How to make an international Interac e-Transfer: A Full Guide 2023

If you have a Canadian bank account you’re probably familiar with Interac transfers - the fast and easy way to send payments using your online banking system. CAD payments between local Canadian accounts can be instant - with most arriving within under 30 minutes. However, Interac is somewhat more limited if you want to make an international transfer - which means it’s worth weighing up your options before you get started.

This guide covers all you need to know about international Interac e-transfers, and also introduces how specialist alternatives like Wise and OFX can help you get a cheaper and more flexible service for overseas transfers.

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Table of contents

  • What is an Interac e-Transfer?

  • How does Interac e-Transfers work?

  • How can I make an Interac e-Transfer?

  • What information is needed?

  • Who is it good for?

  • Can I make an international e-Transfer online?

  • Which banks offer international Interac e-Transfers?

  • How much will an international e-Transfer cost?

  • Do Interac e-Transfers have transfer limits?

  • How long do international Interac e-Transfers take?

  • Conclusion

What is an Interac e-Transfer?

Interac e-Transfers allow anyone with an account at a participating Canadian bank to send fast payments electronically. All you’ll need to do is log into your normal online banking system to set up a payment. 

Interac is a good way to settle up with friends for a night out, or pay your rent quickly and easily. There are also a few additional features available like Autodeposit, and ways to request money if you’re waiting for a payment. 

If you have an account with a participating bank you may also be able to send an Interac payment internationally thanks to their partnership with Mastercard and Western Union. We’ll explore this in more detail later.

How does Interac e-Transfer work?

Interac e-Transfers are processed by participating Canadian banks through their online banking networks.

Interac is so popular because local CAD payments can be made without needing to find all your recipient’s banking information. Instead all you’ll have to enter to get started is their email address or phone number - which means no hunting round for bank account numbers when you just need to split a bill with a friend.

How can I make an Interac e-Transfer?

The exact process to send a domestic CAD Interac e-Transfer may vary slightly depending on who you bank with. But in general it’s pretty simple. The basic steps are:

  • Log into your normal online or mobile banking service

  • Select the account you want to make a payment from

  • Choose or add your recipient’s email or mobile number

  • Enter the amount and a security question

The security step may not always be needed if the recipient has signed up for additional Interac services, making this an even faster process. 

It’s worth noting at this point that the process may vary significantly if you want to send a payment overseas. More on that later.

What information is needed?

To send an Interac payment locally all you need is the phone number or email the recipient has registered with their bank. Easy.

Who is it good for?

To make use of Interac firstly you’ll need a bank account at a participating Canadian bank, and a local phone number. Depending on your specific bank you may need to register for Interac before you can make a payment. After that, Interac can suit a broad range of people:

  • Anyone who needs to make a quick CAD payment to friends or family

  • People requesting money to be deposited into their bank in CAD

  • Business owners looking to offer extra payment options to Canadian customers

  • Anyone who wants Interac payments to be instantly deposited into their accounts through the Autodeposit feature

  • CAD account holders who want to send international payments - although cross border Interac services are limited, so you can often find cheaper and more flexible ways to send money overseas. We’ll explore that more later

Can I make an international e-Transfer online?

Yes. You can send payments with Interac to over 75 countries as long as you bank with a participating institution.

You can either send an international Interac payment through their partnership with Mastercard if you bank with National Bank, or using Western Union if your account is at one of a handful of different institutions including BMO. It’s worth noting that the fees involved in these payments will be set by the bank or payment provider, and can include transfer fees, exchange rate markups and third party charges. 

How to send an Interac international payment with Mastercard and National Bank

If you have a National Bank account, with a linked email or phone number, you’ll be able to send international Interac transfers thanks to the Interac partnership with Mastercard. Here’s what to do:

  1. Log into your National Bank online or mobile banking 

  2. Select the account you want to pay from

  3. Select Send Money, then International 

  4. Add the payment details and review the fees and exchange rates available 

  5. Enter the recipient’s destination and banking information

Unlike with local CAD Interac payments you’ll need to have all your recipient’s banking details for overseas payments. Make sure you get these before you make your payment, and do compare the costs against some alternative providers like Wise and OFX to see if you can get a lower fee or better exchange rate. That way you’ll know you’re getting the best available deal whichever provider you choose.

How to send an Interac international payment with Western Union

Interac also works with Western Union - one of the largest international payment providers in the world. With Western Union you’ll be able to send money from your CAD account to be collected in cash by a recipient - even if they’re on the other side of the world. Here’s how:

  1. Log in to your online banking 

  2. Look for Interac e-Transfer and then Western Union money transfers 

  3. Enter the recipient’s information and the payment details

  4. You’ll see a quote so you can review the fees and exchange rates available 

  5. You will receive a MTCN (Money Transfer Control Number) when you confirm the payment

  6. Give the MTCN to the recipient so they can collect their money at a Western Union location

Sending a payment for cash collection can be a good option if you’re sending money to someone who doesn’t have access to a bank account easily. However, it’s often the most expensive payment type because of the amount of labour involved. Compare the costs and rates you’re offered against some alternatives to see what works best for you.

Which banks offer international Interac e-Transfers?

To send a payment with Interac and Mastercard you’ll need to have an account with National Bank. To use the Western Union service you’ll have to bank with one of the following:

  • BMO

  • First Calgary Financial

  • Summerland Credit Union

  • Tandia Financial Credit Union

  • The Energy Credit Union

How much will an international e-Transfer cost?

The fees you pay for an international Interac e-Transfer can vary depending on your own bank, and the exact service you select. You’ll need to double check your bank or credit union’s fees to understand the overall costs. 

Whenever you send money internationally it’s worth looking at 3 potential costs which can creep in:

  • Transfer fees - paid to the provider you choose

  • An exchange rate markup - an extra fee added to the rate you’re quoted

  • Third party costs - like fees deducted by the recipient's own bank

You may find you pay all three of these types of charges when you send a payment through your bank to someone overseas. While the transfer fees can often look low, the exchange rate markup can really push up the costs overall - as well as making the entire pricing structure less transparent.

Banks and money transfer services often use a markup in the region of about 3%. It may not sound like much, but here’s how a 3% margin would mount up over a few different transfer values: 

  • Sending 1,000 CAD - the exchange rate markup adds 30 CAD to the total

  • Sending 5,000 CAD - the exchange rate markup adds 150 CAD to the total

  • Sending 50,000 CAD - the exchange rate markup adds 1,500 CAD to the total

Before you choose to send your payment overseas with Interac, compare a few alternatives like Wise and OFX to see if you can get a lower overall fee and a better exchange rate. Specialist providers like these often support a broad range of countries and currencies, and may well be able to get your payment wherever it needs to be faster and cheaper compared to a bank.

Do Interac e-Transfers have transfer limits?

International Interac e-Transfer limits can vary depending on your own bank and the provider or partnership the payment is arranged through.

How long do international Interac e-Transfers take?

Most international Interac e-Transfers will be deposited into the recipient’s account in 1 - 2 days. However, ultimately the time taken does vary based on where you’re sending money to, the value of the transfer and the recipient’s own bank’s processes.

Conclusion

Interac offers fast and easy payments for anyone paying in CAD from an eligible Canadian bank account. Sending money is as simple as adding your recipient's email or phone number, and the payment could arrive instantly. However, if you’re looking to send money overseas or in a foreign currency, Interac may not be the best option.

Interac international e-Transfers are available through partnerships with Western Union and Mastercard. However to send a payment through the link up with Mastercard you’ll need to hold a National Bank account already - and the selection of banks which support Western Union payments is also fairly limited. Western Union payments can only be collected in cash - which can be fast and handy if your recipient doesn’t have access to a bank account, but which usually pushes up the costs significantly. 

Instead of an international Interac e-Transfer, consider alternative specialist providers like Wise and OFX which offer fast payments to a broad range of countries, with overall fees that can often beat the banks. Payments can be arranged easily online or in a mobile app - making them every bit as easy as Interac, with more flexibility, too.

FAQ

Are Interac e-Transfers safe?

Yes. Interac is a trusted payment process which works alongside major banks, and uses multiple layers of security to keep customers and their money safe.

Can Interac e-Transfers be reversed?

You can not normally reverse an Interac transfer once it has been accepted by the recipient.

Can you make an international Interac e-Transfer?

Yes. You can send Interac payments internationally, but your options are relatively limited. Compare the international Interac services supported by your bank against alternative providers like Wise and OFX to see which suits you best.

Ileana Ionescu
By Ileana Ionescu
Updated December 15, 2022