Money transfers both within and across borders have evolved into indispensable, essential services. They help people to support one another, invest, connect, share memories, and express love and concern. Banks still occupy a dominant position in the money transfer space, but money transfer operators (MTOs) are quickly closing in. If you have got any questions on how best to send money to someone, wherever they are in the world, then this comprehensive guide is exactly what you need.
When sending money, it is important to know the options available, and how they differ in terms of speed, cost, safety, and other factors. Here’s a quick summary of the different ways you can make person-to-person payments.
Banks are largely perceived to be the safest and most established methods to transfer money both locally and overseas. Banks such as Barclays and Lloyds Bank have histories that date back to the 17th and 18th century, respectively. Customers can make transfers in-branch, through telephone banking, use online transfer portals or mobile apps. To receive and send money to bank account, both parties must have bank accounts, with only a few exceptions existing where users can transfer funds straight to the beneficiary’s mobile wallets.
When transferring money through the banking system, you need to watch out for transfer fees which can go as high as $40 per transaction. Also, banks generally offer poor exchange rates with margins as high as 5% above mid-market rates. Speeds can also be slow with transfers taking up to 5 days, especially when sending money internationally.
Money transfer companies such as TransferWise, XE, TransferGo, InstaReM, OFX among others have sprung up to offer efficient money movement and payment services. This has reduced the over-reliance on banks for money transfer services, and provided competition in the money transfer space which has driven prices down.
Most of these companies offer international cross border money transfers directly to beneficiaries’ bank accounts, cash pickup points, cards, and mobile wallets. Others such as MoneyGram and Western Union also offer intra-country cash transfers between consumers.
Users can pay for their transfers using credit and debit cards or bank transfers. Some money transfer companies such as Ria, Western Union, Xpress Money, UAE Exchange, and MoneyGram, accept cash deposits at their agent locations. Transactions can be performed on the web, using mobile apps, or in-branch – depending on the money transfer service you use.
The advantage of money transfer companies is that they are fast, affordable, and safe. They also have a variety of transfer payment and payout options compared to banks, and typically have low fees and charge exchange rate margins in the region of 1%.
Sending money in cash is usually considered old fashioned, but it can be practical in some circumstances. Money transfer services such as Western Union, Ria, and MoneyGram allow users to walk to any of their branches or agent locations, deposit money in cash, and have it sent to their recipients.
The money sent is generally available for collection at cash pickup points within minutes. Western Union and MoneyGram also support home deliveries of cash in countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. This works well for unbanked and underbanked recipients, and also for older family members who might struggle to get to pick up location.
Using mail is another answer to how to send cash. However, this is often a riskier method as the money can get lost in transit. And when using reputable cash transfer services like those discussed above, there can be some drawbacks such as poor exchange rates and steep fees.
International money orders allow users to prepay a certain amount after which they are issued with a printed-out money order. They then mail this to the recipient who upon getting it can cash it out at designated banks and post office locations in supported countries.
In the United States, customers can purchase money orders at any post office locations. The maximum that can be sent per international money order is $700. There is an issuing fee currently at $10.25 and a processing fee based on the country you are sending. Customers can also send money using domestic money orders up to a value of $1,000 per single money order.
Money orders are guaranteed funds and the recipient doesn’t need a bank account to cash them out. However, poor exchange rates and fees make them less attractive. They may also get lost on the way necessitating cancellations and replacements which can be costly and time-consuming.
Aside from using banks, you can use services such as PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle to send money to a beneficiary domestically. This process will incur lower fees than international transfers, and domestic transfers are typically instant – making electronic transfers a very convenient method of sending money to friends and family in your own country.
When both you and the recipient are in the same country, transfers are generally fast and less complicated. Here are some important aspects to consider when transacting.
Having considered the above factors, you now need to get the process of sending money right. The procedure varies from one provider to another, but expect the following steps:
Sending money across borders is not any much different from sending domestically. That said, the process is a little complicated and can sometimes be expensive because of the exchange of currencies involved. Therefore, it is important to see how all that plays out before deciding on how to transfer money internationally.
In addition to the considerations for domestic transfers, users sending money across borders need to look at the following aspects.
The process of sending money abroad is similar to that of domestic transfers, so by and large you simply need to follow the bullet pointed list given above. The only difference is that you need to check the exchange rate you are given when you key in the amount.
Some providers support multi-currency transfers to the same destinations. For instance, you may be able to send a transfer in Euro or USD to France or Spain.
Check out the fastest way to send money abroad.
Yes. There are limits which vary based on the service you use. Customers with verified PayPal accounts can send up to $60,000 in a single transaction. Venmo allows unverified accounts to transact up to $299.99 while verified accounts have limits of up to $4,999.99.
Other services like Global Reach have a minimum limit of £1,000 with no transfer maximum. Each platform will have different limits, so it’s important to check these before signing up if you’re planning on sending large amounts of money abroad.
Check out the cheapest way to send money.
Generally, sending money online is safe. The platforms, both on the web and the mobile app are secured with technologies such as 128 and 256-bit SSL encryptions and firewalls. Services that accept cards are often layered with security measures such as Verified by Visa and Mastercard SecureCode technologies.
Also, adherence by the providers to PCI Security Standards ensure that your card information is secured while transacting online. As long as you keep your wits about you and ensure you’re not being scammed, transferring online is a very safe process.
Providers usually have leeway allowing their users to cancel transfers, but not all of them provide for this. For example, transfers on Venmo cannot be cancelled. Also, instant transfers to cash pickup locations and mobile wallets may be difficult if not impossible to cancel because they are instant.
Where there are possibilities of cancellations, you need to watch out for any charges that may accrue to you because of reversals in foreign exchange positions.
Person-to-person transfers, whether domestic or cross border, are on the rise, and many providers have risen to prominence facilitating these transfers both domestically and across the world. Initially, money transfer spaces were solely dominated by banks and postal offices. However, the tide is turning fast, and money transfer companies have sprung up to cash in on the burgeoning demand for fast, inexpensive, and diverse platforms.
When deciding on how to send money to someone, you need to consider aspects such as the speed of transfer, fees, safety, payout methods, and customer support. For international transfers, the countries supported, exchange rates, and other services such as forward contracts are crucial.
Always compare across the spectrum of providers available on your transfer route for the best money transfer deal. The best way of doing this is to take a couple of minutes to fill in our money transfer comparison form, we will then show you the best companies to use for your money transfer in seconds.
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 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.