The best apps to transfer money internationally

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If you are one of the 45 million immigrants living in the United States, there’s a good chance you will face a challenge that you are probably not prepared for: sending money back to your home country. Whether you need to pay off loans and bills or help a family member, you’ll soon find that the banking system is not on your side.

There is no unified network that connects banks around the world. Some have teamed up to make things easier, but in general, transferring your hard-earned dollars to low- and middle-income countries can be especially tricky. Not to mention expensive.

Within the complex network of international money transfers, banks use exchange rates that are generally far from convenient for senders. This automatically makes your money less valuable and the costs of transferring to destination countries can vary between 10 and 20 percent of the amount sent.

Fortunately, technology has found solutions, this time around in the form of apps to transfer money internationally quickly and inexpensively.

Remitly

Founded in 2011, Remitly supports money transfers from the United States and 16 other countries—Mostly from the developed world — to over 100 destinations. App co-founder Matt Oppenheimer struggled with international money transfers while working for Barclays in Kenya. The application therefore places particular emphasis on the coverage of small African countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

Remitly offers transfers to bank accounts and mobile wallets, which are usually less expensive than transfers to banks. It also offers cash pick-up and delivery, depending on the availability of the destination country. The platform covers most of the major banks and offers a wide coverage of mobile wallets.

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For three consecutive days in mid-July 2021, we tried five different currencies and Remitly’s exchange rates to convert US dollars were on average 2% lower than the real-time rates on The CNBC dashboard. This means that the app gives you a little less value on the dollar than the forex markets. For example, if $ 1 was worth $ 743 in Chilean pesos in such markets, Remitly would only offer $ 729.30.

Remitly’s transfer fees are usually less than 5% of the transferred amount, but vary depending on the type of currency and whether you are paying with your bank account (Economy) or a card (Express). With the Chilean peso, for example, transferring $ 1,000 in US currency can cost $ 2.49 in Economy mode and $ 20 with the Express. The transfer method you choose will also determine how long it takes for your money to reach its destination, which can range from a few minutes to a business day.

Remitly is free for ios and Android, and on the Web.

Wise

Originally launched as TransferWise, Wise has been around since 2010 and manages approximately 10 million users worldwide. The platform allows you to send money internationally from the US, UK and Europe to over 80 countries, many of them in Eastern Europe.

A key feature, if you always keep an eye on the forex markets, is that you can hold different currencies in the app’s digital wallet, so you can convert them to US dollars – or vice versa – when it’s convenient for you. the best.

Wise also generates local account numbers so you can send and receive payments as if they were local transactions with 10 different currencies.

Wise has great coverage and lets you send money to virtually any bank, although it doesn’t offer cash withdrawals or payments on utility bills or mobile wallets. But what the platform doesn’t have in terms of services, it does have in terms of exchange rates. We compared five different currencies and Wise provided the best value per US dollar every time. For example, if $ 1 was $ 5.26 Brazilian reals on the CNBC dashboard, Wise gave us the same price.

Wise’s fees tend to be less than 5%, and the higher the amount you transfer, the lower the fees. For example, if you send $ 100 to Peru, the fee would be $ 4.37 (4.4%), while transferring $ 1000 to the Philippines would cost you $ 6.60 (0.7%).

Finally, just like with Remitly, the speed at which your money travels the world varies from a few minutes to three working days, depending on the country of receipt.

Wise is free for ios and Android, and on the Web.

This platform offers transfers to banks and mobile wallets, phone recharge services and utility bill payments. Cash withdrawal is also available, but WorldRemit doesn’t cover as many big banks as the rest of the apps on this list.

Using five different currencies on three consecutive days, WorldRemit’s exchange rates were, on average, 1.6% lower than the real-time rates shown on CNBC’s dashboard. Therefore, if $ 1 were 20 Mexican pesos, the app would quote 19.70 pesos, making it the second best choice among the four apps, in terms of rate.

As with Wise, WorldRemit’s fees remain below 5% per transaction and drop to less than 1% for amounts of $ 1,000 or more, depending on the currency. When it comes to speed, this platform can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to send your money across the world. You’ll mostly be reviewing same-day transactions, but like most of the items on this list, it will depend on the destination country.

WorldRemit is free for ios and Android, and on the Web.

Xoom, by PayPal

Xoom entered the market in 2001 and was acquired by PayPal in 2015. At that time, it had over one million users worldwide. Now, the app is part of a larger infrastructure serving over 250 million users, so if you’re using PayPal, this might be a good option for you. Xoom is available to send money internationally from the US, UK, and 32 markets in Europe, to 160 countries, including small island nations such as Seychelles and Dominica.

Xoom offers bank transfers, cash withdrawals, utility bill payments, phone recharging, and transfers to mobile wallets. Bank coverage is limited and depends on the country you’re sending money to, so be sure to check the list to see if the recipient’s financial institution is there.

[Related: The 7 best apps for sending money]

Xoom makes money from currency exchange, so their rates are the most expensive on this list. Using five different currencies, Xoom’s rates showed the lowest value per US dollar out of the four apps. So if $ 1 was worth 50.24 Philippine pesos on CNBC’s dashboard, Xoom’s rate would be $ 48.16, which translates to a loss of 4%.

But while exchange rates aren’t Xoom’s strong suit, its real advantage is fees. In four different currencies, they range between $ 1 and $ 5 for $ 100 transfers and are usually fixed no matter how much you send. In fact, transfers over $ 100 using currencies such as the Mexican or Philippine Peso can have zero cost.

If you’re pressed for time to get your money where you want to go, Xoom might not be the best option for you. Depending on the delivery method, it may take up to two business days for the platform to send your invoices there.

Xoom is free for ios and Android, and on the Web.

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