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Send money using a debit card

A debit card is essentially 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 financial 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 be ideal. Depending on the transfer, you may have to pay a higher cost in transfer and exchange fees than if you were using another payment method

Updated: 23/10/2020
Read time: 11 minutes
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Best ways to send money abroad with a debit card:

As a cheaper and simpler alternative to traditional transfer methods using your bank, there are many digital money transfer services that you can use to send and receive money with your debit card.

Sending money with these providers can be both simpler and far more cost-effective, ensuring the person you are sending money to actually gets most of the money!

Most money transfer providers are free to use with convenient and user-friendly apps that 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 – comparing providers is always a good idea to make sure your preferred method is accepted, however.

A few of our top money transfer providers you could opt for include:

WorldRemit

WorldRemit is available as a web service and a mobile app, with a user-friendly service that makes sending money using your debit card an easy process. Registration takes minutes, and sending money internationally is a completely transparent process. Your exact exchange rate and transfer fees are visible from the start and are competitively priced compared to banks and many other providers, 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 in case you don’t have your recipient’s bank details or they need cash urgently.

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 for easily transferring your money abroad. XE is an extremely popular money transfer service due to its fee-free structure. You can send money by debit card or by bank transfer with no transfer fees – instead, XE adds a small markup on 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.

TransferWise

TransferWise offers secure transfer to 144 countries around the world for much cheaper prices than your bank. The service is available both online and as a mobile app, and you can register using their Facebook and Google accounts. 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. Using your debit card, you can send up to $2,000 a day – great for smaller transfers, but perhaps not ideal for larger business transactions.

All international transfers with TransferWise have 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, which can often charge exchange rate margins alone of 4%-5% above the mid-market rate.

Remitly

Another great online money transfer service, 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 very easy to use and you can send money using two options. “Express” transfers are faster, but come with a higher transfer fee, whereas “Economy” transfers cheaper but slower – enabling users to tailor the service they want to receive, which is not an option commonly offered by banks.

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

Pros and cons of debit cards for sending money

Debit cards are similar to credit cards but are linked to your checking account. When you make a purchase or complete a transaction using your debit card, the money is immediately deducted from your bank account, whereas 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 both positives and negatives when it comes to using a debit card, especially when you are thinking of using one to send money:

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 long 16-digit number that appears on the front of your card
  • The card’s expiry date
  • The security number (appears as 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 also usually printed on the front of the card. In some cases, your money transfer provider may also ask you 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 into your money transfer provider’s app or website along with the amount you want to send, where you want to send it, and what currency you want it to be delivered in. Once you hit pay, you may be re-directed to your bank’s security page to verify your payment.

Using your debit card to send money abroad

The main advantage of using your credit card to send money internationally is that it gives you a little more time to pay back the funds you are sending than if you were to use a bank transfer or debit card.

Most major money transfer providers support credit card payments, including WorldRemit who are well-known for their commitment to low fees, simple transfers, and and near-instant transfer times.

How to receive money using a debit card

If you want to receive money directly to your bank account (and therefore be able to access it via your debit card immediately), all you need to do is give the person sending you money your account details. These usually include:

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

When sending the funds, the payee simply enters your account information and the transfer will go directly to you, leaving you able 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 and is one of the main reasons behind their popularity.

Be wary of high transfer fees

If you are using your bank to send or receive money, it’s important to inform yourself about the 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.

How fast are debit card money transfers?

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

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

  • 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 transfer 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 the route you are wanting to transfer money between more than others. 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 can 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 with 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 so in theory, you could send up to the amount you have in your account. However, most debit cards do have a daily spending limit. This is the maximum amount of money you can send or withdraw in 24 hours. The amount usually varies depending on your bank, as well as your checking account type. 

Some debit cards will have a daily spending limit capped at $1,000, $2,000, or even up to $5,000, but most will have an international transfer limit that is lower than this amount. For example, if your daily spending limit is $5,000, then you might have a daily transfer limit of $1,000. You can find out what your spending limit is by checking on the bank’s website, the paperwork that came along with your card or by calling your bank. 

If you’re looking to make a major transfer with your debit card, you can also request the bank to increase your spending limit temporarily. This may, however, take time and cost you some amount in extra fees. Again, using 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 pay for 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 equipped to help you send larger amounts of money abroad safely and for low fees but will recommend you use a bank transfer rather than a card payment.

This is definitely something to consider when you are looking to send a large figure abroad.

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 some methods, but still cost less than using a credit card. 

Charges you might have to pay for 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 be because the fees and margins vary a lot between individual providers. Our comparison tool can show you precise comparisons between providers in real-time for transferring with a debit card.

When you send money abroad using a debit card, the cost also depends on the country you are sending to. Well-travelled to countries and business destinations may cost less than transferring money to some 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 is to start well before you actually have to make the transfer, so you have 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 a provider was the cheapest last time, doesn’t guarantee that it’s still going to 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, as well as international transfer limit, which makes them less than ideal for large transactions. Debit card spending maximums are set by and vary depending on your bank or debit card provider. Some debit cards may have a daily transfer limit as low as $1000 per day. 

Fortunately, digital money transfer services make international transfers much simpler and 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 some even offer mobile apps. These providers offer much more value, including free international transfers, cheaper currency exchange, large transfer limits, real-time alerts, and much more.

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

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