Remitly is a digital money transfer service enabling overseas transfers. Through proprietary mobile technology, it allows people to quickly send money from their smartphones directly to people in developing countries, and for a fraction of the cost of traditional money transfer services.
Remitly’s co-founder and chief executive officer Matthew Oppenheimer said he founded the company after working with Barclays in Kenya. There, he saw how difficult it was to send money overseas.
Remitly’s mission is perfectly aligned with IFC’s long-standing objective of helping the private sector find solutions that benefit the world’s poor.”
Remittances, or money sent from those working in developed countries back to their developing countries, dwarfs foreign aid in its ability to make developing societies more wealthy and equal. Oppenheimer, who has an MBA from Harvard Business School, began working on his idea at Highway 12 Ventures in Idaho before launching the company from Seattle.
The remittances market is huge: in 2015, over $133.5 million were sent from the U.S. alone. (Source). It transmits $3 billion annually and is backed by international organizations such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and major entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos. (Source). The company says it has over 4 million transactions per year.
In 2016, when Remitly announced another round of funding from the IFC, the IFC said: “Remitly’s mission is perfectly aligned with IFC’s long-standing objective of helping the private sector find solutions that benefit the world’s poor.” (Source).
Quicker and cheaper service
The service is quicker and cheaper than traditional money-transfer services due to their technology and partnerships with local banks and institutions.
The company partners with local banks (around 40,000 around the world), and offers cash pickups and direct deposits. Most of their partnerships are in Mexico and Philippines because those populations have more unbanked people.
For example, the company recently partnered with Walmart in Mexico, allowing people there to pick up money transfers at participating Walmart locations.
Because there are no direct Remitly retailers or storefronts, the overhead costs are much lower, which allows the company to pass on more of the transfer to the direct recipient. Thus, fees are lower.
Who is Remitly designed for?
Remitly is designed for those who work in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. It originally focused on transferring money between the US to Philippine. Now, it allows people to send money back to loved ones in 10 countries: Philippines, India, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru, according to its website.
“We are super refined to who we’re targeting. Our core group we’re trying to help is immigrants in developed nations,” said Britta Gidican, head of global marcoms at Remitly. “We know we need to have cash pickup because a lot of these people are unbanked, and we need to have a way to instantly deliver money,” she said. People mainly send amounts between $150-300.
The company recently launched a service that allows cruise ship workers to send money to the Philippines straight from their smartphones. This gave them access to $5 billion in the remittance market.
What are the fees?
The company’s service fees to send money abroad can range anywhere from $0 to $3.99, depending on how fast customers want it to be.
There are Economy (the cheapest) or Express delivery options. The Express option is important in cases of emergencies. If it doesn’t get there in a few minutes (around 5 minutes), the company promises to refund you the money.
For the foreign exchange rate, Remitly partners with Wells Fargo to track currency fluctuations. Often, the company can offer better exchange rates than the market rate.
“We have a team constantly purchasing currency and tracking currency flow. We try to offer rates much higher than market rates. They’re consistently purchasing currency,” said Britta Gidican.
You can send money using a bank account, credit card, or debit card. Debit and credit card transactions are faster than bank account transfers because the company can immediately authorize the card.
If you use a credit card, the company charges 3% per transaction. This is in addition to the fee for Express transfers. The company says it does this because credit card companies charge it a much higher fee, and thus the consumer pays for it.
How Remitly works
First, Remitly allows customers to quickly and easily send money straight from their desktop, tablet, or mobile device. The company’s mobile app makes the money-transfer process even easier. It eliminates the forms, codes, agents, as well as extra fees involved in the traditional money transfer process. Transfers submitted after 5 pm Pacific Time will be processed the next business day.
Here’s a step-by-step overview of how the process works (via computer):
1) Create an account in and select which country you’re sending money to (this can be changed at any time). For this review, we’ve selected the Philippines.
2) Enter the amount of money you’d like to send, select the delivery speed, and choose your delivery method.
3) Provide information about your recipient. If you choose bank deposit above, you’ll also need to provide his or her bank account information.
4) Provide information about yourself.
5) Choose your payment method. Using a bank account is free and the delivery speed is 3-5 days. When you use a debit or credit card, it changes the delivery method to Express and funds will be available in minutes.
Debit or credit card:
6) Confirm your payment, and you’re all set.
Note: If you’d like the cancel the transfer before the money has arrived, you may easily do so. There is a “Cancel Transfer” button at the bottom of your Remitly receipt. You will just have to provide a reason for your cancellation.
Remitly makes is easier for those working abroad to send money back home because it’s secure, fast, and easy to use. The fees are much lower than traditional money-transfer services, such as Western Union or Xoom. The company also offers 24/7 help.
Remitly has favorable referral perks for those who tell their friends about the service. If it’s your first time using it, you will get better exchange rates when you send your first payment.