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Transferring money overseas can sometimes be heart breaking. You’ve worked hard for that $20,000, for example, only to receive $13,882 at the other end. And let’s be honest, most of the time it’s not as if that money stretches further at your destination.

Add to that international wire transfer fees, bank fees (on both sides) and depending on which company you use, their cut – transferring money overseas can get pretty pricey.

My biggest purchase when I moved from Australia to the US was a car. Without a US credit history of my very own for a loan or a way of proving that I paid my bills on time in Australia, the only option I could see was to transfer some savings over.

Having not done as much research as I should have, I simply organised a bank-to-bank transfer, which is not the greatest way to do it.

So how should you go about transferring money overseas? Here’s the lowdown.

BANK-TO-BANK TRANSFER

I just said that bank-to-bank transfer wasn’t a good idea, so why is it on this list? Because some give special concessions.

High fees and poor exchange rates are the two big reasons why expats should avoid banks for transferring money overseas. It may seem like you’re “only” paying a $20 fee to send your own money to your new bank, but you’ve got to factor in the exchange rate as well.

Transferring money overseas

Most of the time, the rates a bank will offer you, sit below the current exchange rate. Meaning they’re also skimming off the top there.

Keep in mind that some US banks charge a fee to receive money from overseas as well. If you’re worried about that fee more than anything else, you can sign up to Citibank or HSBC accounts in the US and your home country.

But remember to check the exchange rates first, and compare them with International Money Transfer Providers (IMTP), which seem to be a much better option.

INTERNATIONAL MONEY TRANSFER PROVIDERS

These providers give you more bang for your buck in terms of the exchange rates they offer. It is a good idea to check the fine print though and do your homework.

You’ll need to compare exchange rates and fees charged. Some will charge a percentage depending on how much you’re transferring, while others have a set flat rate.

So while one IMTP might be great for a smaller amount of money, another will be a better fit for larger accounts.

Start by checking out the following IMTP’s, but by no means limit your research to them:

To use an IMTP you need to create an online account with them, “book” a transfer by inputting the amount of money you’d like to send, and confirm it. Depending on the company, you may be required to receive a phone call to check your details before your first transfer.

If, for example, you’re sending money from Australia to the US, you’d transfer the funds from your Australian bank account to the provider’s account in the same country (usually free). The provider then sends the agreed-amount from its US account to your nominated US bank account.

HOW DO THEY STACK UP?

Let’s pit the above IMTPs against each other to see how they compare at the moment. Remember, exchange rates and fees change regularly so it pays to do your own research.

I asked all three providers, plus one Australian bank, for quotes to transfer $1000 and $15,000 from Australia to the US, on July 24, 2017. On that day the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) listed $1 Australian as being worth 79c US.

OFX Comparison

transferring-money-overseas-ofx-comparison

TransferWise Comparison

transferring-money-overseas-transferwise-comparison

Xoom Comparison 

transferring-money-overseas-xoom-comparison

Bank Comparison

transferring-money-overseas-australian-bank-comparison

Results

As you can see, TransferWise was the clear winner in this instance. Even with fees attached, it beat out the competitors both times. Please do not use this as cut and dry advice though, it’s meant to show how exchange rates and fees can put a dent in the amount you end up receiving at the other end of your transfer.

transferring-money-overseas-three

If you’re sending small amounts out of the country, Xoom is worth considering as an option, especially since it offers almost instantaneous arrival in some cases.

TRANSFERRING MONEY OVERSEAS: THE LAW

There are laws surrounding moving money into the US that you should consider before making any transfers.

Banks are legally obliged to report any transactions over $10,000 to the US government and IMTP’s will sometimes report as little as $1,000 moving into your account. These reports pass on the following information to the US government:

  • Sender and receiver’s name and contact information
  • Financial details of the sender, including SWIFT codes (international bank code that identifies banks worldwide)
  • Receiver’s bank account information
  • Amount received.

Some IMTP’s will require proof of address before agreeing to transfer money, in accordance with the above law. This is why some require faxed copies of driver’s licenses or passports before giving the green light to your first transfer.

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Now it’s your turn. How do you transfer money to the USA? What are you tricks and tips? What mistakes should others avoid?