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Cheap ways to send money overseas
Save money with a secure online transfer.
What are my options?
You may think that the convenience of your local bank is your best option. While South African banks offer secure wire transfers around the world, their services don’t come cheap. Banks offer weaker exchange rates, higher fees and fewer options to send and receive cash when compared with a money transfer service.
Unlike banks, online transfer services specialise in one thing: transferring money to countries worldwide. With this expertise comes superior exchange rates and lower fees than a bank can offer, resulting in savings for you — and more money in the pocket of your recipient.
Online transfer companies in South Africa also offer multiple ways for your recipient to access the funds, including bank deposits, cash pickups and mobile money transfers.
How do I send an overseas transfer with an online specialist?
Although the process differs by company, to send money overseas you’ll generally need to:
- Register for an account. This is often a free part of initiating your transfer. You’ll provide your full name, contact info and date of birth. You’ll also need to provide proof of ID.
- Provide your recipient’s details. Specify who’s receiving the funds by providing their name and contact information. If you’re sending money for a bank account deposit, you’ll need to include the bank name, SWIFT code or IBAN and your recipient’s account number.
- Enter the details of your transaction. Enter the amount of rand you’re sending and in which currency it will be received.
- Review the details of your transaction. For most providers, you’ll see a summary of your transfer showing the amount you’re sending, the exchange rate, any fee you’ll pay and the total your beneficiary will receive.
- Pay for your transfer. Payment methods vary by company but could include credit or debit card, bank account, cash or mobile wallet.
- Track your transaction. You should receive confirmation that includes a tracking number or receipt for monitoring the progress of your transfer online, via a mobile app or with a company branch.
You may also receive an email or text when your beneficiary has received your funds and the transaction is completed.
Compare your options for sending money abroad
Use our interactive table to compare transfer fees, exchange rates and other details for sending funds overseas with our money transfer partners.
What are all the ways that I can send money overseas?
With so many money transfer companies to choose from in South Africa, it’s no surprise that you have options when it comes to how your beneficiary receives your funds.
How you send your money and how it’s received will ultimately affect delivery speed — from minutes to several business days.
In general, your options include:
- Bank transfers. Many banks in South Africa can safely wire your funds to countries around the world. Banks rely on existing links between banks and banking systems worldwide. However, a downside is the frustratingly high fees and weaker exchange rates you’ll typically receive.
- Online money transfer services. These specialists offer more affordable transfers than banks do, allowing you to quickly and easily manage your transactions from home. With competitive exchange rates and lower fees, you can send funds from your bank account. Some also allow you to pay with a credit or debit card, and send funds to your recipient’s mobile wallet.
- Providers with cash pickup. Providers like Western Union and MoneyGram offer the key advantage of giving your recipient fast access to the cash you send — sometimes within minutes. You can often pay online or at one of thousands of agent locations worldwide. However, cash pickup transfer services typically cost more than online transfer specialists and fees vary based on where you’re transferring your money and how you’re paying for the transaction.
- PayPal transfers. Not just for online purchases, PayPal offers transfers to more than 100 countries and supports multiple currencies. Its exchange rates are often better than those you’ll get from a bank but not quite as strong as rates from money transfer companies. PayPal calculates its transfer fee as a percentage of the amount you’re sending — meaning it’s often better for sending smaller amounts of money. You need to have an FNB PayPal-linked account to send money from South Africa which may incur additional fees, and because PayPal doesn’t support the rand, you’ll need to send money in an alternative currency.
- International bank drafts/money orders. Although not a quick option, you could send a bank draft or a money order overseas. You can obtain a draft from your South African bank or purchase a money order from the South African Post Office.
Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending R1,500 to Nigeria
Ross wants to send R1,500 overseas to his partner in Nigeria. He’s heard that banks usually charge a pretty penny for sending international transfers, so he compares his bank with an online money transfer provider to see which offers better value for his money.
|Major South African bank||Money transfer company|
|Exchange rate||1 ZAR = 22.80 NGN||1 ZAR = 23.25 NGN|
|Transfer speed||2–5 business days||1–3 business days|
|Transfer options||Online, in branch||Online|
|Total NGN received||28,500 NGN||32,782.50 NGN|
By skipping the banks, Ross could send an extra 4,282.50 naira — more than R180 at time of writing — to his partner.
Tools to save on an international transfer
There’s a lot riding on a competitive exchange rate and low fee. But depending on how much you’re sending, how soon your recipient needs it and exchange rates at the time of transfer, you could save even more with the following tools.
- Forward contracts. With this tool, you lock in a favourable exchange rate for a future transfer, avoiding unpredictable movements in the rate.
- Limit orders. A limit order allows you to request a transfer that’s executed only when a specific rate is reached, at which point your provider locks it in.
- Regular transfers. You may be able to shave a few cents off an exchange rate or pay lower transfer fees by setting up a plan to automate more regular payments overseas.
What are the costs involved when sending money overseas?
Fees can vary widely depending on the provider you’re transferring with. Overall, providers make money on your transfer in two ways: by marking up the exchange rate and by charging you a transfer fee.
The importance of a competitive exchange rate
Banks and other services are likely to add a small amount to the exchange rate, also called “padding the rate”, to increase their profits. While a few cents may not sound like a lot on its own, when you multiply it by the R5,000 you plan on sending overseas, it can add up to a big difference in the amount ultimately received.
Specialised money transfer services typically offer rates that are closer to the mid-market rate. For more information, check out our guide to how to get the best exchange rate for your next transfer.
What is the mid-market rate?
The mid-market rate is what your money’s actually worth on the global market compared to another currency. It’s the midpoint between worldwide supply and demand for that currency — and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves.
Use this rate as a baseline to compare against the ZAR exchange rates provided by your bank or transfer service. With it, you’ll discover which companies offer the best rates.
How transfer fees affect your total cost
Transfer fees can vary drastically, with some services charging a set fee and others taking even more as a percentage of your total amount.
Depending on the provider, your transaction fee could be:
- A flat fee on the transfer, no matter the amount you’re sending.
- A tiered-fee structure.
- A fee calculated as a percentage of the total transfer amount.
- No fee if you meet a fee-free threshold — usually a much higher amount with some providers.
Be wary of other fees that could apply. For example, a provider could charge your recipient a fee to cash a bank cheque or pick up cash in person.Back to top
How can I minimise costs when making a money transfer?
Save money when sending money from South Africa with the following tips:
- Compare exchange rates. Use your currency pair’s mid-market rate as a baseline to compare against the rates you’re offered. You want a provider whose rate is closest to the mid-market rate.
- Send more money per transfer. Some providers discount transfer fees or waive them altogether when you send larger amounts.
- Look for hidden fees. Avoid surprises by reading the fine print for fees that could apply to your transfer, including charges your recipient will need to pay.
- Sniff out special offers. Keep an eye on promotions that offer, for example, no fees on your first transfer. While these are ideal for limited transfer needs, you could also end up with a new preferred service.
- Shop around. The best way to save is by comparing the rates, fees and transfer speeds of each provider, closely looking at their benefits and drawbacks.
How do I compare international money transfer services?
By comparing these elements of your transfer below, you can ensure that you get the cheapest deal.
- Exchange rates. Nearly all providers skew exchange rates for a profit. Compare the rate you’re offered to the mid-market rate — the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves — and look for the smallest margin between them.
- Transfer fees. Find out whether the provider charges a flat fee or a percentage of the ZAR you’re transferring. If you’re sending a large amount, ask whether you qualify for a fee-free transfer.
- Payment and delivery options. Some transfer companies allow you to pay via bank transfer or with a credit card online, by phone or through an app. Others offer agent locations for cash payments. Also ask how your recipient can receive your funds: bank account, cash pickup, mobile money and more.
- Transfer speeds. If it needs to be there fast, services like Western Union, MoneyGram and Hello Paisa allow for quick cash pickups, often in minutes. If you have more time, you may get better rates and fees elsewhere.
- Flexible transfer options. Ask whether you can schedule payments ahead of time or protect your transfer against market fluctuations with a limit order or forward contract.
- Transfer limits. Aside from the transfer limits that apply under South Africa’s exchange control laws, many transfer providers also impose minimum and maximum transaction limits.
- Transfer destinations. Check to see where each company allows you to send money. For example, some companies offer near-global coverage while others specialise in transfers within Africa.
- Customer support. Most companies offer customer service via online chat, phone, in person, or by email. It’s worth checking whether a company’s help centre is located in South Africa or overseas so you can make sure help will be available if you need it.
- Security. Does the provider guarantee safe and secure transfers?
Compare minimum and maximum transfer limits
Minimum and maximum transfer limits often apply and vary among companies and currencies. Let’s take a look at the transfer limits of a few popular transfer services in South Africa.
|Hello Paisa||Maximum transaction: R3,000-R15,000 (limit varies based on FICA verification level)|
|Mama Money||Minimum transaction: R500|
Maximum per day: R5,000
|MoneyGram||Limits vary depending on destination country|
|Shoprite Financial Services||Maximum per day: R5,000|
|Western Union||Maximum transaction: R30,000|
|WorldRemit||Maximum per day R4,999|
What are my rights when it comes to money transfers?
South Africa’s exchange control regulations govern money entering and leaving the country. Although this system is not unique, it is quite complex. While control ultimately lies with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), the bank designates power to authorised dealers that oversee the market on its behalf.
Under the regulations, all South African residents 18 years or older have a R1 million discretionary allowance per calendar year for overseas transfers. An extra R10 million allowance of foreign investment per year is also permitted, but you’ll need approval from the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
All overseas payments must be reported to the Reserve Bank, so you’ll need to provide a reason for your transfer before you can send any funds.
If you’re an expat, you’ll need to get approval for your money transfer but try to check the following:
- The exact exchange rate you’ll receive.
- Any fees and taxes collected from you in connection with the transfer.
- Any fees charged by overseas agents or other entities involved in the process.
- The total amount your recipient will receive (excluding foreign taxes and recipient fees).
You should also check:
- Your right to cancel the transfer. Unless the transfer has been picked up or deposited, can you cancel without being charged extra?
- The bank or company’s process to investigate and fix any errors.
This information is often stated in their T&Cs.
Benefits and what to look out for when sending money overseas
- It’s convenient. Transfer money from South Africa to any number of international destinations, often without leaving your home.
- It’s quick. Your friends or family can receive your money remarkably quickly, sometimes in as little as a few minutes.
- Many choices. Don’t like the exchange rate your bank is offering? Plenty of other companies can send your money at lower costs.
- Get your money where it needs to go. Whether sending help for friends and family overseas or simply making a purchase, your overseas money transfers allow you to take charge of your international finances.
- Fluctuating exchange rates. Changing rates can take a big chunk out of what your recipient ultimately receives.
- Fees. You’ll typically pay a transfer fee when you send money overseas.
- Security. You’ll want to look for a trusted provider that can guarantee the security of your personal and financial details. Make sure you’re also aware of the risk of fraud and money transfer scams.
What if I have a problem or can’t track my transfer?
If you experience any problems with the transfer or delivery, contact your money transfer provider.
Reputable providers offer customer support by phone or email, and possibly even by live chat as well. You may also be able to access an online FAQ or help page for assistance.
For complaints, contact the company directly. You will typically need to follow a specific handling procedure to initiate a complaint and get the help you need through resolution.
When it comes to sending money overseas, you should always compare your options to get the best deal.
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