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.

Ten years ago, transferring money was slow, inconvenient, and expensive. To fill out the necessary forms for a wire transfer, you’d have to go (in person!) your bank or the closest Western Union station, wait in line, and fill out a pile of paper forms.

Today, it is relatively easy to transfer money. Many companies exist exclusively to facilitate money transfers, and most banks have digital transfer options available on their mobile app or website. Western Union has also streamlined their process by providing channels to transfer funds digitally.

But even these streamlined transfer processes often hide costly transactional fees. Let’s take a look at the best methods for transferring money — and at how much each will cost you.

Domestic transfers

Person to Person (P2P) transfers

If you are transferring less than $10,000 to someone who lives in the same country, a P2P app like Skrill or Paypal can move your money in mere minutes. All you have to do is link the app to your debit card.

If you want to transfer between bank accounts, it can take one to three business days. It is generally free to transfer money between bank accounts. However, if you’re sending money as a personal payment using a debit or credit card, you’ll usually be charged a small transactional fee — often around 3-5% of the money sent. Prices will vary depending on which app you are using.

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. To transfer cash in this way, you simply hand over cash at a physical location. Within ten minutes, your recipient can pick up cash at their corresponding location.

The transaction fee for cash transfers is fairly low. At Walmart, for example, customers pay $4.50 to transfer up to $50, or $9.50 for up to $950. Western UnionMoneyGramMoney Mart, and AccountNow are other companies that facilitate cash transfers.

Cash transfers are a good option when you only need to transfer a small amount of money, or when your recipient prefers to be paid in cash.

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. Bank transfers ensure security and speed, but as a result, their fees are higher. It costs an average of $25 to send money via your bank and $9 to receive it.

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 small transfers and will charge a low percentage of the transfer amount for large transfers. The catch? These transfers are slower than average — it will take a few business days for your money to arrive.

If you’re looking to send more than $1,000, try the online platform OFX. OFX has a minimum transfer amount of $1,000, and charges no upfront fees on these transfers. Like TransferWise, though, delivery will take several business days.

If time is of the essence, MoneyGram and Western Union will get your money overseas the fastest — if you select a wire transfer, you’ll typically see same day delivery. However, 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 77 cents based on the exchange rate. That could go up or down tomorrow.

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

Melita DeHazes, North American marketing director for OFX, says shopping around for the best currency exchange rate can save you hundreds or 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, going with your bank may be costing you up to $400.”

Potential hazards

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 and 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, pay through 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!

Before transferring your money, you should consider fees, timing, and security, just to name a few factors.

To 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 right transfer service for you.