Sending money to family and friends overseas? Use a safe, secure and affordable international money transfer.
Today’s increasingly connected world offers plenty of reasons to transfer funds abroad. You could be sending part of your salary back home to family in another country. Or maybe you need to send urgent financial assistance to a cash-strapped friend or simply buy something from an overseas seller. Whatever your reason, you have more international money transfer options to choose from than ever before — and they aren’t all created equal.
From banks to money transfer providers and other payment companies, you’ll need to compare features like exchange rates, transfer fees, transfer options and more to find an affordable, secure way that meets your needs.
What are my options?
You may think that the convenience of your local bank is your best option. While banks offer secure wire transfers around the world, their services don’t come cheap. Banks offer weaker exchange rates, higher fees and fewer options to send and receive cash when compared with a money transfer service.
Unlike banks, services like OFX and World First specialize in one thing: transferring money to countries worldwide. With this expertise comes superior exchange rates and lower fees than a bank can offer, resulting in savings for you — and more money in the pocket of your recipient.
World First International Money Transfers
Special offer for finder.com readers:
Because World First is a trusted partner of finder.com, you can send your money transfer overseas for free.
No fees: $0 online transfer fees for all finder.com customers.
Competitive exchange rates
Spot contracts, forward contracts and limit orders are available.
Weekly updates on market exchange rates.
Compare your international money transfer options
Save money on your personal or business international money transfer today. Fill in the form and you’ll be contacted by a foreign exchange expert to have an obligation-free discussion about your options.
With over 17 years of foreign exchange expertise and over $100 billion transferred, OFX can help with all your currency exchange needs, including:
- Buying property abroad
- Regular overseas payments
- Risk management
- If the provider quotes a different rate to the one above please let us know
Ross wants to send $1,000 overseas to his partner in Chennai. He’s heard that banks usually charge a pretty penny for sending international transfers, and so he compares his bank with an online money transfer provider to see which offers better value for his money.
|Major US bank||Money transfer company|
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 62.28 INR||1 USD = 67.52 INR|
|Transfer speed||2–5 business days||1–3 business days|
|Transfer options||Online, in branch||Online|
|Total EUR received||62,280 INR||67,520 INR|
Skipping the banks, Ross could save $22 in transfer fees alone by sending his cash with a money transfer company. He’d also send an extra 5,240 rupees — more than $75 — to his partner. And in fewer days.
- How do I send an overseas transfer with an online specialist?
- What are the ways that I can send money overseas?
- Tools to save on an international transfer
- What are the costs involved when sending money overseas?
- How can I minimize costs when making a money transfer?
- How do I compare international money transfer services?
How do I send an overseas transfer with an online specialist?
Although the process differs by company, to send money overseas you’ll generally:
- Register for an account. This is often a free part of initiating your transfer. You’ll provide your full name, contact info and date of birth. Some providers also require proof of ID.
- Provide your recipient’s details. You’ll specify who’s receiving the funds by providing their name and contact information. If you’re sending money for deposit, you’ll include the bank name, SWIFT code and your recipient’s account number.
- Indicate the details of your transaction. You’ll need to enter how much money you’re sending and in which currency it will be received.
- Review the details of your transaction. For most providers, you’ll see a summary of your transfer showing the amount you’re sending, the exchange rate, any fee you’ll pay and the total amount your beneficiary will receive.
- Pay for your transfer. Payment methods vary by company but could include credit or debit card, bank account, cash or mobile wallet.
- Track your transaction. You should receive confirmation that includes a tracking number or receipt for monitoring the progress of your transfer online or with a company branch.
You may also receive an email or text when your beneficiary has received your funds and the transaction is completed.
Short for the cumbersome Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a SWIFT code is an international bank code used for incoming transfers. Overseas banks each have a unique SWIFT code that identifies which bank to send money to.
What are the ways that I can send money overseas?
With so many specialized money transfer companies to choose from, it’s no surprise that you have options when it comes to how your recipient receives your funds.
How you send your money and how it’s received will ultimately affect delivery speed — from minutes to several working days.
In general, your options include:
- Bank transfers. 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. However, a downside is the frustratingly high fees and weaker exchange rates you’ll typically receive.
- Online money transfer services. These specialists offer more affordable transfers than banks do, allowing you to quickly and easily 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.
- Providers with cash pickup. Trusted providers like Western Union 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 thousands of agent locations worldwide. However, services typically cost more than an online transfer specialist and vary by where you’re transferring your money and how you’re paying for it.
- PayPal transfers. Not just for online purchases, 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 from 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.
- Checks and money orders. Although not a quick option, you could send an international check overseas, obtained from your bank or US Postal Service. It costs a little more — you’ll have to purchase the check, and your recipient may be charged a fee by their own bank when cashed.
Tools to save on an international transfer
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.
- Forward contracts. With this tool, you lock in a favorable exchange rate for a future transfer, avoiding unpredictable movements in the rate.
- Limit orders. A limit order allows you to request a transfer that’s executed only when a specific rate is reached, at which point your provider locks it in.
- Regular transfers. You may be able to shave a few pennies off an exchange rate or pay lower transfer fees by setting up a plan to automate more regular payments overseas.
- Same-currency transfers. It can sometimes be cheaper to transfer US dollars to your recipient, allowing them to transfer these dollars into their own currency when received. Your recipient may be able to pay lower fees overall this way.
What are the costs involved when sending money overseas?
Fees can vary widely depending on whom 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.
Compare the cost of three transfer methods
The importance of a competitive exchange rate
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.
How to get the best exchange rate.
The mid-market rate is what your money’s actually worth on the global market compared to another currency. It’s the midpoint between worldwide supply and demand for that currency — and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves.
Use this rate as a baseline to compare against the rates provided by your bank or transfer service. With it, you’ll discover which companies offer the best rates.
How transfer fees affect your total cost
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:
- A flat fee on the transfer, no matter the amount you’re sending.
- A tiered-fee structure — for instance, $5 for transactions under $500 or $10 for transactions under $1,000.
- A fee calculated as a percentage of the total transfer amount.
- $0 if you meet a fee-free threshold — $5,000 or more with some providers.
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.Back to top
How can I minimize costs when making a money transfer?
- Compare exchange rates. Use your currency’s mid-market rate as a baseline to compare against the rates you’re offered. You want a provider whose rate is closest.
- Send more money per transfer. Many providers discount transfer fees or waive them altogether when you send larger amounts. World First, for example, waives fees for all transfers above $10,000.
- Look for hidden fees. Avoid surprises by reading the fine print for fees that could apply to your transfer, including charges your recipient will need to pay.
- Sniff out special offers. Keep an eye on promotions that offer, for example, no fees on your first transfer. While ideal for limited transfer needs, you could also end up with a new preferred service.
- Shop around. The best way to save is by comparing rates, fees and transfer speeds of each provider, closely looking at their benefits and drawbacks.
How do I compare international money transfer services?
Start by using our comparison calculator above to weigh transfer minimums, speeds, fees and exchange rates to find the best service for your circumstances.
The elements that will ultimately affect how much you’ll pay and how much your friends, family or overseas businesses will receive include:
- Exchange rates. Nearly all providers skew exchange rates for a profit. Compare the rate you’re offered to the mid-market rate — the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves — and look for the smallest margin between them.
- Transfer fees. Find out whether the provider charges a flat fee or a percentage of your transfer. If you’re sending a large amount, ask whether you qualify for a fee-free transfer.
- Payment and delivery options. Some transfer companies allow you to pay with a credit card online, by phone or through an app. Others offer agent locations for cash payments and pickups. Also ask how your recipient can receive your funds: bank account, cash pickup, mobile wallet and more.
- Transfer speeds. If it needs to be there fast, companies like Western Union and MoneyGram allow for quick cash pickups, often in minutes. If you have more time, you’ll get better rates and fees with an independent provider.
- “Hedging” options. Ask whether you can schedule payments ahead of time or protect your transfer against market fluctuations with a limit order or forward contract.
- Transfer limits. Your best option might depend on how much you want to send. For large transfers, weigh the best exchange rate — especially since especially since providers encourage large transfers by offering low fees. For smaller amounts, consider the fees you’ll pay on top of the exchange rate.
- Customer support. Most companies offer customer service by Internet chat, phone, in person or by email. Make sure help will be available if you need it.
- Security. Does the provider guarantee safe and secure transfers?
Compare minimum and maximum transfer limits
Minimum and maximum transfer limits often apply and vary among companies and currencies.
|Provider||Minimum transfer amount||Maximum transfer amount|
|World First||$1000||No limit|
|Travelex International Payments||$500||No limit|
|Currency Online||$0||No limit|
|Western Union||$1||$5000 USD per transaction|
|TransferWise||$1||Private individual – $49,999 per day and $199,999 per year|
Business – $199,999 per day and $1,000,000 per year
|Xoom||Depends on country.||$2,999 USD every 24 hours, up to $6,000 USD in a 30-day period, and up to $9,999 USD in a 180-day period.|
|MoneyGram||$1||$2,999 per day and and up to $2,999 every 30 days|
|RIA||$1||$2,999 per day and max amount is $7,999 in 30 days|
What are my rights when it comes to money transfers?
Since 2013 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has enforced rules to keep US citizens safer when transferring money internationally. Federal law now requires many banks, credit unions and money transfer services to disclose information both before and after a transfer.
Before a transfer, you have the right to know:
- The exact exchange rate.
- Fees and taxes collected from you.
- Fees charged by agents overseas and others involved in the transfer process.
- The amount your recipient is expected to receive (excluding foreign taxes and recipient fees).
You also should be provided with details on:
- Your right to cancel the transfer. Unless the transfer has been picked up or deposited, you have 30 minutes (and sometimes more) to cancel at no charge.
- The bank or company’s process to investigate and fix any errors. It generally has 90 days to resolve any problems.
These rules apply to all international transfers of $15 or more.
Tips for spotting common money transfer scams.
Benefits and what to look out for when sending money overseas
- It’s convenient. Transfer money to any number of international destinations often without leaving your home.
- It’s quick. Your friends or family can receive your money remarkably quickly, sometimes in as little as a few minutes.
- Many choices. Don’t like the exchange rate your banks is offering? Plenty of other companies can send your money at lower costs.
- Get your money where it needs to go. Whether sending help for friends and family overseas or simply making a purchase, your overseas money transfers allows you to take charge of your international finances.
- Fluctuating exchange rates. Changing rates can take a big chunk out of what your recipient ultimately receives.
- Fees. You’ll typically pay a transfer fee when you send money overseas.
- Security. You’ll want to look for a trusted provider that can guarantee the security of your personal and financial details.
What if I have a problem or can’t track my transfer?
If you experience any problems with the transfer or delivery, contact your money transfer provider.
Reputable providers offer customer support by phone or email, and often by live chat as well. You may also be able to access an online FAQ or help page for assistance.
For complaints, contact the company directly. You will typically need to follow a specific handling procedure to initiate a complaint and get the help you need through resolution.
Cheapest ways to send money overseas
Frequently asked questions
How long do transfers usually take?
Transfer speeds vary greatly depending on the provider, where you’re sending your money to, how you’re paying, and how your recipient will access your funds. It could be anywhere from 10 minutes to several business days. Be sure to confirm the timing of your transfer before handing over your money.
What if I only want to transfer a small amount of money?
Companies like PayPal and TransferWise can be useful for sending smaller amounts. Other providers impose minimum transfer limits of $250, $500 or more, so you should confirm any transfer restrictions before registering for an account.
How can I track an international money transfer?
Once you’ve paid for your transfer, you will be given a transaction reference number. Use this number to check on the progress of your funds, often through your provider’s website.
Are there countries where I can’t send money?
Yes, every money transfer company has restrictions as to where it can send your money. Commonly excluded countries include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sierra Leone, North Korea and any countries the US has imposed sanctions on. Contact your provider to learn where it can’t send money.
Can I pay for a transfer with cash?
Yes, some money transfer companies allow you to pay with cash, such as Western Union and MoneyGram.
Can I transfers money from my smartphone?
Yes, you can transfer through your provider’s website, and many also offer apps that allow for more convenient transfers.
Can I change or cancel an international money transfer?
Federal protections are in place that require banks, credit unions and money transfer companies to give you 30 minutes to cancel a transfer, assuming it hasn’t yet been picked up or deposited. However, contact your provider to learn more about their specific policies.
What is a forward contract?
A forward contract allows you to lock in a favorable current exchange rate for a future transfer, avoiding unpredictable movements in the rate. For example, if you need to send money in three weeks but you like today’s exchange rates, some providers will allow you to secure the current rate for your future transaction.
Is it free to register for an account with an online money transfer provider?
Yes, in most cases you will not pay anything to sign up for an account.