Money Transfer Comparison
Overseas money transfers can be cheap, quick, convenient and safe
What is an international money transfer?
An international money transfer, also known as an international remittance, is an electronic transfer of your money to family, friends or companies overseas. Generally, it involves you sending cash or money from your bank account to an intermediary transfer service or bank, which then exchanges and sends the money to your recipient in another country.
With an international money transfer, you initiate a transaction that deducts the amount of your transfer from your bank account. That amount is sent to an intermediary bank or transfer service, which exchanges your money into the currency of the country you’re sending it to. That bank or service then sends the exchanged amount to the bank account of your recipient or a location where they’ll be picking up your cash.
There are two ways that a provider makes money on your transfer. The obvious one is the transaction fee. But the sneakier one is what your bank or transfer service marks up on the exchange rate.
Most providers either charge a set fee or a percentage of your transaction.
Keep an eye out for special deals.
For example, OFX has discounted exchange rates exclusive to finder.com customers.
Keep in mind that a lower fee doesn’t necessarily translate to the biggest savings. A lower fee might be accompanied by a poor exchange rate, negating any savings from the low fee.
Most transfer services will advertise the real exchange rate, or “mid-market rate” — the mid-point between the buy and sell prices of two currencies on the global market.
But when it comes time to make your transfer, you’ll notice you almost never get this rate. The provider will mark the exchange rate up — and pocket the difference. Using a provider with flat or £0 fees, plus a competitive exchange rate, could save you hundreds on your transaction.
Suresh Sends Money to India
Suresh immigrated to the UK from India as a young boy more than 15 years ago, but he still maintains a close relationship with his grandparents in Mumbai. Whenever circumstances require it, Suresh sends his grandparents a one-off transfer of funds to help them meet unexpected expenses that may arise.
When his grandfather must pay a sizable insurance excess following a car accident, Suresh promises to transfer him £1,000. Because his grandfather needs the funds urgently, Suresh decides to send a cash pickup transfer from his nearest MoneyGram agent.
|Bank transfer||Money transfer service|
|Exchange rate||1 GBP = 81.57 INR||1 GBP = 83.625|
|Total cost of transaction||£1,009.50||£1,000.00|
|Amount Suresh’s grandfather receives||80,795 INR||83,625 INR|
The funds are available for Suresh’s grandfather to collect within 10 minutes from his closest MoneyGram location in Mumbai.
Consider the purpose of your transfer. Are you sending money to friends and family overseas, or are you a business looking to pay for goods and services, potentially regularly? For business owners, time is our greatest commodity. Without time to research our options, we often end up going with our bank. But a little planning can set you up for significant savings on your transfers.
If you send transfers of £1,000 every week, you could save £17.50 each time. That’s a savings of £875 a year simply by choosing a competitive independent service over your bank.
Most online money transfer services allow you to send and receive almost instantly. It’s transferring the money from the service into your bank account that might take a few days. Bank-to-bank transfers also take a few days to clear.
If you need to send a same-day or emergency transfer, most of the services allowing you to send and receive cash will allow your recipient to pick up their funds quickly, often within an hour.
Larger payment networks allow for nearly instant transfers with cash pickup:
- Want to save both money and a bit of time? Compare services to get the cheapest rates.
This is the rate at which your money will be converted to your target currency. Some transfer services offer lower fees but weaker exchange rates, while others charge no fees but profit from the margin between its rate and the mid-market rate. Compare the total cost of your transfer to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Your bank or transfer service will usually charge fees for making a transfer. Fees can vary widely depending on who you’re transferring with. Generally, fees come in the form of a flat fee (such as £5 for transfers up to £5,000) or a percentage fee of your transaction (such as 1% of your transfer amount).
Independent transfer services like OFX and World First offer competitive exchange rates and fees. If you want to send and receive cash right away, compare options like Ria, MoneyGram and Western Union. Bank-to-bank transfers are safe and convenient but typically not your cheapest or fastest option.
The best method for sending might depend on how much you want to send. If making a transfer of five figures or more, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best exchange rate — especially since providers encourage large transfers by offering low fees. If you’re sending a small amount to friends or family, it’s wise to also consider any fees you’ll pay on top of the exchange rate.
A one-time transfer differs from sending regular transfers, whether it’s to pay bills like an overseas payments or for goods and services. With a one-time transfer, you may put more weight on speed and flexibility in delivery, such as cash pickup. But if you’re sending recurring payments, you’ll want to set up regular transfers that can save you the most on rates and fees over the long term.
Sometimes you or a loved one is in an emergency and needs funds quickly — and in cash. Thankfully there are global money transfer providers with tons of agent locations that allow you to pay and pick up in cash, often within minutes. If you have a little more time, however, consider an independent transfer provider that can get you much lower fees and stronger exchange rates.
The currencies available for you to send overseas can vary substantially depending on the company you choose to manage your transaction. Some services may only offer transfers in a selection of up to a dozen major currencies, while others will allow you to send transfers in up to 50 or even more currencies.
Commonly traded currencies include:
Don’t see your country listed?
We’ve gathered today’s best rates to inform your foreign exchange decisions.
|1 USD =||1.0000||1.2618 Inverse: 0.7925||1.2317 Inverse: 0.8119||0.8364 Inverse: 1.1956||6.5832 Inverse: 0.1519||0.7362 Inverse: 1.3583||64.7990 Inverse: 0.0154||17.8793 Inverse: 0.0559||50.9098 Inverse: 0.0196|
|1 AUD =||0.7925 Inverse: 1.2618||1.0000||0.9762 Inverse: 1.0244||0.6629 Inverse: 1.5086||5.2173 Inverse: 0.1917||0.5835 Inverse: 1.7139||51.3544 Inverse: 0.0195||14.1697 Inverse: 0.0706||40.3469 Inverse: 0.0248|
|1 EUR =||1.1956 Inverse: 0.8364||1.5086 Inverse: 0.6629||1.4727 Inverse: 0.6790||1.0000||7.8708 Inverse: 0.1271||0.8802 Inverse: 1.1361||77.4732 Inverse: 0.0129||21.3764 Inverse: 0.0468||60.8673 Inverse: 0.0164|
|1 GBP =||1.3583 Inverse: 0.7362||1.7139 Inverse: 0.5835||1.6731 Inverse: 0.5977||1.1361 Inverse: 0.8802||8.9422 Inverse: 0.1118||1.0000||88.0185 Inverse: 0.0114||24.2860 Inverse: 0.0412||69.1523 Inverse: 0.0145|
There’s no one best way to transfer funds overseas. It depends on how much you’re sending, how soon you need it to be made available and the exchange rates at the time. But below are a few tips you can use when sending money overseas.
- 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 transfers. HiFX, for example, waives fees for all transfers above £3000. Sending less comes with a flat £9 fee.
- Use forward contracts and limit orders if sending money regularly. A forward contract allows you to lock in a favourable exchange rate for future transfers. This means you avoid unpredictable movements in exchange rates. A limit order allows you to wait until a favourable exchange rate is found and then locks it in for your transfer.
- Send same-currency transfers. It can sometimes be cheaper to transfer US dollars to your recipient, allowing them to transfer the dollars into their own currency when received. Depending on the situation, your recipient could pay lower fees overall.
These are the best services for:
Here’s our list of providers that can help you send or receive a money transfer in the best way for your needs.
How important is the exchange rate?
A solid exchange rate is crucial. When it comes to larger amounts, even two cents in your favour can save — or cost you — hundreds of dollars.
If you have the luxury of time, you may be able to take advantage of a limit order. A limit order allows you to set a target exchange rate with a service or broker, which monitors the markets 24/7 to ensure you don’t miss that target. Once rates meet your what you’re looking for, you give the OK to complete the transfer. Services like OFX offer limit orders for transfers of £20,000 and more.
How important is the exchange rate? Say you need to get 500,000 euros to a broker in Spain for a down payment on a pied-à-terre.
The mid-market rate for pounds to euros (on 1 March 2017) is 1 GBP = 1.17 EUR. You’re happy to find two online services that are pretty close to the mid-market rate — one is offering 1.16 for your pound and the other 1.15. But to be sure, you crunch the numbers.
|Service A||Service B|
|Exchange rate||1 GBP = 1.16 EUR||1 GBP = 1.15 EUR|
|Inverse exchange rate||1 EUR = 0.86 GBP||1 EUR = 0.87 GBP|
|500,000 euros in pounds||£430,000||£435,000|
Finding the inverse rate, you learn that the exchange rates are a mere 1p difference. Yet, when applying these rates to 500,000 euros, you’d lose £5000 to the first money transfer service on the exchange rate alone. That’s a lot of rioja you could be sipping in Madrid.
How do I find the inverse exchange rate?
The world of finance can feel hopelessly complicated. But it’s easy to find the inverse exchange rate for your currency. If you think of an exchange rate as A = B, you’d simply divide the number 1 by B: 1/B
Take 1 GBP = 1.17 EUR. To find how much 1 euro is worth in pounds using this same exchange rate, divide 1 by 1.17: 1/1.17 = 0.85. With this exchange rate, 1 euro is worth £0.85.
Compare minimum and maximum transfer limits
Minimum and maximum transfer limits often apply and vary among companies and currencies.
|Provider||Minimum transfer amount||Maximum transfer amount|
Larger amounts available via account manager
|World First||£1000||No limit|
|Travelex International Payments||£300||No limit|
|Western Union||£1||Online: £800 for first year, £4000 after.|
Higher limit otherwise, depending on sending and receiving countries
|TransferWise||£1||Depends on currency|
|PayPal||£0.01||Undefined – contact PayPal for this information|
|MoneyGram||Undefined – contact MoneyGram for this information||Online: £649.99|
|RIA||Information unavailable – contact Ria if needed|
Understand transfer limits:
You’ve undoubtedly heard about somebody who’s fallen prey to a money transfer scam. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, using increasingly elaborate plans in an effort to separate you from your money.
Common scams to look out for include:
- Advance fee scams. Maybe you’re notified you’ve won a prize or the lottery, but you need to first pay a fee to receive it. Perhaps you’re “approved” for a loan but must wire a down payment. In both cases, you’re probably dealing with a scammer.
- Bogus check scams. You may have gotten a reply to your online auction with a check that’s for more than your item — all you need to do is wire back the difference. The check is likely fake, leaving you on the hook for both the money you wire and a bounced check fee from your bank.
- Wire payments only scams. If anybody online says you can pay only with a wire transfer, find another retailer to do your business with.
- Phishing scams. Be wary of unsolicited emails or calls asking you to resend or confirm personal information or passwords. Instead, take down the name of the company and contact them directly with questions.
If you suspect you might be the victim of a scam, contact the FCA.Back to top
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How can I track the progress of my money transfer?
Most services will give you a tracking number or ID that you can use to check the status of your transfer. In many cases, your recipient will also receive one so they can check.
What’s the maximum amount I can send overseas?
The maximum you can send depends on both the transfer service you use and the type of transfer you’re making.
What’s the minimum amount I can send overseas?
PayPal’s services are optimal for small transactions. Some forex providers also waive transfer fees when you send above a certain amount per transaction. This amount varies between providers.
Why can’t I send money to a particular country with my selected transfer service?
This could be for a few reasons — including whether the country is currently under economic sanctions (such as Iran) or your transfer service hasn’t yet built the facilities and networks needed to send money to a particular country. See the countries you can send money to on our individual review pages.
How long does money take to arrive?
The quickest money transfers will arrive instantly depending on the specific service you use and where you’re sending the money to. Western Union can have funds to your recipient almost instantly. MoneyGram, on the other hand, can send funds to China that are available in as little as an hour, but funds are available the next business day when sent to France.
Other services like OFX can take longer than quicker cash services like MoneyGram and Western Union. Sending money to Australia using OFX takes at least a day, whereas countries like Canada can take one to three days.
Is there such a thing as a free international money transfer?
Yes, a number of providers have fee-free thresholds for international money transfers. For example, HiFX charges no fee for transfers of £3,000 or more, while Halo Financial charges no fee for transfers of £5,000 or more. Keep in mind that even if a service is free, you’ll likely pay through a margin applied to the exchange rate.
Can I send money to someone using PayPal?
Yes, PayPal is a popular way to make international payments. Both the sender and the receiver need an active PayPal account. Once the funds are received, the money then needs to be transferred to a bank account to be withdrawn. PayPal international transfer fees vary according to the method of payment. Using a credit card to credit a PayPal account with money is more expensive than transferring the money from a bank account. The fee is a percentage of the total transfer amount.
Are international money transfers safe?
Yes. It’s industry standard for international money services to use 128-bit SSL encryption systems at a minimum. Many also are licensed with UK financial regulators.
Can I send the same currency overseas?
Yes, it’s possible to send the same currency overseas. One option is to buy funds in a foreign currency when you start the transfer. In this case, you’ll be charged a currency conversion fee. Another option is to deposit funds into a multicurrency account. Exchange rates may be as competitive using this method, and you may pay fees when making a deposit. The fees and charges could outweigh the cost of converting the money and sending it in your local currency.
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