Ultimate Guide to Money Transfer Services

Everything you need to know about transferring money

Learn how to transfer money without overpaying. These money transfer options provide the best balance of speed, convenience, and price.

Transferring money used to be slow, difficult, and expensive. You’d have to go to your bank or find the closest Western Union station, fill out forms, then transfer the money to another Western Union station on the other end.

These are called “wire transfers,” and they aren’t particularly quick or easy compared to your options today. Now, a whole slew of new companies exist to facilitate money transfers quickly and digitally.

Western Union has also streamlined the money transfer process by giving customers the option to send funds digitally.

Let’s take a look at some of the methods you can use to transfer money, what to be wary of, and how much it will cost you.

Domestic transfers

Person to Person (P2P)

If you are transferring less than $10,000 to someone who lives in the same country, digital money transfers take mere minutes using a P2P app, such as Skrill or Paypal. That is if the app is linked to a debit card.

If you want to transfer between bank accounts, it can take one to three business days. Prices vary — from free on up — depending on the app and the way you decide to transfer the money.

Cash transfers

If you don’t like the idea of sending money using an app on your phone and you want to transfer straight cash, there are companies that provide this service. Walmart, for example, allows you to transfer funds from one Walmart to another one in the country.

Western Union, MoneyGram, Money Mart, and AccountNow are other companies that allow you to visit a physical location, hand over cash, then have someone pick up it up on the other end.

Bank to bank transfers

If you want to send more than the $10,000, a bank might be your best bet, such as Chase QuickPay. The fees for bank-to-bank transfers are sometimes higher — an average of $25 to send and $9 to receive — but if you’re sending someone more than $10,000, it’s likely that one-time fee isn’t your top concern and that you’re more focused on security and speed.

International transfers

There are two fees to be aware of when you transfer money internationally: the upfront fee for the transfer and the foreign exchange margin.

Upfront Fee

Some online platforms allow you to transfer money internationally for a low upfront fee. TransferWise, for example, has a $3 upfront fee for smaller transfers and will charge a low percentage of the transfer amount for larger transfers.

The downside is that the delivery of funds will take a few business days. The online platform OFX doesn’t chase any upfront transfer fees, no matter the amount. However, they have a minimum transfer amount of $1,000 and, like TransferWise, delivery takes several business days.

MoneyGram and Western Union will get your money overseas the fastest — typically same day delivery if you select a wire transfer — but their fees are higher than the online platforms mentioned above.

Foreign exchange rate

If you’re transferring money from California to London, for example, you need to know what the dollar is worth compared to the British pound. If you sent a dollar to London today, the recipient would receive 72 cents based on the exchange rate. That could go up or down tomorrow.

Nate Masterson, Chief Executive Finance Officer for Maple Holistics, advises that your monitor the rate before transferring, if you have the time. “This is usually the main area where people either lose their money or inevitably wind up paying more to make the transfer than they had originally calculated,” he says.

Melita DeHazes, North American marketing director for cross-border payments provider OFX, says shopping around for the best currency exchange rate can save you hundreds and even thousands on sizable wire transfers.

“Banks often charge a margin of up to 5% above the daily interbank exchange rate. So when your bank tells you that you’ll get .89 EUR for every 1 USD, a simple Google search may reveal that the real daily exchange rate is closer to .85. That means that, on a $10,000 wire transfer to Europe, you may be paying up to $400 by using your bank.”

Be careful

The FDIC warns consumers to be wary when wiring money to strangers, especially in another country, because they could be scam artists. Because money is moved quickly with wire transfers, it’s an appealing avenue for crooks, who can get the money fast then disappear.

The FDIC offers a few tips to avoid money transfer scams:

  1. Never wire money to people you don’t know. If you’re buying a product online, for example, there are other safer avenues.
  2. If you’re being pressured to send money right away, it’s most likely a scam.
  3. Never give out account numbers to someone who contacts you unsolicited, via text, email, or phone.

Do your research!

There are many factors to consider when transferring money and finding the right service to use.

To help you get started, check out SuperMoney’s detailed review page of the top money transfer services. You’ll be able to compare exchange rates and other key details side-by-side to find the best one for your needs.