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?
While your focus is on transfer speed, you should also make sure to check that you don’t get charged exorbitant fees or end up transferring your money with a provider that gives a poor exchange rate. It’s worth remembering that delaying your transfer delivery time by just a day or two can sometimes give you better exchange rates and fees without necessarily inconveniencing the recipient. If you need to send money fast then there will always be some providers that offer better rates than others. Using our comparison tool, you’ll get the benefit of seeing the transfer time, the fees charged, and the exchange rates offered - so you can make an informed choice. In general, though, our advice is to use online money transfer specialists rather than banks, which usually charge higher fees without significantly improving your transfer speed. Even for banks with branches in both the host and destination country, the exchange rates offered may still be poor. For instance, many banks charge a margin of up to 3.5% above the mid-market rate - a lot higher than the 0.5 to 1.5% typically charged by online money transfer providers, with some companies even charging nothing above the mid-market exchange rate.
How urgently does the recipient need the money?
Knowing the exact dates the recipient expects the funds can help you work backwards to when you should start the transfer process. This information is important when comparing the transfer delivery speeds offered by the different providers. If the recipient has a leeway of up to 4 days to receive the money, you then have a wide pool of providers to choose from. However, same or next day deliveries may narrow this pool as fewer providers offer such tight delivery timelines.
How will the beneficiary get the money?
The payout method you choose will determine the time it takes for the funds to be delivered. There are five main transfer delivery options you should consider.
Cash pick up: This delivery method is the fastest with funds getting to the recipient in minutes. There are usually designated cash collection points which may include bank branches. This option is not available in all countries and across all providers, however.
Into their bank account: Deposits into a bank account may take up to 3 or 4 days depending on the currency route, provider, and amount. Some transfers are subjected to additional checks before being deposited to the recipient's account. These processes may cause further delays.
Mobile transfer: Some providers have the option of depositing money directly to the recipient mobile wallet. Mobile transfers are instant, but there are usually transfer limits beyond which you have to split the transaction.
Card-to-card transfers: Fintech companies such as PaySend offer instant transfers from the sender’s card to the recipient’s card. However, this is not totally within the power of transfer providers. Funds may take up to 3 working days to reflect in the recipient’s card because they first go through the banking system and then loaded onto the card.
Door-to-door deliveries: With this method, recipients don't have to leave home. Cash gets delivered to them within a day if they are within cities or up to 2 days if they are in rural areas. Vietnam is one of the destinations that providers like WorldRemit, Xoom, MoneyGram, and Western Union deliver cash directly to people's homes.
What are the specific requirements for faster transfers?
Whether you want to transfer money to family, make an overseas purchases, pay bills or move money between your accounts, there are certain things you can do to speed up your transfers. The requirements depend on the context of your transfer. Below are some tips worth looking at.
Making larger transfers
If you are making larger transfers and you’d like them to be delivered faster, ensure you observe the following guidelines.
Sending limits: You should always find out the maximum amount a provider can handle. Some of them have per-day transaction limits which means that a single transfer may have to be split into several transfers and sent on different days. You can also call your bank in advance to lift the sending limits.
Document verification: Larger amounts of money may be subjected to extra security checks that can take up to 3 days, especially with regard to the source of funds. Ensure you submit all the documents required in good time including a source of funds testimonials such as certified bank statements, employer payslips, investment certificates, letters from solicitors for loans, or inheritance information.
Use a guaranteed exchange rate: Instead of targeting a specific exchange rate using approaches like stop-loss order and limit order, you should lock in an exchange rate. This is a faster way to ensure your transfer gets delivered faster and at a known rate.
Using a credit card
When using a credit card to pay for your transfer, always check for the following aspects to ensure a fast and smooth process.
Sufficient funds: Before making a transfer, ensure your card has sufficient funds to avoid your payment from being declined and potentially delaying your transfer.
Cardholder details: This is one of the commonly highlighted reasons by providers for credit card payments rejection. The name on the card must match that on the sender’s account held by the provider. You are not allowed to use someone else’s card to pay for your transfer and if you try to do so, the transfer will be declined.
Card payment cancellations: Ensure you always double-check your transfer before making payment. Incorrect card payments can take up to 3 days to cancel so that you can repeat the transfer.
One other aspect to note is that credit card fees are relatively higher than in other payment methods. As an example, transferring $1,000 from the United States to Pakistan via TransferWise will cost about $37 if you pay using a credit card. Your transfer will be delivered within 1 hour, so this option is useful if you need to move money fast, but if you do the same transfer using a bank debit, you’ll pay only $3.49 and the transfer will take a day or two to be delivered.
Cash pick up
Sending funds through cash pick up is the best option if you’re looking for the fastest possible transfer, especially for smaller amounts. The recipients get the money in cash from supported locations within the provider’s partner network, and funds are usually available for collection instantly.
The recipient needs to provide the following information to collect the transfer:
Valid Photo ID
The Transaction Reference
To ensure speedy access, you should use a provider with a cash pick up location closer to where the recipient lives. Additionally, the details you provide during the transfer must be accurate so that the recipient isn't turned away or delayed because of information mismatch. The transfer fee for using cash pick up can be as low as $0.99 to $2.99 depending on the provider you choose. However, you should watch out for the exchange rate. Cash pick ups are usually processed at a slightly higher exchange rate than bank transfers, so you’ll be paying a little extra in exchange for the money arriving faster.
Most banks now offer online money transfer options across a wide range of devices. If you are transferring funds to an account within the same bank, the transfer may take a few minutes to be processed. Most international bank transfers take about 2 to 5 days to be processed. The delay is caused by the banking system’s due diligence processes and policies. For instance, if the bank doesn't have the currency you are transferring to in their reserve, they must purchase it from their international foreign exchange brokers. Once the transfer has been initiated, the international branch of the receiving bank or a correspondent bank gets a notification of the incoming funds. The funds are then credited to the branch where the recipient has an account. To minimise the delays in the transfer process, ensure the following:
Fill in the accurate details: The name on your bank account must match that on your money transfer account. Name mismatches are one of the main causes of transfer cancellations. You cannot use someone else’s bank account to make a transfer.
Reference the payment correctly: You need to ensure that you correctly reference the payment for ease of identification when it checks into the provider’s account. Difficulties in allocating your deposit may delay your transfer.
Transfer the exact amount: The amount you authorise through your bank needs to match exactly the amount you want to send. Transferring lesser or higher amounts than the size of your transfer may cause delays in payment identification and allocation.
Provide all the details if using a joint account: In case you are using a joint account to pay for your transfer, you’ll need to upload your statement either in PDF or as a screenshot clearly showing proof of both your identity and that of the other account holders.
What about Paypal?
Commonly used payment platforms such as PayPal often get mentioned when considering international money transfers. While PayPal does give you an advantage when dealing with virtual wallets and online merchant payments, it takes longer for the recipient to withdraw from their wallets to their bank account (often 3-5 working days). Online money providers, on the other hand, transfer funds directly to the recipient’s bank account - avoiding this potentially time-consuming two-step transfer process.
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 is a digital specialist with a background in the financial industry, both as a marketeer and a journalist. Keith joined MoneyTransfers.com in order to take the business to the next level and expand our offering in multiple international money transfer markets.