Whether you have family living in the UK, or are maybe planning to relocate to Mexico when you retire, transferring money abroad can be more than a little daunting. You may be asking yourself what is the best way to transfer money from the US to anywhere in the world?
You may have concerns over how to transfer money safely and securely, or may even be unsure as to how the money will arrive at its intended destination.
Best international money transfer services to send money from the US
When you’re choosing a money transfer company, you’ll no doubt want to find the best deal possible. Here are some of the most popular companies for transferring your money from the US.
Wise is one of the best money transfer services available in the US and United Kingdom.
Formerly known as TransferWise, Wise has over 10 million customers that use its services to send money overseas.
Wise claims to have more competitive exchange rates than using a bank, stating on their website that they can be around eight times cheaper.
Once you’ve paid Wise’s transfer fee through a local payment, your recipient is then able to receive their money for free, directly from Wise’s local bank account.
For large transfers, Wise also offers a quick deposit service.
XE Money Transfer
XE Money Transfer allows you to make transfers to over 130 countries, including from the United Kingdom to the United States, with more than 98 currencies to choose from.
Much like WorldRemit, XE Money Transfer has its own app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play store. This means you can use a credit or debit card, as well as Google Pay or Apple Pay for your payment method.
Their service claims to be one of the fastest available, offering same-day delivery of funds in many of its countries using a consistently competitive exchange rate.
Founded in 2010, WorldRemit is an online money transfer company offering more than 70 currencies in over 130 countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.
WorldRemit offers competitive fees and exchange rates so you can send your money cost-effectively.
When using their website, you can use a credit or debit card as a payment method. Or, if you’re using the app, you can send money online via Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Western Union International Bank
Western Union International Limited (WU) is one of the oldest and best-known international money transfer companies in the world.
Arguably the largest of the available transfer services, WU serves more than 200 countries. It reportedly handles upwards of 1.7 million transactions a day.
With its number of stores worldwide—also referred to as an “agent location”—WU is one of the best transfer services for you if your recipient needs a cash pickup, rather than a bank transfer. This can also be suitable if you don’t have bank details or an account number for your recipient.
The firm has over 42,000 branches in the US, and claims to have more than 4,400 locations in the United Kingdom for you to send money to.
There are many considerations to make before you can make international money transfers, ranging from which provider you want to use to send your money, all the way to practical considerations such as exchange rates and transfer fees.
In this guide, find out everything you need to know if you want to send money from the US to almost anywhere in the world.
The 5-step process to transferring money from the US
Clearly, there are lots of considerations to make when transferring funds outside of the US. If you’re struggling to remember it all, try to remember this simple five-step process.
1. Choose your transfer provider
First, you’ll need to register with the international money transfer service, money transmitter, or bank that will be responsible for transferring your money.
As part of this, you’ll need to pass any identification checks for money laundering. Typically, this is done in under a day, sometimes even within an hour.
2. Confirm your exchange rate
Once you’re registered with the company or bank that will handle your transfer, you’ll need to secure an exchange rate from pounds to dollars.
You can request the latest rate at any time, and the transfer provider will lock in your rate once you’ve confirmed that you’d like to go ahead with it.
Most providers will email you a confirmation containing all the information, including the exchange rate, fees paid, and the amount your recipient will receive in dollars.
3. Give your provider your money in dollars
Next, you’ll give your transfer funds to the bank or online money transfer service that will be administering your transfer. This will most likely be via credit or debit card, but you will be able to use any payment method that your transfer provider accepts.
At this stage, your provider will also take any transfer fees that you’ve agreed to pay.
4. The dollar amount is converted and sent
Your transfer funds will be converted to sterling, the British currency, at the agreed exchange rate.
Your transfer provider will send your money to the intended account via wire transfer, or to the place of your choice if your recipient is picking up cash.
5. Your recipient receives their money
Finally, your money will arrive in your recipient’s account or at your chosen agent location.
Most providers will give your recipient the money you have sent without them needing to pay any transaction or transfer fees.
How does my money move from the US?
Moving money from the US to a foreign country used to be a long, drawn-out, and arduous process.
Fortunately, the rapid rise of technology has made transferring money, both domestically and abroad, easier, safer, and more convenient than ever before.
The process is now completed using a wire transfer. A wire transfer is an electronic transfer of funds via a network that is administered and secured by banks and transfer service agencies around the world. This way money can be securely and swiftly transferred to accounts all across the globe.
For transfers to a country such as the UK, your money will be sent using the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) system. This system links thousands of banks and financial institutions across the world, allowing you to send money quickly and securely.
What information do I need to provide?
To transfer money, you need to provide the name of your recipient and their bank details, including their bank account number.
This could be a bank account of someone else entirely, such as a friend or family member. You can also send money to another bank account that may be in your name that you hold in that country.
You will need the routing number, a nine-digit number specific to bank accounts in the UK. This number identifies where you opened your bank account in the country in question.
How long does it usually take to send money abroad?
Typically, transferring your money from the US to most foreign countries will take anywhere between one and three working days.
The difference in time can depend on which provider you choose, what bank you’re sending money to and in what country, and how much you’re planning to transfer.
Is it secure to send money abroad?
In general, wire transfers are one of the safest and most secure ways to send money.
However, once you’ve sent money via a wire transfer, your money is irretrievable.
As a result, wire transfers are popular with scammers who want to get their hands on your cash.
To avoid this, make sure that you carefully and accurately input all of the required information when sending money. It’s also good practice to never send money internationally if you’re not 100% sure where it’s going, and to double- and even triple-check all the account details are correct.
What if my recipient doesn’t have a bank account?
If you want to send money to someone who doesn’t have a bank account, you can arrange a cash pickup instead.
This involves sending money via a provider for the recipient to pick up as physical cash. In most cases this will usually be from an authorized Western Union store, where your recipient simply has to show their ID to confirm their identity and then provide the transfer reference number.
What transfer fees will I pay when I send money overseas?
In general, there are two ways that you’ll be charged when you send money to a foreign country: directly through transfer fees and indirectly via the exchange rate.
Both transfer fees and the exchange rate can have a big impact on how much you’re able to send.
A transfer fee is an amount of money you pay to a money transfer firm for their services.
This could be a flat fee charged per transfer or a percentage-based fee that depends on how much money you send.
Some companies advertise themselves as transfer fee-free. However, this likely means they are just using less competitive exchange rates to make their money.
The exchange rate is the difference in value between US dollar and a foreign currency.
Different transfer providers will charge varying money transfer rates to convert your money to dollars.
As mentioned above, if a platform does describe itself as fee-free, this often means they simply give you a worse exchange rate on your money. A worse exchange rate essentially means that you give them more in pounds than the dollars you receive are actually worth.
This is why currency exchange rates are sometimes referred to as the “hidden fees” of transfers.
What is a good exchange rate?
Generally speaking, the US dollar is one of the world’s strongest currencies and is accepted worldwide. As such the exchange rate, that is to say the amount of local currency you will get for your dollars, is usually in your favor.
However, foreign exchange rates and wider economic or political circumstances can greatly influence the value of any currency. As a result, it can be difficult to predict exactly how much you’ll be able to get from one day to another.
For example, right now the UK’s currency, the British pound, is at record lows, and it may take some time to recover. So if you need to transfer money to the UK, now would be an ideal time to do so, as the dollar is at record highs.
Ideally, your exchange rate should be comparable to the mid-market exchange rate. This is the midpoint between the buy and sell prices of two currencies at any given time.
The mid-market exchange rate is the middle ground and is often regarded as the fairest, most transparent price. As a result, it often makes a good target for you when choosing a transfer provider.
Choosing who to carry out your international money transfer
A key step in the process of sending money from the US to a country abroad is to choose who will carry out the transfer on your behalf.
When you want to send money abroad, there are two commonly used options: making your transfer via a bank or using a specialist money transfer company.
Most major banks offer money transfer services to other countries, assuming they are not currently subject to US sanctions.
This could be with a bank where you already have a bank account, or you could open a new bank account specifically to make the most of the best available rates.
Pros of bank transfers
- Using a bank transfer as a way to send money can be convenient, primarily because your money is most likely already held in a bank account with them.
- If you use mobile or online banking with your bank, this can even more convenient, allowing you to make your transfer from wherever you are.
- This makes it a quick and low-hassle option.
Potential for free transfers
- Some banks allow you to make free transfers overseas to either a branch of the same bank in a different country or to a linked bank where they’ve formed a professional relationship.
- Free transfers can reduce the amount you have to pay in fees, meaning more of your money is transferred.
- You may also be able to avoid any other hidden fees by using your bank.
Cons of bank transfers
Banks are not specialist money transfer services
- While it’s an obvious distinction, the fact that banks are not specialists in transferring money abroad is important.
- It means that your bank transfer request may not be treated as a priority, or that you’ll have to pay more than you might if you used a specialist money transfer service.
- They may also have minimum transfer amounts, meaning you’re unable to transfer the amount that you’d like to if it is a smaller sum.
Banks’ currency exchange rates can be uncompetitive
- Typically, banks will offer you a less competitive exchange rate than other money transfer services.
- As a result, less of your money will end up in the intended foreign bank account.
Banks may charge additional fees
- Compared to money transfer services, banks often have higher fees or even additional fees when you send money from the US to another country.
- For example, banks may charge you an international bank transfer fee to cover the costs of their service.
- Alongside the higher exchange rate, this could eat into the amount of money that you want to send, making it a less efficient way to send money.
Using a money transfer specialist
Banks no longer hold the monopoly on overseas transfers as there are now many financial services companies that offer money transfers.
A money transfer specialist is a company that exclusively works on sending money to different countries.
There are some well-known transfer specialists with physical stores around the US, such as Western Union, but the market is now very much dominated by online providers.
Pros of using a money transfer service
Specialists in their field
- Using a specialist money transfer service means working with a company that exclusively provides international money transfers.
- As a result, you can be confident that they’ll be able to handle your request when you send money with them.
You can open an account online
- Having an online account allows you to transfer money faster and with more ease than having to go to a physical store.
- One of the biggest advantages of money transfer companies is that they tend to offer more competitive exchange rates than banks.
- This could mean you’re able to keep more of your money than if you sent it via a bank.
- You may also be able to benefit from a flat fee charge rather than a percentage, which could save you money.
- Some money transfer companies offer customers a referral fee or bonus if you sign up for their service using a code from a friend or family member who has already used it.
- This added bonus could allow you to save money, making it even more cost-efficient.
Cons of using a money transfer service
The fees to send money through services such as Western Union are variable depending on how the money is sent, how quickly it needs to be sent, and where the recipient is located.
Now that you are aware with the whole process of transferring funds abroad, you can safely send your money to your family there, for example. Are you planning to visit your loved ones in the near future? In that case, don’t forget to check possible visa requirements for US citizens and apply for a visa on time!
Bear in mind that this article does not constitute financial advice.
Money transfers in the US are regulated by the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act. And these measures are in place to not only stop criminals from exploiting transfers but also to protect you and your rights.
Any transfer you make is at your own risk.
Transferring Money from the US FAQs
Can I send money from the US abroad?
Yes, you can send money from the United States abroad. You simply need to find a money transfer provider that’s suitable for your needs.
What is the best way to send money abroad?
The best way to send money to an overseas country is usually via an online money transfer service or via a bank transfer. The best one for you will depend on your personal circumstances, such as who you bank with and how much you want to pay in transfer fees.