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Send money using a debit card

A debit card is an extension of your bank account, enabling you to transfer money electronically from your account when making a purchase. You can use your debit card for various transactions including international money transfers. Debit cards can be used to transfer money directly or as a payment method with online money transfer services. While using your debit card abroad can be convenient in certain situations, it may not always be an ideal send money to debit card instantly. You may have to pay a higher cost in transfer and exchange fees than if you were using another payment method.

Updated: 15/03/2021
Read time: 12 minutes
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Best ways to send money abroad with a debit card:

As a cheaper and more simple alternative to traditional transfer methods – such as using your bank account – many digital money transfer services allow you to send and receive money using your debit card.

Sending money with these providers can be far more cost-effective, ensuring the person you are sending money to actually receives the optimum amount.

Most money transfer providers are free to use with convenient and user-friendly apps which allow you to initiate money transfers on the go. The payment options vary, but many providers offer transfers via debit card, credit card, wire transfer and cash pickups. It is a good idea to compare providers to make sure your preferred method is accepted.

A few of our top money transfer providers include:

WorldRemit

WorldRemit is available online and as a mobile app, with user-friendly features designed to make transferring money using your debit card an easy process. Registration can be completed in minutes and the process of sending money internationally is transparent from start to end. Your exact exchange rate and transfer fees are visible right away and are competitively priced compared to banks and other financial institutions, with exceptionally low rates for India, the Philippines, Africa and South America.

While you can only send up to $10,000 per day, WorldRemit offers a unique cash-pick up service for many countries, which comes in handy for those who don’t have their recipient’s bank details or those in urgent need for quick cash.

XE Money Transfer

XE Money Transfer offers transfers to 170 countries around the world, supporting over 60 currencies. They have an excellent, user-friendly app and an easy-to-navigate website to easily transfer money abroad. XE is an extremely popular money transfer service due to its fee-free structure. You can send money by debit card or bank transfer with no transfer fees. Instead, XE adds a small markup to the inter-bank exchange rate when sending your money abroad, although this margin is significantly less than if you were sending money abroad with your bank.

Wise, formerly TransferWise

Wise offer secure transfers to 144 countries around the world for much cheaper prices than your bank. The service is available via their website or mobile app, and you can sign up using your Facebook or Google account. TransferWise is hugely popular due to its highly competitive exchange rates and fast transfers. They place a large focus on transparent fees and affordable international transfers. There is a $2,000 daily limit when using your debit card, which suits smaller transfers but is perhaps not ideal for larger business transactions.

All international transfers with TransferWise incur a flat fee ($0.5 – 2.0, depending on currency and amount) as well as a 2% currency exchange fee, and your exchange rate is guaranteed for at least 24 hours. This compares very favourably to banks that often charge exchange rate margins approximately 4% – 5% above the mid-market rate.

Remitly

Another great online money transfer provider, Remitly specialises in smaller transfers or remittances to countries in Asia, Africa and South America. The entire process is completely transparent and if you want to transfer a smaller amount their fees can be quite cost-effective.

The Remitly app and website are easy to use and give customers the option to deliver money two ways. The first is an “Express” transfer, which is faster but comes with a higher fee; the second is an “Economy” transfer, which is cheaper but slower. Selecting from these options, users are able to tailor the remittance service to their needs, a feature not commonly employed by major banks.

When transferring money internationally with your debit card, it is definitely worth considering one of the mentioned providers as they could offer you a better deal than your bank or credit union. Money transfer providers have grown rapidly over the past decade, and as the demand for reliable, affordable and fast international transfers increases, you’ll almost always find a cheaper way to send money using your debit card through these specialist providers.

Pros and cons of debit cards for sending money

Debit cards are similar to credit cards but are linked to your checking or bank account. When you make a purchase or complete a transaction using your debit card, the money is immediately deducted from your bank account. A credit card allows you to borrow money up to a certain limit on your card which then needs to be re-paid before a certain time or interest will be added onto the amount you have spent.

There are a number of positives and negatives attached to using a debit card for sending money overseas, each will play a factor in whether a debit card is the best way to send money internationally for your needs:

Pros
International transfers cost less than they do with credit cards
There are no annual fees
They are useful for emergency transfers
You could be eligible for rewards when using a debit card with your bank
They are a widely accepted payment method
You are not borrowing money so don't risk having to pay interest on transactions
Cons
Debit cards tend to have higher international transfer fees than other options
You are limited to bank and checking accounts
Funds are taken immediately out of your account – credit cards give you a little more time to pay back what you've borrowed

How to transfer money using your debit card

There are several traditional methods you can use to transfer money internationally with your debit card. For all of these, the important pieces of information you will need are:

  • The permanent account number: the 16-digit number which appears on the front of your card
  • The card’s expiry date
  • The security number: the last three digits printed on the signature strip on the back of the card

Occasionally you will also need to provide the account number and sort code that corresponds to your bank account: these are usually printed on the front of the card. In some cases, your money transfer provider may also ask for your IBAN (International Bank Account Number) and BIC (Bank Identifier Code). You will normally be able to find both of these numbers by logging in to your online banking and viewing your account details.

When using your debit card to send money, you’ll just need to enter these details along with the amount you want to send, where you want to send it and what currency you want it to be delivered in. After you hit pay, you could be re-directed to your bank’s security page to verify your payment, this is a common security measure.

Using your debit card to send money abroad

The main advantage of using your debit card to send money internationally is that it gives you options that relate direct to your account at the time you send.

Most major money transfer providers support debit card payments, including WorldRemit who are well-known for their commitment to low fees, simple transfers and near-instant transfer times. If you’re looking to send money to debit card instantly, they are a great option.

How to receive money using a debit card

If you want to receive money directly to your bank account – with immediate access via your debit card – all you need to do is give the sender your account details. These usually include:

  • Your name as it appears on your card
  • Your account number
  • Your sort code

When sending funds, the payee simply enters your account information and the money will be transferred directly to you, allowing you to use your debit card to spend the money the instant it is cleared in your account. This makes debit card transfers by far one of the most convenient ways to send and receive money, one of the biggest reasons for their popularity.

Be wary of high transfer fees

If you are using your bank to send or receive money, it’s important to do the relevant research on fees you and the recipient/sender are likely to incur.

Banks will often charge much higher fees than money transfer providers, so comparing these is a good idea if you are set on sending or receiving money via your debit card.

Can you send money to debit card instantly?

While debit cards can be fast and convenient, the time it takes to send money abroad depends on several factors. Paying for your transfer with a debit card is certainly faster than paying via check, cash or bank draft. Most card transactions are processed instantly, but it might take up to 24 hours for the money to move out of your bank account. 

However, there are other factors that determine how fast your money transfer is processed. Common factors to consider include: 

  • Location: How fast you can send your money depends on the countries you are sending between. Popular transfer destinations such as the UK and USA are much quicker than places like Kenya and India, where money transfers may be less common
  • Your transfer provider: Transfer speed also depends on the service you are using. It is a good idea to compare transfer times between service providers and choose the one that fits your needs: for example, you may find that one provider specialises in your chosen money transfer route more than its competitors. Remember, some of the faster transfer options may cost more, so weigh up cost vs. time when comparing your options. We’ve put together a list of top 10 money transfer companies to get you started
  • The withdrawal method: Finally, transfer speeds may also depend on how your recipient wants to receive the money. If you’re using your debit card to send money to another bank account, it might be slower than bypassing banks and sending it directly to them with the help of a money transfer service

Can you send large amounts with a debit card?

Sending larger amounts

Money transfer providers will have high transfer limits than banks, so this is definitely worth bearing in mind if you are looking to send large sums internationally.

When you send money using a debit card, the money comes directly out of your bank account and, in theory, you could send the total available amount in your account. However, most debit cards have a daily spending limit which is the maximum amount of money you can send or withdraw in 24 hours. The amount varies differs bank to bank and depends on the type of checking account you have.

Some debit cards will have a daily spending limit capped at $1,000, $2,000, or even as much as $5,000, but most will have an international transfer limit which is lower than this amount. Therefore, if your daily spending limit is $5,000, you might have a daily transfer limit of $1,000. You can find out what your spending limit is by checking on your bank’s website, reviewing the paperwork issued with your card or calling your bank branch. 

If you’re looking to make a major transfer with your debit card, you can also make a request to increase your spending limit temporarily. This may, however, take time and incur additional fees. For this reason, a money transfer service can be more convenient as most have much higher transfer limits. Most providers allow you to send up to $15,000 per day, with bank transfers or $2,000 per day if you choose to fund the transfer with your debit card. 

Sending larger sums

If you are looking to move a large sum of money internationally, paying by debit card may not always be your best option. A specialist provider such as XE is better equipped to help you send larger amounts of money abroad safely, with less of a fee, but will recommend you use a bank transfer rather than a card payment.

This is definitely something to consider when you are looking to move a large sum of money beyond borders.

How much does it cost to send money internationally using a debit card?

International transfers using a debit card typically have more costs attached than other means of payment, but will still cost less than using a credit card. 

Charges might include online transfer fees (charged by your bank or money transfer provider), an exchange rate margin, and possibly taxes. It’s hard to give accurate estimates of how much these will amount to because the fees and margins vary greatly between individual providers. Our comparison tool presents precise comparisons between providers in real-time for anyone transferring funds using a debit card.

When you send money abroad using a debit card, the cost also depends on which country you are sending to. Transfer routes between popular countries and business destinations may cost less than transferring money to a remote corner of the globe.

Unless it is an emergency, it is always a good idea to do your homework in advance. 

Research your options and compare the costs between different banks and service providers. One of the best ways to do this before you actually have to make the transfer, giving you ample time to cross-compare and find out where you’re getting the best rates. We’ve put together a list of key points to consider to help you find the cheapest way to send money abroad.

Remember, you should do your research every time you’re planning to send money abroad. Just because one provider was the cheapest option last time, doesn’t mean this will still be the case.

Summary: Is sending money with a debit card the best option?

Unlike credit cards, the money you spend or send using a debit card is deducted directly from your bank account. While most banks do not charge any annual or service charges for debit cards, international transfers can have a lot of associated costs such as online transfer fees and exchange rate margins. Most debit cards also have a daily spending and international transfer limit, which makes them less than ideal for large transactions. Debit card spending maximums are set by your bank or debit card provider and they can vary a great deal. Some debit cards may have a daily transfer limit as low as $1,000 per day. 

Fortunately, digital money transfer services make international transfers much more simple and a lot cheaper than traditional methods. These online providers specialise in facilitating international transfers and can often offer you a better deal than your bank when using your debit card to make a transaction. It takes minutes to register on their sites and many offer mobile apps too. These specialist companies offer much more value, including free international transfers, cheaper currency exchange, large transfer limits and real-time alerts.

When it comes to finding the best deal, our simple and easy to use comparison tool will help you find your best option in seconds, from established banks to new and innovative digital brands.  

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