International money transfers can be costly and complicated, but they don’t have to be. With the right info in hand, sending funds becomes a piece of cake. There are many companies out there ready to offer low rates that will make any transfer affordable, and these days everything can be done online without trudging to your local bank branch.
How do international money transfers work?
There are a few different ways to send money internationally, but the most common is to use a bank or an online service like PayPal. However, just because they are the most common ways, it doesn’t mean they are the cheapest — far from it! When you make an international money transfer, sometimes called a wire transfer, you will typically be charged a fee by the provider. This fee varies depending on the amount of money being sent, the destination country, and the type of service used. In addition, the exchange rate will also play a role in how much money is ultimately received by the recipient. For example, if you are sending US dollars to someone in Europe, the exchange rate you are offered by the provider may mean that they receive less money than you intended. As a result, it’s important to research both fees and exchange rates before making an international money transfer.
Types of fees in international money transfers
When sending money abroad, there are two costs to consider: the fee and exchange rate. The first is an obvious charge that varies by provider; some will advertise themselves as being “commission free” but don’t fall for it! In this case they’re making their money by giving you a worse currency conversion rate than what competitors offer; they will pad out the real exchange rate (the “inter-bank rate”) with a few percentage points between the “buy” and “sell” price for currency. It is this second (hidden) cost, the exchange rate offered, which you also have to consider when comparing international money transfer providers.
Knowing how much foreign currency your money will get you beforehand can be confusing, especially with all of the different fees and rates out there. But it’s easy to make sure you’re getting a good deal by comparing companies based on one simple question: “After the fees and, given the offered exchange rate, how much foreign currency will I get?” FXPal.com makes it easy to answer this question with our real-time price comparison feature, which takes into account both fees and the exchange rate offered by each money transfer organisation (banks, peer-to-peer services, electronic money institutions, cash pickup direct transfer services).
Different types of international money transfer providers
To find the cheapest international money transfer option for you, you can simply use the tool on the front page of fxpal.com, but if you wish to understand in more depth which provider could be the right fit for you, it helps to get an overview of the different types of providers operating in the international money transfer sector.
Banks will send your money abroad, and convert it to different foreign currencies, but they won’t do it for free. Someone has to pay for the rent on their city-centre offices, and in this case you will be the one contributing! Banks are expensive for international money transfers , with some banks charging close to $50 for a single transaction. They will also give you an uncompetitive foreign exchange rate, meaning that the person receiving your money will get less than if you had gone with another provider.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) services
P2P services like Wise (previously TransferWise) work differently from banks. They are built on a simple concept: matching people who need to send money abroad with those who need to receive it. This process is facilitated by the P2P platform, which uses close to the real exchange rate (the rate banks use when trading currency between themselves) and charges a low, transparent fee. As there are no physical branches or offices, P2P providers can pass on these savings to their customers.
Electronic money institutions (EMIs)
An EMI is a company that provides money transfer services electronically. These companies need to be authorised and regulated by financial authorities in order to operate, but they are not banks. WorldRemit is an example of an EMI. These types of companies have low overheads because they don’t have any physical branches, so they can offer lower fees than banks while still making a profit.
Online banks / mobile banks / challenger banks
A sub-type of Electronic Money Institution, online banks such as Revolut and Monzo keep their costs low by keeping everything app-based. By jumping straight to modern technology they don’t have the expense traditional banks have of maintaining legacy IT systems, plus branches, call centres etc. These mobile banks often offer reasonable rates for international money transfers, and if the receiving party also has an account with the same mobile bank then they behave more like peer-to-peer services, matching up the flows of money between their customers at low cost.
Foreign exchange brokers can be a cheap option for transferring large amounts of money abroad. They generally don’t charge transfer fees, but will make their money by offering you a less favourable exchange rate than the mid-market rate. It’s important to get multiple quotes from different brokers before deciding which one to use. Fortunately, here on fxpal.com we list several of the biggest brokers in the international money transfer space.
Cash pickup direct transfer services
There are some money transfer organisations that let you send cash to be picked up by the recipient from one of their agent locations. Some of these providers also offer other ways to receive your money, such as bank account transfers and mobile money transfers. Western Union and Money Gram are the largest companies in this space, but the convenience they offer does not come cheap. Startup Azimo is changing the rules of the cash pickup transfer game with surprisingly low fees compared to the big two legacy companies.
As you can see, there are a variety of different international money transfer providers to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. So, how do you choose the right one for you?
The answer lies in checking the total cost of your transfer (that is, the fees charged plus the exchange rate margin) via the real-time prices on fxpal.com! This will ensure that you get the best possible deal on your international money transfer.