What’s the best way to send money abroad?
When sending money internationally, choosing the right service can save you both money and time. While banks offer online money transfer services, they often charge high fees and exchange rate margins that can eat into your transfer amount. Fortunately, there are other payment service providers that can help you send money faster and cheaper than is possible with traditional banks.
When you send money globally, the best way depends on where the transfer is going and how you want to send it, and so there are specialised money transfer providers that enable quick and easy money transfers to all different parts of the world. Most of these companies are fully regulated and rely on new technology to offer bank-beating rates and high transfer speeds. Sending money internationally via these transfer companies is often cheaper compared to banks and you get more payment and delivery options. We will learn about these in the coming sections.
So, what is the best way to send money abroad? Unfortunately, there is no single service that will prove the best in all situations. You will need to evaluate the available options based on the amount and currency you are sending, where you are sending the money, the costs, transfer times, and other features. Some services are great for sending small amounts while others can offer you better rates for higher amounts. Your choice will also depend on whether you are willing to pay for instant transfer or your transfer can wait a couple of days.
Online money transfer services are almost always a better option than banks when transferring money abroad, but it is important to compare your options.
Is there much difference between money transfer companies?
Yes, apart from the top 10 money transfer companies we reviewed in one of our guides, there are hundreds of money transfer providers that exist to help you send money abroad in a secure, convenient and quick manner, but not all are the same or work the same way. Mainly, these providers can be divided into three categories depending on the how the transfer your funds and what are best used for:
Remittance companies: Also known as Money Transfer Operators (MTOs), these companies use networks of agents and banks to process payments and send money overseas. These companies are best suited for sending small amounts of money instantly. They generally charge a fixed fee (which can be quite high), and they may also charge a mark-up on the mid-market exchange rate. These companies usually offer many payment and delivery methods, with options including home delivery available in some countries. Examples of prominent remittance providers are Western Union and MoneyGram.
P2P companies: P2P stands for ‘Peer to Peer,’ with these providers enabling you to send small and medium-sized amounts to directly to recipients all across the globe. These companies operate completely online (with no branches or cash pickup locations), and usually operate by pooling users’ money in each country in which they operate. This enables them to make transfers quickly and efficiently once you have funded your transfer by simply transferring money to your recipient from the relevant pool – without having to actually send your money across borders and incur extra fees. P2P providers make a good choice if you have to make smaller transfers, and examples of some of the best-known providers are TransferWise, Venmo, Paypal, and SquareCash.
Larger transfer specialists: Some transfer providers specialise in facilitating high-value transactions (generally over £10,000) and often provide tailored customer service through dedicated brokers to assist their users with sending money internationally. These companies work best when you have to transfer large sums of money abroad but you don’t want to pay the high bank fees. Companies that send these amounts of money abroad often have local bank accounts in key transfer locations, which make transfers easy, quick and inexpensive. Examples include XE, WorldFirst and OFX.
Best money transfer companies
How do I send money abroad over the internet?
The internet has made sending money abroad easier and more accessible than ever, but there are still a few steps you have to be aware of when transferring funds. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the process works with online money transfer providers:
Sign up for an account: Once you have chosen the company you want to use for your transfer, you will have to register for an account. They will require some basic personal information such as your name, email address, and contact details.
Verify your details: Before you can make a transaction, you will have to verify your details by providing a scanned copy of your ID such as driver’s license or passport. Depending on the service you choose and the amount you intend transferring, these requirements may vary.
Set up your transfer: You can set up your transaction by providing beneficiary details such as their name, address, account details, and possibly IBAN or equivalent.
Fund your transfer: There are several ways to send money to your transfer provider, with bank transfer being the most commonly offered method. Some companies also accept debit/credit cards or cash payments, but this varies from provider to provider.
Track the progress of your transfer: After you have sent your money online, it may take between a few seconds to a few days for the funds to reach the beneficiary. You can use the transaction number provided by the transfer company to track the progress of transfer.
Are there limits to the amount of money I can send online?
You can send any amount of money abroad online, but it ultimately comes down to which company you choose for your transfer. Some money transfer providers have limits on the amount you can send in a single transaction, per day or per week. So, it is important you make sure to choose a company that can cater for the size of the transfer you wish to make.
What payment and delivery options are available when sending money online?
When you choose to send money abroad, there are various ways in which you can fund the transaction and the beneficiary can receive them. Some of the common payment and delivery options are:
The methods through which you can fund your international transfer will vary depending on the provider you choose, but these are the most commonly available payment options:
Bank transfer: This is when you transfer money from your bank account to your payment provider account. From there, the provider will transfer funds to the recipient.
Credit/debit card: Many online money transfer providers accept card payments (and some only offer this payment method). It is worth checking the rates before sending your money this way though, as it is often the most expensive method and credit cards can attract cash advance fees.
Cash: Some providers allow you to fund your transfer in cash by attending one of their branches or agent locations. This is most common with remittance companies.
Just as with funding a transaction, depending on the provider you use there are a variety of ways that you can have money delivered to your beneficiary, including:
Bank deposit: This is the most common delivery option and requires no action on behalf of your beneficiary. You just have to enter their bank details to send money to, and then the money will appear within their account usually within 1-3 days.
Cash pickup: If your provider offers this option, your recipient can collect the money you have sent in cash at one of the company’s pickup locations.
Home delivery: In some countries, such as the Philippines, it is possible to have cash delivered to your beneficiary’s doorstep with the right provider.
Digital wallets: This is less commonly found, but there are money transfer companies that will allow you to send money to someone’s digital wallet – such as Neteller.
Mobile payments: Again, not as commonly offered as bank, card, and cash payments, a few providers will enable money to be sent straight to your recipient’s mobile wallet.
How much does it cost to send money abroad?
The cost of sending money globally depends on a variety of factors including the source and destination country, amount and currency to be transferred, and the payment and delivery methods chosen. The most common costs associated with online money transfers include:
Fixed fee: Money transfer companies often charge a fixed transfer fee. This can range from $1.99-$39.99 – or can be even higher depending on where the money is going. Sending money abroad on some less common routes generally costs more, but there are providers out there who charge zero fees.
Exchange rate margin: If a company says “no transfer fee”, it means they are charging you in some other way. Often, money transfer providers charge a margin on top of the mid-market exchange rate to cover their costs and generate profits. Generally, banks tend to charge a higher margin compared to specialised money transfer companies. The exchange rate margins charged by online providers are usually between 0.5% and 2%. However, banks and some remittance companies may charge a higher mark-up.
Sending and receiving fee: In some cases, depending on how you choose to fund your transfer abroad, you may have to pay a sending fee. The recipient may also need to pay a fee to receive foreign exchange in their bank account.
How fast can I send money internationally?
This will again depend on a variety of factors, but the advent of online money transfers has made transferring money abroad a much faster process. However, international transfers on some less-common routes may take longer. The transfer speed will also depend on the payment method used, the chosen service provider, the currency and amount to be transferred and when the transfer is initiated. Transfers initiated during off-banking hours or during bank holidays may take longer.
In general, if you’re sending money abroad using a bank transfer as a payment method, it will commonly take 1-3 working days to complete the transfer, whereas cash payments can often be made instantly.
Can I track money I’ve sent online?
Yes, and very easily. When you send money abroad, your service provider will generate a transaction ID for the transfer. You can use this transaction ID to track the progress of your payment. You can check the status online or call up or email customer care.
What are the most popular countries to send money to?
Where to go next
Sending money internationally is quick, safe and convenient. While many people choose to send money abroad via their banks, this is often both more expensive and less efficient than using online money transfer services. Specialised money transfer companies help you save money on your international money transfers and offer the ability to send money all over the world. However, it is important that you choose the right company for your transfer needs, as not all services are the same.
To send money abroad, you’ll need to register an account with a payment provider, fund the transaction and send the payment. You can track the transfer using the transaction number provided by the company. The transfer may be instant or may take a few days depending on where the money is coming from and going, and how.
It is also worth bearing in mind that there are two main types of charges that you’ll often have to pay when sending money internationally. The first is a fixed transfer fee and second is the margin on the mid-market exchange rate. You may have to pay one or both the costs depending on the provider you choose, and it is always important to check that any provider offers a good deal on both of these factors.
Our comparison tool can help you find the best provider to help you send your money online and make sure the maximum amount possible reaches your intended recipient.