- Fair service fees and mid-market rates – a major market differentiator
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Every person’s sending needs are a bit different, but without a doubt some sending methods are almost always cheaper than others. We used our years of money sending experience combined with data from The World Bank to determine the cheapest ways to send money internationally.
Sending money overseas can be done in a variety of ways, some of which are typically more expensive. In descending order of cheapest to most expensive, in our experience, your options include:
These specialists offer more affordable transfers than banks, allowing you to manage your transactions from home. With competitive exchange rates and lower fees, you can send funds from your bank account. Many also allow you to pay with a credit or debit card.
Trusted providers like Western Union, WorldRemit and MoneyGram offer the key advantage of giving your recipient fast access to the cash you send — sometimes within minutes. You can often pay online or at one of the thousands of agent locations worldwide. However, services typically cost more than a digital money transfer provider.
PayPal offers transfers to more than 100 countries and supports multiple currencies. Its exchange rates are often better than those you’ll get from a bank, but not quite as strong as rates offered by money transfer companies. PayPal calculates its transfer fee as a percentage of the amount you’re sending — meaning it’s often better for sending smaller amounts of money.
Although not a quick option, you could send an international check overseas, obtained from your bank or the US Postal Service. It costs a bit more — you’ll have to purchase the check and your recipient may be charged a fee by their own bank when cashed.
Many major US banks can safely wire your funds to countries around the world. Banks rely on existing links between banks and banking systems worldwide. Be aware that banks offer weaker exchange rates, have higher fees and fewer options to send and receive cash when compared to a money transfer service.
Use our interactive table to compare transfer fees, exchange rates, sending limits and more for sending funds internationally with our money transfer partners.
Although the process differs by company, to send money internationally, you’ll generally:
You may also receive an email or text when your beneficiary has received your funds and the transaction is completed.
Fees vary widely depending on the provider you’re transferring with. Overall, providers make money on your transfer in two ways: by marking up the exchange rate and by charging you a transfer fee.
Banks and other services are likely to add a little to the exchange rate, “padding the rate” to increase their profits. While a few cents may not sound like a lot on its own, when you multiply it by the $2,000 you plan on sending overseas, it can add up to a big difference in the amount ultimately received.
Specialized money transfer services typically offer rates that are closer to the mid-market rate.
Let’s say you need to send $2,000 to family in Mexico. Here’s what you might face as far as fees and exchange rates as of March 18, 2020.
|Digital money transfer service||Cash transfer||Bank transfer|
|Fee||$20||$3.99||$25 + additional correspondent bank fees|
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 23.889 MXN||1 USD = 23.788 MXN||1 USD = 21.982 MXN|
|Transfer speed||1-2 day||Within an hour||2-5 days|
|Amount received||MXN 47,299||MXN 47,482||MXN 43,414|
Skipping the bank will get more than 4,000 pesos to your recipient, as the bank’s exchange rate is far weaker than other options.
Transfer fees can range from a few dollars to up to $80 or more, with some providers taking even more as a percentage on your total amount.
Depending on the provider, your transaction fee could be:
Be wary of other fees that could apply. For example, a provider could charge your recipient a fee to cash a bank check or pick up cash in person.
There’s a lot riding on a competitive exchange rate and low fee. But depending on how much you’re sending, how soon your recipient needs it and rates at the time of transfer, you could save even more with the following tools.
Although it can be tempting to go with convenience over price, avoiding banks can save you both time and money when sending money internationally. Always pay attention to fees, and more importantly always pay attention to poor exchange rates that can quickly eat into your transfer.
Still not sure about your best way to send money cheaply? Use our hand-picked list of money transfer providers to help make your decision.
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