Cheap ways to send money overseas
What's the most affordable way to send money overseas from Australia? Find out with this guide.
While banks do offer secure wire transfers around the world, they also tend to have weaker exchange rates, higher fees and fewer options to send and receive cash when compared with a money transfer service. Unlike banks, they specialise in one thing: transferring money to countries worldwide.
With this expertise comes cheaper and faster transfers, meaning more savings for you and more money in the pocket of your recipient. The table below lists some of the best services you can use to transfer money overseas.
Compare money transfer services to help you send money overseas
Learn more about
How can I transfer money overseas with an online specialist?
Although the process differs by company, to send money overseas you'll generally need to do the following:
- Register for a free account. You'll provide your full name, contact info and date of birth. Most providers also require ID and proof of address.
- Provide your recipient's information. Specify who's receiving the funds by providing their name and contact information. If you're sending money to a bank account, you'll need to include the bank name, SWIFT code and your recipient's account number.
- Add the details of your transaction. Enter how much money you're sending and in which currency it'll be received.
- Review and confirm. For most providers, you'll see a summary of your transfer showing the amount you're sending, the exchange rate, any fee you'll pay and the total your beneficiary will receive.
- Pay for your transfer. Payment methods vary by company but could include credit or debit card, bank account, cash or mobile wallet.
- Track your transaction. You should receive confirmation that includes a tracking number or receipt for monitoring the progress of your transfer online or with a company branch.
You may also receive an email or text when your recipient has received your funds and the transaction is completed.
What are the ways I can send money overseas?
With so many specialised money transfer companies to choose from, it's no surprise that you have options when it comes to how your recipient receives your funds.
How you send your money and how it's received will ultimately affect delivery speed and how much you're paying in fees. In general, your options include the following:
- Bank transfers. Many major Australia banks can safely transfer your funds to countries around the world. Banks rely on existing links between banks and banking systems worldwide and it'll often be called a telegraphic transfer. However, two downsides are the high fees and the weaker exchange rates you'll often receive in comparison to other options.
- Online money transfer services. These specialists offer more affordable transfers than banks do, allowing you to quickly and easily manage your transactions from home. With competitive exchange rates and lower fees, you can send funds from your bank account. Many also allow you to pay with a credit or debit card.
- Services with cash pick-up. Services like Western Union and MoneyGram offer the key advantage of giving your recipient fast access to the cash you send – sometimes within minutes. You can pay online or at one of the thousands of agent locations worldwide. However, services typically cost more than an online transfer specialist and vary by where you're transferring your money and how you're paying for it.
- PayPal transfers. Not just for online purchases, PayPal offers transfers to more than 100 countries and supports multiple currencies. Its exchange rates are often better than those you'll get from a bank but not quite as strong as rates from money transfer companies. PayPal calculates its transfer fee as a percentage of the amount you're sending – meaning it's often better for sending smaller amounts of money.
- Cheques and money orders. Although not a quick option, you could send an international cheque overseas, obtained from your bank. It costs a little more – you'll have to purchase the cheque and your recipient may be charged a fee by their own bank when cashed.
Let's crunch the numbers: Banks vs money transfer services
To put this into perspective, let's see what a $1,000 transfer to India looks like with a bank compared to a money transfer service.
|Major Australian bank||Money transfer specialist|
|Exchange rate||1 AUD = 47.193 INR||1 AUD = 48.661 INR|
|Transfer speed||2-4 days||Same day|
|Receiving options||Bank account||Bank account, mobile credit recharge|
|Total rupee received||INR46,060.37||INR48,466.84|
|Receiver gets||INR2,407 less||INR2,407 more|
The transfer through the bank ends up giving your receiver roughly $50 less than the money transfer service. Not only is the exchange rate worse, but the fees are a lot higher. It'll also take a few days longer, so it pays to see what your other options can be.
How can I minimise costs when making a money transfer?
- Compare exchange rates. Use your currency's mid-market rate as a baseline to compare against the rates you're offered. You want a provider whose rate is closest to the mid-market rate.
- Send more money per transfer. Many providers discount transfer fees or waive them altogether when you send larger amounts.
- Look for hidden fees. Avoid surprises by reading the fine print for fees that could apply to your transfer, including charges your recipient will need to pay.
- Sniff out special offers. Keep an eye on promotions that offer, for example, no fees on your first transfer. While ideal for limited transfer needs, you could also end up with a new preferred service.
- Shop around. The best way to save is by comparing rates, fees and transfer speeds of each provider, closely looking at their benefits and drawbacks.
Tools to help you save more on international transfers
There's a lot riding on a competitive exchange rate and low fee. But depending on how much you're sending, how soon your recipient needs it and rates at the time of transfer, you could save even more with the following tools.
- Forward contracts. With this tool, you lock in a favourable exchange rate for a future transfer, avoiding unpredictable movements in the rate.
- Limit orders. A limit order allows you to request a transfer that's executed only when a specific rate is reached, at which point your provider locks it in.
- Regular, automated transfers. You may be able to shave a few pennies off an exchange rate or pay lower transfer fees by setting up a plan to automate more regular payments overseas.
What to be aware of
You've probably noticed that the exchange rate you see online or reported in the media (known as the wholesale or mid-market rate) isn't the same rate you get when you make a transaction. Banks and most money transfer services make their profit on the margin added to this wholesale exchange rate, but it can vary from 0.1% to 10%.
With this in mind, it pays to compare the products available to make sure you find the best overseas money transfer solution for you.
Unfortunately, fee-free transfers are never really free. Even though international money transfer companies are cheaper than the banks, they still have margins and fees. While there might not be a fee included, the company is still making money by adding a margin to the mid-market rate.
How do I send money from my bank?
Please note that the process is different for every provider. The example below shows just one of the ways you can initiate a transfer.
Frequently asked questions
Read more on this topic
How coronavirus is changing the way we transfer money overseas Retail outlets are shuttering but online transfer volumes rise.
Australian dollar makes rebound, but pandemic fears continue Coronavirus uncertainty reigns in the markets, overshadowing small gains.
Analysts: Australian dollar could drop further Australia's main exports are hit hard by coronavirus, while demand for the perceived safety of the greenback may continue growing.
Australian dollar drops to 10+ year lows as RBA announces quantitative easing AUD may be on the cusp of a new historic low as the Reserve Bank lays out its plans.
Remittance statistics We've unpacked the most recently available data from the World Bank to get an idea of how much money is being sent around the globe.
Western Union is now offering ridiculously cheap money transfers via POLipay Can you end up with more money than you started with after a money transfer?
7 tips for Australian import/export businesses SPONSORED: How to take your business global (and save a whole lot of money along the way).
Best international money transfer companies If you're looking to transfer money out of Australia, read our guide on the five best transfer companies.
St.George currency exchange rates Check today’s live St.George exchange rates to see what they're offering on foreign currency exchange.
Suncorp exchange rates Take a look at today's live exchange rates from Suncorp to calculate your next international money transfer.
International Money Transfer OffersImportant Information*
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
Send money overseas in 30+ currencies with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
SendFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. T&Cs apply.
Fee-free transfers in 30+ currencies to over 200 countries.
$0 transfer fees for Finder customers.
No-maximum limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies. No transfer fee over AUD$10,000.
Ask an Expert