How to Transfer Money as an Expat

No matter which country you choose to move to, there is one problem that every expat faces at some point, how to transfer your money overseas without losing a large chunk of it to fees and poor exchange rates. This is a common issue for expats and you’ll see it appear in numerous expat-related forums from Thailand to Colombia. Before moving overseas, most people never consider sending money abroad and therefore aren’t too educated in their potential options.

The average expat will generally just visit their bank’s website and opt for a foreign wire transfer. After all, that’s how you send money isn’t it? I know that’s what I did when I first moved overseas. I opened up a foreign bank account in my new homeland, went online and transferred $2,000 from my home bank to my new foreign bank.

The end result was a charge of $45 from my bank in America, plus a $22 fee from my new foreign bank. It cost me $2,045 and I wound up with only $1,978. That’s over 3% in fees! Thankfully I was in a country which uses the USD as an official currency or I would have lost even more to the banks poor exchange rates.

How to Send Money Abroad Cheaper

After that first time using my bank to transfer money overseas, I started looking for a cheaper way to send money abroad. I didn’t want to lose $60 or $70 in fees every month just trying to access my own money.

So what’s the best option then? How do you send money overseas cheaply? Simple. By using a private foreign money transfer firm you can save money when sending funds abroad. If you are looking for the cheapest way to send money internationally, they can’t be beat. Not only do they charge limited fees, they give a much better exchange rate than the big banks; usually 3% – 4% more for your money.

I sent the same $2,000 to myself the following month from my home bank account, but instead of using their private wire transfer service, I used Ria’s foreign money transfer service. I was given two options, I could have the money there within 12 hours and I would be charged a $26 fee or it could be available in four days and there would be a $5 fee. My bank to bank transfer took three days and still cost me $67, so I opted for the 4 day transfer. The end result, I paid $2,005 and $2,000 was deposited into my Cambodian bank.

If you’re looking for the cheapest way to send money overseas, I highly recommend you look into private money transfer companies. The Send Money Cheaper comparison tool will help you figure out which service to use for your personal transfer needs.

Now that you’ve found out how to send your money abroad cheaper, go out and buy yourself a fancy dinner in your new homeland. You’ve earned it.

The Four Best Ways to Send Money Overseas

How did you send money overseas last time? Did you use a bank and pay more than $40 in transfer fees?

If you did, I’d bet that not only did you pay high fees, but you also got a poor exchange rate and the recipient probably had to wait two or three days before the money was available. How would you like to make that same transfer for just $5 or $10?

Compared with Europeans, Americans are quite a few steps behind regarding the best ways to transfer money abroad. While it has become commonplace for Europeans and Asians to use private foreign exchange firms for sending money overseas, most American’s are still going to their banks and paying higher transfer fees and exchange rates. Today we take a look at the four best ways to transfer money abroad that will save you time and money.


Sending Small Amounts of Money Overseas               

If you need to send a small amount of cash overseas, skip your local bank. Consider one of the private domestic and foreign exchange services for cheaper rates and better customer service. I’ve highlighted my top two picks for small money transfers below.

Western Union

Most of us have heard about Western Union or used them at some point in time. While they don’t usually offer the cheapest rates, some of their main benefits are the speed at which you can transfer money overseas and their vast number of locations. Most often the recipient will be able to withdraw the money within minutes of you completing the transaction.

In addition to the speed at which you can send money overseas with Western Union, they offer some of the most versatile payment and pick up options. You can use their online site to send money and pay with your credit or debit card. A multitude of pick up options are available from local Western Union branches, foreign banks, and even a transfer to a mobile wallet on the receiver’s phone.


Xoom is a fantastic choice for sending small amounts of money overseas. They offer foreign money transfer options to 32 countries from Argentina to Vietnam and only charge $4.99 for international transfers under $1,000. You can initiate and track your money transfer from your mobile phone or tablet, plus it is usually available for withdrawal in one day or less.

You have the choice of doing a direct bank deposit or cash pick up from thousands of locations in each of the countries they serve. Xoom is one of your best options for cheap small money transfers to friends and family overseas.


Transferring Large Amounts of Money Overseas

When transferring large amounts of money overseas, it’s not just the fees you need to be concerned with, but the exchange rate too. Just a small difference in the exchange rate can equate to thousands of dollars saved on a foreign money transfer. Next time you are considering sending money overseas with your personal bank, take a look at the exchange rate they offer. You might be surprised to see a 3% to 4% difference on currently published rates.

World First

Offering some of the best exchange rates around, World First is one of the most affordable ways to send large amounts of money internationally. They charge zero fees on any transfers over $10,000 and only $10 on smaller amounts. It takes about one day and you can send money from bank account to bank account using their phone or online methods.

World First also offers a unique feature where you can lock an exchange rate for future money transfers up to 3 years in advance. This way you can ensure you get a good rate even if you aren’t ready to transfer the money today. Start watching the market rates long in advance and lock your rate when you get a favorable exchange.

USForex / UKForex

USForex is fully regulated in the U.S. and part of one of the largest foreign exchange firms in the world. Using their service to send money abroad, you’ll often save 2% – 3% on bank exchange rates and incur minimal fees. Any international money transfer of $5,000 is completely free too.

As a sign up bonus, USForex offers your first exchange for free regardless of the amount of money sent. They are great when you need to transfer money overseas for really large purchases like property or a vehicle. You can use their limit orders to designate an exchange rate you want and when the market hits that rate, your order will be triggered. This allows you to take advantage of exchange rate movements even if you are unavailable. It’s a good way to save thousands on large international transfers.

Use a Foreign Exchange Firm and Save on Your Overseas Property Purchase

When you bought your home in America did you shop around for the best mortgage rate possible or did you just take the first loan offered to you?

If you are like most home buyers, you shopped around for the best deal. We all know that saving even half a percentage point on your mortgage can translate into huge savings over time, so why wouldn’t you do the same when transferring money abroad to purchase a home or property in a foreign country?

Banks turn a tidy profit sending money from one country to another. Unfortunately this is at your expense. Not only do they charge a large fee, they often give poor currency exchange rates as well. If you were to buy a $200,000 home abroad, saving just one percent sending your money overseas would mean another $2,000 in your pocket. Add another percent or two for getting a better currency exchange rate and you could easily save over $5,000 on a single transaction!

A quick search on Wells Fargo’s Foreign Exchange Services page just highlights this issue. Converting $200,000 with Wells Fargo will net you €166,430.89 Euro while transferring that same amount using Send Money Cheaper’s recommended foreign exchange firm will result in €175,000.60 Euro. That’s a savings of nearly $10,000!


Where to Start Your Search for the Cheapest Way to Send Money Abroad?

The best place to start searching for a cheap international money transfer is your personal bank. Rarely will they offer the best rate, but it is great for establishing a benchmark cost. Once you have received a quote from your bank, compare that with the rates you get from private money transfer firms. You can compare multiple firms at one time using this comparison tool from

Once you have found the best rate for sending your money overseas, take a little time to research your chosen source. You’ll want to ensure that you’re using an exchange firm that is regulated to protect your money in the case of a bankruptcy or insolvency. Not all exchange firms are regulated so this is important to keep in mind.


How Can Foreign Exchange Firms Offer a Better Rate than Banks?

There is a long-winded answer and a short one to this question. The short answer is greed. Big banks are greedy. They like to charge you a large percentage over the rate they buy and sell currency to each other; typically around 4% to 5% plus a hefty fee to send money overseas. Foreign exchange firms are willing to take a smaller percentage; usually around 1% over the rate they buy a currency.

In addition to the savings you get when using a private money transfer firm, they often have better customer support than large banks. Most exchange firms have currency specialists that can advise you on the best time to transfer large sums of money abroad based on the currency exchange rate fluctuations. If you are considering using a bank to send money overseas, it might be time to compare private money transfer firms and save yourself some money.

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