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Understanding free money transfers

Understanding the finer details of the “free money transfer” deals on the market can be a time-consuming task for anyone searching for the best deal. However, nothing in life is free, and in a bid to manage expectations and reduce disappointment, we outline what to expect when scoping out free money transfers.

Updated: 28/09/2022
Read time: 5 minutes
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What is a free money transfer?

Advertisements for “free money transfers” can be slightly misleading and not always live up to expectations. Many companies advertise their services “free of charge,” but how exactly does this translate when sending money to international recipients? Given the constant change in foreign exchange rates, service charges and transaction fees, can any money transfer be totally free of charge?  

Like all businesses, money transfer companies rely on profit margins and in most cases, profit is made in the form of fees or markups applied to each money transfer arranged through the company. Profitability is determined by the difference between what customers are prepared to pay and the rate at which the financial institution is selling the currency for.

It can be hard to find companies who offer transparent, low-cost midpoint exchange rate; also known as the mid-market rate. For this reason, it is important to understand whether the company whose service you are receiving for “free” is really worth it, or whether the margin mark up outweighs the discount in overall price.

Send money abroad for free with these providers

RankingProviderOfferGet Started
🥇WorldRemit3 free money transfersVisit WorldRemit
🥈Xe£25 gift card when referring a friendVisit Xe
🥉WiseAverage mark-up is 0 – 0.5%Visit Wise
#4InstaremAverage mark-up is 0 – 0.5%Visit Instarem
#5CurrencyFairFirst 10 transfers freeVisit CurrencyFair

How to take advantage of free money transfers

In order to effectively benefit from “free” or low-cost money transfers, you need to familiarise yourself with the mid-market rate of the currencies you are dealing with. The terms and conditions of a free money transfer dictate whether you will benefit from the deal or whether you would be better off paying for a service elsewhere.

Before cashing in on a seemingly advantageous deal, consider the following factors:

  • Is the exchange rate as favourable as the accompanying incentive?
  • Will the money reach the recipient in time?
  • Will you be assisted during the process? 
  • Are your funds safeguarded and secure?

Types of free money transfers

There are plenty of offers to be found when shopping for free (or discounted) money transfers. Many leading specialist companies offer to waive transfer fees while also providing strong exchange rates. Types of free money transfers include:

Introductory offers

Some providers offer introductory offers such as free money transfers for new customers who sign up for the service. Introductory incentive aside, it is important to bear in mind that the cost of your money transfer is a one-off deal, and future costs will differ after the initial offer has been redeemed. However, if the price is right, it is worth claiming a freebie for a one-off money transfer service. 

Promo codes

One widely used marketing tactic are the employment of promotional discount codes. In conjunction with money transfer companies who do not mark up mid-market rates, promo codes often allow customers to send money overseas for free. Always do your research when looking for promo codes, however, because some of them are subject to terms and conditions and not all discounts will outweigh margin mark ups.

Refer-a-friend schemes

Referrals of this kind are easy to find and are a great fit for anyone transferring money back and forth. As with promo codes, these referral schemes are often attached to terms and conditions, but they can result in a substantial discounted rate which will benefit both the sender and recipient, depending on your remittance requirements.

Zero-fee companies

Certain companies markup their exchange rates to cover the cost of their zero-fee service. Using XE as an example, whose mark up rate ranges between 0.5 – 2% depending on the currencies and destination, in some cases choosing the right zero-fee company could result in benefitting from a mid-market rate and a free service.

Case study: free money transfers

We wanted to compare and contrast leading providers WorldRemit and CurrencyFair, to illustrate the results of multiple money transfer providers with varying fees.

Objective: transfer £1,000.00 (GBP) to Singapore Dollar (SGD)

WorldRemit

Service charge/fees: £5.00

Incentive/deal: First 3 transfers free

Exchange rate: 1.82805

Amount received: $1,818.91

 

CurrencyFair

Service charge: £5.00

Incentive/deal: First 10 transfers free

Exchange rate: 1.83040

Amount received: $1,825.40

 

Compare this to the results of WorldRemit and CurrencyFair money transfers. Both companies charged a service fee of £5.00, offering a more competitive exchange rate in return, resulting in the payee receiving $1,818.91 and $1,825.40 respectively.

"Free" doesn't necessarily mean "best"

You don’t want to opt for a free service if it is likely to jeopardise the value of your international money transfer. Ensure you receive the best value for money, in both currencies.

Summary

While undeniably enticing, free money transfers do not always provide customers with the most competitive foreign exchange rate. When used on an occasional, infrequent basis, free money transfers can be a valuable means of cost-cutting when sending money from A to B. However, for repeat customers, we would recommend paying a small fee to guarantee the security of your remittance and secure a more favourable exchange rate.

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Article Factchecked by Elliot Laybourne on 20th July 2022

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.

April Summers

April is a trained journalist and the Content Editor for MoneyTransfers.com. She has 10 years experience writing about a diverse range of subjects, from financial services to arts and entertainment. When she’s not writing about global remittances she can be found daydreaming about her next holiday abroad.

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