How to Send Money Internationally From a US Bank Account

How to send money internationally from a US Bank Account

Working out how to send money internationally can be confusing. We know it can be hard to figure out which method is the best one for you. How do you prioritise the safety of your money and still get a good deal?

Well sending money overseas is easy and there's plenty of options to choose from. All you have to do is choose the right one for you.

Very simply, you have 3 options to send money overseas from your US bank account.

  1. International wire transfer. Fast & expensive, it’s the most common service offered by your bank. They use the SWIFT network (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions) to process your money and send it to your recipient.
  2. ACH Pull transfer. A longer method but often free or very cheap. Your funds are ‘pulled’ from your bank account, similar to when you pay a bill and the money is automatically taken. It’s sent to the Automated Clearing House rather than the bank being the organiser of the transfer.
  3. Money transfer provider. You can choose a specialist provider to complete your international money transfer and send it to your recipient. This is always cheaper than your bank and often gets your money there quickly and safely!

In addition we will cover:

How to send money in 4 steps

  1. 1

    Decide your money transfer provider or bank transfer method.

  2. 2

    Provide personal details and ID to activate your account.

  3. 3

    Choose your currency route and how much money to exchange.

  4. 4

    Confirm your transfer and see your money delivered!

1. International wire transfer

What is a wire transfer?

International wire transfers are the most popular method of moving funds from one bank to another. It uses an international standard known as SWIFT—Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions. SWIFT allows money to travel between banks on the SWIFT network. It gives every bank a unique identifier that you can use to ensure your transfer gets to the intended recipient.

How do I send a wire transfer?

Sending money via a wire transfer is simple and easy.

You can do this either online or in-branch and you simply follow the steps below:

  1. Sign into your account and where you want the money to be sent from
  2. Add wire recipient to your account
  3. Enter details of your wire transfer
  4. Review and send. Your bank will debit your account and wire the foreign currency overseas.
How to send money internationally

How much is a wire transfer?

Because a wire transfer gives the responsibility of moving your money solely to your bank, you pay them for this.

Here are a summary of average charges that will be applied to your international wire transfer:

  • An upfront cost which ranges from $35-$65 across major US banks
  • A service fee when you send money via SWIFT
  • A mark-up on the exchange rate, usually around 3%
  • Taxes, if you are sending a large amount of money

We recommend you speak with a person to find out all of the charges involved when sending money overseas, but to help, we’ve listed some major US banks outgoing international wire transfer fees below.

BankOutgoing international wire transfer charges
Bank of America$45 sent in US dollars
$0 sent in foreign currency
Chase Bank$40 sent in US dollars
$5 sent in foreign currency
Citibank$35
Wells Fargo$45 sent in US dollars
$35 sent in foreign currency

U.S Bank

$50

 

Note: These fees are latest from August 2020 and are based on standard checking accounts

Helpful Hint: Remember that on top of the upfront fees you will also encounter a mark-up on the exchange rate, which is how banks make money from foreign wire transfers. You will never be able to know the exact exchange rate applied to your transaction until it is initiated.

How fast is a wire transfer?

An international wire transfer can be completed in 2-4 business days, sometimes longer. This is because of the process that the money has to go through before reaching the intended recipient.

 

Can I use my credit card?

US banks do not support wire transfers using a credit card as each transfer needs to come from your checking account.

If you really need to use your credit card and you want to transfer with your bank, you’ll need to move money from your credit card to your bank account and then complete the transfer that way.

Warning though, this will incur high fees because your credit card provider will consider this a ‘cash advance. Your provider will apply both a fee and higher interest rates when you move your money.

If you want to know more on sending money overseas with a credit card, check out our handy guide here.

 

2. ACH Pull transfer

What is an ACH transfer?

An ACH transfer is another method of moving funds from one bank to another using your US bank account. Although similar to wire transfers, there are some key differences.

ACH stands for the Automated Clearing House which is the middleman between your bank and the recipient’s. It works by pulling the funds from your bank and sending information in batches (rather than per transfer like a wire transfer) to the Automated Clearing House, who then clears the payment (in batches) to the recipient's bank.

How do I send an ACH transfer?

Depending on your bank, the process may differ slightly but it should largely be the same.

  1. Sign into your account and choose 'make a transfer'
  2. Choose an external transfer and add your account details in. You may also need to choose the frequency of your transfer
  3. Verify the details and choose the schedule of your transfer e.g. now or later
  4. Accept and send

How much is an ACH transfer?

Because banks don’t have anything to do with organising or sending your money via this method, they can’t charge you for it. As a result, ACH transfers are popular with individuals and companies who want to pay people abroad because of the low or no fees attached. Some big names that use the ACH transfer are companies such as Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle.

International transfer of money

Some major US bank's ACH transfer fees

BankOutgoing ACH transfer charges
Bank of AmericaFree-$10
Chase BankFree
CitibankFree
Wells FargoFree

U.S Bank

Free-$3

 

ACH transfers take longer because of the way the method works i.e. sending bulk information in batches. Unlike wire transfers, you will need to wait for 3 major steps to be completed, which will all be done on individual schedules.

  1. When the ACH pull your funds from your account
  2. When the ACH sends your money to the intended bank 
  3. When your recipient’s bank clears the transfer

You can also select money to be sent on a different date in the future. This is a good option for things such as bill payments or paying staff.

Helpful Hint: Wire transfers are faster (1-2 working days) because the bank is the sole organiser of moving your money, which is why it can be so expensive. ACH Transfer is far cheaper (sometimes free) but takes longer (3-4 working days) as the money is sent to and organised by the Automatic Clearing House.

Can I use my credit card?

Similar to wire transfers, US banks do not support ACH transfers using a credit card as each transfer needs to come from your checking account.

If you really need to use your credit card and you want to transfer with your bank, you’ll need to move money from your credit card to your bank account and then complete the transfer that way.

Warning though, this will incur high fees because your credit card provider will consider this a ‘cash advance. Your provider will apply both a fee and higher interest rates when you move your money.

3. Money transfer providers

Money transfer companies can be a great choice to send money overseas. They are always better value and can often complete a transfer in the same time or faster than your bank.

Here's some of our recommendations, separated by speed and value.

Fast transfer providers

WorldRemit

Same day - 2 working days

Wise (formerly known as TransferWise)

Same day - 2 working days

Xoom (by Paypal)

2 hours - 3 working days

Value transfer providers

InstaReM

1 - 2 working days

Wise (formerly known as TransferWise)

Same day - 2 working days

Xe

Same day - 4 working days

Service feesAdditional feeExample
Instarem0.25-1%

This fee is added into the mark-up on the exchange rate.

$0 on debit card or wire transfer$500 to GBP

Fees: $0 (upfront)

Amount received: £379

Wise $6.43 fixed fee + 0.45% of what you send1.25% using a debit card
3.8% using a credit card
Wire transfer is free
$500 to GBP

Fees: $8.64

Amount received: £375

Xe.com0.25-2%

This fee is added into the mark-up on the exchange rate.

$0$500 to GBP

Fees: $0 (upfront)

Amount received: £374

WorldRemit$2.99Hidden in mark-up on exchange rate

Only offers one method of payment: Wire transfer

$500 to GBP

Fees: $2.99

Amount received: £372

Xoom by PayPal

$4.99

This fee is removed when sending over $1000.

Xoom also adds a mark-up to exchange rate to make money. This varies per transaction.$500 to GBP

Fees: $4.99

Amount received: £369

Note: The above table only refers to fees added and does not take into account the exchange rate or any mark-up added. Watch out for this.

Customer reviews and app ratings for money transfer providers

A lot of people choose their money transfer provider based on customer reviews and how they are trusted by the people that use them. With the majority of people using their phones for everything, including money transfers, it’s important to consider if they have a highly-rated app, particularly if you want to transfer your money on the move.

Wise (formerly known as TransferWise)

TrustPilot reviews: 94,000 reviews and a 4.6/5 rating
iOS app review: 37,000 reviews and a 4.8/5 rating
Android app review: 85,000 reviews and a 4.3/5 rating

WorldRemit

TrustPilot reviews: 41,000 reviews and a 4.5/5 rating
iOS app review: 47,000 reviews and a 4.8/5 rating
Android app review: 71,000 reviews and a 4.1/5 rating

XE.com

TrustPilot reviews: 39,000 reviews and a 4.7/5 rating
iOS app review: 4,500 reviews and a 4.5/5 rating
Android app review: 91,000 reviews and a 4.5/5 rating

Xoom by PayPal

TrustPilot reviews: 21,000 reviews and a 4.5/5 rating
iOS app review: 4000 reviews and a 4.7/5 rating
Android app review: 50,000 reviews and a 4/5 rating

InstaReM

TrustPilot reviews: 4,627 reviews and a 4.4/5 rating
iOS app review: 188 reviews and a 3.6/5 rating
Android app review: 4,777 reviews and a 4.6/5 rating

Can I use my credit card?

You can use your credit card to send money overseas using a money transfer provider. Your name must be the same as the one linked to your account (you cannot use someone else’s credit card) and again, this option will incur a much higher fee.

For example, here is a breakdown of all fees attached using different methods using Wise:

Payment method

Debit card

Credit card

Wire transfer

ACH Pull transfer

Wise fees applied

1.62%

4.34%

0.45%

0.80%

How much can I transfer?

Money transfer providers generally have very large limits to how much you can transfer, with a lot offering up to $1,000,000 per transfer.

Maximum amount

(USD)

Minimum amount

(USD)

Wise$1,000,000$0
InstaRemNo limit (wire transfer)$5
CurrencyFair$10,000,000$5
XE.com$500,000 (online)

No limit (phone)

$0

Xoom

$2999-$50,000

(dependent on levels of your account)

$0-$4.99

What information do I need to send money overseas?

Transferring money internationally shouldn't be a problem. Depending on how you want to send money overseas, you’ll be required to provide some personal details about yourself and your recipient.

You’ll always need to provide a form of identification and proof of address. Often it is one or two of the below options.

 

Examples of accepted IDsExamples of address documents
Passport with photoDriver's License
Driver's License with photoState ID
State IDBank or Credit Card Statement
Immigration ID or Residence PermitGas or Electricity Bill

US Military IDUS Government Document

 

You may also need to know the banking code for the country receiving your money transfer. To help, we’ve listed them here for you:

 

Regions or CountriesBank Codes
North/South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, OceaniaSWIFT / BIC code
Europe, Middle East, AfricaIBAN code

 

Summary

We hope you now know exactly how to send money overseas from your US bank account! To summarise everything, you have a number of options that vary significantly in cost.

Your bank will always be the more expensive option. If you’re happy with this, then you have two options, a wire transfer (fast but expensive) or an ACH transfer (often free but takes a few days longer).

Money transfer providers are cheaper and can often complete faster than your bank. With a lot of companies out there fighting for your attention, we’ve ranked some of the best providers when taking into account all of the above to give you our overall vote.

 

  1. Wise - It provides transparent and upfront fees with no mark-up on the exchange rate, meaning you always know what you’re going to pay. They also send money quickly and easily, sending you updates on your money transfer to keep you reassured and happy throughout the process.
  2. InstaReM - It has great transparency and an easy-to-use website. With competitive rates and fast transfers, we recommend you consider them when sending money overseas from the US.
  3. Xe - Is trusted and well-known they are with their customers as a brand. They also provide competitive rates and have a highly-rated app on both iOS and Android.
  4. CurrencyFair - It offers great rates and also a helpful peer-to-peer service if you’re looking to get the most value out of your exchange. Fast, reliable and competitively-priced, we recommend you consider CurrencyFair if you’re sending money overseas.
  5. WorldRemit - It is a great option and can often complete your transfer on the same day, which many other providers can not. Combine this with the various options of payment and pick-up (mobile, cash pick up, bank transfer), WorldRemit is a fast and reliable option.

Compare money transfer exchange rate and fees

Our most frequently asked questions

Is my money safe when making a money transfer online?

When transferring your money online, it’s important to know it’s in safe hands and you can securely exchange without any issues. 

All money transfer providers recommended here are regulated and licensed in the countries they operate in. For the US, this means they can be registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) which you can check here or partnered with companies such as the Community Federal Savings Bank which is supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency.

This means each provider has full identity and fraud protection as well as an encryption to create a secure and safe connection to move your money. 

What is a wire transfer (telegraphic transfer) and how does it work?

A wire transfer is where you transfer money electronically, typically between financial institutions like international banks or credit unions. Wire transfers generally take 1 to 3 business days, and they are safe and secure.

For international telegraphic transfers, you will need the relevant details of the recipient’s account information, like a SWIFT or IBAN. Some banks do charge a fee to send or receive money using a wire transfer, so if you’re using this to send money overseas or fund a currency exchange, make sure you know how much you’ll pay.

What is a peer to peer service?

Certain money transfer providers use peer-to-peer services that give customers the option to get further value when sending money overseas. 

You will send your funds to your chosen provider who then looks to partner you with someone sending money the opposite way. For example, if you want to send $1000 USD to France then you can partner with someone who is looking to send $1000 EUR to the US. 

This gives you the upper hand to get a better rate because it cuts out the middleman i.e. the banks.

Some transfer providers that offer this service are: 

  1. InstaReM
  2. Wise
  3. CurrencyFair
  4. Remitly
  5. PayPal

 

How do I set up an online account to send money internationally?

There are 2 ways:

Using a money transfer service
The sign up and activation of your account is generally a very simple process which takes 5-10 minutes.

Step 1: Register with your money transfer provider of choice. This won’t take long and will require you to enter details such as your name, email, date of birth and a form of ID.

Step 2: Your ID will need to be verified to activate your account.

Step 3: Once your account is activated, you can begin setting up your international transfer. This will require you to enter your bank details, your recipient’s bank details, how much you wish to send, your chosen currency and how you wish to pay.

Using your bank
If you're using your bank to transfer money overseas, then you won’t need to register an account but you’ll need to set up your payment method. You have two options: a wire transfer and an ACH transfer. While both are very similar, it’s important you choose the right one for you.

 

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By Natalie Robertson Updated May 28th, 2021