When sending money from the U.S. to friends or family abroad, your first thought might be to rush to the bank. But banks’ average fees for international money transfers are around $43, and their foreign exchange rates and delivery speeds aren’t the best.
Here are details on some of the top providers to consider for sending international money transfers.
» MORE: Compare real-time rates for international money transfers
, an online currency exchange platform formerly known as USForex, charges no transfer fees regardless of how much gets sent. Exchange rate markups tend to be less than 1%, so you also get favorable rates too. You can send money to 91 countries, via phone, online or mobile app. But there are downsides. Transfers can only be made between bank accounts, as opposed to delivering to cash pickup locations abroad. The minimum is $150 per transfer. Delivery takes several business days generally.
To get exchange rates in your favor, OFX lets you set up email alerts for specific rates or lock in rates for future transfers. Another feature is to target rates, meaning that OFX will contact you to complete the transfer if the market rate reaches the one you specify.
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, a United Kingdom-based money transfer provider, offers some of the best exchange rates you can find. It uses midmarket rates — the same cheap rates that big banks use to exchange money among themselves. Banks and other providers generally profit by marking up the exchange rates they give consumers, but TransferWise avoids this. There is a fee, such as 1% of the sending amount, that can get pricey if you’re sending $10,000 or more. In that case, currency platforms such as OFX can be cheaper. Delivery takes up to a week.
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Xoom, owned by PayPal, can deliver transfers to destinations in minutes, whether they’re funded by bank account or debit or credit card. Delivery may take longer due to banking hours and time zones. The maximum is $2,999 per transfer.
But the service isn’t generally cheap. Exchange rates tend to have markups ranging from 1% to 3% above midmarket rate. Many transfers using bank accounts also have a $4.99 fee for sending up to $2,999, but other transfers cost much more.
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, owned by Chinese company Ant Financial, is the second-largest money transfer company with 350,000 locations in over 200 countries and territories. One of its other advantages is speed. You can send cash to an agent location abroad within minutes or transfer to a bank account, which takes up to one day to arrive in various countries. You can fund online and mobile transfers with a U.S. checking account or a Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card. The maximum sent per transfer is $2,999.
Like Xoom, MoneyGram’s speed comes at a price. Average fees for transfers of $200 to $1,000 range from $9 to $25, and exchange rates have a markup of 1% to 6%.
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Best transfer options
As the biggest money transfer provider worldwide, Western Union
gives you many ways to transfer funds. You can send an international money transfer in person, by phone, website or mobile app. Pay by bank account, debit card, credit card or, for in-person transfers only, cash. Money is delivered to a bank account abroad or picked up as cash at more than 500,000 agent locations in rural and urban areas in more than 200 countries and territories.
Not all transfers are cheap or fast, though. Transfers between agent locations take minutes but tend to be more expensive. Web transfers using a bank account are cheaper generally, but they can take multiple business days for delivery. For transfers up to $1,000, fees range from $0 to $81 and exchange rates have markups from 0% to 10%.
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Best online experience
TransferWise lets you send money with one click after your first transfer. It saves your payment and recipient information so you can quickly pull them up. The signup process is also easy: Link your Facebook or Google account to TransferWise, or use an email address. This saves you from needing a new password. Americans in most states can send up to $1 million per transfer to 58 countries through TransferWise’s website or mobile app. Transfers
require bank accounts on both ends.
Xoom makes it easy for online and mobile users to send money to 57 countries, with an emphasis on developing countries. You can deliver money to a foreign bank account or cash pickup location, such as a grocery store or bank. In about half the countries that Xoom serves, you also can have money added to a mobile phone balance. Like TransferWise, Xoom stores your information so you can send another transfer quickly.
However you send money, using one of these providers can be a cheap, fast and convenient way to get your money where it needs to go.
Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.
Updated April 5, 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 and exchange rate markups mentioned are based on the analysis linked below.
How we analyze money transfer providers