A wire transfer is also called a bank transfer and a credit transfer. Funds are directed electronically from one person to another, one person to another entity, or from one entity to another. Most commonly, they involve the transfer of money from one bank to another, but you may also make a cash transfer at a cash office.

Note, if you want to skip this article, we feel Transferwise is the best (and cheapest) way to wire money internationally for most people. There are exceptions in some specific cases that might be cheaper, faster, or better, but for 90% of the people and 90% of the time, Transferwise wins.

Wire transfers are often used because they are easy, and because they are fast, which helps remove any problems with the money-value fluctuations. For example, if your money takes two days to transfer, then exchange rates may have changed from the time you sent the money to the time the money was received.

Speaking on behalf of a man who uses a lot of US, UK and Canadian banks, I do not think it is fair to say that faster wire transfers cost more money. I have dealt with many banks that will transfer money very quickly without charging extra, but it may differ depending on if there is a need for a currency conversion, and which currencies you will be converting.

International Wire Transfer From China To UK

An online transfer, or an international transfer “May” be an international transfer, and it may not. The image above shows an international wire transfer. The image below shows an international transfer that is not an international WIRE transfer.

International Transfer From China To UK

In the example above there are actually a few more steps than are indicated, but it gives you the general idea of where the money goes and how the money isn’t wired directly from the sender to the recipient.

Wiring Money Domestically To Your Own Accounts

If you are wiring money from one account in your bank (such as your checking account), to another of your domestic accounts, (such as your business account), then use your own bank. If your bank charges you to move money from one local account to another, and those accounts are both with your bank, then you should seriously consider switching banks. You should be able to move money from one of your bank’s accounts to another without paying.

Wire Money Domestically To Your Friend’s Accounts

If you are wiring money domestically to the account of a friend or business partner, then use your bank to wire the money to your friend or colleague’s account. Do this if your bank doesn’t charge you. If your bank does charge, then consider changing banks if you intend to frequently wire money domestically.

Wire Money Abroad Without Converting The Currency

You may have a friend in India, and your friend has an account that holds US dollars. In that case, you may transfer US dollars to the account in India without having to convert the currency.If you would like to do this, then consider going to your bank and finding out how much your bank charges. There is a chance there is either no fee, or a small administrative/transaction fee. If your bank doesn’t allow such transactions, or they want to give you the old screw job with regards to the fees, then start shopping around for another bank.

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Do not accept the fee that your bank offers because there are plenty of other banks out there. If you are planning to make frequent transfers, then consider signing up with a bank that charges you nothing or charges you a very small fee. Remember, the transaction is to wire US dollars without converting them; make it clear that you are transferring without converting. If you cannot find a suitable bank, then it is time to start considering transfer companies (such as the ones mentioned later in this article).

Wire Transfer Your Money Abroad And Convert The Currency

If you would like to move money abroad and convert it, then start by approaching your bank to see what they offer. There are two ways that banks and transfer companies make money. The first is with fees, the second is by skimming from the exchange rate.

The banks or transfer company should tell you their fees in advance. Some will take from the amount you send. For example, you send $100, and they take off the $8 fee so the recipient receives $92. The other way is for you to pay a fee in addition, so you pay your $8, and they send the full $100.

Skimming from the rate means they give you a less than perfect rate and keep the money you would have otherwise sent during the transfer. For example, if you are transferring $100 and converting it to £GPB, then the exchange rate is £0.80 for every $1.00. Skimming means that the bank or transfer company gives you a rate of something such as £0.75 for every $1.00. That is why you should shop around for the best exchange rates when you are researching into banks and transfer companies.

Companies That Will Wire Transfer And Convert Your Money

These are companies that will take your money, convert it, and send it to another account via a wire transfer. The list is in no particular order. They are not banks; these are companies that deal primarily with wire transfers and money conversion. As a rare treat, I have given my personal opinion about each company in the header of each entry.

OFX – They Are Okay, But Not Ideal

 OFX

They used to be called OzForex, but are now called OFX. I was a little worried about including OFX because they do not fit the definition of a wire transfer company in the strictest terms, but they do have a large physical network that they use to move money around.

One of the biggest annoyances that this company has is that they only accept money via an electronic bank transfer or debit card. They will not take payments in cash form, or via bank drafts, checks or credit cards.

One of the biggest selling points is their transfer app that allows you to see the progress of your transfer. It takes between one and two days to transfer, and they will convert to fifty-five currencies.

They do not charge fees for some of their transfers and transactions. The OFX wire transfer website also has a rate checker tool on the homepage. For example, transferring $100 will get you £80.59.

Western Union – Okay If You Do Not Mind The Fees

 Western Union

The Western Union transfer company is a popular choice for international wire transfers and they certainly know what they are doing, which stands to reason because the company invented international wire transfers.

Transfers can take minutes, and they can take up to four business days. You may track your transfers online. One of the biggest annoyances that this company creates is the fact that they charge a fee and they skim from the exchange rate. They charge different fees and skim different amounts depending on the way in which you transfer the money.

One of their biggest selling points is the many ways they allow you to send money, be it in person, cash, online, with a credit card, bank transfer, debit card, and with an agent. Their rates are very high, but they are a very flexible and reliable company.

You check out Western Union’s site to estimate price, and you can see how much your transaction may cost you. If you are sending $100 to the UK, their fee is $2.99, and the recipient will receive $79.02.

Transferwise – Better For Larger Transfers

 Transferwize

Transferwise has become more and more popular as the years have flown by. If you want a good rate, then they will give you one. The company skims a tiny amount from the exchange rate, but they do charge a small fee, which is how they make most of their money. The amount you save gets better up to a few thousand, and then it levels out. Nevertheless, it is a strong contender for your custom if you are sending amounts over $100.

The biggest annoyance with this company is their fee structure, which is fine if you are sending larger amounts, but it makes them look overly expensive if you are sending smaller amounts. They should offer smaller amounts for free so that you may send $100 without having to pay.

The biggest selling point is that a Transferwise wire transfer will send over all your money without skimming from the rate. You receive the money at the most recent transfer rate with a 0.1% variance, which is either them skimming a tiny bit, or them buffering for changes between the time you type it in and the minutes it takes you to send the money.

On their homepage is a tool that shows you how much you send and how much is received. Underneath, it explains how it works, and it shows the rate you are getting. If you send $100 and pay the $3 fee, then recipient receives £81.38. The fee remains at $3 until you send more than $356.

I personally use Transferwise myself to send money abroad from one currency to another.  It also works as a wire transfer since you wire money from your bank account to Transferwise and Transferwise converts the money and wires the converted amount to your target bank account. You can use this to send money to other countries (to yourself if you have two bank accounts, once in each location) or to someone else as a payment.

You can sign up with Transferwise here.

Xoom – Crap And Frustrating

 Xoom Logo

They allow you to receive money in the US, but they do not allow you to send money from the US. They only deal with 55 countries, and they are not countries that are very popular with regards to money being transferred. Some of them have less than a billion sent to them in a year.

What is more infuriating is how they use cookies to keep you trapped on one page when you are trying to manipulate the contents of your address bar to get back to where you want to go.

You can request money and you can send money via wire transfer, but I found the company so frustrating that I wouldn’t recommend that you do either. By all means, you should give them a try, but I cannot show you any rates comparisons because they don’t send US dollars.

MoneyGram – You Need To Play Around To Lower Their Fees

 MoneyGram

Using MoneyGram for your wire transfer is not a terrible idea, but you will need to play around with their fee-estimating tool to get the lowest fees. For example, if you want the receiver to pick up the money in cash, then it will cost you more in both fees and rate skimming. The highest fees are for sending from a location (rather than online), and then having the recipient pick it up in cash, for which you get a nastier exchange rate and a fee of at least $12.00

One of the biggest annoyances this company has to offer is…nothing. They have very tight security to stop the funding of terrorists, which means being verified and vetted can take some people longer than others. For that reason, they get a bad reputation online, but they are trying to stop terrorists being funded with US dollars, so it is unfair to criticize them just because your account takes a little longer to open than it does with other companies.

One of their biggest selling points is their security. Your money is safe with MoneyGram because they have never had a single breach. Also, they vet people thoroughly to be sure that US dollars are not being sent abroad to people who behead women for singing.

 

Transferwise Currency Conversion

Want to send money abroad or convert currency? We recommend using Transferwise to get the best rates. Use the Transferwise calculator below to see what your exact conversion is

 

Send $100 and have it converted to £GBP, and it will cost you $5, and the recipient will receive £78.99. Use their “Estimate Fees” tool to figure out how much you will have to pay; you do not have to sign up to use it.

Conclusion – Comparing Their Wire Transfer Fees

As you can see, Transferwise wins this time. The list doesn’t account for fees, but since the fees change depending on your location, and the amount of your transfer, it seems that this is the fairest way to compare all five companies on price.

£81.38 – Transferwise
£78.99 – MoneyGram
£80.59 – OFX
$79.02 – Western Union
£N/A    – Xoom

Note, you might want to check out CurrencyFair (read our CurrencyFair review), which in some instances can be a cheaper alternative to Transferwise (see our Transferwise review).

Should you use your bank or a transfer company? If you only transfer amounts on a frequent basis, then you need to find the most suitable and cheapest bank or transfer company for your needs. If you are transferring a large amount, then a bank may be preferable, especially if they offer protection for your money. If you are sending a large amount, then prioritize protecting your money over making the biggest savings. Consider breaking the payment into smaller chunks and doing some research to figure out which bank or transfer company will save you the most money based on the amounts you are planning to send.