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Tips to send money internationally
Identify the pitfalls to avoid when you’re planning to send money abroad.
Updated . What changed?
Times have changed, and you have more options than ever available to you when you want to send money internationally. And more money transfer services means having more details to sift through.
Your transfer’s total cost is one important factor, but only the tip of the iceberg in getting the lowest price. Benefit from our 14+ years of money transfer experience with these key tips.
Send money internationally with these tips in mind
While your ideal option depends on how much you send, how you pay for the transfer and where you send funds to, some industry-wide key tips include:
- Use a comparison table. Review the prices of many different services at once to help you understand what fees exist and how to best avoid them.
- Plan ahead. It’s best to plan your money transfer as far in advance as possible, but if you need to make an emergency transfer, read on to find the best deal.
- Don’t bet on your bank. Banks are great for domestic money management, but once you get into international transfers, banks tend to offer worse exchange rates and higher fees.
- Skip the bank altogether. When you want to send or receive money using cash, fees can add up, but we’ve put together some tips to avoid high costs whenever possible.
Online money transfer specialists profit on your transfers in two ways: transaction fees and exchange rates. When comparing providers, look for low fees and exchange rates closest to the mid-market rate at the time of your transfer.
Can I use my bank to send money abroad?
Most banks allow you to send money internationally, but high fees and poor exchange rates are good reasons to look elsewhere.
Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending $1,000 to Mexico
To put this into perspective, let’s see what a transfer with each of these options looks like. This table uses real fees and exchange rates and is current as of November 24, 2020.
|Bank transfer||Cash transfer||Money transfer service|
|Fee||$25 + additional correspondent bank fees||$3.99||$0|
|Exchange rate||1 USD= 18.833 MXN||1 USD= 19.935 MXN||1 USD= 19.874 MXN|
|Transfer speed||2-5 days||Within minutes||Same day|
The bank option is the slowest and transfers the least amount of money to your recipient. If you go with the specialist money transfer service, your recipient ends up with MXN$1,512 more than they would from the bank. However, if speed is what’s most important, the cash transfer can’t be beaten for nearly instant transfers.
Compare ways to send money internationally
Enter the amount you want to send, select your preferred destination and click Calculate to see how much your transfer could cost.
How can I save money when I send money internationally?
Fees vary widely depending on the provider you choose for the transfer. Overall, money transfer providers make money on your transfer in two ways: by marking up the exchange rate and by charging you a transfer fee.
- Compare exchange rates. Use your currency’s mid-market rate as a baseline to compare against the rates you’re offered. Focus on providers that offer the closest rates.
- Send more money per transfer. Many providers discount transfer fees or waive them altogether when you send larger amounts.
- 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 from each provider, closely looking at their benefits and drawbacks.
What’s the best way to send money internationally?
Because nearly everyone’s sending circumstances are different, the best way to send money internationally varies. Overall, using a digital money transfer provider to complete your transfer is one of the cheapest ways to send money because the company you’re sending through has fewer overhead costs.
We’ve curated a list based on common sending circumstances, so read up on our top money transfer picks for cash transfers, strong exchange rates and more.
Can I send money internationally without a bank account?
Yes. Even though most methods used to send money abroad require that you either have access to a bank account, a debit card, a credit card or cash, you have options.
Send money without a bank account
- Money transfer paid in cash
- Credit card payment to an online transfer agency
- Send funds through a mobile wallet
- Purchase a money order and mail it
Receive money without a bank account
- Transfer funds to a money transfer physical branch for cash pickup
- Spend a prepaid debit card received by mail
- Directly to a mobile wallet
- Cash a money order received by mail
It doesn’t have to be expensive to send money overseas, and fees differ depending on what country you send to. Countries where online money transfers are more common tend to have lower fees, while other countries may be more expensive. If possible, plan in advance to secure the best rates for your transfer.
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