Send money internationally

It is easy to send money to people in other countries. There are several safe and quick ways to send money internationally.  Learn how to send money to other countries quickly and safely, how to send money from a bank, how to use a money transfer service, other ways to send funds, fees, and things to watch for when sending money internationally.


mujer joven con auriculares y ratón de la computadora
Photo courtesy of Stephen Luke

Billions of dollars are sent to other countries; behind these “remittances” are immigrants, refugees, asylees, and newcomers who send money to help their families at home. 

If you are looking to send money internationally, there are some information you need to know:

  • Research your best options. Decide if you are ok using an app, a bank account, a website, or a money transfer service. Analyze costs, the time it will take, and the best option for the person receiving the money.
  • Decide on the transfer amount you’d like to send; depending on the service, you’ll need to estimate the cost of the transfer too. 
  • Be aware that some services have a minimum amount of money you must transfer, and some have maximum amounts per transfer.
  • Prepare your documents. Have an ID ready or other forms of identification. If you use a bank, you will need your bank debit card or account information.
  • Depending on the service you use, the people receiving the money might need to present a form of identification to receive the money.
  • Some of the apps and online money transfer services ask you to register and create an online account with them. Some have their websites translated to other languages.
  • Take into consideration that the money is not transferred immediately; it could take a few days to be available.

There are wire transfers and money transfers:

Wire transfers are made using a communication system called SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). Money does not travel from one place to another, but through an electronic fund transfer after the bank has checked that you have the funds for the transaction. Then the recipient’s bank is notified so that person can get the funds.

Money transfers are similar to wire transfers; money does not travel from one location to another. It is transferred using financial information. For money transfers, the SWIFT system is not used, and it doesn’t go through banks.

Send money internationally from a bank

If you often send money internationally, it is best to use a bank account. Keeping a lot of cash in your home is not safe. It is better to open up a bank account. Learn about banks and how to open a bank account.

Here is what you need to know to send money internationally from your bank:

  • Before you send money, you will need information about the person getting the money. The bank calls this person the recipient. The bank will ask you for the recipient’s name, account number, and sometimes address.
  • For some countries, you will need a bank identification number. These are IBANs (International Bank Account Number) or SWIFT/BIC numbers. Have the person who is receiving the money ask their bank if you will need this number.
  • Often, you can send money through your bank account online. If you need help or are not sure what the options are, go to your bank. You can talk to the worker in the reception window, and they will help you.
  • Banks will charge you for sending money internationally. Make sure to ask about fees (how much it will cost).
  • Sending money internationally through your bank can be slow, too. It could take between a couple of days to a week.

Send money internationally using a money transfer service

Currently, there is an extensive list of services you could choose from. Some of the main ones are Western Union, PayPal, OFX, Xoom, MoneyGram, Wise, etc.

Before choosing one, please read the contract information, know the cost per transaction, how long it will take your family to receive the transfer, and all the conditions.

Other ways to send money

Checks

You can send a check from your bank account. But some countries make it very hard to receive foreign checks. Foreign banks will charge a big fee to deposit them.

Money orders

A money order is similar to a check, but it is pre-approved and paid for; this means that the recipient’s name and the information are already on the paper and can not be changed. An international money order costs $8.55 for values up to $700 ($500 for El Salvador and Guyana). You can get money orders at banks, the post office, and some stores. You can learn more about international money orders from the US postal service.

What are transfer fees?

When you send money internationally, you will be charged fees. 

Transfer fees are money you pay for sending money. It might be a percentage of the amount you send, or it might be a fixed amount.

Exchange rate fees

Exchange rates are the amounts one currency (such as US dollars) is worth in another currency (such as Euros). The rates change all the time. Sometimes you pay a currency exchange fee as well as a fee for sending the money. Ask the bank or service to explain their costs.

Things to watch for when sending money internationally

  • Look at all of the expenses. It will save you money.
  • Always be sure you know how long the transfer will take.
  • When sending money using account and routing numbers, check them several times. If they are not correct, the money will not get there.
  • Never send cash via mail or in a parcel. Your money can get lost or stolen, and you’ll lose your money and your time.
  • Send money to people you know; there are thousands of international scams asking for transfers. Please, verify who will be receiving the money and how the funds will be utilized before making a donation.
  • If you are sending money in a different currency, make sure you consider that the exchange rate can change every day. It’s better to transfer in the currency of the receiving bank.