How to Make International Wire Transfers
Sending money to someone overseas can be complex and cumbersome – but it doesn’t have to be. This guide covers all you need to know, with a step by step walkthrough of your options, the recipient information needed, the costs of sending payments, and more.
Read on for a full guide to sending money internationally from the US, through your bank, specialist providers like Wise and OFX, online services and more.
- What is an international wire transfer?
- How to make an international wire transfer
- Best international wire transfer services
- Step by Step: How to Send Money Internationally
- How much does it cost to send money internationally?
- How long international wire transfers take
- Is it safe to transfer money internationally?
- The final verdict on international wire transfers
What is an international wire transfer?
International wire transfers are payments sent from your bank account, for deposit into your recipient’s bank account directly. You can usually arrange an international wire transfer online, by phone or in a bank branch, by giving your bank the recipient’s personal and banking details.
Your bank will then arrange the payment so it’s conveniently deposited once it’s been processed. Banks usually send international wires through the SWIFT network. SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. It’s a global body which helps banks safely process international payments by offering secure messaging and assigning each bank in the network a unique identifier to guide payments.
How to make an international wire transfer
The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can choose to send an international wire transfer from the US.
The exact detail of what you need to do to send an international wire will depend on the provider you select, and their own individual process. However, the broad steps are usually:
- Choose the method you want to use to send your wire
- Choose a provider
- Gather your recipient’s information
- Compare fees and exchange rates
- Send your money to the provider
- Your payment will be converted and sent to the recipient
We’ll break down this step by step guide to sending an international wire transfer, and cover each step in more detail.
Best international wire transfer services
Remitly: US based online service that offers international wire transfers for a small fee
Wise (formerly TransferWise): One of the most popular currency exchange providers in the world with low, transparent fees, especially for smaller amounts but can also offer good fee discounts for large transfers.
WorldRemit: A great choice for sending amounts less than US$10,000, especially good for Asia, Africa and South America
Xe: A reliable service with no upfront fees
Revolut: A great choice for sending money to friends and family overseas
OFX: A specialist foreign exchange service with superb customer service
Step by Step: How to Send Money Internationally
Step 1: Choose the method to send money abroad:
The best way to arrange your international payment will depend on how you want to pay and how you want the money to be received. Broadly, the options include:
- Use a traditional bank
- Use a money transfer service
- Use PayPal
- Use a USPS Money Order
- Use a provider which offers cash collection services
Read on for more about the pros and cons of each.
Method #1: With a traditional bank
Turning to your normal bank to help you send a payment overseas may be an obvious choice. Most US banks do facilitate international payments online, by phone, or in person so you have a range of ways to set up your transfer.
Bank international transfers are usually processed through the SWIFT network, which is reliable and safe – but also slow and expensive. Because several intermediary banks may be involved in processing your payment, extra fees can creep in, too.
Steps to send money abroad with traditional banks
Sending a payment overseas with your regular bank is usually pretty simple – particularly if you use your online banking service. Here’s how to send an international wire with Bank of America, as an example:
- Log in to Bank of America online banking
- Navigate to the Transfers tab and tap Send money to someone
- Select Using their account number at another bank
- Follow the prompts to add the recipient’s details
- Enter the payment amount and currency
- Check everything over and confirm – you may be required to complete a verification step for security, depending on your account type
Learn more about sending an international wire payment with some of the biggest banks in the US, with our handy guides:
- Bank of America international wire transfers
- Chase international wire transfers
- Capital One international wire transfers
- Truist international wire transfers
What information do you need?
Exactly what information you need about your recipient may vary slightly based on the bank you’re using. Let’s take a look at the Bank of America online payment requirements, as an example:
- Recipient’s bank name, address and country
- Recipient’s bank routing code and account number
- Recipient’s bank SWIFT code
- Purpose for the transfer
Advantages of sending money with traditional banks
- Safe and reliable
- Send online or in a branch if you want personal service
- Most banks send to a broad range of currencies and countries
Disadvantages of sending money with traditional banks
- Fees can be high
- Exchange rates may include a markup
- Delivery times may not be the best available
International wire transfer fees and exchange rates of Major US Banks
When you send an international wire with a US bank you’ll pay up to 3 separate charges:
- Transfer fee
- Exchange rate markup
- Third party SWIFT fees
Different banks work differently when it comes to transfer fees. These fees do vary depending on if you make a transfer online, in a branch or over the phone.
Bank of America, for example, doesn’t have a transfer fee for online payments, while US Bank charges a 50 USD transfer fee, and Truist charges customers 65 USD. However, even if your bank doesn’t use a transfer fee, you’re likely to run into the other costs, including an exchange rate markup bundled into the rate used to convert your transfer, and SWIFT fees which are deducted as your payment is processed.
To see how much it’ll cost in total to send your international bank wire, you’ll need to double check the transfer fee, compare the rate against the mid-market rate you’ll find on Google, and ask the bank about any SWIFT fees that apply.
Method #2: Using a money transfer provider
Using a specialist money transfer provider is fast and simple. You’ll need to create an account, but once you’ve done that you can start sending money in under 24 hours. You normally have multiple ways to pay including directly from your bank account or with a credit or debit card.
Specialist providers are fully regulated, and, in many cases, the recipient can get money directly into their bank account, pick it up as cash, or take advantage of other ways of accessing their funds.
You can review different international money transfer providers, and choose the best for your needs. Some stand out for their speed, or lower costs and some are known for faster transfers:
Steps to send money abroad with money transfer providers
Once your account is all set up, you can make payments online and in the provider app. As an example, here’s how you send money with Wise:
- Register or log into your account
- Type in how much you want to transfer, or how much you need the recipient to get
- Enter the recipient’s details – name and bank account information
- Check over the details
- Fund your payment using a card or bank transfer
- Confirm and your money will be on the move
What information do you need?
Most money transfer services will deposit payments into your recipient’s bank account. That means the information needed is the same as for making a payment with a traditional bank (see above). As always though, check with the specific provider before you get started.
Advantages of sending money with a transfer provider
- Normally online or in-app for convenience
- Fast delivery times are common
- Lower overall fees and better exchange rates compared to many banks
Disadvantages of sending money with a transfer provider
- No branch service
- Payments normally funded through bank transfer or card only – no cash options
Method #3: Sending money with PayPal
PayPal is a super popular provider for all things to do with sending and spending money online. As well as being able to shop with your favorite ecommerce stores you can send money, instantly, to people at home and abroad, using just their email address or phone number. PayPal is very convenient and fast – but for international payments their fees can be quite high, especially when you factor in currency conversion costs. There’s a 5% fee (to a 4.99 USD maximum) for the transfer, plus a 4% currency conversion cost to switch your dollars to the currency you need.
Steps to send money abroad with PayPal
- Log in online or in the PayPal app
- Select the person you want to send to from your contacts, or enter their email or phone number
- Add the amount you want to send, and the currency
- Check everything over and click to confirm
What information do you need?
With PayPal you only need the recipient’s phone number or email address, making this a very essay transfer method.
Advantages of sending money with PayPal
- Instant transfers at home and abroad
- Don’t need the recipient’s bank details
- PayPal has a huge user base – so your recipient may well have an account
Disadvantages of sending money with PayPal
- Fees are high, and include markups on the exchange rate
- You can only send to other PayPal accounts, not bank accounts
Method #4: Through the US Postal Service
Depending on where you’re sending money to, you may also want to use a USPS International Money Order. You can get a Money Order from any Post Office, in values of up to 700 USD for most locations, and 500 USD for El Salvador and Guyana. There’s a pretty high fee of almost 50 USD to get the Money Order, plus a processing fee. Once you have completed the recipient’s information on the Money Order you can then send to them using a secure mailing service.
Steps to send money abroad through the post office
- Go to any Post Office location with cash, a debit card, or a traveler’s check to cover the cost of the Money Order and the issuing fee
- Fill out the money order including the Pay to field so only your recipient can claim the funds
- Pay the dollar value of the money order, the issuing fee of 49.65 USD, and the processing fee based on country
- Keep your receipt to track the money order
- Send the money order through a secure mailing option
What information do you need?
You’ll need to add the recipient’s name in the Pay to field of the Money Order. You’ll then also need to add your details and signature as the purchaser.
Advantages of sending money with the US Postal Service
- Only your recipient can claim the money
- Money Orders can be tracked, and replaced if lost or stolen
- Popular payment method in some countries, particularly in Latin America
Disadvantages of sending money with the US Postal Service
- The costs are high and include an issuing and processing fee
- Delivery times are not the fastest out there
Method #5: Cash pick-up
If none of these options suit you, you can also choose to make a transfer which your recipient collects in cash from an office near them. This is a very convenient method for someone who can’t get easy access to a bank account or ATM, and money can often be delivered pretty much instantly. However, fees are often correspondingly high, and exchange rates will include a markup.
Steps to send money abroad using a cash pickup service
To send a payment with a provider like WorldRemit, MoneyGram or Western Union you can visit an agent location with a government issued ID, and cash to cover the transfer and fees. Or, you can send money online or in the provider’s app. Here are the basic steps:
- Log into the provider’s desktop site or open the app
- Select the country you want to send to and enter the payment amount
- Select the services you require, and check the fees and rates
- Follow the prompts to enter the required information
- Select payment method, confirm and fund your transfer
- You’ll be given a reference number which you can give to the recipient
What information do you need?
For a payment that’s being picked up by the recipient in cash, you’ll just need their name as shown on their government issued ID document. They’ll then take their ID along to an agent near them, along with a reference number which you’ll need to pass with them, to collect their cash.
Advantages of sending money through a cash pick-up service
- Many payments are instantly available
- Very handy for anyone who can’t access a bank account
- Some US providers let you set up transfers in person, and pay in cash
Disadvantages of sending money through a cash pick-up service
- High fees usually apply
- Exchange rates will include a markup and may vary based on how you arrange the payment
Step 2: Choose a provider
Once you’ve decided which general payment method will work best for you, you need to pick a specific provider. The ways different services work – and particularly, the fees they charge and the exchange rates they offer – vary widely. That means it’s well worth comparing a few before you get started to make sure you get a good deal.
Here are some factors to consider:
- Does the provider support the currency you need to send?
- Does the provider accept your preferred payment method?
- What are the fees – including transfer charges and potential third party costs?
- How long will it take for the transfer to arrive?
- Does the provider use the mid-market exchange rate or add a markup?
- What are the transaction limits?
Step 3: Get your recipient’s details
Before you can start, you may be required to set up an account with your preferred provider if it’s the first time you’ve used them. Usually to set up an account you’ll have to get verified by the provider by showing, in person or online:
- Proof of your identity – like a driving license or passport
- Proof of your address – like a utility bill in your name
Not all providers need verification for every payment – some may allow you to arrange lower value transfers before you get your account fully set up. However, to raise your sending limits or make higher value payments you’ll almost always need some proof of ID and address.
The recipient information you’ll need to make a wire transfer
Once your account is set up you need the recipient’s details. If you’re sending to a bank account that’ll probably mean:
- Recipient’s name
- Recipient’s address
- Recipient’s IBAN or account number
- Recipient’s bank name and address
- Recipient’s bank SWIFT/BIC code
For payments to some countries you’ll also need country-specific details, like a sort code for the UK. If you’re sending a high value payment you may also need to provide proof of the source of funds.
Once you’ve gathered all the information your provider needs, you’ll have to specify the currency you want the payment to be received in, to generate a fee and exchange rate quote.
Step 4: Compare fees
We mentioned earlier that sending an international wire payment may mean paying several different fees. It also helps to know that some banks and providers have lower transfer fees, but may still hide extra costs in the exchange rate by adding a markup. You may also find that third party fees apply as a result of your transfer being processed via SWIFT, or because of a specific funding method – a credit card cash advance for example.
Before you confirm your payment, also double check that the exchange rate you’re seeing is the one you’ll actually receive. For example, if you’re looking at a rate online, but the FX markets have closed, you may find that the exchange rate that’s actually used for your transfer will be whatever is live when the markets next open. Some providers let you lock in a rate for a fixed period of time, to avoid this uncertainty.
Step 5: Send your money in
You’re almost at the final stage – now it’s time to fund your payment. How this works depends very much on the provider you’ve chosen. If you’re sending with your regular bank you’ll just confirm the account the payment should be deducted from when you arrange your transfer.
When you use a specialist online or digital service you’ll usually be able to pay with a bank transfer or card.
Step 6: Your money is converted and sent out
Once your payment has cleared it’ll be converted to the required currency and sent on to your recipient.
Is it possible to cancel an international transfer?
Whether or not you can cancel an international transfer will depend entirely on the payment method and provider you’ve selected. Some banks do allow you to cancel a payment if it’s not already been processed. However, with instant transfers, such as PayPal and payments for cash collection, it’s not normally possible to cancel.
How much does it cost to send money internationally
Let’s look at a worked example covering how a payment of 1,000 USD to a friend in the UK, to be received in pounds, would work for a few providers – we’ve included banks, neobanks and specialist services to give a range of options.
|Sending 1,000 USD to GBP with:||Fee||Exchange rate||Recipient gets|
|Wise International Wire Transfer||7.40 USD||1 USD = 0.898553 GBP||891.90 GBP|
|OFX International Wire Transfer||0 USD||1 USD = 0.888371 GBP||888.37|
|Bank of America International Wire Transfer||0 USD||1 USD = 0.875107 GBP||875.11|
|Wells Fargo International Wire Transfer||0.90 USD||1 USD =0.872051 GBP||871.26|
|Chase International Wire Transfer||5 USD||1 USD =0.875862 GBP||870.49|
*Fees and rates correct at time of research – 30th September 2022
Is it possible to send free international money transfers?
It costs banks and international money transfer services to process overseas payments. That means that there’s always a fee somewhere – it just may not be easy to see. In fact, it’s pretty common to see services with no transfer fee – but in reality, they’ve often just wrapped their costs and profits into the exchange rate they pass on to customers.
One exception to this is if you’ve got a special deal with your specific bank – like being a loyal or high wealth customer – in which case they may offer exclusive access deals which give fee free transfers. Double check with your provider if any services like these are available.
How long international wire transfers take
How long it takes to wire money overseas will vary a bit based on the provider or bank you choose.
If you’ve paid by cash or card, for a cash collection payment, it’ll often be available instantly – even on the other side of the world.
Specialist providers like Wise can also often offer instant – or at least very fast – transfers to bank accounts.
However, traditional banks which rely on the SWIFT network do tend to take longer to process payments – even up to 3 -5 working days for some currencies.
International wire transfer limits
International wire transfer limits vary based on the bank or provider you pick:
- Traditional banks usually have a limit to wire payments, which may be lower online compared to transfers made in a branch. Check with your own bank to see what limits apply to your specific account.
- Money transfer services often have no upper limit to the amount you can send – but you’ll often have to provide some more verification details when making a high value transfer
- PayPal lets you send up to 4,000 USD at first, and then up to around 10,000 USD per transfer once you have a verified account
- USPS Money Orders can be issued for values of up to 700 USD for most countries
- Cash collection providers have variable limits which are based on how you arrange the transfer and where the money is being sent
Wiring large amounts of money internationally
If you need to send a high value payment you may be asked to provide additional ID documents, and prove where the funds came from. Checks like these are legally required, to help banks and providers spot and prevent fraud or criminal activity.
Before you start to make a high value international payment, check your provider’s upper payment limits, and whether you’ll need any extra paperwork to get your money moving. Learn more about the best ways to send a large amount of money overseas, here.
Is it safe to transfer money internationally?
In most cases it is safe to send money internationally. There are lots of security measures and safeguards used by banks and international money transfer services, to make sure your international payment arrives safely.
The key things are to pick a reputable provider which is properly regulated, and to make sure you’re sending money to a legitimate recipient. Criminals do use international payments as a way of trying to profit from vulnerable people – so watching out for scams and staying vigilant with your own account security are essential.
Tips to send money safely and avoid falling victim of fraud
As long as you pick a reputable provider, and take common sense precautions, it is safe to transfer money internationally. Here are a few tips to stay safe:
- Check the provider you’re using is properly registered and regulated – good companies show this information prominently on their websites
- Make sure you’re sending money to someone you know or a company you trust – scams are common
- Never feel pressured into making a payment instantly if you’re unsure about it
- Double check all details before you confirm a transfer – often they can’t be reversed once they’re on the way
The recipient information you’ll need to make a wire transfer
You’ll need to provide information about the final recipient of your funds. Details you’ll need to provide typically include:
Their bank’s name and address
Their bank’s SWIFT code (normally available from the destination bank’s website)
Your recipient’s name and address
Your recipient’s bank account details, including routing number / sort code and account number
You may also need to provide an International Bank Account Number (IBAN) or a bank identifier code (BIC)
In some cases, you can also provide a short message to the recipient
Receiving a wire transfer from overseas
If you’re expecting to receive a wire transfer from overseas you’ll need to give the sender your personal and account information. The exact details they need will vary based on where they’re sending from, and the provider’s own processes. Usually they’ll as for:
- Your name and address
- Your bank’s name, and branch information
- Your bank account number
- Your bank’s SWIFT/BIC code
Get our guide on the best way to receive money internationally to learn more.
The final verdict on international wire transfers
Sending an international payment can seem a bit daunting, but there are plenty of different ways to set up a transfer, which means with a bit of research you’ll find the perfect one for you.
Using your bank is a reliable and familiar route, but can be expensive. Using online and digital alternative providers can be fast and cheap, although you’ll need to create an account first. Other methods like PayPal and cash collection services can be pretty much instant, but may have high fees or currency conversion charges.
Ultimately, which payment method and provider is the best for you will come down to where you’re sending money, how you want to pay, and how you want the payment to be received. Once you’ve picked a good provider, arranging the transfer is usually pretty straightforward – especially if you follow our step by step guide.
International Wire Transfer FAQs
How can I send money internationally?
There are plenty of different ways you can send money internationally, including using your own bank, a specialist money transfer service like Wise, PayPal or a cash collection provider.
What information do you need to send money abroad?
The information needed depends on the payment type. For cash collection you’ll usually just need the recipient’s name. For transfers to a bank you need the recipient’s name and bank details.
How much does it cost to send money abroad?
Costs for international payments vary widely and can include a transfer fee, exchange rate markup, and third party costs. Use this guide as a starting point to compare a few services and pick the right one for you.
How long does it take to send money abroad?
Sending a payment with a bank via SWIFT may take 3 -4 working days. Specialist services can be faster – even offering instant payments in some cases.
What is the difference between a wire transfer and a bank transfer?
The terms bank transfer and wire transfer are used fairly interchangeably. However, usually a wire transfer will be offered for an international payment arranged through your bank, while the term bank transfer is more commonly used for domestic payments between bank accounts.
What is the maximum amount of money that can be wired?
Many providers do not use a maximum payment limit, although restrictions may apply based on the payment method and where you’re sending money to. Check with your bank or provider to see what rules will apply.
Can you do international wire transfer online?
Yes. Send an international wire transfer online with your normal bank or pick a specialist online and in-app service for convenience.