While the most obvious way to send money to the US might be through your local bank branch, you can save on fees and take advantage of more competitive exchange rates with an online money transfer company. In this guide, we’ll go through tips on how to get the best deal and what options you have.
To send money to the US:
Compare some services that can exchange your money to US dollars.
Choose one and sign up for an account.
Provide the details of your transfer, including the amount and who you want to send it to.
Top picks are our selection of some of the best money transfer products and services, based on our extensive research and market experience. Our top picks are displayed at the top of some pages to help you make decisions faster, but our top pick may not be the best pick for you.
There are three main options that you can use, each with their own pros and cons.
The best way to send money to the US depends on your situation. The main options include the following:
Money transfer services
These offer some of the most cost-effective transfers as they only trade in foreign currencies. You’ll also have a variety of options for your recipient to receive funds, like to a mobile wallet or via home delivery.
Services such as Western Union and MoneyGram allow you to send cash transfers for immediate pick-up by the recipient. While it’s a fast way to send money, it generally won’t match the rates or fees of a dedicated money transfer service.
The United States dollar is one of the most popular currencies, so it’s safe to assume that any major bank in the UK will offer it. However, beware of higher fees and less competitive exchange rates than other options.
Crunching the numbers: Sending £1,000 to the USA
Let’s say you need to send £1,000 to family in the US each month. Here’s a comparison of two money transfer providers and what you might face as far as fees and exchange rates as of 8 April 2020.
Money transfer service 1
Money transfer service 2
1 GBP = 1.22 USD
1 GBP = 1.20 USD
Bank account deposit
Bank account deposit
Amount received in USD for £1,000
What’s the difference?
Although the first provider charges a fee to send money to the US, its superior exchange rate and same-day deposit would give the recipient more money, more quickly.
It depends on what method you choose to go with, but the fastest one is instant and the slowest can take up to a week. Since banks need to transfer your money through several correspondent banks, it takes the longest. Cash transfers are the fastest and normally arrive in minutes.
Emergency cash transfer
If something happens and you need to send money to the US as fast as possible, cash transfers will be your best bet. This involves paying with a credit or debit card and transferring to a cash pick-up location. While it is fast, there’ll be more fees involved.
How to send money to the US without a bank account
Cash transfer services can also help you out if either you or your recipient is unbanked. If you don’t have a bank account, look for transfer services that have agent locations so you can go in and pay in cash. These cash transfer services will also have agent locations in other countries where your recipient can pick up the cash, without needing a bank account.
If you have the time, it’s worth considering the slightly slower option. Most money transfer services can deliver your money in one business day, especially if you want to send money to the US since it’s a major currency. A handy trick is to try and do it during the week since transfers will often get delayed over the weekend or on public holidays.
What to watch out for
If you’re sending a lot of money to the USA, your recipient will need to declare it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). US citizens and residents will need to fill in Form 3520 if the transfer is one of the following:
A gift worth USD$100,000 or more from a non-resident.
A gift of USD$15,601 or more from a foreign corporation or partnership.
While foreign gifts generally aren’t subject to income tax, you still need to file the form with your taxes or face penalties.
Documentation you’ll need to send money to the US
The recipient’s full name. Your recipient will need to show photo identification if they’re picking up the money, so make sure the name on the order is the same as the name on their ID.
The sender’s full name. As an additional security measure, the agent may ask for the full name of the sender. Be sure that the recipient knows your complete name.
Your recipient’s contact information and bank details. Both the sender and the recipient must have each other’s address and contact details.
The tracking number. Keep the tracking number given to you upon sending the transfer as the recipient must provide this to the agent before the cash can be released.
It’s always best to keep all the paperwork to do with your transfer, just in case you need proof that the money was sent.
What to compare to get the best deal
When you’re choosing what transfer service to use to send money to the US, you should look into the following:
Exchange rates. Most services will add a margin to the exchange rate, but banks often add the most. A small difference to the exchange rate can have a big impact when you transfer large amounts of money.
Fees. Fees are either charged as a flat fee or a percentage, which means the more you send, the higher the fee will be. While some services offer fee-free transfers, those providers will add a bigger margin to the exchange rate.
Payment options. Most, if not all, transfer companies will let you pay through your bank account, but if you can only pay with cash, you’ll have to look a bit harder.
Delivery methods. This depends on your recipient – would they prefer it deposited in their bank account or mobile wallet? Or would they rather pick it up from an agent location?
Customer service. Some services are only open during business hours, which can make it difficult if something goes wrong. Also, check out how you can contact them – do they only have a phone number? Or can you live-chat with them as well?
Foreign exchange rates explained
The exchange rate is how much one country’s currency is worth in another country’s currency. With the GBP/USD currency pairing, if you want to send money to the US you’ll get more money when either the British pound is strong or the US dollar is weak.
You’ll also see that the exchange rate you get quoted from money transfer companies differs. Compare what you get quoted with the mid-market rate below, which is what your money is actually worth.
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