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Authored by Jon Dela Cruz

Globalization has led to an increasing number of people working in foreign lands, often far away from countries they call home. And one factor that connects most expats, no matter where they live, is the need to send money abroad.

The reasons, of course, tend to vary. These may include paying bills, making mortgage payments, or simply sending money to family members or friends.

Sending money from one country to another has evolved considerably over the last two decades, so expats get to choose from different options now. We’ve covered these options, and put together a guide on how to transfer money overseas.

How to Transfer Money: An Expat’s Guide to International Money Transfers

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The Past

Until the turn of the last century, most people turned to banks to meet their overseas money transfer requirements. This usually entailed steep fees and less-than-favorable exchange rates, which honestly, hasn’t changed.

Bank turnaround times also left room for improvement, which saw companies like Western Union and Money Gram pop up to provide an alternative. These companies still offer better deals than most banks, although they now face tough competition from specialist FinTech money transfer companies.

The Present

Depending on where you currently live, you will get to choose from different specialist money transfer companies that let you send money in a host of currencies to various countries.

Based on how you want the recipient to collect transferred funds, you get to choose from four basic options.

#1 – Transfers to Bank Accounts

If you want to make mortgage payments or pay bills from your home country, this is the route to take.

Several FinTech companies give you easy means to transfer money into overseas bank accounts, some of which include World First, TransferWise, OFX, Currency UK, Currencies Direct, and CurrencyFair.

To make such a transfer you will need the recipient’s name and bank account details.

#2 – Transfers to Email Accounts

Transferring money to someone’s email account is possible through companies such as TransferWise and PayPal.

With TransferWise, the recipient will provide his or her bank account details to the company at a later stage. With PayPal, the money transfers into the recipient’s PayPal account, which can then be withdrawn into a local bank account.

How to Transfer Money: An Expat’s Guide to International Money Transfers

#3 – Transfers to Cash Pickup Locations

If the recipient does not have a bank account, or if you need to carry out a transfer as quickly as possible, you may consider sending money to a cash pickup location.

In this case the recipient collects cash by presenting a unique transaction number along with a valid form of state issued ID. While these transfers usually take place almost immediately, they tend to cost more than bank account transfers.

#4 – Transfers to Mobile Wallets and Airtime

Depending on where the recipient lives, you may have the option of topping up mobile wallets and airtime. Examples of companies that offer this feature include WorldRemit and Azimo.

How to Select the Right Money Transfer Company

Paying attention to a few simple aspects will ensure that you select a company that suits your needs.

➡ Exchange rates and transfer fees tend to vary from one company to another. An easy way to determine which company scores better on this front is to compare how much money the recipient will receive at the end of the transfer.

➡ Modes of payment. Most companies accept payments via bank transfers. Some accept debit card payments and fewer still let you pay using credit cards.

➡ Transfer limits. Minimum and maximum sending limits tend to vary from one company to another. Other factors that may affect sending limits include where you live, the destination country, the mode of payment, and the transfer method.

➡ Customer service. If you plan to use the services of an overseas money transfer company frequently, you may need assistance in different ways. Some companies offer over-the-phone support, some offer support via live chat, and almost all provide assistance via email.

Conclusion

Selecting the right overseas money transfer company may not just lead to savings, but also to peace of mind through knowing that your money is in safe hands.

Since individual requirements tend to vary, make sure you run a thorough comparison before making a decision.

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A fellow expat, Jon is passionate about getting the best deal possible when you transfer money overseas, and creates content for iCompareFX.com, a website that specializes in comparing overseas money transfer companies from around the world. This gives him valuable insight into how they operate.

Outside of work, he likes travelling, reading, and playing the guitar.

    36 Comments

  1. To be honest I had no idea that there existed so many means to transfer money from one country to another. I only knew few of the above like PayPal, western Union & bank transfer. There are cash pick up locations which I was almost unaware of and yet I am clueless about how that happens & how safe it is. Well times are definitely changing!

    • Times are definitely changing, yes, there seem to be more and more services popping up to cater to the limits of other methods, and lower fees, cut out the banks etc.

      As long as you transfer with a trusted and verified company, it’s very safe – we’ve transferred large sums from the US to Australia a couple of times, and it’s all insured and surprisingly hassle free. Have been very impressed with the range of options out there.

  2. I tend to use paypal for convenience. It’s amazing that in this era of globalisation it is still so expensive sometimes to transfer money abroad. This is a useful checklist.

    • I use PayPal too – the conversion rate isn’t great, and they tend to double dip with that and their fees, but convenience wise it’s great.

      I’m right there with you at being amazed that it’s still so expensive to make transfers. Luckily more and more specialized currency companies are popping up to lower those exorbitant fees.

  3. A great post introducing all possible money transfer options. However, not many of these work across the world. For example, in India, we cannot use Paypal to pay though we can receive money through it.

    Do you think in the future we would be able to use bitcoins to transfer money globally?

    • Thanks Anu, glad you enjoyed the post. I didn’t know that PayPal was restricted in India, I wonder why that is.

      I’m not to knowledgeable about bitcoin (apart from knowing that if you bought them in the early days you would now be rich!!) but it would be very interesting if they become a player in currency exchange.

  4. We use and can recommend Transferwise. You can set up a recurring transfer for a certain amount, which is nice since the money is sent on the same date you specify. I never have to worry that my landlord doesn’t get paid on time because I’m away or the internet isn’t working.

    PayPal is also nice. One time I was traveling in Spain and lost my debit card. I had no way to get cash from an ATM, so I sent friends I was some money via PayPal and they were able to withdraw cash for me.

    • I’ve heard a lot about Transferwise, though haven’t used it yet myself. Have received a couple of payments to my bank account from clients overseas via Transferwise, and it came through easily with no hassle, so I would definitely look into it.

      I mostly use PayPal for everyday convenience – it’s quite an incredible idea that you can send money using someone’s email address!

  5. I never was in the position that I had to transfer any money yet, but it’s good to know, that if i’ll be in such a situation, i’ll know where to look it up. There are some things I never heard before, like the transfer to a cash pickup location, but it sounds quite interesting. Thank you for all those helpful tricks, i’ll definitely pin this post for later :D

    • Always good to keep in the back of your mind if you do find yourself in a situation … Glad the post was helpful for you :)

  6. I use Western Union a lot too. They’re everywhere so it’s very convenient to use them. As a traveler, I can’t transfer to bank accounts. Philippine banks are so behind the times. Mobile seems to be the in thing nowadays. I guess I have to learn how it works. Using an overseas money transfer company may just lead be the trick. Thanks for sharing about this!

    • Glad the post was helpful Aleah – Western Union is great if your national banks aren’t on top of the latest trends; I’ve noticed mobile becoming a trend here in Australia too actually, though not 100% sure on how it works yet. They’ve been actively promoting a tap between friends feature where you send money to each other by tapping your phones. Interesting idea.

      Can highly recommend an overseas money transfer company, as long as they’re verified and legit. We’ve had a great experience doing this.

  7. Transfers to cash pickup locations seems to be helpful and something I did not know of! Glad I came across this blog. :)

    • Can definitely come in handy – they do usually cost more, but you get the money almost immediately, and it’s a very convenient option :)

  8. This is such an informative post for someone who lives and works remotely! I don’t do much international transfer personally, but I have started to experiment with Paypal recently. I have not heard of mobile wallets and airtime though. I will need to look more into it!

    • Glad the post was helpful for you Cat! I use Paypal on almost a daily basis as a digital nomad working remotely – it’s an incredible way to collect payments from international clients almost instantly.

  9. This must be the most useful post I have read in a long time. I have been an expat for almost 3 years now and still didn’t take the time to evaluate all options to gather my money in one spot. I decided for status quo. Now, I can chose on a well informed decision. Thanks so much! Would be nice to have a “future” section explaining the trends. Have you heard of AliPay or WeChat?

    • Thanks James! Glad you could take value from Jon’s information. I think it’s one of those things we take for granted as expats, and don’t bother to think about until we find ourselves in the situation of needing to.

      But informed decisions are very important because you can lose a lot of money through fees if you haven’t researched your options properly. Glad we could help!

      I’ve heard of WeChat, though didn’t realize they had a foreign exchange option, and haven’t heard of AliPay. Will look into these, and keep updating the post with future trends as they emerge. Thanks!

  10. This article is really awesome and thanks for sharing the great post.

    • Glad it was helpful for you :)

  11. I’m using the undercover bra stash myself. It’s really practical.

    • Love it! I use this myself a lot too :)

  12. I was only familiar with Paypal and Western Union. I didn’t know that there were really tons of money transfer services available. Throwback to the times I thought Xoom was a scam (sorry!). Lol

    • Glad we could introduce you to a few more! Yes, there are quite a lot of options around :)

  13. I’ve been using PayPal since it came out. It’s beyond useful/convinient. But I gotta say, there are way more ways to transfer money than I expected. Good to know.

    • We largely use PayPal as well, as you’ve said it’s so convenient, and especially as it’s become quite mainstream now throughout the world. Glad we could introduce you to a couple of other alternatives though – there really are a surprising number of options!

  14. Excellent piece …

  15. Useful! Thanks, @mappingmegan

    • You’re welcome Joshua, glad you enjoyed the post :)

    • Thanks Aaron, I’m glad the post was helpful for you :)

  16. Thanks for this Wonderful post. I used PayPal for more than 3 years. And recently was introduced to TransferWise. And, now I can say that TransferWise is way better than PayPal.
    Moreover, I would also like to try CurrencyFair.
    Anyways, Thanks for sharing.

    • You’re welcome Jenny, I’m so glad that it was helpful for you :) I’ve been hearing a lot of people advocate for Transferwise over PayPal recently, it really seems to have become a big player in the space, and worthy competition for PayPal for sure.

      Glad we could introduce you to CurrencyFair and potentially give you a couple of other ideas to check out :)

      Happy travels!

  17. Money transfers got this far. I just realized that before we need to go to the bank when sending money abroad now we can do it online. Thank you for this article.

    • Absolutely, technology has completely revolutionized the space of money transfers – it’s so easy these days :)

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