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International Money Transfers

3 Cheapest, Fastest, Safest and Most Convenient Ways

Australia continent with graphics of sending money overseas with the text International Money Transfers Top 3
You probably know, that banks (while convenient) charge an arm and a leg to transfer money internationally.

Fortunately there are now many alternatives to choose from which can save you lots of money.

But it can be confusing to know which one is best for you.

On this page, I’ll break down all the available options for you available including:

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Each of the three ways to transfer money has advantages and disadvantages which we will discuss.

First things first.

There are a couple of essential things you should know;

  • Banks are costly but they can be convenient for once-off transfers
  • Money Transfer Companies are almost always much cheaper than banks but vary enormously (which I will discuss) in terms of costs and services.
  • Remitters while usually the most expensive, are the only option available which does not involve bank accounts.


Transferring money from one bank to another can be a fairly straight forward process and can be done online or in the branch. The downside of bank transfers to another bank overseas is that fees and exchange rates are usually relatively high.

The big difference between transferring money from one bank to another bank and money transfer companies (which I cover next) is the exchange rates and fees (below) and these can differ significantly.

They also tend to be relatively slow and customer service can be poor because banks do so much more than transfers. 

How it Works

  • Most banks worldwide will provide facilities along with your bank account so you can transfer money to an overseas bank account including Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States.
  • You will need to have the SWIFT number and/or the IBAN for the receiving bank. You will also need the account details of the receiving account, the address of the receiving bank, the account name and often the receiving bank’s address.
    • For transfers to Europe (including the UK) ask the receiving bank for the IBAN is an international standard for identifying bank accounts across national borders).
    • Sending money between Australia and Canada generally requires the SWIFT number of the receiving bank.
  • The amount you can transfer for each transaction is often limited, however the limit varies widely between sending banks.
  • Bank transfer fees are generally around — Australia $20, Canada $20, Europe €15, Britain (UK) £15, United States $15 for their standard services and about double that for priority services.

  • Banks also build a fee into the exchange rate and this can easily be greater than the transfer fee. (Often 2.5 – 3.5%)
  • Note that receiving banks sometimes also charge a fee – so be sure to check to avoid surprises.
  • You can use banks to send money to either yourself or to a third party.
Pros Cons
The countries you can send money between is generally not limited. Costly compared to dedicated online International Money Transfer Companies.
No need for an internet connection if you don’t mind going to the bank’s branch. Most banks limit the amount you can transfer per online transaction.
Online services are also possible if you have internet banking access. For most banks you cannot easily check the currency exchange rates online and there is a margin built into the rate offered which is often the biggest component.
Safe international funds transfer. Receiving banks will often charge a fee on top of the sending bank’s fee.

Bottom Line

In my opinion, there really is no good reason to use a bank to transfer money overseas these days. It used to be that for transferring once off amounts the convenience of not having to sign up to a third party service might have outweighed the extra costs you would incur. 

However while money transfer companies still require you to sign up this step has been made easy to do and the service and cost benefits you get when you are making transfers far outweigh the initial signup process.

Money Transfer Companies

Money transfer companies save travellers, expats and businesses many millions of dollars annually.

But which one is right for you?

I have personally used all the services I recommend and thus, I have written in depth reviews for each – including analysing 1000s of negative reviews to really understand what we are dealing with.

Each has advantages over the others which may make them a clear favorites.

Top 3

1) Best for most people. I have personally used them weekly for years for personal and business transfers because of their very low fees and great collection of services (transfers, payments and cards). Check out my Wise (review) for sending relatively small amounts or the Wise calculator to see the fees you will pay. For amounts below $7,000 USD, £4,000, $ 9,500 CAD/AUD they make it easy to meet their sign-up requirements and the online based customer service is usually all you will need. 

2) Best for larger amounts. For amounts above $7000 USD, £4000, $9500 CAD/AUD OFX (review) is significantly cheaper than a bank, but as the amounts increase your OFX rates get more affordable (in percentage terms). But that is not the best bit –  their combination of online and 24/7 telephone support as well as a network of offices around the world makes them my favorite.

3) Best customer service: For most people Wise and OFX are excellent choices depending if you want to send relatively small amounts (Wise) or larger amounts (OFX). However I do often recommend TorFX to people who need extra “hand holding”. This is because TorFX is unique in its telephone based customer service which has scored 4.9/5 on Trustpilot for years.  TorFX provides a quote based on the amount you want to send and goes one step further when it comes to sign-up as they tend to be telephone-oriented from the outset. They also have offices in the UK and Australia which operate during business hours.

Check out my in-depth reviews for Wise Review (formerly Transferwise), OFX Review and TorFX Review.

How it Works

Money transfer services follow a simple three-step process.

1) After signing up, you can set up a transfer and pay the amount you want to send to the bank account of the money transfer company. Wise offers multiple ways to make this payment which can affect transfer speeds and fees. Meanwhile OFX and TorFX tend to offer the more basic ways to fund transfers which are also more compatible with larger transfers.  

2) Then the transfer company then sends your funds via its network as fast as possible. In the unlikely event there are any issues, Wise will send an email and OFX and TorFX will call you to quickly resolve the issue. 

3) Your money is then deposited into your specified destination account.

These companies are great at keeping you informed at each step of the way. Generally, they use emails and SMS to update you. Most transfers I do with Wise this all happens while I am still logged in (minutes), but for larger transfers (like OFX and TorFX) it can take days depending on the countries and amount.

  • Can offer exchange rates and transaction fees that are much better than banks.
  • Offices in multiple countries means you can always speak with or contact a currency trader for assistance. OFX for example is 24/7.
  • To set up an account these companies usually require identification in the form of a copy of a passport/driver’s license and a signed bank statement (of the bank where the funds are coming from) showing your current residential address.
  • Minimum amounts apply
  • OFX allows payments to be made to credit cards in Australia and New Zealand.
  • For an additional fee, TransferWise enables you to use a Credit or Debit Card to pay for the transfer.
Pros Cons
Competitive: Exchange rates and fees that are designed to beat the banks. You must have a bank account in the country from which you are transferring and which you are receiving (the latter is required only if you are sending to yourself).
Flexibility: Can pay off credit cards back home or also send money to friends and family — all you need are the recipient’s bank account details. You must have access to a secure internet connection.
Ability to lock-in exchange rates You must have access to either online banking or telephone banking through your current bank.
Safety and Security: To operate in a particular country the regulations for that country must be met. Payments using cheques or credit cards are not accepted — electronic funds transfer from your bank account only.
Eligible countries are limited — be sure your home country is covered before signing up.

Bottom Line

Choosing a money transfer service, like the ones mentioned above can save you up to 8x the cost of using a bank. Wise is a standout for amounts below $7000 USD, £4000, $9500 CAD/AUD for its costs, transparency and fees.

Above this amount and OFX and TorFX may be better options in my opinion as they they are geared towards larger amounts including getting all the regulatory requirements out of the way up front (which can save a lot of hassle later on) and having telephone support which can be really helpful because banks place limits on the amounts they will transact.

Personally I use Wise and OFX depending on the amount because generally Wise is faster, cheaper and easier for smaller amounts but I highly value the 24/7 phone support OFX offers which ensures any potential hold ups are dealt with. I also recommend TorFX to anyone who may require helpful advice and support from a dedicated currency specialist.

Exchange Rates and Fees

When you are comparing costs between banks and services, there are two major considerations: Exchange Rate + Fees. 

Choosing the cheapest way to send money overseas to or from Australia depends on the amount you are sending and the countries involved. My recommendation is to use the calculator on Wise which will give you a great place to start. However, as the amounts grow, telephone-based support becomes far more of an important factor if something goes awry – which is why I think OFX and TorFX are better for large amounts.

Exchange Rate

Rates vary significantly from 0.4% to 2% for transfer companies, 2.5% to 4% for banks and between 7 to 9% for remittance companies like Western Union.

The best way to see if you are getting a fair exchange rate is to compare the rate offered with the official “interbank” or “wholesale” rate. Rates of competitive providers should fluctuate on a real-time basis. Banks exchange rates are usually set at the start of the day.

Check out for the latest interbank rates and compare services with this rate.

Note: Banks and transfer companies generally show the interbank rate only on their website, they do not show the exact rate they can offer until you are logged in and in the case of transfer companies the rate becomes more favorable as the amount increases.


Banks and transfer companies will generally charge some kind of fee per transaction which generally ranges from $15 to $30. For amounts over $1000, the difference between the exchange rate offered and the interbank rate is greater than the fee.

Some banks and services will advertise “free” transfers but the exchange rate offered will cover their costs.

Also important to note, when using your bank to send money overseas there are usually fees charged by the receiving bank. The fees charged can be as high as $50 for the hassle of dealing with your overseas incoming funds. These fees do not occur with a transfer company because they have a bank in the receiving country and simply pay the receiving bank in the local currency.


Transfer companies are typically two to three days faster than a bank because they have a bank account in both countries and just need to receive money and send money in the local currencies. A bank on the other hand slows your money down because they have to deal with foreign banks and all the checks and balances that need to occur in the old-school banking system.

Also, don’t miss our other money-related info:

Western Union and Travelex

Western Union and Travelex are well-known companies that provide similar services. Sending money through either Western Union or Travelex generally involves in-person cash transactions.

The good news is that outlets are available almost everywhere in the world. Here in Australia, Western Union partners with Australian Post, allowing you to transfer money at 2,700 Australia Postie branches nationwide.

Moreover, Western Union has evolved from paying out only in cash to having options for receiving it to bank accounts or mobile wallets.

Travelex, on the other hand, can transfer cash directly to a bank account instead of requiring an in-person pick-up in certain countries.

Pros Cons
The countries you can send money overseas between is generally not limited. Expensive compared to dedicated online transfer companies and even banks.
If you do not have access to a secure internet connection or do not not use online banking, you may have to do an in-person transfer. The recipient will likely have to pick up the money in cash and in-person.
Safe international funds transfer. You have to actually find a Western Union or Travelex outlet, rather than simply logging on to your computer.

A Word About Cards

Prepaid travel cards are ideal for spending and cash needs overseas. They allow you to withdraw money from ATMs at a low cost, spend in multiple currencies at good exchange rates, and control your balance and transactions through your phone via apps. I find it a valuable tool for any traveler. Most of them also offer money transfers, but usually through a third party. I recommend using one of the services above for that purpose.

If you need money from overseas relatives or friends, many people consider sending it by credit card or prepaid card. Here’s how it works for a credit card:

  • The sender simply pays your credit card bill in their local currency.
  • Your receiver will still face the bank’s exchange rate when using the card. While this might not be the most competitive rate, for small amounts, the speed, ease, and security of a credit card can be a good option.

Prepaid cards can offer a better solution. I have done this before and it works. By using a prepaid card, I avoided the unfavorable exchange rates charged by my bank for credit card transactions.

Disclosure: Some of the links contained in this page are affiliate links. Clicking on these links may result in us being paid a commission. That said, this does not come at any additional cost to you. We have also linked to services that we think may be better for your needs in some situations and these do not contain affiliate links. We hope you find a service that is best for your needs.

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