Friday, June 21, 2013

How to send money internationally and get the best rate on wire transfers

Making a payment or sending money to a business or individual in a foreign country is trickier and more expensive than I initially thought. Why? Paypal isn't a universal option. In many countries people are unable to link their bank accounts to their Paypal account. You can see what payment and withdrawal options Paypal supports for different countries here. If Paypal is a workable option for the country you are trying to send money to, by all means, use it! If not, find the best rate for sending money internationally through one of these payment options:

  1. Bank to bank wire transfer through your bank
  2. Bank to bank wire transfer through 3rd party service
  3. Payments by prepaid debt card, through an agent, or held for pick up.

International wire transfers through your bank

When you contact your local bank about their fees for international wire transfers you will likely be quoted a price between $40 - $60 per transfer. Take a look at this chart of wire transfer fees to see how your bank's fees compare to those of the ten biggest banks in the United States as of Apr. 2013. 

International wire transfers through a 3rd party service

There are a number of 3rd party services that connect with your bank account and handle the wire transfer rather than your bank. This is a good option for reducing the cost of making an international wire transfer. Two that I found are FX International Payments by American Express and Xoom

FX International Payments charges $35 for international wire transfers in USD or $10 + a slight exchange rate cut for wire transfers in foreign currencies. You don't have to have an American Express card or other account with them to signup to use the service. It appears their service is primarily targeted toward businesses.

Xoom charges $30 for bank to bank payments. It was not immediately clear from their website whether the payment is an actual a wire transfer or some other type of transfer / payment.

Other services for foreign payments

If the person on the receiving end of your payment is willing to go to an office or ATM to receive the money, there are a number of services that handle this type of international payment. Here are two services I looked at in my research. 

ATM Cash mails a debit card to the person you are paying. Upon receipt, they go to an ATM and withdraw the money. Their fees vary based on how you make the payment and the costs for mailing the card. Note that they charge the recipient a withdrawal fee and impose a monthly maintenance fee on the card.

Western Union offers a variety of payment and pickup options that vary depending on country. Their fees range from $4.00 to $12.00 depending on how quickly the funds need to be picked up and the method of payment / pickup you choose. 

Do you have a preferred foreign payments or international wire transfer service? How do you get the best rates when you need to send money internationally? Tell us about it in the comments.