Best ways to transfer money overseas
What is an international money transfer?
An international money transfer moves money electronically from your account in Australia to an overseas account. Common uses include sending money to your own overseas account, to a family or friend, or to a supplier for a purchase.
Such transfers may incur some fees, and exchange rates may differ per provider, so it’s worthwhile comparing your options before making a transfer.
Find out more
An international money transfer is when you send money from your bank account in New Zealand, for example, to the bank account of someone you know (or your own bank account) in a different country.
International money transfers are popular for both large and small amounts.
When making a money transfer, you will usually need to know the other person’s full name, address, account number, and Branch Number or Bank Identifier Code (SWIFT BIC or IBAN).
International money transfer fees are charges for sending your money to international bank accounts. Fees to keep a watch for include:
- Sending fee: This is known by many names, but it is essentially a fee charged to send the money through the institution to an overseas bank account.
- Receiving fee: A fee charged to receive funds from overseas into your nominated local bank account.
- Cancellation fee: If you need to cancel the transfer for any reason, some institutions will charge you a penalty fee.
- Amendment fee: If you need to change the payment details for a transfer, some institutions will charge you a penalty fee.
- Enquiry fee: If you need to follow up with your bank to make sure that the funds actually got to your intended recipient, some institutions will charge you a fee for the service of checking.
- Third party institution fee: A fee charged to send money from the transfer institution to the recipient’s banking institution. For example, if you’re sending the money through your account at Citibank, and the other person is with a different bank, your institution may charge you a fee. The cost of this fee varies greatly between institutions. You should always ask an institution how much they charge about this fee before signing up to make a transfer through them.
The vastness of the internet means there is more than one way to transfer money online:
Online money transfer company:
- Pros – Because this is the company’s only job, they can offer you a speedy transfer at a competitive exchange rate. They usually have a currency conversion calculator so you can work out what exchange rate you’ll get before you send the money.
- Cons – If you choose an online money transfer company, there may be a minimum transfer amount, a transfer fee (depending on the size of the transfer), and a transaction fee for the recipient.
Direct transfer from your bank account:
- Pros – Probably the most convenient way to transfer money, since you’re already a customer with your bank. Most bank accounts are usually already set up to allow international transfers, or can be set up with one or two steps.
- Cons – Can be expensive and slow, taking several days for the money to arrive. That’s no good if you’re trying to get money to a family member who’s currently stuck at the border of a foreign country because they’ve run out of the local currency and can’t afford to pay for a visa. You can expect a sending fee charged by your bank, and a receiving fee charged by the overseas bank. Also, check whether your bank’s exchange rate is competitive before clicking “send”.
- Pros – For smaller amounts ranging from $1 to perhaps a few hundred dollars, PayPal is an option worth considering. It is only appropriate for small amounts, though, as the transfer fees for larger amounts are generally not competitive compared to online money transfer companies.
- Cons – Generally, PayPal fees are a percentage of the total amount (which can range from 0.5% to 3.3%, depending on your destination country) plus a fixed fee. If your PayPal account is linked to a credit card, the fees could be significantly higher.
- Pros – The telephone is a way to make international transfers without visiting a branch, for anyone who doesn’t have access to the internet.
- Cons – Phone banking has different limits on how much money you can send, compared to online banking or visiting a branch.
You can get an International Money Order (IMO) from your bank or post office. It is similar to a bank cheque in that you post it overseas and it gets cashed at the other end by your recipient.
- Pros – The cheque is guaranteed by the bank or post office.
- Cons – This method takes a lot longer than an online transfer, and you have to physically visit a branch or post office. The purchase price can also be more expensive. There may be a fee charged at the other end when your recipient cashes the cheque into their account.
- Pros – This is an easy way to make a transfer if you have the app for your bank’s mobile banking system on your mobile device.
- Cons – There’s always the risk that the app might crash, and then you could face an enquiry fee if you need to check whether or not the transfer went through.
International money transfer issues
The New Zealand system for sending money between countries is pretty good, but that’s not the case in every country. When it comes to remittances for international migrants sending their pay home to families in developing nations, there are many barriers in the way.
How remittances can change the world
According to the World Bank, remittances that are small in amount can have great value by reducing the level and severity of poverty in a region. This leads to:
- Higher human capital accumulation
- Greater health and education expenditures
- Better access to information and communication technologies
- Improved access to formal financial sector services
- Enhanced small business investment
- More entrepreneurship
- Better preparedness for natural disasters such as droughts, earthquakes, and cyclones
- Less child labour
Account number: The identification number for your account, or for the account to which you are transferring money. When making a money transfer, you will usually need to know the other person’s full name, address, account number, and Branch Number or Bank Identifier Code (SWIFT BIC or IBAN).
ADI (Authorised Deposit-Taking Institution): An institution authorised and accredited to provide banking services and receive and manage deposits in customers’ accounts.
Balance: The amount of money remaining and able to be spent in your savings or transaction account at any point in time.
Conversion fee: Any fee charged to convert one currency into another before or after transferring.
Conversion rate: Also known as the exchange rate.
Exchange rate: The ratio at which one currency buys another, which determines the value of one country’s currency by comparison to another. For example, the exchange rate from AUD to USD at the time of writing is $0.73 to the dollar.
Foreign currency: The local currency of any country outside New Zealand.
GST: Goods and services tax charged on purchases made in New Zealand. Certain internet purchases may also be subject to GST.
Internet banking or online banking: Banking that is done via the internet on a computer or mobile device.
Transfer: To send money from one account to another.
Visa: A document from the government of a country that grants permission for a person to come to that country to holiday, live, work, or study.
Trusted by thousands of
Kiwis we’ve helped save money
Comparity saved me $100's on my yearly energy bill! I'd highly recommend 5*Chris SamsonDunedin
Big up Comparity for helping me move into my new home in the capital. These guys helped me find an estate agent and also sort WIFI in the house. Big love!Tui MacDonaldWellington
Awesome service! Awesome People!Jane DoesonAuckland
I would highly recommend Comparity. I managed to save myself and the wife $400 a year on our wifi bill. An easy to use service with a quick and simple change over.Turner PhillipsChristchurch