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 - TransferWise. With TransferWise and the TransferWise 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.

TransferWise: 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 TransferWise.

All TransferWise 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 TransferWise 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 arrangeExchange rateOther feesTotal cost
TransferWise OnlineMid-market exchange rate, no markupLow transfer fee based on currency and amount being sent Low, transparent transfer fee
AllyInternational wires not availableN/AN/AN/A
Bank of AmericaOnline“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 BankArrange by phone May include a markupUSD20 + USD25 international fee
intermediary banks fees can be applied
USD45 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
US BankArrange by visiting a branchMay include a markupUSD50
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 OneArrange in branch - not all account types are eligibleMay include a markupInternational wire fees are not available online, contact your branch for assistanceCapital One fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
Charles SchwabArrange online, by phone, mail or fax“Schwab charges a markup on foreign currency exchange transactions”USD15-25USD15-25 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
Chase BankArrange 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 USCitibank 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 BankComplete paper from which you must then upload, mail or faxMay include a markupUSD30USD30 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
Fifth ThirdArrange in branchMarkup of 0.2% of transaction amountUSD50USD50 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
HSBC USArrange online or in branchMay include a markupInternational wire fees are confirmed when you place the transferHSBC US fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
Union BankArrange online, by phone, or in branchMay include a markupUSD35-65 depending on the transaction and account typeUp to USD65 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
PNC BankArrange in branchMay include a markupUSD45USD45 fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
Wells FargoArrange online or in branchMay include a markupInternational wire fees are confirmed when you place the transferWells Fargo fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
SuntrustArrange by phone or in branchMay include a markupInternational wire fees are confirmed when you place the transferSuntrust fee + exchange rate markup + possible intermediary and recipient bank fees
TD Bank USArrange in branchMay include a markupUSD50USD50 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 TransferWise 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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