Expats transfer guide: Competitive international money transfers without fees

Moved to the Philippines? Here’s how to send more money back home.

If you’ve moved to the Philippines and want to send money overseas, you need to pay attention to exchange rates and fees.

Fortunately, there are ways to pay zero fees and get better exchange rates. You can find a foreign money transfer service with no fees that will also match a competitor’s exchange rates and make each dollar go further.

Send money home using a transfer service

Rates last updated January 27th, 2020
Name Product Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Services Description Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received
WorldRemit International Money Transfers
1 - 2 days
Online, Bank Account to Bank Account, Cash Transfer
WorldRemit Philippines lets you use your debit, credit or pre-paid card to send instant mobile airtime top-ups.
MoneyGram International Money Transfers
1 day
Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world.
The ‘Rate’ and ‘Amount Received’ displayed are indicative rates that have been supplied by each brand or gathered by Finder.

Exchange rates are volatile and change often. As a result, the exchange rate listed on Finder may vary to the actual exchange rate quoted for the brand. Please confirm the actual exchange rate and mention “Finder” before you commit to a brand.

Compare up to 4 providers

Should I use a bank or an international money transfer company?

  • International currency transfer services make their profits by making a large number of currency exchanges with small margins and small fees to cover costs. Their exchange rates are usually 1-2% less than mid-market rates, and they make about that much on any currency exchanged. Their income depends on offering great deals to attract a lot of users.

To stay profitable, they usually have minimum amounts that can be sent per transaction.

  • Bank overseas currency transfers make their profits from fees for everything and currency exchanges at big margins (worse rates). Its exchange rates are usually 2-4% less than mid-market rates, meaning they make about that much on currency exchanged plus all their fees. Their income depends on making as much money per transaction as possible.

Because they have so many fees, banks do not have any minimum amounts per transaction, but smaller sums may be entirely lost to fees.

This is how international currency transfer services are able to offer much better value for money.

If you want to make international money transfers, you may want to consider avoiding banks. In many cases, you can only use banks for transfers when you have an account with them and you will end up paying whatever rates and fees they demand, wait for however long it might take and have fewer options for sending and collecting.

Dedicated currency transfer services have more choices, so you can compare options to find the best, then transfer money overseas with no fees, great rates and collection options that work for the recipient, whether it’s cash, cheque or a direct transfer to their bank account.

BankMoney transfer service
  • Higher fees
  • Lower fees
  • Worse exchange rates
  • Better exchange rates and price matching
  • Slower transfers
  • Fast transfers
  • Usually need an account with the bank
  • Can be used by anyone

Bank fees are BIG

Bank fees mean you might spend hundreds of dollars on just one transaction, and the fees might be more than the amount of money you are sending.

  • Fees for sending. They will typically charge you a flat US$20-30 fee.
  • Fees for changing currency. Not only are the conversion rates worse, but they may charge another flat fee for converting the currency, which can be around US$30.
  • Fees for processing. If the money is being sent to a different banking company, they will charge additional processing fees, generally US$10-30 depending on the situation.
  • Fees for receiving. The person you are sending money to will have to pay another fee to pick it up. This is typically more if they are in a different country and using a different currency. This fee can be over US$30. They will also have to pay the separate fees of whichever bank they are using.
  • Extra fees if you want to pay the receiving fees. If you, the sender, want to pay for the recipient’s bank fees, you can but this incurs a “correspondent fee” of US$40 or more.
  • Fees for tracing the transfer. If you want to find out how much longer the transfer will take, or if it did not arrive and you want to find out what happened to it, the bank will look into it if you pay another US$25.
  • Fees for amending the transfer. Need to change some details of the transfer? You can for another US$25 fee.
  • Cancellation fees. If you realise the fees are too high and want to cancel the transfer, you can but this will incur another US$25 fee.

Currency transfer service fees are small

International money transfer services have small fees.

  • No fees at all. Many providers will charge you zero fees.
  • Set fees. Some providers require you to pay a flat US$5-15 in fees per transfer.

Are there any other fees?

If the money has to be transferred through banks on the way to its destination, these banks might each take a cut. This is beyond the control of international money transfer services, but at least they won’t charge you an extra correspondent fee for it.

How do I set up regular overseas payments?

If you want to set up regular money transfers, such as every week or fortnight, you can. This is often one of the first things people do when they have just moved to the Philippines and find a new job. Many currency transfer services let you do this online, over the phone or in person.

  • Banks may charge administration fees for setting up regular payments.
  • Banks apply hefty flat costs to each transaction.
  • Banks will usually charge extra for amending payment schedules.
  • Banks offer poorer exchange rates on each transaction.
  • Most international money transfer providers will set up regular payments without any fees.
  • Many money transfer companies will not apply any flat fees to transactions.
  • Money transfer companies will typically let you adjust payment schedules free of charge.
  • International currency transfers bring good exchange rates to every transaction.

If you want to set up regularly scheduled overseas payments, resist using a bank. Currency transfer services are simply better when sending money overseas.

Fees for receiving money into your bank account

  • Banks will charge you fees just for receiving money internationally.
  • International currency transfer services have no fees for the recipient.

If you are in the Philippines and receiving money from someone overseas, such as if you are still finding your feet after arriving, your Philippines bank will charge a flat fee, typically over US$10 each time, just for collecting the money plus a flat currency exchange fee. The worse international currency exchange rates offered by banks, compared to transfer services, also mean more money is lost along the way. Bank transfers can generally only be paid into your account with fees automatically deducted.

However, when you receive money with an international currency transfer service, it can be deposited directly into your bank account without any extra fees and at better exchange rates. Some providers will let you collect it as cash or a cheque.

Don’t let your overseas acquaintances send money with a bank. Ask them to use an international currency transfer service instead, so you don’t have to pay any fees.

How to compare international money transfer services

Send more money overseas with currency transfer services and find the provider that’s right for your needs by comparing a few simple things.

Find a provider that works for you by making sure they accommodate your minimum transfer amount, required transfer speed and services available. After that, compare their rates and fees against the amount you are sending to find out which is more cost-effective.

Finding the right money transfer company can be as simple as that.

What to look forWhat it meansWith banksWith money transfer services
RatesForeign currency exchange rates. This makes a big difference in larger transactionsBad rates, typically 2-4% less than mid-market valueGood rates, typically only 1-2% less than mid-market value
FeesFlat costs you must pay when sending moneyBig fees for sending, receiving and exchanging moneyA small fee for sending money or no fee at all
Minimum transfer amountsThe smallest amount you can send in one goNo minimum, but fees cost more than small transfersVaries widely. Can be non-existent, a few dollars, a few hundred dollars or thousands of dollars
Transfer speedHow long it takes to send and receive moneyFrom 2-5 business daysTypically 1 or 2 days, including weekends
Services availableHow you can make transfersOnline, over the phone, in person and moreUsually online or over the phone, but in person with some providers

How to do an international currency transfer

For seamless international money transfers, follow these steps.

  • Know the details of the bank account you want to send money to. This might be your own bank account outside of the Philippines or the account of someone you are paying. To transfer money to an account, you must know the recipient’s SWIFT/BIC code, which indicates the country and location of the receiving bank, as well as the account number which specifies the individual bank account. You can find SWIFT/BIC codes online or by contacting the bank, and you should get the account number from whomever you’re sending money to.
  • Compare the international currency transfer options. They may have different exchange rates, different minimum transfer amounts and different fees. To compare effectively, you should know the currencies to be converted, the amount you are sending and how quickly it needs to arrive. Rule out the options that are too slow, don’t exchange the currencies you need or have other problems, and then compare the remaining by price.
  • Contact your chosen international money transfer service. You will generally need to open an account with them. Once you have, all you need to do is give them the SWIFT/BIC codes as well as the account number of the recipient and they can transfer money efficiently and without hassle. Their fees are usually minimal, and they will tell you if there are any additional costs.
  • You can now send money overseas without losing huge chunks of it to bad exchange rates or sizeable fees. Do it online or over the phone, set up automatic transfers and make use of any discounts available. You’re now good to go!

Did you have these questions around expat money transfers?

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