The Best Ways to Send Money Internationally

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Just two decades ago, someone wanting to send money internationally had two, maybe three options in total to choose from. Today, there are countless startups vying for your international money transfer business and more coming all the time. Making sense of all the competing offers can be stressful.

Given the very wide variety of services available, you can easily spend more than you should to send money internationally. Every option has its own advantages and drawbacks, so you need to choose your priority: rapid transfer speed or lowest transfer fee.

The following five money transfer services are some of the best options to send money internationally.

Transferwise

  • Best for: People who want the most advantageous exchange rates
  • How long transfers take: Anywhere from one to four business days

Transferwise believes that it should be simple to send money internationally, and that transfer fees should be fair. When you send money through Transferwise, you’ll be subject to what’s known as the mid-market rate, or the “real” exchange rate — this means you won’t face any markups, and it’s based on the rate that you’d find on foreign exchange websites such as XE.com. Customers can transfer funds to a recipient’s bank account via ACH transfer, bank transfer, debit card payment or credit card payment.

Fees vary depending on transfer method, exchange rate and amount sent. For example, as of this writing it would cost you $6.86 in fees to transfer $1,000 USD to a nation that uses the Euro, based on the mid-market rate of 0.88370 — your recipient would receive €877.64. In contrast, sending that same $1,000 could incur fees of $6.90 to send to the UK in pounds, $10.15 to send in Japanese yen, or $16.01 to send to South Africa. According to Transferwise, as long as your money transfer is received within 30 hours, they guarantee the exchange rate you were quoted.

You can send money internationally to more than 70 countries. Transfer times can be anywhere from one to four business days, depending on your payment method, destination and how long it takes your recipient’s bank to process the transaction. When you initiate a transfer, the company’s site lets you estimate how long a transfer would take, depending on the factors listed above.

You can transfer up to $10,000 per order once every 24 hours via ACH and up to $50,000 per order every 24 hours using other methods. You will need to open an account and complete verification before you can transfer money.

Pros:

  • Uses the mid-market exchange rate
  • Offers a variety of payment methods
  • Website is easy to use and offers upfront information via its FAQ section

Cons:

  • Transfers can take longer than other competitors
  • Recipients can only receive money if they have a bank account

OFX

  • Best for: People who want to send large sums of money and eliminate transfer fees
  • How long transfers take: Anywhere from two to six business days

Headquartered in San Francisco, OFX doesn’t charge transfer fees or limit how much money you can send to the 56 countries it supports. Another perk is their variety of transfer options, which differ on you’re making a single or recurring transfer. For smaller amounts, OFX has what it calls rapid transfers, where you can lock in an exchange rate when making a single transfer. For recurring transfers, you must commit to four scheduled transfers. Both options require a minimum of $150.

OFX also allows you to set a target exchange rate, but only if you’re transferring large amounts of money. Their Buy Now, Transfer Later option allows you to lock in a rate today so you can book a transfer up to twelve months away; however, you will need to transfer a minimum of $30,000. Their Target Rate tool monitors your desired exchange rate for up to six months. When it reaches your target rate, OFX will contact you to complete your transfer — $30,000 online or a $10,000 minimum over the phone.

After creating an account, you can conduct transfers (though only via ACH or wire transfer) and the recipient will receive the cash in their bank account. You can also download their mobile app to track transfers, transfer money and look up exchange rates.

OFX’s exchange rates aren’t based on the mid-market rate like Transferwise, so you may lose some money once your transfer is complete. In comparison, you won’t pay any fees at OFX, but when we tried to transfer $1,000 USD to Euros, the recipient only got €865.30, less than Transferwise.

Pros:

  • There are no transfer fees
  • You can send large sums of money
  • OFX gives you the ability to lock in exchange rates and make recurring transfers

Cons:

  • You can only send and receive money via ACH or wire transfer
  • Some options OFX offers require a high minimum transfer amount
  • Not the fastest transfer option

Xoom

  • Best for: People who want to transfer money quickly, even if it means paying higher fees
  • How long transfers take: A few minutes to a few days, depending on the recipient’s country and method for receiving the funds

Owned by Paypal, Xoom offers one of the fastest delivery times — money can take minutes to reach your destination. For example, if you’re sending money to locations ranging from Albania to Vietnam, your recipient can access the cash within minutes when picking it up at participating locations.

You can transfer to over 132 countries and depending on the country, the recipient can pick up cash at a participating location, via bank deposit or courier delivery. You can send money internationally via bank transfer, debit or credit card. Since Xoom is a Paypal company, you can also use your Paypal to send cash, though you can’t use your Paypal balance — only a bank account, credit or debit card linked to the account.

The amount you send depends on the level Xoom assigns you. If you provide all required documentation — a government issued photo ID, a bank statement or pay stub and completed security questions — you can send up to $50,000 within a 24 hour period and up to $60,000 per month. However, sending over $10,000 a time delays processing times. Xoom says it’ll take two to three business days in addition to normal processing times, assuming you send funds before 4 p.m. PST.

As for fees, Xoom charges quite a bit depending on your method of payment. As an example, sending $1,000 to Austria means the recipient will only receive $873.20. You don’t have a fee if you transfer funds via your bank account, but you’re looking at a $30.49 fee if you do so via credit or debit card.

Pros:

  • Money can arrive within minutes
  • You can send money using a variety of methods and you can choose how you want your recipient to get funds

Cons:

  • Fees can be pretty steep, especially if you send money using your credit or debit card

Remitly

  • Best for: People who want low fees and the option to transfer money faster
  • How long transfers take: Depending on the country and how you send money, it can take anywhere from hours to five business days

Launched in 2011, Remitly wanted to create a company that helps immigrants and their families save fees on international money transfers. Customers can send money to more than 40 countries via their express option — money arrives within hours — or their economy option in which funds arrive within five business days. The company also claims the offer of a money-back guarantee if your money doesn’t arrive on time.

You can choose whether recipients get funds via bank transfer, cash pickup or delivery, though not all options are available in all countries. The fees you may pay are dependent on location and how you want to send money. It can be as low as $0.49 for the economy option, and some transactions may not even be charged a fee at all. Although there aren’t exact fees mentioned on Remitly’s website, you could pay a higher fee if you use a credit card.

The currency exchange rate isn’t based on the mid-market rate, so Remitly will also make money off the difference. For example, at time of publication, Remitly offered an exchange rate of 3.97 when transferring money to Malaysia, compared to the mid-market rate of 4.06. In other words, when sending $1,000 USD through Remitly, your recipient will receive $3,970.00 Malaysian ringgits, compared to $4,060.76 using the mid-market rate.

Although there are no minimum transfer requirements, you can only send up to $10,000 within the first 24 hours after registering for your account, based on the additional personal information you provide. When you have your account open for a minimum for 180 days, you can increase that limit up to $60,000.

Pros:

  • Low fees
  • Offers options to send money internationally faster

Cons:

  • Available in fewer countries than most competitors
  • Send limits lower than competitors if you don’t pass security checks

Ria

  • Best for: People who would like the recipient to be able to pick up cash at a wide variety of locations
  • How long transfers take: Anywhere from 15 minutes to four business days, depending on the method of payment and delivery

Part of Euronet Worldwide, Ria is available in 369,000 branches throughout 149 countries for money transfers in person or online. There are a few options for sending money — from a bank account, credit card or debit card — and you can also send your cash at participating 7-Eleven locations. All you need to do is initiate a transfer online using the PayNearMe app, then bring cash to the nearest participating 7-Eleven.

The recipient can receive funds via cash pickup, bank deposit or courier delivery; at time of publication, cash delivery is only available in the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Peru and Vietnam. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to send money by debit or credit card, to four business days via your bank account. The recipient can receive money as rapidly as the same day if you choose cash pickup or courier delivery.

Fees differ depending on the destination country, how much you’re sending and how you pay. Rates online are different that those at physical locations. The good news is that fees can be as low as $0. For example, sending $1,000 USD to Austria will cost you $5 if you’re transferring funds via bank transfer; the recipient will get €867.50 EUR. If you send via debit card, the fee will go up to $15, and to $35 if you use a credit card. Keep in mind that the cost of sending money using PayNearMe and at a local branch may differ, so contact Ria to find out what the costs are before making a decision.

Note that you can’t send more than $3,000 per day online ($999.99 for Arizona and Oklahoma residents) unless you do so at a physical Ria location, though even then you’re limited to $7,999.00 every 30 days. If you’re sending money with PayNearMe, you can send up to $900 outside the U.S., and no more than $2,999 per 24-hour period.

Pros:

  • Offers a variety of methods for sending and receiving money
  • Can send funds as cash
  • Large network of branches worldwide
  • Offers low fees

Cons:

  • Exchange rate isn’t based on mid-market rate
  • You can only send up to $3,000 per day or $900 if using PayNearMe

How to send money internationally safely

The money transfer services reviewed above provide convenient and secure ways to send money internationally. Use one of them, and avoid unknown or unfamiliar options. There are many elaborate transfer schemes that scam people and steal their money. Remember, transferring money is like sending cash: Once money leaves your hands, there’s virtually no way of tracing a sketchy transfer and getting your funds back.

Avoid sending money to someone you’ve never met. There are countless scams — people saying you’ve won a foreign lottery, calls from long lost relatives in crisis, mysterious online purchases you didn’t actually make — and scammers usually try to get you to make a money transfer. They also send their target victims emails that appear to be from a legitimate money transfer company, like the ones listed above, asking you to open an account. Ignore solicitations like these, as most companies won’t contact you this way. Most money transfer companies have fraud detection teams that monitor suspicious transactions.

You can send money internationally inexpensively and conveniently. However, you will need to remain vigilant and do your research to ensure your money is safe and gets to its intended destination. With so many options available, pick the one that’s best suited to your needs and review all information before you send any amount of money.

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Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain |

Sarah Li Cain is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah Li here

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