Best ways to transfer money internationally

To find the best way to transfer money internationally, it’s important to understand the fees, exchange rates and speed of different transfer options.

Today, sending money abroad can be done in a matter of minutes no matter where you are.

In fact, with the development of online money transfers and digital banking, you can transfer money internationally and exchange multiple currencies without leaving your home, according to

But if you’re not careful, you might end up paying more than you should for the convenience of a fast money transfer, which is not always necessary nor the best option for large or regular money transfers.

Fees charged for international transfers can be high, which is why it’s worth investigating various providers to make sure you get the best deal when sending money abroad.

This guide should help you choose the best ways to transfer money internationally, by helping you understand the different exchange rates and fees you would get from different providers.

How to find the best international money transfer provider

When you send money abroad, you would want to get the mid-market exchange rate, stay away from hidden fees and ensure your money is safe.

The mid-market rate

You may wonder why you need to find the best exchange rate — shouldn’t there be one fixed exchange rate that everyone uses to make international money transfers? In fact, there is, it’s called the mid-market rate and is used by banks to trade money among themselves.

Hidden fees

Most banks and providers, however, will give you a higher exchange rate when you exchange holiday money or transfer your money internationally. Essentially, you pay their transaction fee plus an exchange rate fee — but they don’t tell you about that exchange rate fee, which is why it’s called a hidden fee.


It’s important to make sure that the provider you choose fully complies with the regulations of the countries in which they operate. They should also meet the global standards that protect against money laundering, as well as any other international requirements.

Ways to transfer money abroad

The traditional ways to send money internationally — via banks and wire transfers — are increasingly being challenged by specialised foreign exchange companies that offer online international money transfers.

As you navigate the minefield of varying exchange rates and provider fees, it can be difficult to calculate the best way to transfer your money internationally. The most secure way to send money abroad depends on your destination, according to

Bank money transfers

Most people first think of their bank when sending money abroad. Bank transfers are an easy option for many people, but not always the most cost-effective or convenient method. Bank-to-bank transfers are known for being highly secure, but banks also offer a full range of financial services; they can’t always allocate the same amount of support or online tools as companies that are dedicated only to money transfers.

This can also mean that banks have less competitive exchange rates or higher transfer fees than dedicated foreign exchange brokers, as the latter can offer better deals due to a high volume of transfers. Some retail banks are known to charge relatively high commissions, and their exchange rates are not transparent, incorporating a five to seven per cent margin on top — yet another hidden fee.

International bank transfers can usually be done online, in a branch, or Internet banking platform, and completed in a few days.

Sending money via wire transfer or money operators

Many people are familiar with money transfer operators such as MoneyGram or Western Union, which are renowned for sending money quickly to almost anywhere in the world. These international wire transfers are particularly useful when a recipient doesn’t have access to a bank account, is in a remote area, or needs cash fast. One example is in the case of a stolen wallet, where the recipient needs immediate funds.

Money operators can be convenient because you can typically transfer money online, via the phone or in-store in a matter of minutes or hours. However, fees for fast, worldwide delivery can be higher than other options and may increase with the more money you send. Money transfers can cost up to five per cent or more of the transfer amount. Some wire transfer services offer deals and calculators to show estimated costs, but they don’t necessarily use the mid-market exchange rate.

Sending money with online transfer providers

Online money transfer providers, such as PayPal or TransferWise, can bring some advantages. For instance, if both you and your recipient have an account with the same provider, you can usually transfer money instantly online, and take the funds directly from your bank account.

For regular payments — for example, if you pay a mortgage abroad, transfer a salary or pay international school fees — foreign brokers may offer benefits on transfer fees or let you lock in an exchange rate to regulate the amount you pay in a foreign currency. For one-time payments, locking in exchange rates can also be useful if you need to make a large transfer at an upcoming given date (for example, making a down payment on a house) and the market is unstable.

If your money transfer doesn’t need to be rushed, you can also create a ‘limit order’ or set a desired exchange rate to target. This essentially lets you nominate your ideal exchange rate, and you will be contacted when the currency hits that rate.

How exchange rates affect international money transfers

Exchange rates can greatly affect how much money you receive at the other end, and can have a particularly notable impact on larger transfers. The foreign exchange market is incredibly volatile, so knowing how to protect yourself from risk is key.

Exchange rates can fluctuate on a second-by-second basis. Political, economic, social and environmental developments can all affect the value of a currency. A sudden rise or fall in an exchange rate from an election outcome, for example, could make a significant difference to the total funds you receive from one day to another.

For this reason, timing does make a difference to your transfer and there are many online tools and alerts to help you get the best exchange rate; you can also lock in an exchange rate.

Exchange rates, however, aren’t the only fact to consider. The fees to transfer your money vary greatly between providers — whether free, a set fee or a percentage of your transfer — so an attractive exchange rate does not necessarily mean you will get more money. For example, a forex provider might charge a zero-transfer fee but the exchange rate might be lower, while others might promote highly favourable exchange rates but charge higher transfer fees on top.

Tips for transferring money abroad

There’s a lot to think about when transferring funds abroad, but determining how to send money abroad is easier when considering the pros and cons of each service.

Know what factors will affect your money transfers so you can better protect yourself from risk.

Choose your provider carefully. Don’t just look at their rates, but also at their levels of service and support in case something goes wrong.

Decide on the best time for your transfer. Do you have time to wait for a better exchange rate, or do you need to exchange your funds immediately?

Look online for the mid-market rate, also known as inter-bank rate. This is the real exchange rate that banks use to transfer money between themselves. You can find it on Google Finance, Reuters, and XE, among other sites.

Be aware of hidden fees, which banks and most providers add on top of the exchange rate — and often don’t communicate to customers.

When you need to decide the best way to transfer money abroad, a little research and planning can go a long way. Each money transfer option has benefits and downsides, so you need to weigh them according to what you need, whether it’s speed or a low fee, as well as how much money you need to transfer and where it must be sent. Pick the right provider for your needs and you can enjoy simple, fast and cost-effective international money transfers.