How to make an emergency money transfer

Whether to pay for unexpected medical bills or bail a vacationing friend out of trouble, here’s how to transfer cash fast.

Being able to transfer money quickly, easily and safely during an emergency can be tricky. Further complicating your dilemma is if it happens while you’re on a business trip or travelling overseas when you have limited access to your usual banking options.

The good news is that there are now plenty of options on hand to help you transfer money internationally with ease.

What do I need to look out for when sending cash quickly?

Fees for emergency transfers will vary among banks and money transfer services. Before you make your transfer, compare the following:

  • Exchange rates. Money transfer services make money by skewing exchange rates. You’ll want to look for a rate that’s as close to the mid-market rate as possible.
  • Transfer fees. Fees can range from flat fees of a few dollars to up to $80 or more, depending on how you’re sending it or picking it up.
  • Transfer options. Can your recipient accept a bank account transfer, or do they need to pick up cash right away?
  • Tracking. For emergencies, you’ll appreciate being able to track your transfer through to receipt.

What is the mid-market rate?

The mid-market rate is what your money’s actually worth compared to another currency. “Mid-market” refers to the midpoint between worldwide supply and demand for that currency. Use this rate as a baseline to compare against the rates provided by your bank or transfer service. With it, you’ll discover which companies offer the best rates.

Is there a limit to how much I can transfer?

Most banks have a maximum amount you can send per day. But your maximum will be higher – or unlimited – if you use an online money transfer service. WorldRemit is an online service that offers competitive rates and low fees with virtually no maximum transfer.

Some money transfer services have fee-free thresholds, which means that sending a larger amount could help you avoid paying transfer fees altogether.

Four of the fastest services to transfer money

When there’s an emergency, getting money out as quickly as possible is key. These four service providers deliver the fastest money transfer services easily and safely.


WorldRemit is entirely online, meaning you can access it from the convenience of your computer or its app. It operates in more than 140 countries around the world with flexible transfer options from your bank account, credit card or debit card.

Your fastest option is mobile money (if available) or for cash pickup at a WorldRemit agent location.

WorldRemit money transfers logo

WorldRemit at a glance

  • Maximum transfer: $50,000
  • Minimum transfer: $1
  • Transfer speed: Within 1 hour
  • Transaction fee: $3.99

How can I send money quickly?

You’ll need to sign up for a free account with WorldRemit. You’ll also need to provide your personal information, the transaction details and your payment information.

What happens next?

WorldRemit will confirm the transaction with both you and your recipient by email or text and notify you when the funds are received or picked up. If you have any problems, you can contact customer service 24/7 by phone or online through live chat.

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As the second-largest provider of international money transfers in the world, MoneyGram is one of the most trusted. Its extensive network of 350,000 agent locations has a presence in more than 200 countries.

With MoneyGram, sending funds can take minutes depending on local regulations and procedures. Your fastest option is to pay with a credit or debit card (or with cash at an agent location) and choose the cash pickup option. Once the money is sent, it arrives for almost immediate cash pickup at locations worldwide. In some countries, you even have a mobile wallet option.

MoneyGram International Money Transfers logo

MoneyGram at a glance

  • Maximum transfer: $13,750
  • Minimum transfer: $1
  • Delivery speed: Within-hour
  • Transaction fee: Anywhere between 3% and 7% of the transfer

How can I send money quickly?

  • Head to the MoneyGram site and start a transfer using your bank account, credit card or debit card.
  • Use MoneyGram’s online locator tool or call to find a location near you. You’ll often find them in a 7-Eleven.

What happens after?

Once the money transfer is complete, the receiver can visit their nearest MoneyGram location to collect it. Remind them to bring along their reference number (which is included in the confirmation emails for online transfer) and ID for pickup. If you have a problem, contact customer service through the site.

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Western Union

Western Union has the biggest network of agent locations with 500,000 agent locations in 200 countries. You can send funds online, through a mobile app, in person or by phone. You’re able to pay with a bank transfer, cash, debit card or credit card.

As with MoneyGram, your fastest option is to pay by debit or credit card for cash pickup.

Western Union Money Transfers logo

Western Union at a glance

  • Maximum transfer: $50,000
  • Minimum transfer: $1
  • Transfer speed: In minutes if using a debit or credit card for cash pickup
  • Transaction fee: Typically around 5% of the transfer

How can I send money quickly?

  • Head to Western Union’s website. You’ll need your personal information, your recipient’s details and a valid method of payment to make the transfer.
  • Visit a Western Union location near you with cash or a debit card.

What happens next?

You’ll receive a unique Money Transfer Control Number with your confirmation. You can track your transfer online with this number. If you have any problem, contact customer service 24/7 through the online form on Western Union’s site or via the phone.

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Remitly offers money transfers aimed at mobile users. It differs from a lot of other money transfer providers in that if you want to send less than $2,999, you don’t need to provide ID and wait for the verification process.

The express option Remitly offers will get your money to your recipient in minutes, but you have to pay with credit or debit card. You can choose to transfer to a cash pick-up location, bank account or mobile wallet.

Remitly's logo

Remitly at a glance

  • Maximum transfer: Depends on your tier. The lowest tier lets you send $2,999 a day
  • Minimum transfer: $10
  • Transfer speed: In minutes through express delivery option
  • Transaction fee: $3.99 plus a 1% surcharge for credit cards

How can I send money quickly?

  • Go to Remitly’s website. Set up an account and you’ll be able to transfer money in minutes.

What happens next?

emitly will send you a receipt with your reference number. You’ll be updated if there are any status changes, but you can also check the status through your online account. Once the transfer is complete, both you and your recipient will get a notification.

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Bottom line

Being robbed of your valuables, needing emergency medical treatment or missing your return flight home can be beyond stressful. But having the ability to quickly receive funds or help loved ones far away can let off at least some of the pressure.

Accessing emergency transfers is quick and easy with both tried-and-true and with up-and-coming services that can deliver your money safely. If you have a little more time, check out some of the other providers that may be better value below.

Data indicated here is updated regularly
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.
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.

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