What is the best US bank to transfer money abroad? Read this guide
The choices can feel overwhelming when it comes to sending an international wire. You could choose to go with your own bank, or select a different provider online or in person.
This guide walks through the things you’ll want to think about when choosing how to send your international money transfer, and introduces a handy alternative to your regular bank - Wise. With Wise and the Wise multi-currency account you can send money overseas safely, and for a low transparent fee, without ever needing to set foot in your bank in person. You’ll often find it’s cheaper too. More on that coming right up.
What should I look for when I’m sending an international money transfer?
You can send an international wire via your own bank, an online provider, or a money transfer service which uses an agent network to process in-person payments. Each provider sets their own fees and exchange rates, which means you’ll need to do some research to find the one which suits you best. Here are some things to look at when comparing different services:
- How do you pay for the transfer - by bank transfer, using a card or in cash, for example? Are there different fees for different options?
- How will the money be received? Do the costs depend on how you want your recipient to get the money?
- What exchange rate will be used for the payment?
- What are the upfront transfer fees, and are there additional costs such as card charges or intermediary bank fees?
- How long will a transfer take?
- How much can you send, and is your specific currency available?
- Is the service safe and is it convenient to arrange?
We will explore many of these points below. However, as the right provider for your needs will depend on the type of payment you want to make, you’ll also likely want to do a bit of homework to find the one which offers the best deal for your needs.
How much do banks charge for an international wire transfer?
Different banks structure their fees differently, which can make comparing your international wire transfer options pretty tricky. You’ll want to look at the upfront transfer fees, which are often around USD30-50. As you’ll see from the table comparing providers below, these fees can run even higher in some cases.
But that’s not all. You may also need to pay an extra charge which is wrapped up in the exchange rate used, or additional costs when the payment is processed using the SWIFT network.
Exchange rate fees
Some banks are upfront about the exchange rate fees they use, so it’s worth comparing the rate you’re given against the mid-market exchange rate to check for a markup. If there is one, you may be better off with an alternative provider.
Intermediary and beneficiary bank fees
There’s one more cost to know about, which you may see described as third party fees, intermediary or correspondent charges, or costs levied by the recipient’s own bank. These charges typically arise when payments use the SWIFT system - a network of banks moving money around the world. Up to 3 banks can be involved in a single payment, and each can apply their own charges if they wish to, which means your recipient may get less than you expect in the end.
Wise: a cheap and transparent alternative
Traditional banks don’t always offer the best value when it comes to sending money overseas. You might find you’re better off with a specialist provider like Wise.
All Wise payments are made using the real mid-market exchange rate, and you’ll only ever pay a simple transparent fee. You can send your transfer online for convenience - so there’s no need to make an appointment or stand in line at a local bank branch.
You can also open a free online Wise multi-currency account to hold, send and spend dozens of different currencies. Accounts come with local bank details to receive fee free payments in major world currencies like US, Australian and New Zealand dollars, British pounds and euros - and you’ll have a smart linked debit card so you can spend any currency you hold for free online or while you travel.
Banks' fees for international wire transfers
To help you figure out the best way to arrange your international payment, let’s take a look at some of the costs involved with sending money overseas with some of the largest US banks.
|Provider||How to arrange||Exchange rate||Other fees||Total cost|
|Wise||Online||Mid-market exchange rate, no markup||Low transfer fee based on currency and amount being sent||Low, transparent transfer fee|
|Ally||International wires not available||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Bank of America||Online||“may include profit, fees, costs, charges or other mark ups”||No transfer fee when sending in foreign currency |
Transfer fee USD45 if payment send in US dollars
intermediary banks fees can be applied
|Up to USD45 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|USAA Bank||Arrange by phone||May include a markup||USD20 + USD25 international fee|
intermediary banks fees can be applied
|USD45 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|US Bank||Arrange by visiting a branch||May include a markup||USD50|
You may also pay fees levied by intermediary banks or the recipient’s own bank
|USD50 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Capital One||Arrange in branch - not all account types are eligible||May include a markup||International wire fees are not available online, contact your branch for assistance||Capital One fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Charles Schwab||Arrange online, by phone, mail or fax||“Schwab charges a markup on foreign currency exchange transactions”||USD15-25||USD15-25 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Chase Bank||Arrange online, by phone, or in branch|
Not all accounts can send wire payments
|“The exchange rate we use will include a spread and may include commissions or other costs that we, our affiliates, or our vendors may charge in providing foreign currency exchange to you”||No transfer fee for online wires over USD5,000|
Wires valued at under USD5,000 arranged online - USD5
Wires arranged on phone or in branch - USD50
|Up to USD50 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Citibank US||Citibank recommends arranging payment online||“If the transfer is made in foreign currency, the exchange rate includes a fee for the currency conversion.”||Fee is waived for some accounts - otherwise up to USD25||Up to USD25 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Discover Bank||Complete paper from which you must then upload, mail or fax||May include a markup||USD30||USD30 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Fifth Third||Arrange in branch||Markup of 0.2% of transaction amount||USD50||USD50 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|HSBC US||Arrange online or in branch||May include a markup||International wire fees are confirmed when you place the transfer||HSBC US fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Union Bank||Arrange online, by phone, or in branch||May include a markup||USD35-65 depending on the transaction and account type||Up to USD65 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|PNC Bank||Arrange in branch||May include a markup||USD45||USD45 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Wells Fargo||Arrange online or in branch||May include a markup||International wire fees are confirmed when you place the transfer||Wells Fargo fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|Suntrust||Arrange by phone or in branch||May include a markup||International wire fees are confirmed when you place the transfer||Suntrust fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
|TD Bank US||Arrange in branch||May include a markup||USD50||USD50 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees|
*All rates and fees correct at time of research 7th December 2020. Details in quotation marks taken directly from bank terms and conditions documents
As you can see from our summary, bank wire fees can be high, and relatively complex. But there’s no need to worry. You have a choice of alternative providers which may present better value - and a more convenient service. Check out Wise for smart, low cost international payments which can be arranged online in minutes.
Disclaimer: This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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