Last Updated on September 14, 2020 by Rodrigo @ OutofYourComfortZone
The 5 best and cheapest websites and apps to do online international wire transfers. Easy to use and you can instantly calculate the cost to send and final value after conversion before confirming your transfer. Works for 40 different currencies in more than 70 countries, including USA, India, Australia, UK, & more!
It might seem like this topic isn’t so related to travelers. But believe me, it is. Plus it’s super useful if you (or any of your relatives) live, work, or study abroad.
(By the way, if you or anyone you know are planning or want to live abroad and still don’t know how you can, don’t miss our page with 10 Ways to Live Abroad)
Here are just some examples of when you might use the services of the companies I’ll mention below to transfer money to other countries. If you:
- Are traveling abroad and want to save on exchange rates (we explain how 2 sections below)
- Are studying or working abroad and need to receive/send money to/from your family back home
- Have friends or family studying or working abroad and you need to send/receive money to/from them
- Need to send money to yourself because you’re living abroad and your money is in a bank account in another country or your home country
- Have a husband or wife abroad and need to send them money
- Need to pay for something abroad (see bottom of article for notes on scams and fraud for this)
- Are traveling and run out of money and need your family to send you money
- Have international clients/suppliers and need to receive/send payment from them
- Get your wallet stolen while abroad and need someone to send you money
- Earn a salary abroad and want to send money to your bank account back home to invest
- Have bank accounts overseas and need to send money from them to your home bank
And remember, the options that I’ll give you below work for that are living or are from any country in the world….The United States, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Ireland, India, etc…
So, let’s get started!
Important note: Official/spot exchange rate vs. retail/tourist exchange rate
Throughout the article, you’ll see us mention the official/spot exchange rate and the retail/tourist exchange rate.
In simple terms, you always want to get the official/spot exchange rate because then you’ll lose less money when you convert your currencies. This the rate that’s used in the financial market where large amounts of currency are traded (think of it a bit like “wholesale” or “discount” currency exchange rates).
Most of the companies I recommend below use the official/spot exchange rate (I’ll mention if they don’t).
The retail/tourist exchange rate, on the other hand, is what you’ll find when you exchange money at airports, banks, currency exchange stands, etc. They use the retail/exchange rate so they make a big profit by giving you a worse exchange rate.
In other words, always try to exchange currencies using the official/spot exchange rate NOT the retail/tourist exchange rate. We mention below which rate each company uses.
How to save money on your trips by transferring money abroad
As you might already know (especially if you’ve read our article about How to Deal with Money While Traveling), doing things like withdrawing money with your debit card or paying with a credit card abroad can rack up a lot of fees (unless you get a card without foreign transaction fees).
One alternative could be to exchange money in your home country at a bank or agency before you go abroad. But the problem is that, besides not being a great idea to travel with so much cash, the exchange rates used by these places are the retail/tourist rates…so you can end up losing a lot in your transaction.
Another cheaper option for travelers is to use one of the options below to send money to friends or family that live along your travel route. Then, when you arrive in that country, you can pick up the money in the local currency from the friend/family member you sent the money to from back home.
For example, let’s say I’m from the United States and am planning a trip to Australia where my brother is studying. I use one of the 5 companies below to send money from my US bank account to my brother’s bank account in Australia. He’ll receive the money in Australian dollars and can pass it along to me when I arrive in Australia. Then, I won’t need to change money before in the United States nor after I arrive in Australia.
Now, let’s talk about the 5 best and cheapest companies to send, receive, and transfer money abroad.
But first, what’re the 3 ways you should NEVER send and receive money abroad?
Many people around the world think that using a bank is an easy and cheap way to send or receive money overseas. But this isn’t true!
Doing international transfers through banks is EXPENSIVE!! Banks’ll use a SWIFT code (or BIC) and IBAN to do incoming and outgoing international wire transfers…and they’ll screw you over!
In general, they charge you a percent of the total amount transferred plus a fee that’s sometimes almost the amount of the transfer itself….and to make things worse, the conversion rate they use is horrible! So, if you transfer money to another country with a bank, you’ll probably end up losing a lot of money that you don’t need to.
For example, if you an American bank to send money to a European bank, fees could easily be $45 minimum for a single wire transfer (plus a horrible exchange rate).
XEMT (one of the companies I recommend below) has a good comparison between their rates and the rates of major bank’s for international wire transfers (it used to be HiFX but it was acquired).
And this table gives you an idea of the fees charged by banks for incoming and outgoing international wire transfers…ouch!
#2) and #3) Western Union or MoneyGram
These are two of the biggest companies for sending money abroad in the world. Which means that, unfortunately, a lot of people are using them and wasting money without realizing it just because they didn’t know there are better options.
But if so many other people use Western Union and MoneyGram, why shouldn’t you?
- Are super expensive and take a high percentage of the money you’re sending
(MoneyGram, for example, will charge you nearly a quarter of the amount you’re sending – or US $22 – for a $100 transfer….what a ripoff!)
- Don’t let you send or receive money online (you have to go personally to the agency yourself and the person receiving the money has to do the same)
- Usually use the tourist/retail exchange rate (AKA: the one you don’t want)
One last time, here are the 3 ways you should NOT do international transfers:
#2) Western Union
I’ve put the 5 options in order with my favorite options at the top (because of their low cost and ease). But I’d recommend you always test all the options below to see what is best for what you need.
Made by the creators of Skype, TransferWise is probably the cheapest and easiest way to send money abroad. It’s definitely my favorite and the one I use most often.
All you need to do is have a checking account in the country you’re sending the money from and a checking account in the country where you’re sending the money (note: the account that receives the money doesn’t need to be in your name, making this a perfect option if you need to send money to friends or family).
You basically just put in the amount of money in the currency you want to send (US dollars, for example) and the currency you want to receive (Euros, for example). Then, put in how much money you want to send (US $1,000, for example) and Transferwise will tell the amount the person will receive in Euros including all fees.
Important: you can see that the conversion rates Transferwise uses are the official exchange rates that Google gives. In other words, the best rate possible, no matter the direction/currencies involved.
Then, just sign up with your info and put in the bank info of the person (even if it’s your own account in another country) who is receiving the money.
Depending on the country you’re sending money from, you can send money with Transferwise through domestic bank transfers, debit cards, or even credit cards! But to use a credit card you do have to pay a small percentage fee.
In some countries, Transferwise will issue you an invoice to pay the amount to be transferred. There aren’t any fees for this.
The money you transfer will be in the destination account in 2-3 days.
And notice that the currency exchange rate from Transferwise is pretty much the same as the official one given by Google!
Pros of using Transferwise for international money transfers:
- It’s the cheapest way to transfer money I’ve found– their fee is only around 0.35% of the total transfer value
- They use the official exchange rate (which is much better than the “tourist” exchange rate)
- It’s super practical – you can do everything online
- It’s cheaper and easier than sending money internationally using banks
- There isn’t a minimum transaction amount
- You can use Transferwise to transfer money overseas for your Business and pay suppliers or employees
- You can send money to more than 40 countries plus all the countries that use the Euro (19 in total) *
By the way, if you want to send money to Spain, Portugal, Ireland, or other countries that use the Euro, the process is the same. All you need is to select Euro when you begin your transfer and then put the info of the bank account in the country receiving the money.
*Countries that use the Euro: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, the Vatican, Kosovo, Montenegro.
Cons of using Transferwise for international money transfers:
- You can’t send money to someone if they don’t have a checking account in your transfer’s destination country
Luckily, there’s an easy way to solve this problem by using the checking account of someone you trust. Here in Sweden, for example, I helped a fellow Brazilian receive money here from his family in Brazil. They transferred the money to my Swedish bank account, I withdrew the money from the ATM and gave it to him.
Personal experience with Transferwise: I’ve used Transferwise to send money from the United States to Brazil (which can be done with a credit card!), from the United States to Sweden, from Australia to Sweden, from Australia to Sweden, and from Sweden to the United States. It’s always worked smoothly for me! So, I’d definitely recommend it.
If you want to see, here’s a video explaining how Transferwise works:
CurrencyFair is very similar to Transferwise and the process to use it is the same.
The only downfall with CurrencyFair is that it doesn’t work with as many currencies (Brazilian reais, for example).
Pros of using CurrencyFair for international money transfers:
- It’s a super cheap way to send and receive money from other countries – they only charge around 0.35% of the total value, like Transferwise does
- They use the official exchange rate (which is much better than the “tourist” rates banks use)
- It’s super practical – you can do everything online
- You can send money to more than 18 countries, including those that use the Euro
- As with Transferwise, you can use CurrencyFair for your Business to pay suppliers or employees
- It’s cheaper and faster than doing international transfers with a bank
- There isn’t a minimum transaction amount
- Now they are also working with Indian Rupee (INR)
Cons of transferring money with CurrencyFair:
- It only works with about half the number of currencies Transferwise does
Personal experience with CurrencyFair: I’ve also used CurrencyFair to send money from the United States to Sweden, and it worked just as well as Transferwise did.
Here’s a quick video on how to sign up for free:
And how to do a transfer with CurrencyFair:
XEMT is another well-known website platform for international transfers. They are pretty similar to Transferwise and CurrencyFair.
However, in addition to being an international transfer website, XEMT is one of the main websites in the world to search for the exchange rate between any two currencies in the world….including historical values! So it is very good to see if a particular currency is getting stronger or weaker in recent months.
But to calculate the cost of your transfer, you need first to open a free account with them.
PROS of using XEMT for international money transfers:
- They don’t charge any fees to send or exchange abroad
- They use a rate close to the official rate
- It’s super practical – you can do everything online
- You can send money to more than 26 countries plus all the countries that use the Euro
You can see which currencies they work with on their homepage here.
And you can easily sign up on XEMT for free to check how much you’d save on a transfer.
Cons of using XEMT to transfer money:
- They don’t with all currencies
- The minimum transaction amount must be USD $50
- You must open an account before getting a quote for the cost of your transfer…..but it’s free to open an account and super fast
- Sometimes it costs more to transfer with XEMT than with Transferwise or CurrencyFair because their rates aren’t always as good (you’ll have to compare for your individual transaction to see what is best)
My personal experience with XEMT: honestly, I’ve never used XEMT. But I have a friend who tried using it to send money from the United States to Sweden and she said everything worked just fine and the cost was pretty good. Plus, I use them all the time to check currency exchange rates when I’m traveling overseas.
Paypal is one of the most common ways to make online payments and send or receive money from third-parties. If you’ve ever purchased anything on eBay, you’ll probably already used Paypal.
You can also use it to send and receive money abroad. The only problem is that you can’t withdraw the money from your Paypal balance if you don’t have a U.S. bank account.
One alternative to this is to use your Paypal balance to buy things online where Paypal is accepted (like eBay, for example).
Pros of using Paypal for international transfers:
- It’s a very easy and practical way to send/receive money between almost any two people in the world
- It’s very popular
- You can use it to send/receive payments from overseas from any person that also has Paypal (since you only need an email to open an account)
- It’s super practical – you can do everything online.
- Works for people from all over the world (although you can only withdraw the money if you have a U.S. bank account)
- There’s no minimum transaction
Cons of using Paypal for international transfers:
- You can’t take money out of your Paypal wallet (if someone sends it to you) unless you have a bank account in the United States (otherwise, you’ll have to leave it in your Paypal account and can only use the money to buy things on websites that accept Paypal, like eBay)
- They charge a 3% fee on some transfers
- They don’t use the official exchange rate (they use the retail/tourist rate instead), so you’ll lose some money when you exchange from one currency to the other
Personal experience with Paypal: I use Paypal directly to buy things on eBay and to receive payments from a few companies that only pay with Paypal. But I don’t use it for international transfers because I think the exchange rate is bad and the options above are better.
Here’s a new option I just came across. Senders from more than 50 countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil, and most countries in Europe) can use WorldRemit to send money internationally cheaply.
You can send money to more than 140 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. It’s worth getting a quote with them to see if it’s cheaper than the options above. Plus, your first international money transfer is free (no fees)!
BONUS: How to do international transfers using digital currency
Bitcoin! Or digital currencies in general. This is still a very new market and a lot of people aren’t familiar with it….but this is changing.
Buying digital currencies is a possible way you can send and receive money overseas with very low fees.
5. Coinbase (for getting digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin)
If you want to try international transfers with cryptocurrency, I’d recommend because it is the biggest platform in the world for the purchases and sale of digital currencies.
Basically, what you do is open a free account with Coinbase, put in your info, transfer some money online from your checking account to your “digital wallet” and buy digital currency.
As shown above, Coinbase offers 3 options of digital currencies to buy: Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin (which are basically the most popular digital currencies in the world and the ones that you can buy directly with money).
Once you’ve purchased your cryptocurrency, you can send your Bitcoins (or any of the other currencies) through Coinbase to any other person in the world that also has a digital wallet.
All you need is for the person that’s receiving the money to give you the address of their digital wallet (which you’ll put in when you make the transfer).
Once you (or the other person) receives the amount in digital currency, just change them on the market through Coinbase into your local currency (dollars, Euros, Pounds, etc…) and transfer to your local bank.
The whole platform is quite simple and the process is self-explanatory.
And if you’re looking to invest in digital currencies, Coinbase is a great tool to use because of its size and reputation.
How to invest in Bitcoins or other digital currencies
If you want to invest in digital currencies, Coinbase (because of its size and widespread use) is an excellent tool.
By buying digital currency, instead of sending it to someone, you can leave it in your digital wallet and hope that the value increases so you can sell it in the future. But just remember that there’s no guarantee that the currency will get more valuable….and it can definitely lose value!
So be careful with investing in digital currencies! Don’t use money that you’ll need in short or midterm!
Pros of using cryptocurrency for international transfers through Coinbase:
- It’s a cheap way to send money between almost any two countries in the world
- It’s getting more and more popular
- You can use your bank account, debit card, or credit card to do the deposit into your digital wallet in Coinbase
- You can use it to receive payments from overseas from any person that has their own digital wallet (your digital wallet can be through Coinbase or any other platform that works with cryptocurrency)
- It’s very easy – you can do everything online
- There’s no minimum transaction
Cons of using cryptocurrency for international transfers through Coinbase:
- The value of the digital currencies still varies a lot (AKA: it’s highly volatile), so it’s possible that the amount you send may already be worth more or less by the time it arrives at the destination
- You have a pay a fee of a small percentage of the total value you deposit in Coinbase. If you use a credit card, this fee can be up to 3%
- It can take a few days for the purchase of Bitcoin to be finalized. With Ethereum and Litecoin, the buy and sell confirmation is faster
- It’s a new market and many people still don’t know how it works
Personal experience with Coinbase: I once made an online purchase where it was cheaper to pay with digital currencies than with credit cards. So, I used Coinbase to buy a small number of Bitcoins and sent them to the online store. Everything was fine and it was super easy.
Just as when you have to choose the best travel insurance or find the cheapest plane tickets, it’s worth spending some time researching the best way to send and receive money abroad. The money that you can save in this comparison process can make a big difference at the end of the day.
So, if I were you, I’d use a single value (ex. pretending to send or receive $500 USD, for example), to test all the options above and see which of the 5 turns out best (where the amount received is highest).
This “loss” in a bit of time to do this research can help you save some good cash overall!
Protect yourself against fraud and common scams with international money transfers!!
Only use the companies mentioned above to send money to friends, families, or well-known companies with good reviews. Never send money to someone who you don’t know personally. Also, be careful if a relative or friend sends you a message asking for emergency money, but you’re unable to talk with them via phone, Skype, WhatsApp, or some other way.
By paying attention to strange signs like the ones below, you can tell if you’re being the victim of a scam or not….and then avoid it if you are. Think very carefully before making a transfer. If you’re not sure, don’t take the risk!
Don’t send/transfer money to people or companies:
- If you or your family/close friends don’t know them personally
- For a deposit to buy a property or a rent payment. Take note of this one because it is one of the most common scams for people that live abroad! ONLY send them if you are personally in the city where you are renting and you have personally visited the property & met with the agent/landlord of the place that’s to be rented or purchased. Seriously, this scam is a lot more common than you think….and a lot of people who move abroad get screwed by it!
- To buy something online. You shouldn’t have to use an international transfer for this, better to use a credit card or Paypal (which have payment protections)
- From a place claiming to protect you from a virus that doesn’t accept credit cards (since all trusted antivirus companies should)
- For an emergency situation that hasn’t been confirmed by a friend or family member
- To “redeem” lottery winnings or prizes….another super common scam!
- To make charitable donations. Ask for another way to contribute…be wary of any charity asking for international money transfers
- To start working as a mystery shopper. You should never have to pay for this, it’s free!
- To get a job….this is always a scam! Don’t pay a company to start working with them!
- For a credit card fee or loan. These fees are ALWAYS paid via your credit card and not through international money transfers
If you send money abroad and afterward think you were the victim of a scam, get in contact with the company you sent money with ASAP. Often, they can return the money to you is the receiver hasn’t already taken out the money. This is one reason why you should always send money to checking accounts because then you’ll know exactly who received your money.
And that’s it. I hope that all this info helps you do international transfers easily, cheaply, and safely.
But if you have any doubts (since I know talking about money and travel isn’t always an easy topic), just use the comments area below and I’ll respond as soon as I can!
Planning your next trip?
Then don’t forget travel insurance! You don’t want to get stuck paying a ton of money and ruining your trip if you get sick or have an accident without travel insurance. WorldNomads is ideal for adventurous travelers, backpackers, or anyone looking to be protected during their trip. They cover almost every single activity you can image! Plus, you can have a 5% discount with the coupon code comfort5.
Already reserved your hotel or hostel? If not, we recommend Booking.com. They have a huge selection of hotels and hostels all over the world. Plus, in most cases, you can cancel your reservation up to a few days before the check-in date without any costs!
Still haven’t booked your plane ticket and want to save big? Take a look at Momondo. It’s a flight aggregator that combines several other ticket search websites to make it easier for you to compare prices and make sure you are getting the best deal.
And finally, will you need to rent a car during your trip? Then check out Rentalcar.com to search and compare car rental companies from all over the world in a single website. Then, you can find the cheapest price for the best car!
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