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International money transfers
Compare today’s fees, rates and transfer speeds from multiple international money transfer services.
The best international money transfers have the lowest fees, strongest exchange rates and offer your preferred payment and pickup methods. First, determine the most important features for your transfer and then compare options to find the best international money transfer to fit your needs,
To help, we’ve compared 150+ international money transfer companies to find your best options. Use our comparison table to quickly see top money transfer services.
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What's in this guide?
What is an international money transfer?
In short, an international money transfer is the process of sending money from one country to another. International money transfers are typically sent through banks or international money transfer providers. Both people and businesses send and receive international money transfers all around the world.
To send an international money transfer, you typically provide funds and your recipient’s details to a money transfer provider or bank, which then exchanges the money into your desired currency and sends it to your recipient. Depending on what money transfer service you use, you can send money over the phone, in person, through a mobile app or online.
In-person money transfers
Sending an international money transfer in person can be done by visiting an agent location or your bank. Sending money this way can have excess fees, so use sparingly if possible.
Mobile app money transfers
The convenience of sending an international money transfer from the comfort of your couch is hard to beat. Most online money transfer providers also have mobile apps, but not all apps are created equal.
Online money transfers
You’ll typically secure the strongest exchange rates and the lowest fees when you send money using an online money transfer provider, so always compare this option when sending.
Why would I send an international money transfer?
There are many reasons why you’d need to send an international money transfer, and learning how to do so now may save you on fees later. Some of the most common sending needs include:
- Sending money internationally to friends or family in need
- Paying international bills, such as tuition or a mortgage
- Working as an expat and repatriating funds back to the US
- Starting or paying into an international retirement fund
- Paying international contractors for work
- Operating a business abroad and receiving international payments
How do I send an international money transfer?
There are two main ways to send money out of the USA: a specialist money transfer service or your bank. Both banks and transfer services offer online transfers, with some offering in-branch transfers or the ability to send money over your phone via an app or by calling an agent.
The steps for sending money online are:
Through an international money transfer specialist
The following steps give a good example of a typical transfer using a money transfer company.
- Register online with the transfer service of your choice.
- Input transaction details, including the amount you want to transfer.
- Get approved by the transfer company. You may need to scan or email a copy of your ID for the first transaction.
- Transfer funds through your bank using the account details from your transfer company.
- Get your money. Your transfer service will deposit your funds in your destination account.
- For you if
You want a more competitive exchange rate and lower fees than a bank transfer.
- Not for you if
You want the familiarity and convenience of a known bank and don’t have time to be verified.
Through your bank
If you choose to use a bank to carry out your transfer, the process is a little different.
- Log in to your existing bank account.
- Navigate to the international money transfers section of your account.
- You’ll usually need to know the address of the receiving bank, the account details of the receiving account, the account name and often the receiving bank’s SWIFT code (an international bank identification system).
- It’s a good idea to check with your bank about exchange rates.
- You can use this method to send an international money order online to your home bank account or to a third party.
- For you if
You want the convenience of immediately sending money directly from your existing bank account.
- Not for you if
You want fewer fees and a better exchange rate.
The cost of an international money transfer varies because each service charges different amounts, and this can vary between currencies as well.
The average cost to send a remittance out of the US in 2019 was 5.55% of the total transaction, according to WorldBank data.
In general, there are two ways you’re charged for international money transfers:
- Upfront fee. This is typically a flat fee or a percentage of your transfer.
- Exchange rate margin. This fee is a hidden markup on the mid-market rate, which is the rate you’ll see on Google or the news. Nearly all international money transfer services skew exchange rates for a profit – some more than others. Make sure to check the exchange rate you’re being offered against the mid-market rate to see how much you’re actually being charged.
Other fees depend on how you’re paying for your money transfer and how you’d like your recipient to get the funds. Credit or debit card transfers are often your most expensive option, though often the fastest, while cash pickups can also increase your overall payment.
So, look at your transfer’s total cost instead of only the fees or exchange rates. Companies often try and trick you by offering “fee-free” transfers, when in reality you’re paying for that fee with a poor exchange rate. The total cost of the transfer is the easiest way to compare money transfer companies, and using a comparison table that auto calculates the cost is our recommended method.
How to take advantage of sending features
When directly comparing one international money transfer service against another, fees and exchange rates are your go-to indicators. But when figuring out what international money transfer is best for your specific needs, there are more features you’ll want to take into consideration. Breaking these options down into sending amounts makes it easier to understand when you’ll want to use them:
- Less than $1,000: Payment methods
The larger your transfer is, the less likely you are to have payment method options. With smaller transfers, though, using different payment methods can speed up your transfer and even unlock instant cash delivery. Explore all your payment options before completing your international money transfer to find the best balance of perks and expenses.
- More than $1,000: Hedging options
Some international money transfer services offer hedging options, which include forward contracts, recurring transfers, limit orders and more. Hedging options can potentially save you money by locking in an exchange rate if you understand how to use them. However, because of their complexity, they typically aren’t worth using for smaller transfers under $1,000.
- More than $10,000: Account management
When you send an international money transfer using a money transfer broker, like OFX and CurrencyTransfer, you’ll have access to an account manager who helps you save money. But account managers don’t come cheap, so you’ll only want to use them when sending $10,000 or more.
7 tips for saving on your international transfer
While there’s no way to send an international money transfer for free, there are several ways to make it cheaper:
- Know your transfer currency’s mid-market rate. This rate is the midpoint between worldwide supply and demand for that currency – and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves. Use it as a baseline to compare against the rates you’re being offered. The company that’s closest is offering you the best rate.
- Send more money per transfer. Many services discount the fees or waive them altogether when you send larger amounts.
- Use forward contracts and limit orders if sending money regularly. A forward contract allows you to lock in a favorable exchange rate for future transfers. This means you’ll avoid unpredictable movements in exchange rates. A limit order allows you to wait until a favorable exchange rate is found, and then lock it in for your transfer.
- Do your research. If you want to save some money, compare several transfer providers before choosing one to sell your transaction. Shop around for a company that offers reliable and affordable transfers instead of simply diving in head-first.
- Avoid hidden fees and fake rates. No transfer is truly free. If a service is advertising “fee-free transfers,” there’s probably a larger margin added to the exchange rate. Compare the rate you get quoted against the mid-market rate (which you can find on Google) to see if you’re getting a good deal.
- Watch out for scams. Scams cost Americans more than a billion dollars in 2018. With this number increasing each year, it’s important to keep an eye out for the most common scams. In general, it’s best to only send money to someone you know personally.
- Pay attention to taxes and regulation. Each country regulates money transfers differently. Make sure you’ve read up on if your recipient needs to pay taxes on the money they receive. For example, money transfers to the US for over $10,000 get automatically reported.
International money transfers can seem intimidating at first, but now that you’re armed with the necessary knowledge, the best deals are within your grasp. Remember to always look at the total transfer amount to avoid being fooled by misleading deals, and you’ll be a money transfer pro in no time.
Frequently asked questions
How long does an international money transfer take?
The length of time it takes for your money to arrive depends on the transfer service you choose and how you pay. In general, if you pay with a credit or debit card, your money will arrive fast — often within the day. Paying by bank transfer is a lot slower and will generally take two to five days to clear. You can read more about what to expect and the different factors affecting transfer speed in our guide.
Are there limits to how much I can send?
When you transfer money, send as much or as little as you want — but it all depends on the service you choose. Some are aimed at bigger transfers and have minimums that can get as high as $500,000 or more. You’ll also find several that specialize in smaller transfers and have minimums as low as $1.
There are no limits in the US for how much you can send out of the country, but the service you use will need to do extra verification on you to comply with the law. This could mean presenting more proofs of identity or address, like utility bills, car registration or your passport.
Are there free international money transfers?
Some services offer “first transfer free” deals for new customers and promo codes so you can get discounts on your second and third transfers. There are also services that advertise “fee-free” transfers, but you’d still be paying a hidden fee on the exchange rate markup.
Check out some of the latest promo codes on offer below to see if you qualify for a free first transfer:
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