The best ways to send money internationally


Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Contributing Writer

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing.

Published April 27, 2018 | 4 min read

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Updated September 18, 2020: Sending money to friends, family or even a business is pretty easy, thanks to numerous apps and online services, including those that specialize in sending money internationally.

Unfortunately, the associated costs and time it takes to get your money to its intended recipient can vary widely. That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the top services that can help you get your money where it needs to go.

1. Your bank

Most U.S. banks offer money wire services, but they tend to be more expensive than digital services focused solely on money transfers. To start with, bank fees for these transactions are comparably high and there’s almost always an exchange rate markup. Banks also typically only transfer money from a bank account held with them to another bank account. Still, it can be one of the best ways to move significant amounts of money.

Pros: Secure and reliable, plus large sums of money aren’t usually a problem. Cons: Transfers can take several days and fees are typically higher, including exchange rate markups.

You can learn more about banking here.

2. Western Union

Western Union may be one of the oldest ways outside of a bank to quickly send money to someone, but they’ve kept up with the times. You can send money from the website, through the Western Union app or by going to one of their brick-and-mortar locations. And if you need to send more than $5,000, you can try their OnlineFX website. Even nicer, you can use cash or your debit or credit card to send money, which can be deposited directly into the recipient’s bank account or picked up at a Western Union location.

Pros: Secure, flexible delivery options (in-store pickup or bank account transfer), low fees and small exchange rate markup. Cons: Comparably slow delivery (usually four to five days).

3. PayPal

PayPal makes it easy to send money to people and businesses in other countries, using a credit card or bank account linked to your PayPal account. Using a credit card means you'll pay whatever fees your issuer charges. But using a bank account means you’ll incur PayPal fees, which vary depending on the country you’re sending money to and from. It’s a good idea to compare whether your credit card or bank account is the cheaper option.

Here are the pros and cons of going digital with your money.

Pros: Quick and easy. Relatively low fees, especially for small amounts. Cons: Your recipient can only receive money by setting up a PayPal account, the amount you are allowed to send may be restricted (you’ll have to check directly with PayPal).

4. TransferWise

This U.K. company offers money transfers to many countries, and does it using actual exchange rates. That’s right, no markups. You pay a fee for the transfer and your money goes directly to the person’s bank account, usually within a couple of days.

Pros: Straightforward pricing, easy-to-use online and mobile platforms. Cons: Not instantaneous, $50,000 daily limit on personal funds transfers, with a maximum of $250,000 annually. Business funds transfers increase to $250,000 daily and $1 million annually.

5. OFX

Launched in Sydney, OFX now has offices around the globe. Unlike TransferWise, OFX takes a small margin on the exchange rate when you make a transfer, but charges no additional fees, making it a good option for larger sums of money. Plus, they base the rate they charge on how often you use the service, so if you plan to make frequent transfers, this could end up saving you some money long-term).

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Pros: Easy-to-use online and mobile platforms, no maximum transfer limits, same-day service between some countries and 24-hour support. Cons: Not instantaneous, minimum transfer limit of $150.

Now that you have some ideas on money transferring service options, let’s go over some frequently asked questions about sending money overseas.

What are the fees?

Unless you’re putting a check in an envelope, you’re probably going to encounter some fees for sending your money, including:

Transfer fees. These are typically a percentage of the total amount being sent, though they can be a flat fee for smaller amounts.

Exchange rate markups. This is another way some services make money. It’s based on the particular currencies being used, and their exchange rate. Just like it sounds, some companies will charge a markup on this amount, and the rate can vary widely.

Learn more about paying less while sending money abroad.

How long will the transfer take?

Some services provide same-day transfers while others take a couple of days or longer.

Can I send money where I need to?

Not every service operates in every country around the world, so you’ll want to check that information first and foremost.

Image: g-stockstudio