It’s pretty sad that when sending money abroad, you’re likely to lose a significant amount to banks which is why we’ve spent years independently reviewing the best ways to transfer money internationally to help you save cost on charges.
Unfortunately, the associated costs and time it takes to get your money to its intended recipient can vary widely.
To help you make an informed decision, we collected the best ways to transfer money internationally for your own good.
Best Ways to Send Money Internationally
Just like there are many ways to spend and exchange money in the United States, there’s more than one way to send money outside of the country.
While you can’t always pick how you send and receive money internationally, here are some methods to consider if you have a choice.
1. Cash-to-Cash Transfer
This method is just what it sounds like converting cash in one country to cash in another.
Cash-to-cash transfers are popular in developing countries where many people are unbanked, meaning they don’t have a bank account.
Cashing a check or finding a bank branch can be difficult in places without a lot of banking infrastructure, such as rural and low-income areas.
A cash-to-cash transfer allows the recipient to access the funds in cash immediately.
With the ease of access comes risk. If the money in a cash-to-cash transfer is lost or stolen, there’s no recourse for getting it back.
For a stolen credit card, companies typically refund fraudulent purchases and issue a new card, but cash is only useful when it’s in your wallet.
2. Bank-to-Bank Transfer
If your bank has branches or partner institutions in other countries, you may be able to send money from your account to an international recipient’s account with the same institution.
It usually requires providing the account and routing numbers for both parties, either online or over the phone.
One of the main benefits of a bank-to-bank money transfer is that it can be very inexpensive or even free, depending on your bank’s rules and how quickly the recipient needs the money.
Many banks don’t charge anything for three-day bank-to-bank transfers, and the fees for faster transfer times can be as low as a few dollars per transfer.
To do a bank-to-bank transfer, you’ll need a fair amount of information, such as the recipient’s bank account and routing numbers.
If the person you’re sending money to is a stranger instead of a friend or family member, they might be reluctant to give you this information.
Also, the recipient must have the same financial options as you.
This method won’t work if either party has a smaller regional bank or credit union instead of a large multinational bank with many branches.
3. Account-to-Cash Transfer
Account-to-cash transfers can be used to send money from your bank account to someone overseas who doesn’t have a bank account.
Your bank sends the money to the recipient, who can pick it up at a location such as a Western Union counter in their country.
Not all banks are equipped to handle this kind of transaction, so check with your bank to see if it’s an option. You can also explore a standalone service, such as TransferWise.
One of the main benefits of account-to-cash transfers is that the recipient doesn’t need a bank account.
In countries without much banking infrastructure, many people turn to account-to-cash transfers.
Just as with a cash-to-cash transfer, one big drawback of an account-to-cash transfer is that the recipient picks up the money in cash. That means there are no protections against fraud or loss.
4. Credit-to-Credit or Debit-to-Debit Transfer
Another method that’s just what it sounds like, a credit-to-credit or debit-to-debit transfer is when you use your credit or debit card to send money to an international recipient’s credit or debit card.
This method is simple and straightforward. People usually use it when they don’t have access to other options for sending money internationally.
If you choose this method, make sure you understand all the fees associated with it. It may prove so costly that a different method would be a far less expensive choice.
If both the sender and recipient are hit with fees from their card companies, it’s probably more economical to wire money using a service such as MoneyGram or send a prepaid debit card.
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5. Prepaid Debit Card
Prepaid debit cards are cards you can load with a specific amount of money.
The recipient can then spend that money until the balance is zero. Not all prepaid debit cards can be used internationally, though.
Prepaid debit cards are reloadable, so once the recipient spends the balance, the card can be reloaded with more funds.
For people with bad or no credit, prepaid debit cards can be a good way to build credit.
However, prepaid debit cards can come with many different kinds of fees, so be sure to read the fine print closely if you choose this option.
Some prepaid cards have so many fees and costs associated with them that they can be borderline predatory.
6. Digital Wallet
Digital wallets are popular in countries where there isn’t much traditional banking infrastructure but many residents have a smartphone.
A digital wallet securely stores your payment information, including passwords, allowing you to send money digitally to recipients using the same digital wallet.
Depending on which app or service your recipient uses, you may need to know only their email address or username to send them money.
Digital wallets are becoming an increasingly popular way to send and receive money across the globe.
However, the recipient must have a smartphone or access to a Web-enabled computer.
These are the only ways they can securely store payment and balance information and receive funds using a digital wallet.
PayPal tops other peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer apps like Venmo and Zelle due to its accessibility and choice of payment methods.
Funds may be obtained instantly into a recipient’s PayPal account and can then be transferred to a bank account as soon as the next day.
Another major advantage of PayPal is that if a recipient doesn’t want to connect to a bank account, they can use their PayPal balance to spend money instead because the platform is widely accepted as a payment method.
Delving deeper into the best ways to transfer money internationally, note that PayPal’s international transfers come with hefty costs, so it’s better to send money within the U.S.
There’s no overall limit to how much you can dispatch when you have a verified account, though individual transactions are generally limited to $60,000 and some are limited to $10,000.
Without a PayPal-verified account, you can dispatch a one-time payment of up to $4,000.
If you often find yourself waking up in one nation and going to sleep in another, managing money across borders can be difficult.
Still on the best ways to transfer money internationally, repeatedly exchanging cash for foreign banknotes can cost a lot in fees.
Wise, a firm focusing on “borderless banking,” makes managing money in multiple currencies a breeze.
It’s also feasible to do regular money transfers through the platform without setting up its borderless bank account.
Remitly is a US-based digital remittance company that’s frequently the fastest and cheapest way to send money internationally.
The platform delivers various pay-in and pay-out options (including card payments, bank transfers, and cash services) and supports currency transfers to over 85 countries worldwide.
10. Western Union
Founded in 1851, Western Union is one of the biggest and most well-known international money transfer companies in the world.
Western Union offers access to money payouts at their 550,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories.
It has also assembled its digital money transfer network (usually cheaper than its brick-and-mortar services).
As long as you dispatch bank transfers or debit card payments with the online service, Western Union often offers low fees.
Your recipient will usually profit from more favorable exchange rates when receiving bank transfers, but we still suggest cash pick-ups because they offer reliability, convenience, and easy access.
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Things You Need to Consider Before Sending Money Abroad
Businesses state low, upfront fees or even offer consumers fee-free transfers.
However, like an iceberg, most of the expense of sending money abroad is hidden. The bulk of consumer costs can be concealed in poor exchange rates.
2. Exchange Rate
Going further on the best ways to transfer money internationally, a quick Google search will show you an exchange rate.
However, if you compare it to the exchange rate offered by banks and traditional money transfer services, you’ll find their rate is often much worse.
It often takes several working days before traditional international money remittances are completed.
Meanwhile, a lot of transfers are completed on TransferWise within 1 business day.
Safe money transfers With TransferWise, you’ll know where your money is every step of the way.
Moreover, as a company authorized by the FCA, you can sleep well knowing your money is in good hands.
Who Usually Transfers Money Overseas?
As the internet and other tech advancements have overcome the barriers of geographical distance, more and more countries have opened their doors to trade and become global citizens.
As a result, the need for Americans and citizens of other countries around the world to send money overseas has rapidly expanded. Those who most commonly need to send money overseas tend to be:
- Overseas workers
- Overseas students
- People moving overseas
- Returning ex-pats
- People with friends or family members traveling overseas
Whichever option you choose, be sure that you’re sending money to the correct person; that you keep records of your transaction and any confirmation information; and that you’re informed about any possible fraud or scams.
In summary of the best ways to transfer money internationally, pay attention to how long the transfer will take to ensure the money gets to the recipient on time, especially if they’re on a tight deadline or need it to pay an upcoming bill.
In all cases, reading the fine print will make you a more informed, savvy consumer.
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