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international money transfer

Whether you’ll be making a number of international money transfers or it’s a one-time transaction, it’s important to know the best ways to send money internationally. Maybe you need to put down a deposit for a vacation rental, send money to family living abroad or make a foreign purchase. Whatever the case, you have several options for sending money internationally. From Western Union to your bank, the post office or online services, it’s important to compare fees, transfer minimums and currency exchange rates before sending money.

In-Person International Money Transfer Services

If you need to send the payment in cash or need it delivered in cash, quickly and in-person, money transfer operators like Western Union and MoneyGram are the best option for you. Money transfer operators offer the convenience of allowing the recipient to pick up cash at any of the operator’s locations.

Western Union is the household name for money transfers and for good reason. With 550,000 locations in over 200 countries, Western Union is everywhere. They enable users to send money to any Western Union location within minutes or to a bank account in a few days. Money transfers can be made in person at a location, online with a credit card, debit card or bank account or via the company’s phone app. Western Union’s convenience comes at a cost, however. Its fees can be very high, sometimes as much as 10% of the amount being sent and its exchange rates are marked up significantly.

MoneyGram is Western Union’s closest rival. It has 350,000 locations in over 200 countries and offers transfer services within the hour. MoneyGram also allows transfers in person, online with a credit card, debit card or bank account or via the company’s mobile app. Its fees tend to be on par with Western Union’s.

Other Local Options for Money Transfers

Your bank offers international money transfer services, but at a high cost. Wire transfer fees can range between $30 and $50 with an additional markup on the exchange rate. While heading to your bank may seem like the most convenient way to send money, it won’t do your wallet any favors as one of the most expensive options.

The United States Post Office offers a service called Sure Money that enables users to wire up to $1,500 a day to 10 Latin American countries. Recipients can receive the money within 15 minutes from participating banks in their country. Fees depend on the amount sent and range from $12.20 – $18.45. For an additional fee, the sender can change the recipient of the wire or request a refund.

Online International Money Transfer Services

international money transfer

Nowadays, you also have access to many online international money transfer services as an alternative to brick-and-mortar stores. In exchange for an actual location, these services offer lower fees and better exchange rates.

TransferWise offers transfer services between 45 countries. It promises no hidden fees, with a fee structure consisting of a percentage of the amount you send and a small flat transaction fee. You can send money from your checking account, debit card or credit card, although credit cards incur a higher fee. TransferWise offers delivery times from within a few hours to a few days, depending on where the money is being sent.

Xoom by Paypal charges a fee that depends on each country, payment method, transfer amount, currency selection and receiving option. There is typically a higher fee on credit card and debit card transfers and markups on mid-market exchange rates. Xoom delivers money in minutes to 71 countries, with cash pickup available in certain countries from local banks. It even offers home delivery in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and the Philippines.

OFX serves over 190 countries in 55 different currencies. Uniquely, OFX doesn’t charge its own fees for money transfers. There is a low exchange rate markup of <1%. You can snag even better exchange rates by signing up for OFX. As a sender, you must transfer at least $1,000 per individual transaction. Delivery typically takes one to two days.

What Are the Best Places to Transfer Money Internationally?

Western Union provides the best option for those who want to send straight cash and have the abroad recipient receive that cash within minutes. Plus, no other service has as many locations as Western Union with its thousands of locations in over 200 countries offering the most convenience. Just be sure to double check the fees you might face. If the fees take too large of a chunk out of your funds, you may want to turn to an online service instead.

If you’re looking for low fees and a low minimum transfer amount, look to OFX. This service won’t charge you a transfer fee of its own. Plus, it boasts much lower exchange rates than most banks and other transfer services. You can’t, however, send money to be picked up as cash, limiting you to bank account transfers.

TransferWise provides another solid online option with its mid-market exchange rates with no markup. Just be careful of its 1% fee, especially when sending larger amounts.

Comparison Charts

Below, you’ll find charts comparing the costs of sending money to Australia, China and Mexico. We’ve included popular  international money transfer options and their fees. We’ve also given an example transfer amount of $100 to help determine the fee amounts. Just don’t forget that exchanges rates and fees are constantly changing, so these figures may look different.

Transfers From the U.S. to Australia
Transfer Service Money Sent Total Fees
MoneyGram: In-person cash $100
$500
$1,000
$12 for cash pickup
$20 for cash pickup
$32 for cash pickup
MoneyGram: Online, checking $100
$500
$1,000
$10 for cash pickup
$15 for cash pickup
$25 for cash pickup
MoneyGram: Online, credit/debit $100
$500
$1,000
$12 for cash pickup
$31 for cash pickup
$81 for cash pickup
OFX $100
$500
$1,000
$0
TransferWise: Online debit $100
$500
$1,000
$2
$5
$8.70
TransferWise: Online credit $100
$500
$1,000
$3.65
$13.25
$25.26
Western Union: In-person cash $100
$500
$1,000
$8 into bank account/ $12 for cash pickup
$8 into bank account/ $20 for cash pickup
$8 into bank account/ $32 for cash pickup
Western Union: Online checking $100
$500
$1,000
$5 into bank account/ $11 for cash pickup
$5 into bank account/ $21 for cash pickup
$5 into bank account/ $26 for cash pickup
Western Union: Online debit/credit $100
$500
$1,000
$10 into bank account/ $12 for cash pickup
$20 into bank account/ $42 for cash pickup
$40 into bank account/ $81 for cash pickup
Xoom: Online checking $100
$500
$1,000
$0
Xoom: Online debit/credit $100
$500
$1,000
$30.49
Transfers From the U.S. to China
Transfer Service Money Sent Total Fees
MoneyGram: In-person cash $100
$500
$1,000
$13 for cash pickup
MoneyGram: Online, checking $100
$500
$1,000
$10.99 for cash pickup
$24.99 for cash pickup
$25.99 for cash pickup
MoneyGram: Online, credit/debit $100
$500
$1,000
$9.99 for cash pickup
$49.99 for cash pickup
$74.99 for cash pickup
OFX $100
$500
$1,000
$0
TransferWise: Online debit $100
$500
$1,000
$9.15
$14.09
$20.28
TransferWise: Online credit $100
$500
$1,000
$10.80
$22.33
$36.76
Western Union: In-person cash $100
$500
$1,000
$8 into bank account/ $10 for cash pickup
Western Union: Online checking $100
$500
$1,000
$0 into bank account/ $11 for cash pickup
$0 into bank account/ $25 for cash pickup
$0 into bank account/ $26 for cash pickup
Western Union: Online debit/credit $100
$500
$1,000
$0 into bank account/ $10 for cash pickup
$0 into bank account/ $50 for cash pickup
$0 into bank account/ $75 for cash pickup
Xoom: Online checking $100
$500
$1,000
$8.88
Xoom: Online debit/credit $100
$500
$1,000
$10
$20
$30
Transfers From the U.S. to Mexico
Transfer Service Money Sent Total Fees
MoneyGram: In-person cash $100
$500
$1,000
$9.99 for cash pickup
MoneyGram: Online, checking $100
$500
$1,000
$4 for cash pickup
MoneyGram: Online, credit/debit $100
$500
$1,000
$4.99 for cash pickup
$6.99 for cash pickup
$0.99 for cash pickup
OFX $100
$500
$1,000
$0
TransferWise: Online debit $100
$500
$1,000
$2.09
$5.46
$9.68
TransferWise: Online credit $100
$500
$1,000
$3.74
$13.73
$26.23
Western Union: In-person cash $100
$500
$1,000
$5
$8 into bank account/ $20 for cash pickup
$8 into bank account/ $32 for cash pickup
Western Union: Online checking $100
$500
$1,000
$2.99 into bank account/ $5 for cash pickup
Western Union: Online debit/credit $100
$500
$1,000
$2.99 into bank account/ $4.99 for cash pickup
$2.99 into bank account/ $7 for cash pickup
$40 into bank account/ $7 for cash pickup
Xoom: Online checking $100
$500
$1,000
$4.99
Xoom: Online debit/credit $100
$500
$1,000
$4.99
$12.99
$24.99

Bottom Line

international money transfer

Next time you need to send an international money transfer, take a moment before heading to your bank. Doing do can save you a ton in fees. You can also find a service that’s much faster than your bank, like Xoom by Paypal. Always pay attention to the fees each service charges. You should also take advantage of the calculators each service mentioned above provides, to get more accurate fee and total estimates.

Tips for Managing Your Money Safely

  • Within today’s technology-heavy world, there are a number of risks that come with sending money especially online. Even some of the best ways to transfer money can be tricky since many of these methods are pretty final. This makes it so important to know exactly who and where you’re sending your money before it’s gone.
  • A big part of managing your money safely is ensuring it’s insured and locked away from prying eyes and hands. This means placing your money not only in a checking account, but a savings account, as well. Having a savings account (or multiple!) can help prevent you from spending all your money too easily. Plus, it grows by earning interest which can help you in case of emergency.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/tillsonburg, ©iStock.com/Lyashik, ©iStock.com/Artsanova

Danielle Klimashousky Danielle Klimashousky is a freelance writer who covers a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset. She is an expert on topics including credit cards and home buying. Danielle has a BA in English from Wesleyan University.
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