Money Transfer Awards 2017 Analysis |

Award Category and Winners Analysis takes seriously the objectivity and evaluation of our research, which is independently funded and without biased consideration from any of the participating providers. We believe strongly in consumer transparency and helping them make the appropriate decision. Finding the necessary information to provide the correct recommendation were the goals of this research. As a business, we do receive commissions from some of the providers that participated in the study, but this did not skew the results. To maintain credibility as a reputable source of information, we had to take an unbiased approach even if winners were not clients.
For three months, the Money Transfer Awards research team tested online money transfer products to better understand the needs of money transfer senders. We reviewed 35 providers and narrowed down the contenders to 13 finalists who were put through our exhaustive methodology: sending live transfers to France and Mexico, generating quotes for 2,430 transactions, conducting usability research with 39 participants from and site testing to verify 585 data points collected from provider websites.To help visitors make better decisions, we recognized money transfer providers for Best User Experience, Best Transfer Rates, Fastest Transfer, Most Convenient, and Most Trustworthy to encompass their different needs. Below the many metrics considered for each category are listed and ranked from average highest score to average lowest score. Metrics whose total possible points were greater were weighted more in the category. To see the breakdown of each category by provider, please view the winners pages linked above and within each category. Here are the results:

Outstanding Product

Winners: TransferWise, Circle

The high UX scores is a departure from most banking sectors, but this is because we only focused on Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) who are not big banks. They specialize in one area in banking likely leading to a better user experience both because of this area of focus and the need to optimize for the user is required to meet margins.

Trust and convenience, on the other hand, scored the lowest. Trust was low largely due to the lack of transparency in the margin, which makes comparing rates difficult. The limited number of countries available in online transfers and number of options for repeat customers reduced the scores for Most Convenient.

To get an idea of how each provider performed, the chart below tallies up all the scores by provider, which were out of 100. As a result, the highest amount per category is 1300.

Below summarizes the proportion (sum of all provider scores divided by 1300) of how the finalists performed overall.

Category Averages

CategoryAverage ScoreAward Winners
1. Best User Experience70.6%Sharemoney, Xoom, Pangea, Western Union
2. Fastest Transfer68.2%WorldRemit, Xoom, Small World, Western Union, Sharemoney, Pangea
3. Best Transfer Rates62.4%TransferWise, Circle
4. Most Convenient59.7%PayPal, Xoom, World First, Western Union,
Small World, TransferWise
5. Most Trustworthy53.0%TransferWise, Circle
Outstanding Product (Category Average)59.9%TransferWise, Circle

Best User Experience

Winners: Xoom, Sharemoney, Western Union, Pangea

A shift to focus on the customers in banking has already been begun in the money transfer industry as our finalists performed best on average in user experience out of all categories. We measured user experience by evaluating the ease of use of the web application (in the usability testing) and the experience of completing the single transfer (in the live transfer). The results showed money transfer providers with websites that users find easy to understand and use. Even after the transfer is initiated, we found providers communicated with users through mobile and email. However, UX isn’t the only concern, because of our usability questions, “likely to return to this service” scored the lowest.

Scorecard Averages – Part I

Usability Testing


  • Providers scored highest for metrics related to clarity and appearance with “information easy to understand” and “site is attractive”
    • Western Union averaged a perfect score of 5.0/5.0 for “site is attractive”
  • Providers scored lowest for “time to complete sign up and transfer input” with 37%, but the standards were set high for this metric.
    • Providers would need to average a signup and transfer input time of under a minute to receive perfect scores.
    • Moneygram took the longest to complete at 6 minutes
  • User testers were asked to try a new money transfer service they hadn’t used before. Most of them (64%) said they’d return to the new service we had them test.
  • TransferWise averaged a perfect score of 5.0/5.0 for “site is easy to use”
  • Good user experience matters when it comes to credibility as providers averaged 70% for “appears credible” regardless of name brand recognition
Metric (in order of average score)ScaleAverage scoreAverage percentage
1. Information is easy to understand1.0 (Disagree) to
5.0 (Agree)
2. Site is attractive1.0 (Disagree) to
5.0 (Agree)
3. Ease of site use1.0 (Disagree) to
5.0 (Agree)
4. Appears credible1.0 (Disagree) to
5.0 (Agree)
5. Ease of signup and transfer input1.0 (Disagree) to
5.0 (Agree)
5. Likely to return to this service1.0 (Disagree) to
5.0 (Agree)
7. Time to complete signup and transfer input1.0 (5 minutes or more)
2.0 (4:00-4:59 minutes)
3.0 (3:00-3:59 minutes)
4.0 (2:00-2:59 minutes)
5.0 (1:00-1:59 minutes)
6.0 (less than 1 minute)
(4 to 5 minutes)
Overall usability testing average23.5/3665%

Scorecard Averages – Part II

Live Transfer Testing


  • Having mobile phone apps available on Android and iPhone seem to be industry standard with providers scoring 96% for this metric.
    • Ria was only participant that had phone app only available on iPhone and not Android
  • Emailing or texting the sender transfer details is also industry standard with all providers scoring 1.0 out of 1.0 points
  • 23% of live transfers failed due to unexplained “security reasons”
    • Three out of four of these providers with failed transfers also did not require SSN for signup which is in line with most providers — 77% of providers “does not require SSN for signup”
    • The same three out of four providers with failed transfers also did not require uploaded documentation — less than half (46%) of providers “does not require uploaded documentation”
  • Most providers (69%) had a single-transfer transaction, which means after sender signs up and enters in all details transfer is complete and funds will arrive in recipient’s bank account
    • 2 of 13 providers (TransferWise and World First) required domestic bank transfers (either wire or ACH) from sender to provider before provider sent transfer across borders.
      • TransferWise allowed users to connect their online banking details, if they were available and the bank cooperated.
      • World First allowed only bank wires, which some banks don’t have available online and could require a user to walk into a physical bank to send.
    • 2 of 13 providers (Paypal and Circle) required senders to upload funds into provider account or “wallet” (within app), which can involve bank account verification or can be done with a debit card. Recipient would also need to setup their provider wallet and withdraw funds into bank account before ready to use.
  • 31% of providers still don’t provide a transfer quote without having to sign up and supply personal information — a great user inconvenience and can lead users to pay more if they don’t know other sites give quotes up front as they feel they’ve already committed so much time to one provider
  • 2 of 13 providers (Transfast and Small World) don’t provide estimated time of arrival to users giving no clarity as to when recipient should receive transfer. If time is of the essence, this could cause great anxiety.
  • Just 3 of the 13 providers offer active live chats
  • 4 of 13 providers need to see ID before you can send money
  • Just 2 of the 13 providers (PayPal and Circle) allow customers to send money with just the recipient’s email address, but they are also digital wallets, which means multi-step transfers
  • 4 providers update their exchange rates on their website only once each day, while 9 of the 13 providers update their rates more than once a day

Metric (in order of average score)ScaleAverage scoreAverage percentage
1. Email or text sender transfer details0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
2. Mobile app available in iPhone or Android0.0 (None)
1.0 (Either)
2.0 (Both)
3. Estimated time of delivery included in receipt0.0 (No)
5.0 (Yes)
4. Live transfer success rate0.0 (0%)
10.0 (50%)
20.0 (100%)
4. Single transfer transaction0.0 (Wire to provider)
5.0 (Digital wallet)
10.0 (Single transaction)
4. Instant approval after signup (US customers)0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
4. Does not require SSN for signup0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
4. Frequency exchange rates are updated0.0 (Daily)
1.0 (More than once a day)
9. Price quote does not require personal info0.0 (No)
5.0 (Yes)
10. Email or text update to recipient0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
11. Does not require uploaded documentation0.0 (No)
2.0 (Yes)
12. Live chat available0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
13. Can send with recipient’s email address0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
Overall live transfer testing average37.9/5174%
Overall usability testing average23.5/3665%
Best user experience (live transfer testing + usability testing) average score61.4/8771%

Most convenient:

Winners: TransferWise, Xoom, Western Union, World First, PayPal, Small World Money Transfer

Providers seem to favor smaller transactions are generally set up for credit and debit card use but have several restrictive limitations with how much you can send, how often, from where you are sending from, and where to. As many providers focus on specific corridors from a region of the US to apart of the world, this location limitation applies to both state and country availability. Convenience features related to senders with regular payments were not standard with World First being the only finalist offering these options. These create barriers for people trying to compare providers and find good value and convenience


  • In terms of online transfers — bank to bank or debit to bank — not one of the 13 providers covers more than 90 countries and territories.
    • Small World covered the most with 87 countries and territories
    • WorldRemit had 74 countries available
    • Western Union sends to 211 countries and territories if the recipient receives payment in cash but only 61 for transfers sent online — the method required for our awards.
  • Where you live in the US could limit your options for money transfer providers, with nearly half of the providers unavailable in some states.
  • Almost 1 in 3 providers (31%) require multiple transfers to complete the international transaction from bank account to bank account
  • Only 4 providers out of the 13 allowed over $5000 to be transferred per transaction per 24 hours (from the web application)
    • World First had no limit in terms of maximum transfer but also have a $1,000 minimum transfer
    • TransferWise had the second highest limit with $49,999
    • Remaining 8 providers allowed maximum transfers ranging from $400-5,000
  • Most of these providers allowed very small transactions
    • 54% had virtually no minimum requiring senders to enter at least $1
    • All providers but World First had minimum transfer requirements below $50
    • World First required at least $1,000 per transfer
  • Transfer options vary by provider
    • Western Union was the only provider that offered every transfer sending option (sending funds by credit/debit, cash, sms/email and phone)
    • Most providers (85%) allowed for credit/debit card transactions except TransferWise and WorldFirst as they require either an ACH/wire transfer from sender’s bank account to provider
    • 4 providers offered the option to go to a physical location to send funds
    • About half (46%) allowed phone transfers
  • Only 2 providers – World First and PayPal – offered the ability to schedule transfers at a later time
  • Paypal was the only provider that could set up recurring transfer
  • World First was the only provider that offered forward contracts, which lock in the current exchange rate and schedule the transfer for a later date.
  • 9 out of 13 providers (69%) understood the importance of having cash pick up available as an option for recipients
  • Digital wallets Paypal and Circle (15% of providers) let recipients receive funds by just providing an email if they prefer privacy over a streamlined transfer to recipient’s bank account

Scorecard Averages

Metric (in order of average score)ScaleAverage scoreAverage percentage
1. Minimum transfer per transaction0.0 ($100+)
1.0 ($75-$99)
2.0 ($50-$74)
3.0 ($25-$49)
4.0 ($0-$24)
2. Can send funds through credit or debit card0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
3. Single-transfer transaction0.0 (Wire to provider)
1.0 (Digital wallet)
2.0 (Single transaction)
3. Live transfer success rate“0.0 (0%)
5.0 (50%)
10.0 (100%)
3. Does not require SSN for signup0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
3. Instant approval after signup (US customers)0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
7. Maximum transfer per transaction online per 24 hours1.0 ($0-$1,000)
2.0 ($1,001-$2,000)
3.0 ($2,001-$3,000)
4.0 ($3,001-$4,000)
5.0 ($4,001-$5,000)
6.0 (Over $5,000)
8. Receiver can pick up cash0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
9. Available in all 50 states0.0 (No)
5.0 (Yes)
10. Number of countries and territories available to bank account1.0 (0–9); 2.0 (0–19); 3.0 (20–29); 4.0 (30–39);
5.0 (40–49); 6.0 (50–59); 7.0 (60–69); 8.0 (70–79);
9.0 (80–89); 10.0 (90+)
11. Does not require uploaded documentation0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
11. Can send funds over the phone0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
12. Can send funds by cash0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
13. Can send with recipient’s email address0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
13. Can schedule money transfers for later times0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
14. Can set recurring transfer0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
14. Forward contract (rate lock) available0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
14. Can set target rate0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
Most convenient average score29.0/49.059%

Fastest Transfer:

Winners: World Remit, Xoom, Sharemoney, Western Union, Pangea, Small World Money Transfer

Transfers typically took between 4 and 5 minutes to set up and input details with most providers approving instantly. From there, funds were transferred on average within 2 or 3 days. However, new payment methods through social media platforms and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Venmo are challenging speed efficiencies in the money transfer market


  • 77% of providers gave instant approval after signing up reducing delays.
  • 77% of providers also were structured to send money across borders in a single transfer minimizing additional steps and complications with both the sender and receiver’s bank
    • Average fastest transfer time took 2 to 3 days
    • 4 providers (Sharemoney, World Remit, Western Union, and Pangea) were able to complete transfers in less than 24 hours tipping the scale as those providers received full marks with 20 out of 20 points
    • A further 4 providers completed transfers in 1 day: Xoom, MoneyGram, Small World Money Transfer
    • Paypal came in last with 3 days
  • Average time to set up personal account and input transfer details online clocked in between 4 and 5 minutes
    • TransferWise stood out with the fastest setup time by taking under 3 minutes

Scorecard Averages

Metric (in order of average score)ScaleAverage scoreAverage percentage
1. Instant approval after signup (US customers)0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
1. Single-transfer transaction0.0 (Wire to provider)
2.0 (Digital wallet)
4.0 (Single transaction)
3. Shortest time to receive funds in bank account0.0 (Live transfer fail)
2.0 (9 days)
4.0 (8 days)
6.0 (7 days)
8.0 (6 days)
10.0 (5 days)
12.0 (4 days)
14.0 (3 days)
16.0 (2 days)
18.0 (1 day)
20.0 (Less than 24 hours)”
4. Time to complete transfer signup and transfer input1.0 (5 minutes or more)
2.0 (4:00-4:59 minutes)
3.0 (3:00-3:59 minutes)
4.0 (2:00-2:59 minutes)
5.0 (1:00-1:59 minutes)
6.0 (less than 1 minute)
Fastest transfer average score21.2/31.068%

Best Transfer Rates:

Winners: TransferWise, Circle

Driven by business and technology innovations, the race to lower rates is a common discussion among those in the money transfer industry. In our online money transfer comparison, we see the average total transfer fees coming in at 2.84% — that’s an average of transfers sent online from US to MXN, GBP, and EUR. In contrast, the World Bank, whose average includes 85% of remittance corridors and those sent from physical and online locations found the average total fee to be 5.76% during the same period. With players like Circle in the game, online providers in the most competitive markets clearly are leading this trend towards zero fee transfers.

Note: For Best Transfer Rates, only 10 of the 13 of the finalists were able to be compared due to number of corridors available. If provider did not send from US to MXN, GBP, and EUR, then they were not considered for this award.


  • For the transfer quotes that were analyzed, half of the providers charged over 3% of the transaction in fees
    • A 3% cost means $485 will be received when sender spends $500 (fees included)
  • Western Union had the highest total fees, with an average of 5.46% of transfers taken for fees – that’s worth $27.30 for every $500 sent overseas
  • On the flipside, Circle was the only provider in this category that didn’t charge any fees.
  • Circle and Transferwise were the only two providers that didn’t charge a higher exchange rate above the mid market rate.
  • Across these providers, total transfer fee is 2.84%

Scorecard Averages

Metric (in order of average score)ScaleAverage scoreAverage percentage
1. Minimum transfer per transaction1.0 ($100+)
2.0 ($50 – $99)
3.0 ($0 – $49)
2. Live transfer success rate0.0 (0%)
2.0 (50%)
4.0 (100%)
2. Doesn’t require sending money to provider (where it’s likely to incur bank fees)0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
2. Frequency exchange rates are updated0.0 (Daily)
3.0 (More than once a day)
2. Maximum transfer per transaction online per 24 hours1.0 ($0-1500)
2.0 ($1501-3000)
3.0 (more than $3000)
6. Available in all 50 states0.0 (No)
3.0 (Yes)
7. Average hidden exchange rate fee (%)0.0 (5.0% or more), 1.0 (4.5%-5.0%),
2.0 (4.0%-4.4%), 3.0 (3.5%-3.9%),
4.0 (3.4%-3.0%), 5.0 (2.9%-2.5%),
6.0 (2.4%-2.0%), 7.0 (1.9%-1.5%),
8.0 (1.4%-1.0%), 9.0 (0.9%-0.5%),
10 (less than 0.5%)
8. Total remittance fee (%)0.0 (5.00% or more), 1.0 (4.75%-4.99%),
2.0 (4.74%-4.50%), 3.0 (4.49%-4.25%),
4.0 (4.24%-4.00%), 5.0 (3.99%-3.75%),
6.0 (3.74%%-3.50%), 7.0 (3.49%-3.25%),
8.0 (3.24%-3.00%), 9.0 (2.99%-2.75%),
10.0 (2.74%-2.50%), 11.0 (2.49%-2.25%),
12.0 (2.24%-2.00%), 13.0 (1.99%-1.75%),
14.0 (1.74%-1.50%), 15.0 (1.49%-1.25%),
16.0 (1.24%-1.00%), 17.0 (0.99%-0.75%),
18.0 (0.74%-0.50%), 19.0 (0.49%-0.25%),
20 (<0.25%)
10. Country and territory coverage1.0 (0-49)
2.0 (50-99)
3.0 (100+)
Best transfer rates average score31.2/43.073%

Most Trustworthy:

Winners: TransferWise, Circle

Although money transfer rates and fees have been declining, there is still a distrust, which we believe is related to the amount of math required to decipher the true cost of sending a money transfer. Exchange rates change frequently and with many providers charging extra, it makes it difficult to know the true cost of a transfer and hard to compare providers.

Furthermore, many customers may not realize that most providers charge a higher exchange rate than the midmarket rate. This is on top of transfer fees.

As a result, users generally agreed that they could “understand information on the site” as providers also scored high in giving accurate quotes from beginning to end of transfer setup. Providing a clear exchange rate (even if it is not the mid-market) is a significant improvement compared to the norms of money transfers previously.


  • Biggest determining factor for Most Trustworthy was whether margin was clear. This metric also scored the lowest.
    • Only 2 providers don’t hide a higher exchange rate above the midmarket rate Transferwise and Circle)
  • From our user testing, the initial phase of using provider sites is easy to understand across the majority of providers
  • Trust Pilot Ratings for these providers had an average rating of 3.5 out of 5
    • Only 2 providers scored 1 out of 5 from Trust Pilot Rating: PayPal and MoneyGram
  • 2 in 5 providers (40%) didn’t transfer funds according to the estimated delivery time
    • Circle and Small World Money Transfer did not provide clear ETA
    • Transfast, RIA, and Moneygram had transferred cancel after initiating transfer
  • Providing an accurate quote before having to provide personal information both reduces acquisition friction and builds trust.
    • 9 out of 13 providers understand that
    • Although a common practice to provide an incomplete initial quote, only one award finalist quote didn’t match the final transfer cost (Sharemoney)

Scorecard Averages

Metric (in order of average score)ScaleAverage scoreAverage percentage
1. Initial quote is complete and accurate0.0 (Inaccurate quote)
1.0 (No quote given)
2.0 (Quote is accurate)
2. Understands information on the site1.0 (Disagree) to
5.0 (Agree)
3. Live transfer success rate0.0 (0%)
2.0 (50%)
4.0 (100%)
4. Frequency exchange rates are updated0.0 (Daily),
1.0 (More than once a day)
5. Trustpilot rating0.0 (stars) to
5.0 (stars)
6. Estimated delivery time accurate0.0 (No)
3.0 (Yes)
7. No fee hidden in exchange rate0.0 (No)
10.0 (Yes)
8. Can send with recipient’s email address0.0 (No)
1.0 (Yes)
Most trustworthy average score16.4/31.053%

Explore More Data

Olivia Chow

Lead Researcher and Consumer Trends Expert is waiting to hear your questions, comments, and concerns. She’s vigilante about transparency and promoting an educated population confident in consumer and financial decisions. The Money Transfer Awards 2017 is a step in that direction, and she encourages feedback, questions, and comments on how we can do better next year. @livtrends

Please contact Jennifer McDermott for any media inquiries at // @JenMMcD

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