Should I Use Banks or Online Money Transfer Specialists To Send Money Overseas?
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Online Money Transfer Providers vs. Banks: Which Is Better?

Updated on September 20, 2022 02:07 pm
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When making international money transfers, both banks and online money transfer providers send money in a different currency to an overseas bank account. In the end, they provide the same service. 

However, the two employ very different techniques to complete the task. Since cost, transparency, convenience, speed, and security are important considerations, you might want to know which is better for you. This article will help you in making an informed decision about sending money overseas.

One Major Difference Between Banks And Online Money Transfer Providers

For banks, international money transfers, also known as wire transfers are done via the SWIFT network by using a SWIFT code. SWIFT or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication is an international network that links banks in 200 countries and territories to enable cross-border payments.

Although SWIFT is safe, the costs associated with sending money can soar because of the numerous processes and third parties involved. It might be necessary to use intermediaries to complete the transfer if your bank has no financial connection to overseas banks. The dreaded correspondent bank fee, which may be as high as USD 100 or more for each transfer, may therefore need to be included.

So, although international transactions can be made through the bank, the transfer fees might cost more.

On the other hand, online money transfer specialists avoid the SWIFT network and its high costs entirely by utilizing a clever network of accounts with local banks around the world and offering bank-beating exchange rates. For instance, when you use Wise to send money overseas, it appears as though the funds are being sent directly from your bank account to the recipient's bank account.

The way it operates is as follows: Wise has accounts all around the world. When sending money overseas, you deposit funds into Wise's local account using your currency. Local currency will then be sent to the recipient from the Wise account in the overseas country where you want to send money. Your payments never actually cross international borders.

Consider sending money to family members in the U.S. from the U.K. You would sign onto your Wise account, link it to your British bank account, and enter the bank information for your recipient in the U.S.

Wise will deposit the requested money in British pounds (GBP) into their own UK account as soon as it is ready. Wise would then inform its U.S. account, which would then send the agreed-upon sum of U.S. dollars to your recipient's bank account.

Because these highly competitive international money transfer specialists are solely focused on providing what foreign exchange departments at banks do, the money transfer service they offer is a lot quicker and cheaper!

Banks Vs Online Money Transfer Services: Which One Should You Choose?

Let's now compare the two services in more detail in terms of the fees, security, speed, and transparency that are crucial elements to take into account when transferring money abroad:

Transfer Fees: Banks vs Online Money Transfer Services

Typically, banks are far more expensive when sending money abroad than online money transfer companies.

This is because money transfer specialists can completely avoid the SWIFT network, resulting in lower fees for you as the sender. In addition, when you send money abroad through your bank, you will typically be charged the following two costs in addition to SWIFT fees:

  • Transaction costs: These fees can be fixed, commission-based, or a combination of the two;
  • An exchange rate margin: Banks make a profit by setting their exchange rate.

Although money transfer services also make money by charging the above-mentioned fees, they generally charge one or the other but not both, whereas banks will charge both. Additionally, transfer fees and exchange rate margins set by third-party money transfer services are much lower than those imposed by banks.

Let’s imagine you want to send money from the US to India. To send the money, you had to choose Bank of America or Wise, one of the cheapest ways to exchange money. 

You pay a 35 USD transfer fee to Bank of America in addition to correspondent bank fees that can range from USD 10 to USD 100 for each transfer, plus the exchange rate margin of 5% to 7%. This is in contrast to Wise, where you pay a minimum fixed cost of 4.25 USD + 0.69% of the converted amount. Additionally, the mid-market rate sourced from Reuters is used to exchange the currency.

Thus, online money transfer services are cheaper than banks when sending money abroad.

Transfer Speed: Banks vs. Online Money Transfer Providers

As we discussed above, banks utilize SWIFT to move money across different currencies and countries. As a result, there are typically several processes that add delay to the fund's transfer process. Due to this, SWIFT transactions rarely arrive in less than 24 hours, and unless specifically specified by your bank, you can typically anticipate a bank wire transfer to arrive in 3 to 5 days.

Meanwhile, with money transfer services, the time it takes for money to arrive can vary significantly based on the payment method, the sending and receiving currencies, and other factors. Money can transfer almost instantly, sometimes even in a matter of seconds or minutes. But for some transfers, it may take several days to reach the recipient. Despite the variations, online money transfer services send money more quickly than SWIFT payments and, consequently, more quickly than banks.

Ultimately, when it comes to transferring speed, online service providers are much faster.

Security: Banks vs. Online Money Transfer Services

Banks are seen as more reliable than money transfer companies in the area of security. Banks have, after all, been transferring money between different currencies in some capacity for many years. Only in the past two decades has there been a rise in popularity for more specialized money transfer services thanks to the internet.

But this does not necessarily imply that online money transfer services are any less secure than banks. The majority of specialized services are fully authorized financial services providers that are allowed and governed in the countries in which they operate. Moreover, ten of thousands and even millions of consumers transact each day, amounting to massive transaction volumes. For instance, in Q2 FY2022, approximately 4 million users transacted on Wise, and the number of active personal users increased by 22% YoY to 3.7 million.

This means that when using online service providers such as XE money transfer, Remitly, Instarem, Wise, Skrill, and many more, you can send money with confidence.

That being said, banks continue to have a distinct advantage over specialized services in terms of perceived comfort, security, and familiarity. Though online service providers are not inherently any less secure than banks, it is understandable why for some people, banks may seem a better choice. You may still use a bank to send money overseas if you are someone who doesn't mind paying extra fees for the peace of mind you get when using your bank.

Transparency: Banks vs. Online Money Transfer Services

Banks typically charge fees that are much less transparent than those charged by specialized services. While some banks are far better than others at being transparent about their fee structures, customers of major banks throughout the world are rarely made aware of the full extent of fees, with the final cost of the transfer only becoming clear after making the transfer.

This is especially what happens with exchange rate margins. The percentage difference between the mid-market rate and the exchange rate offered to consumers is known as the exchange rate margins. One of the ways banks and providers profit is through this rate difference. When sending large sums of money, even a small fluctuation in the exchange rate can have a significant impact.

Some banks conceal any mention of the fact that there is an additional cost for currency exchange. This hidden fee can cost you a lot of money unknowingly. Whereas money transfer specialists are typically more transparent about these fees. The majority of them include cost estimators on their website listing all the potential expenses, including exchange rate margins. Some even go rather far in explaining what each implies.

Do keep in mind that no two currency exchange services are exactly alike. All online money transfer services are entirely transparent about their exchange rate margin on their homepages.

Which One Should You Choose?

When choosing between banks and online service providers, there are important things to consider. The first is cost. If you don't mind paying extra fees for the ease of transferring money overseas with your trusted bank, go for it because they'll probably provide you with all you need.

If you want the best deal on exchange rates, fees, and speed for your next transfer abroad and want your recipient to receive more money on the other end, we recommend you compare your options on CompareRemit. There are several online money transfer providers available in the market.

Here is a list of top online money transfer providers for you to compare.

XE Money Transfer

XE money transfer offers international wire transfers to foreign bank accounts in more than 130 countries and more than 60 different currencies via the XE website or its mobile app. For large bank-to-bank transfers, XE is a fantastic choice. For transfers of $500 or more, there are no fees. Most transfers take a few minutes or up to four working days, depending on the currencies.

Wise

Wise provides online international money transfers with upfront charges and real exchange rates from 59 countries to over 80 destinations. Your recipient will receive extra money as a result. A multi-currency account offered by Wise allows you to hold 50 or more foreign currencies and convert them at a reasonable rate. Fees are computed as a percentage of the total amount of money sent. Depending on the currency combination and payment method, the transfer speed will vary.

Skrill

With Skrill, you may send money online to a bank account, a mobile wallet, an email address, or a phone number in over 180 different countries and 40 different currencies (all options may not be available in all countries). Skrill doesn't charge any transfer fees for international money transfers to foreign bank accounts. Skrill makes money by charging a markup on exchange rates of up to 4.99%of the entire value of your payment. Transferring money from Skrill to Skrill incurs a 2.99% fee.

Remitly

Remitly provides international money transfers to more than 100 different countries from 21 sending nations. They provide several methods of payment, such as home delivery, mobile money, cash pick-ups, and bank deposits. First-time users can take advantage of fantastic promotional pricing from Remitly. The exchange rate margins can range from 0.5 to 1.5%. The amount of the transfer, the delivery speed, the method of funding the transfer, the destination country, and the manner of receiving the money all influence the overall transfer fees.

Instarem

Through its global network of more than 8000 institutions, Instarem enables online money transfers to more than 55 countries. Real-time currency rates are also provided by Instarem. Instarem is particularly well-liked for tiny transfers because it is less expensive. 

Fees will vary based on the sending country and the transfer corridor. For each transaction, it could range from 0.25% to 1%. The transfer fees are shown before sending money. The majority of the transfers are completed in a matter of seconds. It may take more than two business days to reach the recipient's bank account, depending on the destination countries, corridors, and payment type.

Panda Remit

Panda Remit provides offers low-cost online international money transfers to more than 30 countries. Payment options include bank transfers, credit cards, or both. There are no fees for transfers funded by bank transfers. They also offer a money-back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied with the service.

The exchange rate margins range from 0.02% to 0.62%. There are no hidden fees. You can check the rates and fees by choosing the sending and receiving countries or the currency combination, then entering the transfer amount into their online calculator.

Pangea

Pangea provides international money transfers between the U.S. and 40 other nations. Pangea is a great way to send money to Latin America and Asia. Pangea is not available in all US states. The majority of money transfers take less than 24 hours, but if you pay with a US debit card, it only takes 30 seconds.

You can send money to someone else's debit card, mobile wallet, bank account, or address for cash pickup. A recipient in Mexico is eligible to receive a bank-to-bank transfer.

Paysend

Paysend enables online money transfers to more than 150 nations worldwide. There are no transfer fees when sending money directly to your recipient's bank account. 90% of transfers made with Paysend are completed in 15 seconds or less. However, some can take up to 3 days.

There are no transaction fees when transferring money to a bank account. Using a recipient's name and card number to transfer directly to their Mastercard will only cost you Euro 1.5, GBP 1, or $2, depending on where you are sending the money from.

The transfer fee is the same, no matter how much is sent. Because of this, the fees are low and transparent in contrast to other businesses that charge a percentage of the transfer amount.

Revolut

Revolut is a super financial app that allows you to send money to more than 100 countries in more than 30 different currencies. To facilitate international payments, you can hold up to 30 different currencies on your account at no additional cost. Revolut uses real exchange rates for exchanging foreign currencies.

It's free to send money to other Revolut users across the world or non-Revolut accounts in Europe's SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) zone.

For payments sent outside the SEPA region, there are fees for international transfers to non-Revolut recipients.

Depending on the recipient's country and the currency being sent, the transfer may take place immediately or up to 2 working days.

In conclusion, to get the best deal on your international money transfer, compare money transfer exchange rates from our top remittance service provider partners today!

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