What's the best* way to send money overseas from Australia? Find out with this guide.
The best* way to send money overseas cheaply is by using a dedicated money transfer service that has lower fees, more options and better exchange rates than what regular bank services offer. The table below lists some of the best services you can use to transfer money overseas.
The below providers allow you to send money internationally to your recipients bank account. If you're looking to send physical cash internationally for your recipient to pick up, take a look at our international cash transfer page instead.
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*The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products finder.com.au has access to and are not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms "best" and "top" are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.
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Sort through different services using the table headings and click "More" to read a review of the product or "Go to Site" when you're ready to transfer money. You want to use the best service for your needs so it's cheaper to send funds abroad. Your recipient can also receive more if you choose a provider that offers great rates and low fees.
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Definition: Best* way to send money overseas
There is no single best way to send money overseas, and the best way for you may not be the best for someone else. There are other factors besides the exchange rate to consider when sending an international money transfer, including the transfer fees, the payment method, the speed of delivery and the level of customer service. One person may prioritise the exchange rate, while someone else may prioritise the payment method. You should consider a range of products when deciding which provider is best suited to your personal money transfer needs.
The following information will help you choose the best* money transfer service for your needs
Beware of the traps and pitfalls
You've probably noticed that the exchange rate you see reported in the media, which is known as the wholesale or mid-market rate, isn't the same rate you get when you make a transaction. Financial services providers make their profit on the margin added to this wholesale exchange rate. During Christmas 2015, research conducted by finder.com.au found that Australians could save on average $63 when transferring $1,000 overseas by comparing their options.
With all this in mind, it pays to compare the products available to make sure you find the best overseas money transfer solution for you.
International money transfers let you send money quickly and securely to countries around the globe using different currencies. There are several ways you can transfer money overseas.
Online money transfer companies
These companies offer the quickest and cheapest way to transfer funds overseas, and they let you set up an online account to send your money electronically. It's a quick way to get your money where you need it to be, but you will need to be comfortable making financial transactions online.
Examples of online money transfer companies include OFX, WorldFirst and CurrencyFair and the industry continues to grow. Once you've created an account, these companies transfer these funds to your nominated account.
Some providers have a minimum transfer amount (approximately $1,000-$2,000), while other companies have no minimum. Other fees involved can include a transfer fee and transaction charges when the money is deposited at the other end.
Online money transfer with OFX (formerly Ozforex)
Ben wants to transfer money overseas through OFX. He'll need to send at least $2000 to use the service, but OFX will charge wholesale foreign exchange rates and a smaller margin, as low as 0.3%, compared to the average bank rate of 4%. OFX charges its fees in the currency Ben is selling, in this case Australian dollars, and will waive the fee completely if he transfers over a certain amount. If Ben is transferring less than AUD$10,000, the fee is $15.
Ben knows the online money transfer market is growing all the time and becoming increasingly competitive, so he shops around for the best possible deal.
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Electronic funds transfer
You can transfer money to an overseas bank account straight from your own account. This method is also known as an international money transfer, a telegraphic transfer (TT), a wire transfer or a SWIFT transfer. While this option is convenient and secure, it does have downfalls.
It may take several days for the money to go through and there are also a number of fees to consider. Your bank and the bank at the other end of the transaction could charge "sending" and "receiving" fees, while the exchange rate offered can have a huge effect on how much the transaction ends up costing you. For example, the Commonwealth Bank transfers money to over 200 countries, using more than 30 currencies, but you'll have to pay a $30 fee if the transfer is issued via a branch or a $22 fee if it is issued via NetBank.
Money transfer companies can send your money abroad using cash or EFTPOS. These companies will have a storefront or a third-party convenience store counter and your recipient will be able to collect the funds from the money transfer office in their country. While this cash transfer option is usually extremely quick, it can be expensive.
Companies such as Western Union, Xpress Money and MoneyGram offer this service. Once you've set up an account, depending on the company, you may also be able to transfer money online, over the phone or using a bank card.
MoneyGram has more than 320,000 agent locations worldwide. The fees involved in transferring money overseas can vary depending on a range of factors, including how much money you're sending and where you're sending it. As an example, MoneyGram's cost estimator calculates that transferring $1000 from Australia to the United States will incur a fee of $65.
International money order
Safer than sending a personal cheque overseas, an international money order (IMO) is when you give your money to a bank or post office and get an international guaranteed cheque. Think of it as the international equivalent of a bank cheque.
Once you've posted the cheque to the recipient, they can cash it at their local bank and deposit the money into their own account. While this transfer method is secure, posting a cheque will take longer than an electronic transaction and can cost more. You'll have to pay to purchase the IMO and there may be transaction costs when the money is deposited into the overseas account.
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Take advantage of offers such as "first transfer free"
You'd be surprised at the length that new money transfer companies are willing to go for your business. You could save up to AUD$15 using services such as HiFX, which will give you your first money transfer for free when signing up. Standard fees will apply thereafter for transactions that fall below their fee thresholds.
Lock in a forward exchange contract
If you don't have enough funds available but want to secure a certain rate now, you can enter into a forward contract. This ensures that you get the lowest rate and the ability to purchase or sell your currency now, at the prevailing rate.
Settlement for the transaction happens on a pre-determined date in the future, depending on the conditions of the contract. Typically, you'll need to provide a deposit, which is usually a certain percentage, to be held as security to finalise the transaction. When the contract is implemented, you'll be required to send the remaining balance on the date stated in your forward exchange contract.
A forward exchange contract is similar to an "agree now, pay later" situation where you can lock in an exchange rate even if you don't have the money available. If rates go down, you won't be affected, but you may lose the deposit that you put in depending on the conditions of your contract. However, if rates improve and go beyond what you locked in, you may not be able to change your contract.
Use a service that is fit for the amount you're sending
A lot of transfer companies waive their fees if you transfer over a certain amount. If you're transferring large amounts, around the AUD$10,000 mark, it may be best to use a transfer company. For smaller amounts (running into the hundreds), you may want to use a bank transfer or similar, such as PayPal or a Citibank Plus transaction account, which doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
There is no one way to send money overseas that is guaranteed to be the cheapest. You may be able to find the cheapest transfer fee, but the exchange rate may not be as competitive, or vice versa. You may need to send money within 24 hours, while other people may have no time limit. You should always consider a range of products when deciding which provider is best suited to your personal money transfer needs.
Are free international money transfers real?
It's unrealistic to expect truly free international money transfers. Even though international money transfer companies are cheaper than the banks, they still have margins and fees. While international money transfer companies stand to make money from your international transfer, they still make less profits than the banks. International money transfer companies usually charge a margin on top of the market rate and may charge fees for smaller transfers. Keep in mind that when a transfer service says they have no fees, there is likely to be a small fee weaved into the exchange rate offered.
In some cases, to get a truly free transfer, you'll need to transfer large amounts above the $10,000 mark. This is because international money transfers actually save money when you transfer big amounts due to economies of scale.
Please note that the process is different for every provider. The example below shows just one of the ways you can initiate a transfer.
1. Log in to your account and choose the "international money transfer" option.
2. Choose which country you'd like to send the funds to. You will also need to know your recipient's SWIFT/BIC code, account number and account name.
3. In most cases, you will also need to provide the recipient's residential address and phone number. Choose which transaction account that you'd like the funds to come from. Here is another version of what it could look like on your screen (Citibank).
Choosing the best option to send money overseas can seem a little daunting at first, but if you do your research and shop around, you can transfer your funds quickly and efficiently – and save money along the way.