The Cheapest Ways To Send Money Internationally

Back in the day, a long-term traveler needing a cash injection would have endured a long-winded, expensive process to get their hands on their money. The money sending process (usually a wire transfer) involved jumping through hoops and giving your life and bank details to a total stranger. You’d have to fill out forms, wait in lines, and pay unnecessary fees. Many money-sending services were also scams themselves.

Now credit cards, debit cards, Paypal, and other forms of payments make life easier.

But ATM card fees can add up and when your card limit maxes out then you’re left with few options. And that’s just one application of international money “transfer”. Many people want to send money to a friend, a family member, or to pay an individual or company for work done.

Getting the best deal out of international money transfers can save you a lot of money. I’ll try to help help you decide which service offers the most efficient and cheapest way to send money internationally.

Note: This list is not exhaustive. There are hundreds of money transfer services out there. Some money transfer websites haven’t been updated in years and others charge ridiculously high fees – obviously using their brand name advantage to charge more. Others add annoying fees at checkout, which often makes them not a cheap way to send money internationally. These services are not reviewed. I’ve been traveling and using services like this for 20 years, so I’ve had many good and bad experiences. I’m always trying to find the best value. Here’s my research.

money payment and transfer systems

Wise (formerly Transferwise)

Wise is my top pick for sending money overseas. 

Wise can convert Euros to 46 currencies and USD to 51 currencies currently.

The Wise app (both desktop and mobile) interface is modern, fast, and clean.

The New Zealand exchange rate appears the best so far. Wise Colombia is expensive, but I’m hoping that this changes soon.

Check out Wise’s account and debit card for multi-currency banking and currency transfers. It’s an awesome service that lets you open a bank account in dollars, Euros, or sterling, without the hassle of setting up an account in the country. You can then use this account to receive funds in the US, Europe, Australia, and the UK. It’s like Payoneer, only better. And you can use a Credit Card or Debit Card connected to your account.

Anyone wanting to get paid, receive money, buy services in a currency other than their own bank should get the Borderless account. Perfect for digital nomads and freelancers. It’s a fantastic addition to Wise’s current product. Highly recommended.

Wise now works inside the N26 Online Bank app, a great option for digital nomads. N26 is one of the world’s premier mobile banks. You can also use Wise as a straight international currency payment app. It works brilliantly and transfers are almost instantaneous (depending on the locations involved)

Best For: All transactions

Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate to set the currency exchange rate for transfers. More on mid-market rates here.

Azimo

Azimo’s site is clean and easy to work with. The front page contains a form with fields to fill out for estimating transfer costs. I like this as I can quickly find out what it’s going to cost me without jumping through too many hoops.

If I’m sending money to Argentina I’m given the option of cash pickup or mobile top-up.

Best For: Ease of use and range of options

Western Union

Next up is Western Union, the granddaddy of money transfer companies. WU has been around for over 160 years.

WU’s site is not as user-friendly as the rest and you have to click through a few times to get real details. This makes it a slightly frustrating experience.

I chose Argentina as the destination country and I was presented with two options for paying

1. Credit Card, at a cost of €16 but the transfer was immediate

or

2. Bank Transfer, costing €4.90 with a 1-2 day lead time.

There’s an option to enter promo codes and that’s always worth looking out for. I use a handy Chrome extension called Coupon Follow which searches for coupons automatically.

You’ve got two options for receiving:

1. A bank account with zero fees

2. Cash with two different paying fee options: bank transfer or Credit Card.

Western Union is one of the best global money transfer companies. There is some comfort knowing that WU is a company that has been around for a long time but has changed with the times. It has seen the newcomers in the money transfer service game and taken them on with competitive pricing and technology.

Best for: Sending to Argentina

Xoom

Xoom is a PayPal company site that requires you to signup before you can use the cost estimation tools.

The interface is a little cumbersome. It’s definitely not my favourite but it does have it’s good points.

Xoom doesn’t offer a money transfer service for New Zealand or Turkey, unfortunately.

Best for: Sending money to Colombia. Xoom’s transfer rate beats the other options in this blog post.

CurrencyFair

CurrencyFair has been offering transfer services since 2010 and its headquarters are in Ireland. The site offers 17 currencies. Of our 4 base currencies, they only deal with the New Zealand Dollar. CurrencyFair.com is one of the best online money transfer services but has limited country destinations available at the moment.

CurrencyFair was my favourite service up until a year or so ago. Unfortunately, the fees have increased and the customer service level has decreased significantly since then. I decided to stop using Currency Fair about a year ago.

The service works by transferring money from your online bank account to the CurrencyFair website. Once approved you can transfer funds to the receiver’s bank account in the target country. Effectively, you transfer money from one bank to another, only the banks are in different countries, and you bypass the bank’s own transfer systems.

Remitly

Sending money with Remitly is fast and easy. The rates are very good for sending between certain countries. For example, you get a much better rate when sending to Argentina from Europe compared to most of the other services on this list. But you can only send to a bank deposit account or arrange a cash pickup. That might not be a problem for most people, especially when you can save a lot of money on fees and get a better exchange rate.

At the time of editing this section of the blog post, if you send 100 EUR to Argentina, the receiver gets 17,836.00 ARS.

The same 100 EUR with Wise is 10,865.80 ARS. That’s a pretty big difference. The system is easy to use and offers clear pricing.

Remitly.com

MoneyGram

MoneyGram gives you the option to include the fee in the cost, which is handy for seeing exactly how much the money is worth at the receiving end. I calculated with the fee included. The results were not too impressive.

MoneyGram is the most expensive option due in most part to the flat €32 transfer fee.

How I Calculated Fees & Quality

I used Ireland as a base location because it’s not the cheapest or the dearest place to send from. I picked four countries to compare across all services (if possible). The first country is a  notoriously difficult one when it comes to currency transactions: Argentina. I chose a relatively easy country to send to (outside of the EU and quite far away): New Zealand. I then chose two countries that I’d consider to be in the middle of those two: Colombia and Turkey.

As exchange rates fluctuate (especially in countries like Argentina) and fees change it’s hard to give accurate figures for costs but stick with the ones that offer the best rates and service consistently and you won’t have to worry about constantly changing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is PayPal cheaper than a bank transfer?

It depends on the countries of the banks you’re transferring between. For example, PayPal is not cheaper than a bank transfer if you’re transferring between banks in the EU’s SEPA system, as bank transfers do not incur fees. In some cases, the costs are comparable. In others, PayPal is cheaper. Check the fees before choosing a service.

Which bank is best for international transfers?

Choose a challenger bank like N26 to cut out traditional fees and get international transfers at the lowest price. N26 (a registered bank) works with Wise (which safeguards your money) to get the lowest rates on international currency transfers.

Can you send money abroad for free?

The short answer is no. All transactions incur some type of cost. The goal is to reduce these costs. That’s where choosing your bank, service, or app wisely can reduce the costs to almost nil.

How much does it cost to send $100 with western union?

As an example, it costs around $20 to send $100 to the United Kingdom from the United States with Western Union. When you consider it costs around $2 to send with Wise, sending with WU is not the cheapest method.

Which countries are the cheapest for international transfers?

Transfers between countries that use the Single Euro Payments Area incur no fees when using traditional banks and most money transfer services.

How to avoid intermediary and beneficiary bank fees?

To avoid intermediary and beneficiary bank fees, use a service that displays a price breakdown before you send. Understand exactly what you will be charged for and only choose a service that does not have, removes, or reduces bank fees.

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3 thoughts on “The Cheapest Ways To Send Money Internationally”

  1. TransferWise was great, I tried other money transfers and TransferWise provided me a great service and fewer fees.

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