How to Send Money Internationally: Your Complete Guide 2023
Sending money to someone overseas can be complex and cumbersome - but it doesn’t have to be. This guide covers all you need to know, with a step by step walkthrough of your options, the recipient information needed, the costs of sending payments, and more.
Read on for a full guide to sending money internationally from Canada, through your bank, specialist providers, online services and more.
How to transfer money abroad from Canada
The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can choose to send a payment overseas from Canada. Which one is best for you will depend on personal preference, how you want the money to be collected, where the payment is going, and the currencies involved.
We’ll walk you through a step by step guide to transferring money internationally - however, ultimately the exact detail of what you need to do will depend on the provider you select, and their own individual process. That means you’ll need to double check with the provider to make sure you’ve got everything you need, once you’ve read this overview guide.
Step 1: Choose the method to send money abroad
First of all, you’ll need to decide which method you’ll use to send your payment, before you can do your research to pick the specific provider for your transfer. Here’s a look at the key options, and their pros and cons.
Method 1: Using a money transfer provider
Using a specialist money transfer provider may work out faster, cheaper and more convenient compared to a traditional bank. Many money transfer providers operate online and in-app which means you can get an account and make a payment without needing to leave home. Services like these often avoid the SWIFT network, meaning faster delivery times, lower fees and no hidden intermediary costs.
Steps to send money abroad with money transfer providers
To use a money transfer service you’ll usually need to create an account, and provide some ID for verification. There are many different money transfer services to choose from, so it’s worth comparing a few, like Wise, Remitly or Currencies Direct.
Once your account is all set up, you can make payments online and in the provider app. As an example, here’s how you send money with Wise:
Register or log into your account
Type in how much you want to transfer, or how much you need the recipient to get
Enter the recipient’s details - name and bank account information
Check over the details
Fund your payment using a card, direct debit, online bill payment or Interac e-transfer
Confirm and your money will be on the move
What information do you need?
Most money transfer services will deposit payments into your recipient’s bank account. That means the information needed is the same as for making a payment with a traditional bank (see below for more on this). As always though, check with the specific provider before you get started.
Advantages of sending money with a transfer provider
Normally online or in-app for convenience
Fast delivery times are common
Lower overall fees and better exchange rates compared to many banks
Disadvantages of sending money with a transfer provider
No branch service
Payments normally funded digitally through methods like bank transfer or card only - no cash options
Method 2: With a traditional bank
Turning to your normal bank to help you send a payment overseas may be an obvious choice. Most banks do facilitate international payments online, by phone, or in person. Bank international transfers are usually processed through the SWIFT network, which is reliable and safe - but also slow and expensive. Because several intermediary banks may be involved in processing your payment, extra fees can creep in, too.
Steps to send money abroad with traditional banks
As an example, let’s look at how to send a payment overseas with TD Bank in Canada. You can choose to make your transfer online, in the TD Bank app, or in a branch. Here’s how to do it online:
Register for TD Global Transfer
Enter the details of your payment to get a cost and rate estimate
Choose transfer method - Send to Account
Follow the on-screen instructions to confirm your personal information and add the recipient’s details
Track your transfer online or in-app
What information do you need?
The exact information you’ll need to send a payment with a traditional bank may vary based on the destination, and the individual bank you use - as an example let’s look at what you’ll usually need to transfer with TD Bank:
Recipient’s branch number, institution number and bank address if available
Recipient’s IBAN or account number
Recipient’s bank SWIFT/BIC code
Recipient’s routing code or other country-specific information based on destination
Advantages of sending money with traditional banks
Safe and reliable
Send online or in a branch if you want personal service
Most banks send to a broad range of currencies and countries
Disadvantages of sending money with traditional banks
Fees can be high
Exchange rates may include a markup
Delivery times may not be the best available - TD Bank wire transfers take 3 - 5 working days, for example
Method 3: Sending money with PayPal
PayPal is a super popular provider for all things to do with sending and spending money online. As well as being able to shop with your favourite ecommerce stores you can send money, instantly, to people at home and abroad, using just their email address or phone number. PayPal is very convenient and fast - but for international payments their fees can be quite high, especially when you factor in currency conversion costs.
Steps to send money abroad with PayPal
Log in online or in the PayPal app
Click Send and Request, then Send to friends abroad
Confirm the country or region you’re sending to
Add the delivery method, amount you want to send, and the currency
Select the person you want to send to from your contacts, or enter their email or phone number
Check everything over and click to confirm
What information do you need?
With PayPal you only need the recipient’s phone number or email address, making this a very easy transfer method.
Advantages of sending money with PayPal
Instant transfers at home and abroad
Don’t need the recipient’s bank details
PayPal has a huge user base - so your recipient may well have an account
Disadvantages of sending money with PayPal
Fees are high, and include markups on the exchange rate
You can only send to other PayPal accounts, not bank accounts
Method 4: Cash pick-up
You don’t necessarily need to send money to a bank account - you can also choose to make a transfer which your recipient collects in cash from an office near them. This is a very convenient option for someone who can’t get easy access to a bank account or ATM, and money can often be delivered pretty much instantly. However, fees are often correspondingly high, and exchange rates will include a markup. In Canada, take a look at services like MoneyGram, which operates through the Post Office as well as online and via agent locations, Western Union or Xoom.
Steps to send money abroad using a cash pickup service
To send a payment with a provider like MoneyGram or Western Union you can visit an agent location with a government issued ID, and cash to cover the transfer and fees. Or, you can send money online or in the provider’s app. With MoneyGram you can even start the payment online, and then pay later at your local participating Canada Post Office.
Here are the basic steps:
Log into the provider’s desktop site or open the app
Select the country you want to send to and enter the payment amount
Select the services you require, and check the fees and rates
Follow the prompts to enter the required information
Select payment method, confirm and fund your transfer
You’ll be given a reference number which you can give to the recipient
What information do you need?
For a payment that’s being picked up by the recipient in cash, you’ll just need their name as shown on their government issued ID document. They’ll then take their ID along to an agent near them, along with a reference number which you’ll need to pass with them, to collect their cash.
Advantages of sending money through a cash pick-up service
Many payments are instantly available
Very handy for anyone who can’t access a bank account
Some Canadian providers let you set up transfers in person, and pay in cash
Disadvantages of sending money through a cash pick-up service
High fees usually apply
Exchange rates will include a markup and may vary based on how you arrange the payment
Step 2: Choose a provider
Once you’ve decided which general payment method will work best for you, you need to pick a specific provider. The ways different services work - and particularly, the fees they charge and the exchange rates they offer - vary widely. That means it’s well worth comparing a few before you get started to make sure you get a good deal. Here are some factors to consider:
Does the provider support the currency you need to send?
Does the provider accept your preferred payment method?
What are the fees - including transfer charges and potential third party costs?
How long will it take for the transfer to arrive?
Does the provider use the mid-market exchange rate or add a markup?
What are the transaction limits?
Step 3: Get your recipient’s details
Before you can start, you may be required to set up an account with your preferred provider if it’s the first time you’ve used them. That’s due to legislation in Canada and globally which means financial service providers have to verify customers and their accounts before they can offer services. Usually to set up an account you’ll need to provide, in person or online, one or two pieces of paperwork which confirm:
Your name and financial account - like a bank or card statement
Your name and address - like a utility bill in your name
Your name and date of birth - like a government issued ID
Once your account is set up you need the recipient’s details. If you’re sending to a bank account that’ll probably mean:
Recipient’s IBAN or account number
Recipient’s bank name and address
Recipient’s bank SWIFT/BIC code
For payments to some countries you’ll also need country-specific details, like a routing number for the US. If you’re sending a high value payment you may also need to provide proof of the source of funds.
Step 4: Compare fees
Before you confirm your payment, check over the costs. Sending an international payment may mean paying several different fees:
Exchange rate markup
Third party fees
Often all 3 of these charges apply when you use a traditional bank. Some providers have lower transfer fees, but may still hide extra costs in the exchange rate by adding a markup. Third party fees may be as a result of your transfer being processed via SWIFT, or may be because of a specific funding method - a credit card cash advance for example.
Before you confirm your payment, also double check that the exchange rate you’re seeing is the one you’ll actually receive. For example, if you’re looking at a rate online, but the FX markets have closed, you may find that the exchange rate that’s actually used for your transfer will be whatever is live when the markets next open. Some providers let you lock in a rate for a fixed period of time, to avoid this uncertainty.
How much does it cost to send money internationally?
Let’s look at a worked example covering how a payment of 1,000 CAD to a friend in the US, to be received in USD, would work for a few providers - we’ve included banks, PayPal and a couple of specialist services to give a range of options.
|Sending 1,000 CAD to USD with:||Fee||Exchange rate||Recipient gets|
|Wise||9.06 CAD||1 CAD = 0.740686 USD||733.98 USD|
|OFX||15 CAD||1 CAD = 0.729800 USD||718.85 USD|
|Scotiabank||1.99 CAD||1 CAD = 0.718281 USD||716.85 USD|
|Royal Bank of Canada||10 CAD||1 CAD = 0.717619 USD||710.44 USD|
|PayPal||2.99 CAD||1 CAD = 0.711932 USD||709.80 USD|
*Fees and rates correct at time of research - 22nd September 2022
Wise international transfers come with better rates and lower overall costs compared to the other providers in the table. If Wise supports payments to the country you’re sending to, and you want your transfer to be delivered to a bank account, that’ll probably be the cheaper way to move your money.
Step 5: Send your money in
You’re almost at the final stage - now it’s time to fund your payment. How this works depends very much on the provider you’ve chosen. Online and digital services will usually let you pay with a bank transfer or card. Some specialist services for cash collection payments also have Canadian offices or agents, so you can walk in and pay with cash if you’d rather.
Step 6: Your money is converted and sent out
Once your payment has cleared - this is usually almost instant with card and cash payments - it’ll be converted to the required currency and sent on to your recipient.
If you’re funding your payment with a bank transfer, it may take slightly longer for the money to reach the provider and clear. That’ll really depend on your own bank’s processes - however, most providers can give a delivery time estimate when you set up your payment, and you’ll be able to track the transfer once it’s on the way, too.
Is it possible to cancel an international transfer?
Whether or not you can cancel an international transfer will depend entirely on the payment method and provider you’ve selected. Some banks do allow you to cancel a payment if it’s not already been processed. However, with instant transfers, such as PayPal and payments for cash collection, it’s not normally possible to cancel.
Is it possible to send free international money transfers?
It costs banks and international money transfer services to process overseas payments. That means that there’s always a fee somewhere - it just may not be easy to see. In fact, it’s pretty common to see services with no transfer fee - but in reality, they’ve often just wrapped their costs and profits into the exchange rate they pass on to customers.
One exception to this is if you’ve got a special deal with your specific bank - like being a loyal or high wealth customer - in which case they may offer exclusive access deals which give fee free transfers. Double check with your provider if any services like these are available.
How long does it take to transfer money internationally?
When your payment will arrive depends a lot on the specifics of the transfer. The provider selected, how you pay, which country you’re sending to, and how the money will be received will all make a difference.
If you’ve paid by cash or card, for a cash collection payment, it’ll often be available instantly - even on the other side of the world. Specialist providers can also often offer instant - or at least very fast - transfers to bank accounts. However, traditional banks which rely on the SWIFT network do tend to take longer to process payments - even up to 3 -5 working days for some currencies.
Is it safe to transfer money internationally?
As long as you pick a reputable provider, and take common sense precautions, it is safe to transfer money internationally. Here are a few tips to stay safe:
Check the provider you’re using is properly registered and regulated - good companies show this information prominently on their websites
Make sure you’re sending money to someone you know or a company you trust - scams are common
Double check all details before you confirm a transfer - often they can’t be reversed once they’re on the way
Sending an international payment can seem a bit daunting, but there are plenty of different ways to set up a transfer, which means with a bit of research you’ll find the perfect one for you.
Ultimately, which payment method and provider is the best for you will come down to where you’re sending money, how you want to pay, and how you want the payment to be received. Once you’ve picked a good provider, arranging the transfer is usually pretty straightforward - especially if you follow our step by step guide.
There are plenty of different ways you can send money internationally, including using your own bank, a specialist money transfer service, PayPal or a cash collection provider.
The information needed depends on the payment type. For cash collection you’ll usually just need the recipient’s name. For transfers to a bank you need the recipient’s name and bank details.
Costs for international payments vary widely and can include a transfer fee, exchange rate markup, and third party costs. Use this guide as a starting point to compare a few services and pick the right one for you.
Sending a payment with a bank via SWIFT may take 3 -4 working days. Specialist services can be faster - even offering instant payments in some cases.