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Fastest ways to send money abroad

As you shop around for the best money transfer service, it is important to consider transfer speeds jointly with other factors such as exchange rates and fees. This guide will help you understand the determining factors for transfer times, the quickest transfer platforms to consider, and the questions to ask before settling for a specific provider.

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With online banking making accessing your money as instant as sending a text, you’d be forgiven for assuming transferring your money abroad from a bank account would be just as quick. However, transfer speeds can vary depending on a number of factors - and you bank account might not be the best option to send money. When shopping around for the best money transfer service, factors such as transfer times, exchange rates, reliability, and the fees you should expect to have to pay are all important factors that come into play. While this guide will talk you through the fastest options for sending money abroad, make sure you’ve also checked out our cheapest money transfers guide to find out how to save on costs.

What is the fastest way to transfer money internationally?

In almost every case, the quickest way to send money abroad is by using an online money transfer company.

Some instant money transfer providers can take just minutes to transfer your cash overseas - although, when you are looking for the fastest ways to send money abroad, it’s worth knowing that this convenience does come at a price (although this can still be cheaper than transferring through a bank account). The fastest money transfer services tend to involve lower exchange rates and high transaction fees when you want to transfer money internationally, which is why it’s important to compare providers and see if a slightly longer transfer time could save you a lot more money in the long-run.

Instant money transfers with WorldRemit

Many money transfers are capable of sending your international transfer within minutes, although this is somewhat dependent on the currency you are converting to. WorldRemit supports 70 currencies and over 130 countries, with 90% of transactions authorised in minutes.

What are same-day international money transfers?

Same-day international money transfers will guarantee your money is received by the recipient on the same day (within 24 hours) you send it. This is the fastest way to send money abroad and is the best option if you need to send money immediately - for example, in the case of a family emergency.

It’s worth noting, however that same-day money transfers do tend to have high costs and poorer exchange rates associated with them. When sending money abroad, if you (and the recipient) can wait a day or two for the money to be received, you may find a better deal with another money transfer provider.

Convenience vs Cost Same-day international transfers are ideal if you urgently need to send money overseas, but you will often find a better deal in terms of fees and exchange rates if you are willing to allow for slightly longer transfer times.

What are the key determining factors for transfer times?

A lot of factors come into play in determining how long your transfer will take from when you pay to the time your recipient gets the bank deposit or cash pickup notification. Below is a look at the main ones to consider.

The money transfer provider

When looking to send money, you'll notice that companies have different transfer processing times. Some providers give estimated times on their FAQ sections while others indicate the delivery times on dedicated transfer widgets after you input your transfer details.

Contacting a provider’s customer support team before making your transfer can give you a more reliable delivery time. You may find that on the same transfer route, one provider can be completed within minutes, while another takes up to 3 working days.

The payment method

When paying for your transfer, the payment method you choose will determine the processing speed.

  • Paying by card: Money transfer providers will usually accept most types of prepaid cards, debit cards, and credit cards. Others only accept certain brands such as Mastercard or Visa and reject others like UnionPay and Amex. With the exception of some extenuating factors such as transfer destination and amount constant, most transfers paid by card should arrive within one business day.

  • Wire transfers: Depending on your bank, you can initiate the payment on phone, online or in-person at a branch. This payment method is quick to organise and popular with people sending larger amounts internationally due to the security it offers. However, that security does come at a cost, both financially and in terms of transfer times. international wire transfers can take anywhere up to 5 business days (and in some cases, longer) for the funds to become available in the recipient's account.

  • ACH transfers: Payments sent through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) may take 1-2 business days to get to the provider's bank. This means it’s not the fastest way to send money, but the advantage of ACH transfers is that they are cheap: costing anything up to $3.

Cash deposits: You can pay for your transfer in cash. However, only a few companies such as Ria, MoneyGram and Western Union accept this method of payment. They have both agent-based and online-based transfer platforms. Transfers paid by cash are often completed within minutes.

POLi payment: If you are transferring money from Australia or New Zealand, your provider may allow you to pay using POLi. Upon request, funds are processed within 60 seconds to the provider’s bank to facilitate the transfer.

Interac: When paying for your transfer from Canada, you may be allowed to use this interbank online payment network to fund your transfer. Much like POLi payments, funds are transferred instantly or within minutes to the provider's account.

Other payment methods you may use are iDEAL, Klarna, Apple Pay, and Trustly.

Your transfer destination

When transferring money, consider that every transfer destination involves specific banking regulations and procedures. For instance, the Central Bank of Kenya demands that transfers exceeding $10,000 must be declared before being credited to the recipient’s bank account. Regulations such as these exist in a variety of countries and can potentially delay transfers..

On the other hand, if your destination falls within the frequently used transfer routes by your chosen provider your transfer can take minutes. For illustration purposes, let's assume you want to send £25,000 to the United States and another £25,000 to Nigeria through WorldRemit. The Canada-US route takes 3-working days while the Canada-Nigeria route takes minutes to deliver the same transfer.

While most money transfer providers operate 24/7, the banks they link up with have designated hours of operation. Any international money transfer process initiated over weekends and public holidays is often delayed until banks resume the next business day. Transfers also have cut off times and any requests made past these times will be processed the following day. It’s important to check that no delays in the supply chain like this will have an effect on the speed of your transfer before sending your money.

The size of the transfer

Larger transfers attract additional checks and verifications, which may take more time to clear than when making smaller transfers. For instance, TransferWise requires that the sender provides documents showing the source of funds when making large transfers.

If you try sending any amount between £1- £25,000 to the United States using TransferWise, it will usually take a day to be delivered, but amounts above £25,000 can take up to 4 days.

What are the quickest platforms to use when sending money abroad?

Online money transfer companies, especially those using the P2P transfer system to match senders and recipients in real-time tend to be the cheapest and fastest ways to send money internationally. The providers in this space include recognisable names such as TransferWise, WorldRemit, Xoom, TorFX, and XE.

Depending on where you’re sending money to and your payment method, these providers can process your transfer within 2 business days. Using our comparison tool, you can see exactly how each provider stacks up against the competition in terms of transfer speed, and also costs.Many also have their own mobile apps, which can be hugely convenient for users looking to send money home on a regular basis.

Questions to ask when looking for the fastest international money transfer

What fees and exchange rates are you being charged?
How urgently does the recipient need the money?
How will the beneficiary get the money?
What are the specific requirements for faster transfers?
What about Paypal?

Comparing providers for the fastest transfer for you...

Ultimately, the fastest way to send money abroad is dependent on the destination to which you want to transfer money, where you're sending the money from, and how much you are sending. There will rarely be one single provider best equipped to provide the fastest money transfer for all requirements because each provider specialises in certain areas more than others.

For this reason, we always recommend using our transfer provider comparison tool to find the right service for you. We provide up-to-the-minute data pulled from multiple sources to help you compare transfer speeds, exchange rates, fees, and reliability from the best providers on the market, so you fully analyze all your options.

Elliott is a former investment banker with a 20 year career in the city of London. During this time he held senior roles at ABN Amro, Societe Generale, Marex Financial and Natixis bank, specialising in commodity derivatives and options market-making. During this time, Elliott’s client list included Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Schroders Asset Management, and the Pennsylvania State Public School Employees Retirement System, amongst others.

Keith Hodges
Keith Hodges
Keith is a digital specialist with a background in the financial industry, both as a marketeer and a journalist. Keith joined in order to take the business to the next level and expand our offering in multiple international money transfer markets.