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If you’re making a money transfer abroad, car keys and bank visits aren’t necessary. You can send money online through providers that charge less in fees than big banks, whose fees average about $40.
Below we provide a more detailed breakdown of five of the top providers for sending money to other countries online.
» MORE: Compare real-time rates for international money transfers
, an online currency exchange platform previously known as USForex, focuses on sending transfers cheaply to 91 countries. It doesn’t charge any fees and has generally low markups on exchange rates. You can also target future rates, so a transfer will be sent when the market reaches your desired rate. Delivery takes three to four business days on average.
- Pros: Cheap; no maximum amount per transfer
- Cons: No same-day or next-day delivery; transfers require bank accounts on both ends; minimum amount per transfer is $150
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Fastest (tie): Xoom
Xoom, owned by PayPal, focuses on speed for online and mobile transfers to 57 countries. Whether you pay with a bank account, debit card or credit card, funds can be delivered within minutes to a bank account or a cash pickup location such as a bank or retail store. Unlike other providers, Xoom can deliver money using bank accounts as fast as transfers using a debit or credit card — without charging extra for the speed. However, delivery times can be longer in some countries based on bank hours and other factors. Transfers usually aren’t cheap. Markups on exchange rates average between 1% to 3% above the midmarket rate, or the cheap rate that big banks use between each other. The average fee is about $15 for transfers of up to $1,000 using debit or credit cards.
- Pros: Fast, with same-day and next-day delivery; multiple ways to receive money
- Cons: More expensive than competitors; maximum amount is low, at $2,999 per transfer
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Fastest (tie): MoneyGram
, recently bought by Chinese company Ant Financial, offers quick delivery and a network of 350,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories. Transfers can be sent as cash for pickup within minutes, which matches Western Union’s service. But many online and mobile transfers can reach bank accounts in a few hours, unlike its competitor’s service. Costs are high because of an average fee of $16 for transfers of up to $1,000 and average exchange rate markups from 1% to 6% above the midmarket rate.
- Pros: Quick, with same-day and next-day delivery; big network for sending cash
- Cons: More expensive than competitors; maximum monthly amount for online transfers is $2,999, much lower than what competitors allow
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Best transfer options: Western Union
The money transfer giant Western Union
surpasses MoneyGram with half a million agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories. For online and mobile transfers, you can pay with a bank account, credit card or debit card. Deliveries can be in the form of cash pickup or a bank deposit. The cheapest transfers, which involve bank accounts on both ends, take an average four to five business days. Transfers of up to $1,000 have fees ranging from $0 to $95 and rate markups from 0% to 10%.
- Pros: Biggest cash pickup network worldwide; competitive costs for transfers using bank accounts; same-day delivery options
- Cons: Wide range of costs that depend on the country and type of transfer; slow transfers between bank accounts
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Best customer experience: TransferWise
This provider allows cheap transfers on an easy-to-use online and mobile platform. You can sign up with your Google or Facebook account or an email address. TransferWise
saves recipient details for future transfers, provides live chat for customer support and lets you cancel a transfer by clicking a few buttons. People in the U.S. can send money to 58 countries. The maximum amount that can be sent from most states is $1 million per transfer, and under $50,000 in 10 states. Transfers are among the cheapest because TransferWise doesn’t charge a markup on the exchange rate like other providers. But delivery can take a week.
- Pros: Cheap; straightforward website and mobile app; maximum transfer amount is high for residents of most states
- Cons: Slower than competitors; transfers require bank accounts on both ends
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Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.
Updated April 4, 2017.
METHODOLOGY FOR INTERNATIONAL TRANSFERS
We analyzed 11 top money transfer providers that operate in the U.S., including major players and smaller, innovative companies in the international money transfer industry, based on market research, experts, cost analysis and U.S. internet traffic.Providers considered: MoneyGram, OFX, Placid Express, Remitly, Ria, Transfast, TransferWise, Western Union, World First, WorldRemit and Xoom (owned by PayPal).
Fees, exchange rate markups and delivery estimates mentioned are based on the analysis linked below.
How we rate money transfer providers