tell you that you often need to send $5,000 or more to get such low fees. But what if you need to send only $100 in spending money to your grandchild in the UK or a $50 gift to a friend in Mexico? You might expect that such a transaction would attract a smaller fee than sending, say, $2,500.

Unfortunately, your local bank and time-tested providers like Western Union could charge you $35 or more to wire the money — a significant chunk out of such a small amount. However, companies like Wise, Xoom and Ria are undercutting the competition to earn your business with better deals. Even if you’re looking to send only $100.

Bottom line

The next time you need to send money to friends, family or businesses overseas, you’ll likely pay a transfer fee and a margin on the exchange rate.

But by comparing your options, you can be sure you’re getting the best deal for your situation.

Frequently asked questions

Whether products shown are available to you is subject to individual provider sole approval and discretion in accordance with the eligibility criteria and T&Cs on the provider website.

Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
OFX International Money Transfers (Business)
24 hours
Business customers: Send safe, no-limit transfers with no fees and competitive exchange rates.
Within minutes
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Within minutes
From $0
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
24 hours
From 0%
New Instarem customers will get a special FX rate and zero-fees on their first transfer.
Instarem offers offers rewards on every transaction.
Xe Money Transfer for Business
24 hours
Save your time and money with Xe Money Transfer for business.
Within minutes
From $0
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
24 hours
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
WorldRemit - 4free
Within minutes
From $0.99
Use promo code 3FREE and pay no fees on your first 3 transfers. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
24 hours
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.