International money transfers can be complicated. With the different types of fees, exchange rates and estimated transaction times it's not easy for customers like you to understand what is a fair price and what delivery time you should expect. With the development of online money transfers and digital banking, the market has become more transparent and accessible, so you can transfer money internationally and exchange multiple currencies having access to the information you need.
But if you're not careful, you might end up paying more than you should for the convenience of a fast money transfer, which is not always necessary nor the best option. With this guide, we'd like to help you navigate the international money transfer market and introduce you to TransferWise as our preferred provider.
When you’ll make an international money transfer to pay for your accommodation abroad, your studies or just adjusting to life in a new country, you'll find various providers who charge different prices for their services.
What you should know about pricing is that banks and most online providers charge a transaction fee for transferring your money and add a fee for converting it. While a transaction fee is a usual charge which companies have to stay in business, the conversion fee is a margin which is most times hidden in the exchange rate. So when you see different exchange rates at banks and online providers it means that you might be paying more than you should.
More about the exchange rate and the conversion fees in the next section.
The exchange rate can be quite a daunting topic to understand, seeing that it’s different for most money transfer companies including banks, online providers or fx brokers. If you’ve ever wondered why that is, we'll try to shed some light on it in this section.
On the currency market, exchange rate is the price of a currency compared to another. The mid-point between the demand and supply for that currency is called the mid-market rate and is the real rate which banks use to trade money between themselves. The mid-market rate is considered the fairest exchange rate and is available on independent sources such as Google, XE or Reuters.
When banks make the currency exchange for customers who need to transfer money overseas, they add an exchange rate fee on top of the transaction fee, which is why the rate differs from bank to bank and from provider to provider.
There are some things to look out for when evaluating the different providers to choose:
- Claims of 0% fees or zero commission. This is not true and also not possible because the companies wouldn’t exist if they wouldn't charge for their services.
- Claims for "day rates". These are the different fees providers add on the exchange rate and is not a transparent way to communicate the charges you will incur as a customer.
What you can do to ensure you pay a fair price for your international money transfers is to always check the mid-market rate on Google, Reuters or XE and choose a provider that offers that exchange rate.
TransferWise was founded by two friends who realised they were paying too much for their international money transfers and thought it wasn’t fair to be charged hidden fees on the exchange rate. This is why TransferWise is different; they charge a small, upfront fee for international money transfers and always use the mid-market rate being transparent about how much your transfers will end up costing.
For transfers up to $300 USD, they charge $3. For transfers between $300 and $5,000, they charge 1%. And for transfers over $5,000, they charge 1% on the first $5,000, and 0.7% on the rest.
So a $70 transfer would cost $3. A $700 would cost $7. And a $7,000 transfer would cost $50 (for the first $5,000) plus $14 (0.7% of the remaining $2,000), for a total of $64.
The reason TransferWise can afford to charge you so little, and use the mid-market rate, is because your money never crosses borders. They have bank accounts in each of the countries they operate in so when you make a money transfer, your money goes into the account in your country, and your recipient gets paid from the account in theirs. Since the money never crosses borders, currencies don't need to be converted and a lot of the usual costs are avoided.
Depending on the currency you need to transfer, the process should be completed within 1-4 days. It could take a few minutes for currencies in Europe and a few days for less popular currencies.
In terms of safety, from what we've seen TransferWise is as safe as any major bank or financial services company. It follows strict regulations in every country it operates in, and it goes to great lengths to verify customers' identities, and to protect them from fraud.
Similarly to their customer product, the TransferWise business product saves companies money when paying freelancers or invoices. What's interesting about it is their Borderless account, which can hold multiple currencies so you can pay and be paid in different currencies.
Lastly, you can reach the TransferWise support team via email, chat, or phone, and if you do call them, you will never have to navigate your way through an automatic message. You'll always get a nice human being on the other end of the line. We might even say that TransferWise problems can be fun to solve.