International Money Transfer Comparison
If you are serious about saving a lot of money, comparing international money transfers is a very good start.
Most importantly, in this post, we will guide you to selecting one of the three different types of services to best suit your needs.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which may save you money and also earn us a commission (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support. For more information, see my disclosures here.
|Bank||Wise||CurrencyFair||Remitly||WorldRemit||PaySend||OFX||TorFX/Currencies Direct (same company, different geographies)|
|Best For||Keeping your money not moving it||Small bank transfers between $300-$7000 USD||Very affordable fees for bank transfers below $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AUD||Mini cash or bank transfers below $300||Versatility Mini and transfers including cash between $300-$7000 USD||Mini card-to-card transfers below $300||Large bank transfers above $7000. Great mix of online + service||Large bank transfers above $7000. Great customer service.|
|Availability||50+ countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand||Supports 17 major currencies||28 developed countries||Supports registrations from 50 countries (including the UK, US, including the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and Eurozone)||49 to sending countries||Available in most countries with offices in US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Hong Kong||TorFX: Australia, Asia, and New Zealand|
CurrenciesDirect: the USA, UK, Europe, Canada, India, South Africa, Spain, and Portugal:
|User rating||1 - 2 / 5||4.5/5 with over 170,000 reviews on Trustpilot||4.6/5||4.2/5 with over 37,000 reviews on Trustpilot||4.1/5 with over 65,000 reviews on Trustpilot||4.5/5 with over 30,000 reviews on Trustpilot||3.9/5 with over 4,900 reviews on Trustpilot||TorFX: 4.9/5 with over 5,000 reviews on Trustpilot|
CurrenciesDirect: 4.9/5 with over 7000 reviews on Trustpilot
|Minimum amount||NA||NA||8 EUR or equivalent||NA||NA||NA||$1000 USD or equivalent||£100 GBP or equivalent|
|Maximum amount||NA||None for sending – receiving limits applicable||NA||Depends on location and other factors||Depends on the location – for example $9000 per 24 h from the US||$999 or equivalent per day||NA||NA|
|Margin on the exchange rate (approximate)||No margin on the exchange rate – Most affordable||1%-3.5%||0.5%-1%||1.5-2.5%||Variable percentage fee that goes down as the amount increases, making large transfers very affordable.||Between 0.5% – 2% – goes down as the amount increases|
|Limitations||No cash transfers||Limited availability – only available in 28 receiving countries||Not always the cheapest||No bank or cash transfers||Flat $15 fee for all transfers below $10,000||Small transfers can be expensive|
1. The 3 Different Types of International Money Transfer Services
The quick and dirty way to choose a service is just compare how much money arrives.
But many important things can be missed.
Fortunately there are three different types of money transfer companies:
- Mini Transfers / Remittance (under $300)
- Small transfers (between $300 and $7000)
- Large transfers (above $7000 USD)
Choosing the right service for your needs often means you get the services you need without paying for what you don’t. Many people also fail to consider, “what happens if something goes wrong?”. Regulations, 3rd party banks and multiple different technologies mean a service with great customer service can be very helpful.
(1.1) MINI Transfers: under $300 USD
You’ll find two categories of money transfer companies for mini transfers:
- Traditional remitters that operate both online and offline (think Western Union and Moneygram)
- Online-only services that may work with 3rd parties for cash can be collected (and keep costs low)
These companies are ideal for mini transfers (such as send money home to friends or family, emergency funds, bill payments, mobile phone top-ups and gifts) because they can deal with cash and the transfers can be processed almost instantly. There is also very little documentation required.
On the downside, many services take a big chunk out of your hard earned money but there are some online-only options which can significantly reduce the fees. And even the traditional remitters have online options which can save you.
In this category, you will find big names like Ria (review), MoneyGram (review), and Western Union (review).
They have agents or kiosks all over the world and support most currencies – both major and many you probably haven’t heard of.
If you want to send cash and also want cash to arrive we would recommend the one closest to you.
However, these services are rarely very transparent or inexpensive in terms of fees. Along with a hefty margin on the exchange rate, these companies may also charge agent fees and receiving fees.
But the premium may be worth it if you prefer to set up the transfer in person (with cash), and need the money to arrive practically instantly in cash.
Best for you when:
- You want to pay cash at a kiosk/agent
- Send under $300 USD or equivalent
- Your recipient doesn’t have a bank account
- You want support for both major and other currencies
- You want instant or same-day transfers
But if you want to save significantly, a new breed of online services is focused on being more efficient while providing tailored services.
Online-only services like Remitly, PaySend, and even PayPal (surprise) can make it easy, affordable, and fast to send money home to friends and family abroad.
Remitly (review) specializes in helping immigrants in 28 developed countries send money home to 150+ countries worldwide instantly (cash transfers) or within a couple of days (bank transfers).
PaySend (review) specializes in card-to-card transfers of small amounts (up to $999 per day or 5 transfers total) from 49 sending countries to 170+ receiving countries worldwide.
And while PayPal international transfers may not always be the cheapest option for international transfers, they’re widely available for registration in 200 countries, support 27 currencies for international payments, and is one of the easiest ways (PayPal to PayPal) to send money to friends and family abroad.
Best for you when:
- You’re comfortable handling everything online
- Your recipient has a bank account, debit card, PayPal account or 3rd party kiosks are available for cash pickup
- You want to send small amounts – bank, card, or cash transfer – below $300 USD
- You want the money to arrive in 2-3 days or on the same day
(1.2) SMALL Transfers: between $300-$7000 USD
I love this category because you can save significantly of fees, they are the most innovative (like great Apps) and their focus is on great online customer experiences.
Wise (review), CurrencyFair (review) and WorldRemit (review) specialize in these small transfers from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc. to most countries worldwide – without dropping the ball on transfer speed.
Wise is my number one pick because of their transparency, low fees and minimalist offerings. They simply do what I want without any BS. I actually trust them. But don’t take my word for it, have a quick read of a recent Mission Update where they talk openly about increasing fees. Who does that unless they are actually trying to keep them low? (and they are low)
Most importantly, you’ll see a breakdown of all the fees on their awesome calculator based on your amount, chosen currency and funding method before you even sign up for an account (again – rare!).
And if you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll love the Wise multi-currency account (review), which lets you hold, manage and convert between 50+ currencies, get local receiving accounts in 10 currencies, as well as a Wise prepaid debit card (review) that I just made a video about after a recent overseas trip.
CurrencyFair is also a standout I like using because I really like saving as much money as possible and they can be cheaper than Wise because of their P2P marketplace where you can effectively swap currencies in opposite directions with another user. In case the swap is not available, CurrencyFair automatically processes your transfer at the mid market rate with a competitive fee. You can also get your first 10 transfers fee free (opens a new tab).
I also highly rate WorldRemit because they allows you to inexpensively send small amounts including cash to the destination country through a huge network of local partners (like banks, pawnshops, and third-party agents). They also have a coupon code here to get your first 4 transfers fee free. Use the code ‘4FREE’* and pay no fees on your first four money transfers. WorldRemit supports registrations from 50 countries and lets you send money to 130 countries – both cash and bank transfers.
The reason we have included these three in our top 7 list, is you can make significant savings compared with traditional remitters like Western Union, Ria, and Moneygram.
Best for you when:
- Flexibility is a priority – for amount as well as payout method (cash or bank)
- You want to send money fast (but not necessarily instantly)
- You want big savings on small transfers
(1.3) LARGE Transfers: over $7000 USD
Many services claim they can transfer large amounts and technically they can but that does not mean you should use them.
Even Wise (which I love – see above) tries hard to get business in this category but there is one important reason why I think you should consider OFX (review), TorFX (review) (UK/Australasia/NZ), and CurrenciesDirect (review) (USA/Canada).
Phone support out of the box. Big deal I hear you say.
Well it can be a big deal. In simple terms: Money transfers are complex and involve multiple 3rd parties which ideally you should not need to worry about.
As amounts increase so do the rules which banks and money transfer companies have to follow (due to regulations). This means there is more potential for problems like missing money or even just funds getting frozen until they get some more ID from you.
Unless you use a service designed to avoid these issues from the start (like getting enough ID for large transfers) but also can handle any issues faced (usually with your 3rd party banks) you are asking for problems in my view.
The services that I highly recommend have excellent customer service – by phone. The phone aspect is important. Because for now real humans are still better than emails, chat bots and Ai for now anyway.
Two other things:
- The fees they charge decreases in percentage terms as the amount increases (this is not often the case with other services)
- The level of support they offer is unmatched. On signing up, you’ll get a call from an account manager who can provide guidance and even advice.
Best for you when:
- You want to transfer large amounts with low fees
- You possibly want support and advice
- You like the idea of picking up the phone and being able to speak to a human in case of bottle necks
- You’re okay to wait 3-7 days for your money to arrive
2. Get Exchange Rates and Compare
3. Comparing the FEES
When it comes to international money transfer comparison understanding all the fees involved is the first step to ensuring you are comparing apples with apples.
Fees Services and Banks charge:
- Sending Fee
- Transfer Fee
- Margin on the exchange rate
- Receiving Fee
3.1 Sending Fee
This is a small fee charged by your bank for sending money from your bank account to the money transfer company’s account.
Services like Wise and OFX minimize or eliminate these fees with local bank accounts in the countries they operate in.
This fee can also be charged by an agent or kiosk if you’re using a service like WesternUnion, Ria, or MoneyGram and paying for your transfer with cash.
3.2 Transfer Fee
This is a small fee charged by money transfer companies depending on the target currency, amount or payout method.
Sometimes, these companies waive the transfer fee as a promotional discount or if you send a certain amount.
If you’ve ever seen money transfer companies talking about “fee-free” transfers in their marketing, this is the fee they waive as a promotional discount (or if you send above a certain amount).
3.3 Margin on the exchange rate
This is usually the biggest fee charged by money transfer companies that allows them to stay in business.
This fee is usually a percentage that depends on the transfer amount or other variables and is applied to the exchange rate offered by the money transfer companies.
And yes – you guessed it: Not all companies offer the inter-bank or mid-market exchange rate. Moreover, with the margin applied, it’s not easy to determine the exchange rate you’re getting (See “How to get the best exchange rate” below).
The margin on the exchange rate can have major implications on the overall fees.
For example, for companies specializing in mini transfers, the margin is lower if the amount is low. Large amounts can increase the margin on the exchange rate, as well as the overall fees – making these extremely expensive.
That’s why we need specialized services for specific amounts.
3.4 Receiving fee
This is the fee charged by your recipient’s bank or the agent office where they can go to pick up cash.
4. How to Get the Most Money to Arrive
Start with considering the size of the transfer amount you are going to make most regularly.
For example: Smaller transfers can be done by the ones we recommend for larger amount but they will likely cost a bit more. Conversely larger transfers can be done by the services we recommend for smaller amounts but the exchange rate margins are fixed and therefor more costly.
- Mini Transfers / Remittance (under $300)
- Small transfers (between $300 and $7000)
- Large transfers (above $7000 USD)
Using a service that specialises best designed for these amount will tend to have a fee structure that works better. (There are a few outliers)
Mini Transfers / Remittance (under $300)
If possible use a bank account to fund the transfer using one of the services which are designed to make it cheaper by doing as much as possible online.
Small transfers (between $300 and $7000)
If you want to save the absolute most possible CurrencyFair through its P2P network makes it possible to get best exchange rates and lowest fees. This however can take a little bit of work and Wise is very inexpensive but also makes it easy.
Large transfers (above $7000 USD)
The best thing you can do in this category is use a service with a fee structure that means they charge less fees (in percentage terms) as the amounts increase. this is why we love OFX and TorFX/Currencies Direct. If you can’t decide between to two I tell my friends who would rather do things on the phone to simply get a quote with TorFX or Currencies Direct. If however you are happy doing things online but understand the importance of 24/7 phone support then use OFX (we do).
Some companies help you lock in a favorable exchange rate for 48-72 hours (for small amounts) or even up to a year (for large amounts).
5. Understanding International Money Transfers Better
Cross border transfers are often processed by the SWIFT network – a network of international banks that communicates the transfer request via codes (money is not physically moved across the world!).
This involves converting the currency you’re sending into the currency of the receiving country into an equivalent amount based on a predetermined currency exchange rate.
This is what banks do which often referred to a Wire transfer. Part of the reason money transfer companies save you money is that they don’t transfer any money at all – they just swap it on their own books. The imbalances are taken care of with banks they partner with.
What often throws most people off is when less money arrives than they originally sent.
This is because the entire international money transfer process has many fees built into it (see “The REAL fees” above).
Other aspects that you need to consider: the service used, your location, the amount, how you fund the transfer (impacts the fees), and the payout method (cash, bank transfer, mobile wallet transfer, etc.).
6. How to Transfer Money Abroad (6 Easy Steps)
- Sign up with a money transfer company of your choice depending on your location, the amount you want to transfer, the payout method, etc. Keep some personal documentation like address proof and photo proof ready.
- Before you complete the transaction, your account needs to be verified. Typically this is a simple matter of uploading scans or photos of your identification. Depending on the service and the amounts, the document requirements will vary. Verification can take a couple of days to a week to be completed.
- After approval you can set up your first transfer or simply lock-in the transfer you started whilst signing up.
Important to note: Many services will then require that you send them the money within a certain timeframe in order to secure the exchange rate you have locked in. Others will only lock-in a rate after you have sent them the money. This timeframe is often called a “guarantee”. You will require the other person’s full name, address, account number, and Branch Number or Bank Identifier Code (SWIFT BIC or IBAN).
- There are usually several ways to send money to the money transfer service. Some may carry a fee and limit the daily amount you can send. These fees can differ from bank to bank and service to service. For larger amounts it can be helpful to have a knowledgeable customer service person to guide you. The funding method can also have an impact on the total fees.
- Depending on many factors like how you funded the transaction and the banks involved the time it takes for the money to arrive at its destination can be immediate to 7 days. Most bank to bank transfers take 4 or 5 working days and are more economical, while instant transfers are more expensive. Most services let you track the transfer on their web portal or mobile app.
- Funds arrive which can involve a fee charged by the recipient bank or agents (if you’re paying with or sending cash). Many services (like Wise and OFX) are able to reduce this fee through having local bank accounts in the country where the money arrives.
Not all money transfer services are made equal but you can choose one that meets your specific needs to save money and much more.
Best Rates For Sending 5,000.00 USD to GBP
Best Rates For Sending 5.00 USD to GBP
What are the main differences between money transfer companies?
Most people focus on the fees and while this is very important the services companies offer and the customer service (especially if things go wrong) are also key differences.
How do I keep transfer fees low as possible?
There are 4 main fees which contribute to the total fees and these vary based on the amount and currencies. That said, there are some standout services which do better than others in certain situations like the amount, speed and customer service.