Our methodology: Money Transfer Awards 2017 | finder.com

Methodology

At finder.com, we know that when it comes to international money transfers, nobody wants to think about navigating a complicated, potentially expensive process. The Finder Money Transfer Awards is our effort to make good on our mission to provide you with countless comparisons for better decisions. But we can’t do that without going through the same hassles that you do.

That’s why we launched the finder.com Money Transfer Awards. We scoured the Internet looking for money transfer deals, invited fraud on our credit card and bank accounts, had our money taken only to be told that our transfers had failed — all in the name of empowering you to make better decisions.

Getting your hard-earned money from point A to point B is important, but also risky. Luckily, it’s our full-time jobs to investigate. So how exactly did we go about determining the winners?

PHASE I — Provider research

Objective

1. Find international money transfer providers that:

  • Send money from the United States.
  • Serve the most popular receiving countries.
Because everything’s digital these days, we also made sure that providers offer a way to:
  • Sign up online without email or phone identity verification.
  • Send money online.
  • Send money from one bank account to another (and not just cash pickups).

2. To determine award categories, identify the most important factors when transferring money.

Steps

  • Go hunting. We started where you would start: Google. Google Play. App Store. Then we consulted industry associations, money transfer experts and review sites looking for providers that met our criteria.
  • Research provider sites. With that criteria in mind, we found 35 providers and collected 1,575 data points related to rates, speeds, features, availability, usability and credibility.
  • Sign up. Out of those 35 providers, 22 made it to the next round. This step is where we truly learned whether you could successfully set up an account without interacting with a representative by email or phone for verification. It’s also where we closely inspected providers that appeared to meet our criteria to determine whether their claims were indeed accurate.

After this process, our 13 finalists remained: Circle, MoneyGram, Pangea, PayPal, Ria, Sharemoney, Small World Money Transfer, Transfast, TransferWise, Western Union, World First, WorldRemit and Xoom.

We developed six categories based on your money transfer concerns and needs:

  • Best Rates. From our January 2017 survey of Americans’ perceptions of money transfer providers, we found that 80% of Americans feel ripped off when they send money overseas. To address these results, we compared the fees — even those that are hidden — to find providers that give you the most fair rates.
  • Fastest Transfer. When you need to get your money there quickly, knowing which providers can deliver it the fastest is clutch. Your time is also valuable, which is why we considered account setup time.
  • Best User Experience. Your first introduction to a provider can make or break your decision to go with it or search elsewhere. When considering usability, we studied ease of interaction, visual aesthetics and available features. To get input from other sources, we partnered with UserTesting.com to recruit 39 independent users to rate their experiences with the providers.
  • Most Trustworthy. To ensure that you know who you’re leaving your money with, we prioritized reliability and transparency. Comparing providers’ claims with real-life transfers and quotes allowed us to fact-check and measure their offered rates against mid-market rates.
  • Most Convenient. A streamlined process for sending money overseas saves you time and effort. We looked at available features, coverage to countries you might want to send money to and flexibility in how you can send and receive money.
  • Outstanding Product. After rating the various criteria, we awarded the top three that stood out with the highest percentages among our five categories.
Research graphic
  • Best Rates. From our January 2017 survey of Americans’ perceptions of money transfer providers, we found that 80% of Americans feel ripped off when they send money overseas. To address these results, we compared the fees — even those that are hidden — to find providers that give you the most fair rates.
  • Fastest Transfer. When you need to get your money there quickly, knowing which providers can deliver it the fastest is clutch. Your time is also valuable, which is why we considered account setup time.
  • Best User Experience. Your first introduction to a provider can make or break your decision to go with it or search elsewhere. When considering usability, we studied ease of interaction, visual aesthetics and available features. To get input from other sources, we partnered with UserTesting.com to recruit 39 independent users to rate their experiences with the providers.
  • Most Trustworthy. To ensure that you know who you’re leaving your money with, we prioritized reliability and transparency. Comparing providers’ claims with real-life transfers and quotes allowed us to fact-check and measure their offered rates against mid-market rates.
  • Most Convenient. A streamlined process for sending money overseas saves you time and effort. We looked at available features, coverage to countries you might want to send money to and flexibility in how you can send and receive money.
  • Outstanding Product. After rating the various criteria, we awarded the top three that stood out with the highest percentages among our five categories.
Research graphic

PHASE II — Provider testing

To ensure that we effectively measured each of the categories, we developed four research methods that weighed most heavily for the following categories: 1. Live transfers. In February 2017, we sent $50 (or the provider’s minimum amount) to a recipient’s bank account. To determine capabilities, we chose two of the most actively traded or highest volume receiving countries that aligned with the providers’ currency coverage. We selected the fastest transfer method available, which more often required payment with a debit card.

Objectives

  • Test whether we could successfully send a transfer.
  • Measure the time from when transfer is sent to when it arrives.
  • Verify delivery of transfer arrived within estimated time
  • Verify available payment methods.
  • Confirm whether quoted costs matched amount in recipient’s bank account.
  • Understand processes for completing a transfer and their pain points.

2. Quote generation. Over the course of five days in February, we collected quotes for eight providers. We compared costs for transfers from US dollars (USD) to Mexican pesos (MXN), British pounds (GBP) and euros (EUR), transferring $200, $500 and $1,000 using the cheapest transfer method available (9 scenarios per nine providers).

We chose these currencies based on the most actively traded currencies and highest trade volume. This resulted in 2,430 generated quotes across all scenarios collected for each amount and currency — six times a day (every four hours) for five days totaling 270 scenarios per eight providers.

Objectives

  • Measure how often providers update their exchange rates.
  • Determine the spread between the mid-market rate and the rate offered by each provider, measured across all quotes for each provider and resulting in the Average Hidden Exchange Rate Fee — or the difference between a provider’s given exchange rate and the mid-market rate.
  • Verify accuracy of providers’ claims of how they profit from remittances.
  • Determine real cost of remittance by averaging the costs of hidden fees and upfront transfer fees to determine the Total Remittance Fee (or the total of the Hidden Exchange Rate Fee plus upfront transfer fees divided by the Transfer Send Amount).

3. User testing. We partnered with UserTesting.com to recruit 39 independent users to interact with provider sites and rate their usability. We filmed the interactions and encouraged users to share their experience on each site. We asked users to create profiles for three different providers and go as far as they could in preparing to transfer $500 to another country without completing the transfer or giving up bank or credit card information. The tasks were consistent and performed on 13 international money transfer providers.

Users rated their experience on a scale of 1 to 5 for:

  • Ease of setting up an account and inputting transfer details.
  • Understanding information on the site.
  • Ease of navigating the site.
  • Credibility of security, transfer details and ease of use.
  • Attractiveness — user interface, page layout and colors.
  • Minutes to set up an account and input transfer details.
  • Likelihood of returning to the service.

Objectives

  • Determine whether consumers can obtain enough information without signing up.
  • Confirm disclosure of rates and fees without committing.
  • Measure credibility of site.
  • Check for a variety of features.
  • Determine ease of use.
  • Identify barriers to sending a transfer.
  • Determine other measures to consider based on user feedback.

4. Verify provider research with site testing. After creating and totaling metrics for our scorecard, we went back to each site to verify that our information was correct. We logged in to accounts and confirmed functionality. We compared our findings to the providers’ claims and our own research to verify that the metrics we used were accurate. This included the arduous process of going to each provider site and attempting to send money to every available country they have listed on their site. We also checked that live chats are active.

Our research found that while many providers list many available countries to send to, they are not all able to send money to a bank account — instead requiring the recipient to receive cash or mobile minutes.

Objectives

  • Check availability of bank-to-bank transfer to countries listed on a provider’s site.
  • Determine whether provider claims are accurate.
  • Confirm that live chat feature is active.

PHASE III — Provider scoring

While creating a money transfer award that actually considers the user, we were determined to be transparent about our methodology. We determined parameters for scorecard metrics and weight and outlined each category and criteria. We provided definitions for each scorecard question and a jury of researchers compared them to determine a consensus on fairly weighing each question. We may have weighed measurements differently for multiple categories. Download entire finder.com Money Transfer Award Scorecard.

Best User Experience

Best User Experience Award logo
This award was intended to identify the providers who had the best user experience from signup to transfer completion. Site usability was measured using the industry’s highly revered UserTesting.com, and we used live transfers to measure functionality and communication of transfer status.We based additional user experience criteria on provisions that add ease and accessibility to completing transfers, such as additional support from provider, minimal documentation requirements and frequent updates from the provider. All 13 providers were considered for this award, which they were given if they scored 68.5 points or more.

Key Metrics

  • Live transfer success rate. As a measure of reliability, it’s important that customers are able to complete a transaction with a provider.
    • We completed live transfers to France, Mexico, or both countries. If a provider did not send to one of the countries listed, we did not penalize them; instead, they were given both points. We deducted points if we were unable to successfully complete a live transfer to available countries offered by the provider.
  • Single transfer transaction. To simplify the user’s experience, a sender should be able to complete a live transfer without having to send additional transfers either to the provider or the recipient’s bank account.
    • Several services function as mobile wallets, where an additional transfer out of the mobile wallet and into a bank account is necessary; others require a bank wire to the provider in addition to the online process. A user may not be aware of this extra step, which could impede the transfer.
    • Additional transfers rely on the provider communicating with a bank, inviting room for complications that could slow down the process.
  • Price quote does not require personal info. This allows consumers to familiarize themselves with a provider and its rates before committing to the transfer.
  • Estimated time of delivery included in quote. Estimates of deliver speed set an expectation for consumers.
    • Users may be looking for speed as a condition for using a service, and they can make more informed decisions with this information.
  • ID required for sign-up. Some providers require users to input a Social Security number before sending a transfer, which creates a barrier for those who don’t have one.
  • Doesn’t require additional uploaded documentation. A provider may request a user’s passport, driver’s license or other government-issued ID before approval. To qualify for this award, a provider must allow a user to complete this requirement within the site application. We disqualified providers that require an email or phone call with a representative before approving a user. We awarded providers points for trust, as requiring documentation demonstrates they make security a priority.
Best User Experience
Metric Scale Maximum Possible Points Testing Conducted
Sign-up and transfer input 1.0 (Disagree) 5.0 (Agree) 5.0 points each User Testing
Information easy to understand
Ease of site use
Appears credible
Site is attractive
Likely to return to this service
Time to complete sign-up and transfer input 1.0 (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 1:00 minute) 6.0
Live transfer success rate 0.0 (0% transfer success rate) 10.0 (50% transfer success rate) 20.0 (100% transfer success rate) 20.0 Live transfers
Single Transfer Transaction 0.0 (Wire to Provider) 5.0 (Digital Wallet) 10.0 (Single Transaction) 10.0
Price quote does not require personal info 0 (No) 5 (Yes) 5.0 points each Site Testing
Estimated time of delivery included in receipt
Mobile app available in iPhone or Android 0.0 (None) 1.0 (Either) 2.0 (Both) 2.0
Live chat available 0 (No) 1 (Yes) 1.0 point each Live Transfers
Instant approval after sign-up (US customers)
Email or text update to recipient
Email or text transfer details
Does not require SSN for sign-up
Does not require uploaded documentation 0.0 (No) 2.0 (Yes) 2.0
Can send with recipient’s email address 0.0 (No) 1.0 (Yes) 1.0 point each
Frequency exchange rates are updated 0.0 (Daily) 1.0 (More Than Once a Day) 1.0 point each Online Quote Generation

Best User Experience Scorecard

Most Convenient

Best User Experience Award logo
Awarded to providers that offer the most extensive options, including countries serviced, a range of features and ease of use. We considered all providers for this award. Site testing was conducted to locate features and verify if they were actually available and active. Providers were given this award if they scored 33 points or more.

Key metrics

  • Number of countries and territories available. Greater accessibility increases convenience. We counted countries and territories by verifying that a transfer could actually be made to the countries listed on a provider’s site. View our video to see the process of how we actually counted countries
  • Available in all 50 states. Availability was based on legal licensing acquired from the provider and could not be assumed for all providers operating in the US. If proof was not provided for all relevant licenses, we assumed that access was not available to all 50 states.
  • Live transfer success rate. We completed live transfers to France, Mexico, or both countries. If a provider did not send to one of the countries listed, we did not penalize them; instead, they were given both points. We deducted points if we were unable to successfully complete a live transfer to available countries offered by the provider.
  • Maximum transfer per online transaction every 24 hours. Customers looking to send significant amounts of money may be limited by regulations from the provider.
  • Can send funds through credit or debit card. This adds another option for transfer other than a bank account.
    • Using a credit or debit card option often means a more immediate transaction (although sometimes with additional fees).
    • This feature can also avoid a user having to complete bank account verification with provider.
  • Minimum transfer per transaction. This measures the minimum amount required to complete a transaction based on each provider. Options for smaller monetary transactions improves access for customers.
  • Although all providers we considered could complete transactions online without having to contact the providers by phone or in person, we awarded points if they had the additional option to contact the provider.
  • We considered the amount of information required from a consumer and any impediments to signing up with a provider.
Most Convenient
Metric Scale Maximum Possible Points Testing Conducted
Number of countries and territories available 1.0 (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+) 10.0 Site Testing
Available in all 50 US States 0.0 (No) 5.0 (Yes) 5.0
Maximum transfer per transaction online per 24 hours 1.0 ($0-1000) 2.0 ($1001-2000) 3.0 ($2001-3000) 4.0 ($3001-4000) 5.0 ($4001-5000) 6.0 (Over $5000) 6.0
Single transfer transaction 0.0 (Wire to Provider) 1.0 (Digital Wallet) 2.0 (Single Transaction) 2.0 Live transfers
Minimum transfer per transaction 0.0 ($100+) 1.0 ($75-99) 2.0 ($50-74) 3.0 ($25-49) 4.0 ($0-24) 4.0 Site Testing
Live transfer success rate 0.0 (0%) 5.0 (50%) 10.0 (100%) 10.0 Live transfers
Can send funds through credit/debit card 0.0 (No) 1.0 (Yes) 1.0 point each
Does not require SSN for sign-up
Does not require uploaded documentation
Instant approval after sign up (US customers)
Can send funds by cash Site Testing
Can send funds over the phone
Can schedule money transfer for later times
Can set re-occurring transfer
Forward contract (rate lock) available
Can set target rate
Receiver can pick up cash
Can send with recipient’s email address

Most Convenient Scorecard

Fastest Transfer

Best User Experience Award logo
This award goes to providers that have the capacity to send the fastest transfer, regardless of price. Through user testing and live transfers, we scored providers on the speed it takes to sign up and input transfer details as well as the time it takes for a transfer to be received. All 13 providers were considered for this award. Providers were given this award if they scored 16 points or more.

Key metrics

  • Shortest time to receive funds in bank account. From the time the transfer was sent to when it arrived in the recipient’s bank account in business days.
    • We measured speed based a best-case scenario. We only considered the fastest transfer of two live transfers to France or Mexico for speed.
    • If using a mobile wallet, we considered speed from the time that we initiated the transfer out of the mobile wallet to a bank account.
    • We sent each transfer through the fastest method available.
  • Instant approval after sign-up. All providers received one point for this metric if they offered instant approval. However, not all providers in the market offer this feature, resulting in delays in sending the transfer.
  • Time to complete sign-up and input transfer details. We based this metric on an average scoring of 1 to 5 based on 39 participants’ scores. Measure of time to complete sign-up and complete account details measures speed at first interaction with the provider.
  • Single transfer transaction. To simplify the user’s experience, a sender should be able to complete a live transfer without having to send additional transfers either to the provider or the recipient’s bank account.
    • Several services function as mobile wallets, where an additional transfer out of the mobile wallet and into a bank account is necessary; others require a bank wire to the provider in addition to the online process. A user may not be aware of this extra step, which could impede the transfer.
    • Additional transfers rely on the provider communicating with a bank, inviting room for complications that could slow down the process.
Fastest Transfer
Metric Scale Maximum Possible Points Testing Conducted
Shortest time to receive funds in bank account 0.0 (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) 20.0 Live transfers
Time to complete transfer set up and transfer setup 1.0 (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 1:00 minute) 6.0 User Testing
Instant approval after sign-up (US customers) 0.0 (No) 1.0 (Yes) 1.0 Live Transfers
Single transfer transaction 0.0 (Wire to Provider) 2.0 (Digital Wallet) 4.0 (Single Transaction) 4.0

Fastest Transfer Scorecard

Best Transfer Rates

Best Transfer Rates Award logo
This award is based on comparing provider exchange rates and transfer fees from online-generated quotes and live transfers that we tested for accuracy and value. Only 10 providers met testing requirements for this award. (See our methodology for online-generated quotes in “How providers were tested?” section above.) We gave providers this award if they scored 43 points or more.

Key metrics

  • Average hidden exchange rate fee. This is the difference between each provider’s exchange rate and the mid-market exchange rate in proportion to the amount sent, averaged over the quote-generation period. This showed which providers offer the best exchange rates when compared to the actual exchange rate set by the market. This was scored out of 5 points.
  • Total remittance fees. We based this on all combined fees for each transaction (including upfront transfer fee and hidden exchange rate fee) and then calculated the proportion of fees of the transaction amount and averaged this across all transactions for each provider. We collected these fees in the quote generation. It was scored out of 20 points.
  • Doesn’t require sending money to provider. Some providers require users to send an additional bank transfer to them before sending the money internationally. The bank transfer is typically a domestic transfer and likely costs less than sending an international transfer through a bank, but it can still incur expensive bank fees. This is particularly true if a wire transfer is necessary. Domestic ACH transfers are much less expensive and are often free but require asking a bank for rates to confirm.
  • Because country and territory availability and transfer amounts matter to a user when choosing best rates, we factored these measurements into this score.
Best Transfer Rates
Metric Scale Maximum Possible Points Testing Conducted
Total remittance fee (average fee displayed as a % calculated by Hidden Exchange Rate Fee + upfront transfer fees / (divided by) Transfer Send Amount) 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 (.99-.75%), 18.0 (.74-.50%), 19.0 (.49-.25%), 20 (<.25%) 20.0 Online quote generation & Live transfers
Average hidden exchange rate fee- (the difference between provider’s given exchange rate and the midmarket exchange rate) 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 (.9-.5%), 10 (less than .5%) 10.0
Live transfer success rate 0.0 (0%) 2.0 (50%) 4.0 (100%) 4.0 Live Transfers
Does’t require sending money to provider (where likely to incur bank fees) 0.0 (No) 1.0 (Yes) 1.0
Frequency exchange rates are updated 0.0 (Daily) 3.0 (More than once a day) 3.0 Online quote generation
Maximum transfer per transaction online per 24 hours 1.0 ($0-1500) 2.0 ($1501-3000) 3.0 (more than $3000) 3.0 points each Site Testing
Minimum transfer per transaction 1.0 ($100+) 2.0 ($50 – $99) 3.0 ($0 – $49)
Country and territory coverage 1.0 (0-49) 2.0 (50-99) 3.0 (100+) 3.0
Available in all 50 US States 0.0 (No) 3.0 (Yes) 3.0

Best Transfer Rates Scorecard

Most Trustworthy

Most Trustworthy Award logo
Prioritizing the user’s need for reliability and transparency, this award was given to providers that gave the least amount to doubt. Reliability was measured through live transfers. Providers’ advertised information was verified through live transfers, user testing, and generated quotes to measure transparency. All 13 providers were considered and received this award if they scored 24 points or more.

Key metrics

  • No fee hidden in exchange rate. Providers were penalized if their exchange rates lacked transparency. That is, exchange rates charged were higher than the mid-market exchange rate, translating into a fee that requires calculation and additional research to determine. Videos from user testing also revealed customers are not aware fees are taken out of exchange rate only citing quoted “transfer fee” when explaining rates.
  • Initial quote is complete and accurate. With an eye on bait-and-switch tactics, we compared the quote given on a site without logging in to the amount detailed in the receipt after providing personal information.
    • We verified the receipt amount with live transfers to ensure the recipient received the amount listed.
    • Providers that offer live rate quote updates were not penalized for accuracy because they inform users about this feature and lock the quote during a transaction.
    • Providers that added additional fees in the transaction without prior notification were given 0 points.
    • Providers that did not provide a quote were given 1 point.
  • Trustpilot rating. We included this reputable source for crowdsourced consumer ratings in our scoring. If a provider had no presence on Trustpilot, they were given a mid-score rating of 3. Ratings were recorded in February 2017.
  • Estimated delivery time accurate. Being able to verify the claims made by the providers is an important measure of both transparency and reliability. We compared the estimated transfer completion time disclosed in receipt of the live transfer to the actual arrival time to measure whether the delivery quote time was accurate.
    • We docked points if digital wallets that did not note in their receipts the additional transfer time for recipients to receive funds in a bank account.
    • If we weren’t able to complete a live transfer, then we could not verify the transfer time, resulting in 0 points.
    • If the provider did not provide an estimated time of delivery, we did not give them points.
  • Can send with recipient’s email address. This gives recipients the option to avoid disclosing sensitive bank account or debit card information to receive funds.
Most Trustworthy
Metric Scale Maximum Possible Points Testing Conducted
No fee hidden in exchange rate 0.0 (No) 10.0 (Yes) 10.0 Online quote generation and Live transfers
Understand information on the site 1.0 (Disagree) to 5.0 (Agree) 5.0 points each
Trustpilot rating 0.0 (stars) to 5.0 (stars) User Testing
Estimated delivery time accurate 0.0 (No) 3.0 (Yes) 3.0 Trustpilot Reviews
Initial quote is complete and accurate 0.0 (inaccurate quote) 1.0 (no quote given) 2.0 (quote is accurate) 2.0 Live transfers
Live transfer success rate 0.0 (0%) 2.0 (50%) 4.0 (100%) 4.0
Frequency exchange rates are updated 0.0 (Daily), 1.0 (More than once a day) 1.0 point each Online quote generation
Can send with recipient’s email address 0.0 (No) 1.0 (Yes) Site testing

Most Trustworthy Scorecard

Outstanding Product

Most Outstanding Product Award
Awarded to providers with the highest combined scores from each category: Best Transfer Rates, Most Trustworthy, Fastest Transfer, Most Convenient, Best User Experience.

Key metrics

  • To weigh all give categories equally, we divided each raw category score by the total possible points in that category and multiplied the result by 100 to determine its proportion. We totaled these proportions to determine a provider’s overall score.
  • Those with an overall score of more than 346 received this award.
  • Providers that did not qualify for the Best Transfer Rates category were also not eligible to win an Outstanding Product award.

Most Outstanding Product Scorecard

DISCLAIMER At finder.com, we worked to consider all relevant money transfer providers and all categories in our evaluation. However, this was not always possible. Results from our testing represent only our findings within the aforementioned parameters. Other users may get different results, depending on their specific situations.

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