Sending money to loved ones in another country can be challenging thanks to the added headaches of exchange rates and international money transfer fees. Fortunately, many safe and affordable options for transferring money internationally exist today—though it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which is best for you.
If you’re looking to avoid overpaying in fees and get more from each transfer, we’ve got a complete rundown on how to send money overseas.
Below, we’ll explain the basics of making international payments and then tackle important questions about how to get the cheapest transfer fees so that more money makes it home to your family.
Sending Money Overseas: The Basics
Many people mistake overseas money transfers as being possible only through your bank. However, there’s no shortage of independent money transfer companies that beat the bank in both affordability and convenience. Services like Remitly even allow you to send right from your phone.
But before you send any funds abroad, it’s worth stepping back and taking stock of your priorities.
When it comes to choosing a safe and reliable money transfer service, you should pay close attention to these five key points:
- Exchange Rates – You can think of an exchange rate as the value of trading different currencies, or how much one unit of currency can be exchanged for another. These rates change constantly and can vary significantly between services.
- Transfer Fees – Whether you’re sending or receiving money, banks and money transfer companies charge fees for their services. These fees unfortunately don’t come in just one shape or size; some services charge a flat fee while others use a fixed percentage of how much you plan on sending.
- Security – Just like mailed checks are susceptible to getting lost or stolen, wire transfers and electronic payments are also vulnerable to security risks. Using the wrong service could jeopardize not only your transfer but also lead to identity theft, fraud, or worse.
- Convenience – In the past, sending money abroad generally required going to a bank or transfer service in person. Mailed checks presented another option, but generally at the expense of time and security. Now, apps like Remitly offer online money transfers, making it possible to send funds from a mobile app or website in just a few clicks.
- Delivery Time – The speed of delivery from modern money transfer services ranges anywhere from instantaneous to a few days, with some providers charging more for faster delivery. For those with time-sensitive international transfers, you’ll want to find a company that can accommodate your specific needs and do so for a reasonable price.
As you compare services, pay attention to how each provider addresses these points—especially international money transfer fees.
How to Compare International Money Transfer Fees
Some providers are less than forthcoming about their fees, making it all the more frustrating when you want to send money abroad. To avoid this stress—and get more from your international transfers—we’ll dive into common questions about how to find the most affordable service.
How are transfer fees usually calculated?
Banks and money transfer services typically calculate their fees based on:
- Transfer Amount – Some transfer services charge a flat fee regardless of how much you send. Others put a spin on this with a tiered system—for instance, charging $3 on transfers up to $100, and a higher amount for larger transfers. Others yet, like PayPal, charge a fixed percentage of your total transfer amount, so that the more money you send, the more expensive your transfer is.
- Location – Currency conversion is sometimes, but not always, involved when sending money abroad. Because of this, banks and money transfer services often take into account your originating country as the sender and the receiving country where your recipient is based.
- Receiving Method – Modern transfer services offer multiple receiving options for anyone you’re sending money to, with varying fees per method. Most commonly, funds can go straight to recipients’ bank accounts or to a designated location for cash pickup. Some providers like Remitly also enable home delivery so that recipients can receive funds in the comfort of their own homes.
- Payment Method – How you fund your transfer also affects your total amount of fees. Paying with a credit card often incurs a higher fee while paying through your bank is cheaper or even free.
How do bank fees compare to fees from money transfer services?
Sending money abroad through your bank may be secure and reliable, but it generally comes at a steeper cost than sending payments through a licensed money transfer company.
In the case of outgoing international transfers, bank fees typically range between $15 and $50 per transaction. Some banks may even charge an initiation fee based on how you make your transfer—for example, charging an additional amount if it was done in person rather than online.
Transferring money internationally via your bank makes sense if you and your recipient both use the same financial institution, as these transfers may be free.
Otherwise, an independent money transfer service will generally save you more by offering lower international money transfer fees.
Are there any hidden fees?
You may come across standalone money transfer companies that claim to charge zero transfer fees for their services.
While this sounds appealing, you should be aware: these services generally use expensive exchange rates to make a large profit.
In other words, the amount your recipient actually receives might be much lower than the amount you originally sent. In this case, another provider that charges a transfer fee but offers more reasonable exchange rates would get you a better deal.
Finding the Best International Money Transfer Service for You
High transfer fees make it a hassle to send money abroad. Fortunately, there’s a wider range of international transfer options than ever before. And with the right service, you can rest assured knowing that neither you nor your recipient are overpaying in fees—you’ll just need to do some research to find out which is the best for you.
For starters, learn more about Remitly. Beyond making overseas transfers faster and easier, Remitly’s app charges low fees and lets you track your money every step of the way.