How Much Does it Cost to Send Money? What You Need to Know

It’s never been easier to move money around the block or around the globe. Technology has hit the money transfer business and given us a range of options. Each way to send money has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each has a cost. Follow along to learn how to minimize these costs.

How to Send Money Online

Major banks, wire transfer services, and an ever-expanding range of apps will let you move money to almost any destination, domestic or foreign. You’ll pay a price for the service, of course.

Some systems require the sender, receiver, or both to have an account with the service provider. If you send money regularly you may want to open an account with a money transfer service.

Third-Party App-Based Services

App-based money transfer services are inexpensive, but there may be restrictions or hidden costs. Be sure to check exchange rates for international transfers.

ServiceIncoming DomesticOutgoing DomesticIncoming InternationalOutgoing International
Cash AppNo fee for standard transfers, 1.5% fee for instant.3% fee for Credit Card TransactionsNo fee for standard transfers, 1.5% fee for instant.3% fee for Credit Card Transactions
PayPalNo fee to receive. Withdrawal fees vary in different marketsFree for commercial transactions. Fees for personal transactions in some marketsNo fee to receive. Withdrawal fees vary in different marketsFree for commercial transactions. Fees for personal transactions in some markets
VenmoNo fee except for payroll or government check deposits.NoneNo fee except for payroll or government check deposits.None
ZelleNo feeNo feeNot offeredNot offered

Both sender and receiver may need to have an account with the service. You can only use Zelle if both the sending and receiving bank belong to the Zelle network.

Use a Money Transfer Service

Money transfer services often offer direct transfers to a bank account or pickup at an agent location. Fees may vary widely with the amount sent, the source of the transfer, the destination, and other factors. Ask a local agent for a current quote, and compare!

ServiceIncoming DomesticOutgoing DomesticIncoming InternationalOutgoing International
Western Union*VariableVariableVariableVariable
MoneyGram**VariableVariableVariableVariable
Wise (formerly Transferwise)$4.14 fee for receiving USD wire payments.From 0.41%, varies with currency.$4.14 fee for receiving USD wire payments.From 0.41%, varies with currency.
OFXNoneNoneNone2% to 4% exchange rate markup

* Western Union states that “Fees and foreign exchange rates may vary by brand, channel, and location based on a number of factors and are subject to change without notice.”

** MoneyGram states that “Fees vary based on transaction details such as transfer amount, payment type, delivery method, and pickup location. A currency exchange rate may also apply. MoneyGram makes money from currency exchange.”

Major Banks

If your bank isn’t listed here, check their website or ask for a quote. Fees are subject to change without notice, so it’s always good to get a current quote before choosing a transfer method.

ServiceIncoming DomesticOutgoing DomesticIncoming InternationalOutgoing International
Bank of America$15$3016$0 sent in foreign currency; $45 sent in U.S. dollars
Capital One$0 or $15 depending on account type$25 or $30 depending on account type$0 or $15 depending on account type$40 plus currency exchange markup; $50 for US$ payout
ChaseUp to $15$25 online, $35 at branchUp to $15$5 sent in foreign currency; $40-$50 sent in U.S. dollars
CitiUp to $15$25Up to $15$35
FidelityNo chargeNo chargeNo chargeUp to 3% of the amount in foreign currency, $0 in dollars
HSBC$12Variable, may be free with some account typesVariable, may be free with some account typesVariable, may be free with some account types
PNC$15, may be free with some account types$30, may be free with some account types$15$45
Suntrust$15$25$30$50
US Bank$20$30$25$50
Wells Fargo$15$30$16Variable

Many banks offer promotional rates or fee waivers for certain account types or transaction types. These may not be advertised: you’ll have to ask. Intermediary bank fees may be added.

Check the Exchange Rates Before You Transfer

It costs money to send money, but the transaction fee may not be the only cost. If you’re sending money to another country, a currency exchange will be involved. The transfer system will take money in your currency and pay it out in the recipient’s currency.

Before you choose an international transfer service, compare the exchange rate that the service offers with the official rate on that day. A disadvantageous exchange rate may be a substantial cost to you and the recipient.

Watch Out When Paying with a Credit Card

Funding your money transfer with a credit card is convenient, but it’s not always possible: many transfer services won’t accept credit cards.

Even when it is possible it may not be a good idea. Many credit card companies (Capital One, for example) treat a money transfer payment as a cash advance. You’ll pay a fee, your interest rate will be higher than usual, and the payment will start accruing interest immediately.

What is the Difference Between an ACH Transfer and a Wire Transfer?

ACH transfers and wire transfers are both electronic transfers that move money from one place to another, but they are different things.

ACH Transfers

ACH stands for Automated Clearinghouse. As the name suggests, ACH transfers are processed through a clearinghouse. The clearinghouse sends transfers in batches to the sending and receiving banks. 

A domestic ACH transfer may take as long as three days to clear but are usually faster. An international transfer may take as long as 5 days, but the average is three.

ACH transfers are frequently used for scheduled recurring payments. If you receive your salary through a direct deposit to your bank account or if you pay your rent or credit card bill through a direct debit from your bank account, you are using an ACH transfer.

Wire Transfers

A wire transfer moves money directly from one bank to another. Because the sending bank will not process the transfer unless sufficient funds are presented, a domestic wire transfer usually clears quickly.

International transfers require additional processing and may take 1-2 days to clear or longer, depending on the receiving bank’s procedures.

Average Wire Transfer Fees

The convenience and immediate availability of a wire transfer come at a price: you will usually pay a fee. A domestic wire transfer will typical cost under $35, and may even be free under some circumstances. Expect to pay between $35 and $50 for an international transfer.

It may be cheaper to send money through a money transfer service, but be sure you’re considering all the costs. Check the exchange rates before making a decision.

What You Need To Know About Wire Transfers

Wire transfers are fast and the money is available instantly. They are also secure. The money moves from your bank directly to the recipient’s account. Wire transfers also cost money. You’re paying for the cost of the transfer, but many banks also see these fees as a revenue source

Once a wire transfer is received it cannot be reversed. That makes wire transfers a favorite tool for scam artists. Only send a wire transfer if you are absolutely sure that the recipient is legit and you want to send money.

One Western Union customer sent payment to a person hired to do some design work from Pakistan. After a couple days passed and the work was not completed, follow-ups were exchanged and the worker said his child was hospitalized, and he would be unable to complete the job until his child was released. However, more time passed and the work still wasn’t completed. Eventually the worker emailed to say he was unable to complete the job unless more money was sent immediately.

In the end, the customer had to walk away and leave the job unfinished rather than send more money. For reasons like this, we suggest considering alternative payment methods like PayPal when working with people you don’t personally know. If the person you’re working with refuses to accept money through a service that offers purchase protection, you’re better off finding another person to work with.

Domestic Transfers

A domestic wire transfer is fast, but it’s not instant. It will probably take at least a few hours for the money to be available to the recipient. It could take as long as a few days, especially if you complete your transfer on a weekend or after business hours on a weekday.

If you make any mistake entering information the transfer could be significantly delayed.

Foreign Transactions

International wire transfers usually take one to two business days to clear. They may take longer. Time zones and the procedures of the receiving bank will have an impact on the transaction time.

International transfers are subject to regulations and reporting requirements aimed at preventing money laundering and funding for terrorism. Smaller banks and credit unions may not provide international transfers because of these requirements.

Why Use a Wire Transfer?

Wire transfers have many uses.

  • Making a down payment on a house or car
  • Funding a brokerage account
  • Paying for goods or services overseas
  • Settling your tax bill
  • Paying tuition
  • Sending money to family or friends overseas

There are other ways to do all of these things, so you’ll need to compare options and costs.

How to Avoid or Reduce Wire Transfer Fees

Wire transfers can be expensive, but with a little effort, you can cut or even eliminate the cost.

  • Choose an institution or account that waives fees. Waivers may not be advertised; check with the bank. Using your own bank gives you a better chance at a fee waiver.
  • Use a money transfer app. Check with the receiving party first to make sure they have a compatible system.
  • Mail a check. It’s slow, but it’s reliable and inexpensive.
  • Use an online bill payment service. Many services are inexpensive and reliable.
  • Use a wire transfer from your savings or checking account. Check with your bank to see if they permit wire transfers and what they cost.
  • Look for discounts: Some banks offer discounts if you bypass customer service and send the wire yourself via online banking
  • Shop for the best rate: Compare fees before you decide, and consider other methods, including digital payment apps like Venmo or PayPal.

Always communicate with the receiving party before sending money. Make sure you have all of their details right: one wrong letter or digit can derail a transfer.

What if the Receiver Doesn’t Have an Account at the Bank You’re Sending From?

Most major banks can send and receive wire transfers to and from other banks. Transferring money to someone with an account at your bank may be cheaper and faster, but you should be able to transfer money to a domestic bank other than your own.

International transfers may be an exception to that rule. As we mentioned above, small banks or credit unions may not handle international wire transfers because of the regulatory requirements involved.

Will the Recipient Pay a Fee?

Some banks do charge fees for incoming money transfers. These fees may be waived for certain types of accounts or if the recipient requests it.

It’s always best to talk to the recipient before choosing a money transfer method. That will allow them to check for fees at their end and will help you agree on the transfer method that works best for both of you.

Pros and Cons of Using Third-Party Services like PayPal or Zelle

Third-party payment processing services have many advantages. They are designed to move money and many of them specialize in moving money. It’s their primary service, so they can offer features that banks may not.

There are still pros and cons to using these services.

Pros

  • Low or no transaction fees
  • Easier to use
  • Money is transferred more quickly
  • Fewer time restraints

 Cons

  • Could be slower than a traditional wire transfer
  • You might have to sign up for a new banking service
  • There may be a fee for instant transfers
  • There may be strict limits on how much you can transfer
  • Some apps have been the subject of consumer complaints

Most Importantly: Be Careful!

Wire transfers and money transfer services make it very easy to move money. You can send a transfer almost anywhere in the world, often with a few clicks of a mouse.

That’s convenient, but it has also opened a world of opportunity for scammers of all types. Sending money is easy, but getting it back may not be. A wire transfer in particular is almost impossible to reverse, so many scammers insist on them.

If you’re chatting with some very attractive person who turns out to be stuck on an oil rig or serving in the armed forces (or Doctors Without Borders) in some exotic location and they suddenly have a desperate need for money and need you to save them, put on the brakes before you send cash.

Scammers always have some urgent need that sounds credible. That’s intentional. They build a connection and exploit it. They prey on single people, elderly people, and others who are vulnerable. 

Never send money to someone that you don’t personally know or have a clear business relationship with. Always be suspicious. If you think there may be a real need, suggest that the person set up a GoFundMe account and you’ll contribute to that.

It can be very upsetting to realize that an online friend you’ve come to trust is only after your money. Still, it’s better to find that out before you send money than it is to find out after you’ve drained your bank account. 

Need to wire some money? Here are some tips on how to do it safely:

The Bottom Line

We have more ways to send money now than ever before. That’s convenient, but it can also be confusing. Before you send money anywhere, take these steps.

  • Communicate with the recipient. Make sure that a transfer method is available to them and that the cost is reasonable. Be particularly careful with recipients in developing countries, who may not have access to options you take for granted.
  • Consider setting up a regular system. If you will be making repeated transfers to the same person, consider joining the same transfer platform or setting up another system for repeated use.
  • Check the costs. Make sure you consider all costs: sending fees, recipient fees, currency exchange, and intermediary fees.
  • Be sure you want to send money. Scams are everywhere. Only send money to people you personally know or have clear business relationships with.

If you follow that routine you should be able to send money almost anywhere in the world safely and at a reasonable cost.

FAQs

Are Wire Transfers and Remittances the Same?

A remittance is any money that is sent from one party to another. Any payment from one person or business to another is a remittance. A wire transfer is one method of sending a remittance. All wire transfers are remittances but not all remittances are wire transfers.

How Can I Find Competitive Exchange Rates?

Exchange rates can be a hidden cost in international money transfers. To find the best rate, start by checking the current exchange rate (just type the two currencies into Google). Then check with the available transfer service providers to see what rate they offer.
You may not get the same rate that you see on Google, but you can look for the rate closest to it. Always consider both transfer fees and exchange rate costs when selecting an international transfer method.

Can I Send Wire Transfers Through an ATM?

Many ATMs offer a money transfer function. Select “fund transfer” or “quick transfer” from the initial menu. Some banks allow transfers only to previously added beneficiaries, others allow you to add a new beneficiary. The ATM will notify you if the transfer is successful.
Ask your bank about ATM transfer policies before you need to use this service!

How Can I Send Money to the Philippines?

The Philippines has an active remittance economy and there are many ways to send money. Talk to the recipient first. Find out if they have a bank account or government-issued ID. Many people, especially in rural areas, may have neither.

Western Union is well distributed in the Philippines and is an option if the receiver has ID. Most US banks can send a wire transfer to a Philippine bank, but it may take time and there will be a fee. Many Filipinos use PayPal and similar services.
GCash, an online wallet system, is the dominant online payment system in the Philippines, and you can remit to a GCash wallet through their overseas remittance partners

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