Zelle is a way to send and receive money from your friends and family in the US for free.
However, there’s one major drawback: you can’t send money overseas with Zelle internationally.
So what are the best ways to transfer money overseas?
The good news is, there are tried and tested ways you send money overseas quickly and cheaply.
But first it is important to know what Zelle can and can’t do.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and savings on transfers if you use some of the links! For more information, see my disclosures here.
1. What Does Zelle Do?
Zelle is part of the mobile banking apps of most US banks and credit unions that lets you send and receive money from friends and family for free in the US – even if you hold accounts at different banks or live in different states.
Zelle is integrated with Chase, Bank of America, Citi Bank, USBank, WellsFargo, etc – see the full list here.
With Zelle you can:
- Send money to people for free by entering their email address or US phone number
- Receive money without sharing your bank details (just share your correct email address or phone number)
- Use Zelle even if your bank doesn’t support it yet (just download the Zelle Pay app)
- Receive money in the form of disbursements from organizations or the government
- Small businesses can also use Zelle to send and receive money for free
2. Zelle Costs & Fees
There are no costs to send and receive money with Zelle – all payments are instant and free!
So how does Zelle make money? Zelle is a private company, owned partly by some of the banks who use it including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Other banks and credit unions who use Zelle may pay fees to Zelle. That said, Zelle could run at a substantial loss and still make a lot of sense for the banks and credit unions that participate. The biggest benefit to the banks and credit unions may be that (because of Zelle) customers feel less motivation to start using alternate services like Cash App and Venmo which are rapidly growing.
3. Does Zelle Work Internationally?
For a start, you need a U.S. bank account and mobile phone number to set up Zelle in your bank’s mobile app or to sign up for Zelle Pay.
But here is the real problem:
In order to use Zelle®, the sender and recipient’s bank accounts must be based in the U.S.Zelle
So while you can access your US bank account overseas, using Zelle international is an issue.
4. Best Way to Send Money Internationally?
You can simply use your bank, but expect to pay high fees for a wire transfer.
From the US, typically you will pay a Sending Fee of $25 to $50 USD + (2% – 4% on the Exchange Rate Conversion Fee) + Receiving Bank Fee.
All this can make transfers very costly.
At this point many people turn to either PayPal or Western Union, Ria or MoneyGram or another remittance service.
Unfortunately PayPal, the international fees can be relatively high.
If you need to send cash and want the receiver to also receive cash Western Union (review), Ria (review) and MoneyGram (review) may be your best options, but these too can be expensive ways to send your money.
Fortunately over the last decade or so a bunch of great services with online efficiencies have made sending money from bank accounts much easier, faster and cheaper.
Top 3 International Money Transfer Services
Don’t miss the Quick Comparison Table below.
Wise is our top pick for you if you want to send bank transfers below $7000 bank-to-bank.
As you might know already just using a bank can be very expensive, and it is difficult to know what you pay until you actually do it.
But with the Wise calculator (opens new tab) you can see the fees you pay without signing up for the amount and currencies you want to transfer.
But that is not the best bit:
They also offer a multi-currency account that lets you hold, manage, and convert between 50+ currencies – great for traveling abroad. This account also comes with a prepaid Mastercard debit card for online shopping, contactless payments, and ATM withdrawals at home and abroad.
Availability: Wise is available for registration in 59 countries (including the US) and supports transfers to these 50+ countries in 40+ currencies.
Strengths: Transfers at the mid-market rate, transparent fees, great for small bank transfers below $7000 USD, support for both individuals and businesses.
Fees: Low service fee starting from 0.35% which depends on the currency and amount. Very affordable compared to banks who often take significantly higher fees. As much as possible, Wise also removes fees like the receiving fee banks at the other end often charge.
Check out our Wise Review here or try the Wise calculator (opens new tab) for yourself.
WorldRemit is a great alternative if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account and needs to receive cash but you do.
You can also send mobile wallet transfers and top up their cell phones with WorldRemit.
Availability: WorldRemit supports registrations from 50 countries (including the UK, US, including the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and Eurozone) and lets you end cash, bank, and mobile wallet transfers to 130 countries in 70+ currencies.
Strengths: Multiple payout methods, wide coverage
Fees: They charge a margin on the exchange rate (between 1% and 4.5%), which varies by currency. Their service fees also vary by location. For example, bank transfers to African countries cost $0.99 USD and cash transfers cost $1.99 USD, while transfers to Asia and other supported countries range between $1.99 USD to $3.99 USD.
Overall, WorldRemit is one of the most affordable ways to send cash from a bank account and compares strongly against traditional remitters like WesternUnion (review) and Ria (review) who are good options for cash to cash transfers.
Another reason to try WorldRemit is that you can get 4FREE* transfers! (*click the link to see if you qualify)
Check out our full review of WorldRemit.
Remitly is on a mission to make international money transfers fast and affordable for immigrants based in developed countries to their families in developing nations.
Remitly supports cash transfers, mobile transfers, as well as bank transfers.
Availability: You can sign up for Remitly from 21 developed countries (including the US) to 100+ countries worldwide.
Strengths: Fast and affordable payments, multiple payout methods.
Fees: Remitly’s fees depend on how much you send, the funding method, and the transfer speed – Express or Economy. With Express, you can only fund your transfer with credit cards, which makes it more expensive but very fast (money received in a few hours). Their Economy service is more affordable since you can fund your transfer from a bank account but it’s also slower (money received in 3-5 days).
You can see what you will pay.
Overall Remitly offers a great experience for immigrants and can be way cheaper than high street banks and compares strongly against traditional remitters like WesternUnion (review) and Ria (review) who are good options for cash to cash transfers.
Check out our full review of Remitly.
5. Quick Comparison – Zelle International Alternatives
These three money transfer companies represent the cheapest and best money transfer services we think you can find for smaller transfers – below $7000 USD.
|Best Ways||Best for||Limitations|
|Wise||Small bank-to-bank transfers below $7000 to almost anywhere||No cash transfers|
|WorldRemit||Affordable bank-to-cash transfers to 130 countries worldwide. Multiple payout methods||Fees not as good as Wise|
|Remitly||Instant cash transfers from the US and 20 other developed countries to 100 countries worldwide||Personal transfers only, no transfer between the sending countries|
For transfers above $7000 in the US we recommend OFX (review) if you like doing things online but want a top notch service (24/7) with low fees. We also really like Currencies Direct (review) who are exceptional when it comes to telephone based customer service.
Zelle is a cheap and fastest way to send money to your friends and family in the US.
However, Zelle internationally does not work .
If you want to send small bank transfers abroad affordably, we recommend a leading money transfer service (above) who can save you money and provide better options for where they send the money and they can do it quickly!
What is the best way to send money overseas?
International money transfer services are safe, have fees often many times lower than banks and they can also be faster.
Why can’t Zelle handle international transfers?
International transfers are a completely different challenge to domestic transfers as they involve far more regulation, different currencies, technology and customer service.