Cheapest Ways to Send Money Abroad

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Update:   You can no longer withdraw funds at overseas ATMs with AMEX Bluebird or Serve.

Finding cheap ways to send money abroad can be a challenge.  But there are a few easy options to send or receive funds while you’re traveling internationally.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

Find Out the Best Ways to Send Money Overseas! And Spend Less on Fees!

I’ll show you a few ways to send money internationally.  And how avoid paying fees!

Cheapest Ways to Send Money Abroad

There are lots of reasons why you’d need to send money abroad, like to:

  • Live internationally for a few months
  • Send money to a parent, partner, or child
  • Have local currency
  • Take advantage of great exchange rates
  • Make a large cash purchase
Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

Sending Money Overseas is Easier – and Cheaper – Than Ever Before!

Here are my favorite services!

1.   AMEX Bluebird [Expired]

Link:   AMEX Bluebird

Update:   You can no longer withdraw money from ATMs overseas with AMEX Bluebird or Serve.

AMEX Bluebird is an online-only account with a few great features.  The fees are very low, and even free in most cases!

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

You Can Add up to 4 Family Accounts to AMEX Bluebird

The best way to share funds with other people is to create a family account.  You can add up to 4 others to your account, and everyone gets their own debit card with their name on it.  So you can hand it to them, or mail it.  Keep in mind AMEX Bluebird cards do NOT have a chip embedded in them.

You can set spending limits, and even turn ATM access on and off.  Best of all, when you transfer money from 1 Bluebird account to another, the funds are available within minutes.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

There Are Lots of Ways to Add Money to AMEX Bluebird

You can add funds via:

  • A checking or savings account
  • Debit card
  • Cash reloads
  • Check deposit on the mobile app

According to the monthly limits, you can add up to $10,000 per month.  And spend up to $15,000 per month.

Remember as part of the cash reload limit, you can purchase PIN-enabled gift cards and load Bluebird at Walmart.

Then, you can send funds to anyone who has a family account linked to your account.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

You Won’t Pay Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases With AMEX Bluebird

You can withdraw up to $750 per day.  You can withdraw funds for free at MoneyPass ATMs in the US.  There aren’t MoneyPass ATMs outside the US, so you’ll pay $2.50 to withdraw plus fees charged by the ATM owner.

And keep in mind AMEX Bluebird will NOT work at every ATM.  So be sure to have a backup plan.

AMEX Bluebird cards are accepted everywhere that takes AMEX cards.  And, a great benefit of AMEX Bluebird is NO foreign transaction fees.

AMEX says the people you add to your family account must be US residents.  But some folks report they weren’t asked to verify this when they added their family members.

AMEX Bluebird cards are also eligible for AMEX Offers.

2.   PayPal

Link:   PayPal

Link:   PayPal Business Debit MasterCard

PayPal lets you send money to a friend or family member.  There is an extra fee to send funds to some foreign bank accounts, depending on which country you want to send them to, and whether you use a bank account, or debit/credit card to initiate the transfer.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

You’ll Pay 0% to ~6+% to Send Funds Via PayPal Outside the US, Depending on Which Type of Account You Use for the Transfer and Where You Want to Send Money

In total, you’ll pay 0% to ~6+% of the amount you send via PayPal to an overseas account.

It’s free if you send from your PayPal balance or bank account, otherwise 2.9% (or more) + 30 cents for debit/credit funded transactions.  PayPal will tell you if you’ll be charged a percentage fee for transferring money to someone with a foreign PayPal account.

PayPal is handy because you can use a bank account you already have.  And you can add several different accounts to PayPal.  Because of the fees involved, this is a good option for the occasional traveler.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

A PayPal Business Debit MasterCard Is a Great Way to Spend or Withdraw Cash Overseas

If you open a PayPal Business Debit MasterCard, PayPal will send you a debit card that links to your PayPal account.  And, you can add authorized users!  So others can access funds you add to your PayPal account.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

ATM Fees on the PayPal Debit Card Are Very Low, and the Foreign Transaction Fee Is Canceled Out. Though You Still May Have to Pay a Fee to the ATM Owner.

The foreign transaction fee for the card is 1%.  But, it earns 1% cash back on every signature purchase.  So the foreign transaction fee will be canceled out.

It costs $1.50 to withdraw cash from a foreign ATM, plus a 1% foreign transaction fee, and whatever the ATM owner charges.  It’s not free, but not very expensive, either!

So a $400 withdrawal will cost $4 in foreign transaction fees + $1.50 from PayPal + whatever the ATM owner charges.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

The PayPal Business Debit MasterCard Has a Spending Limit of $3,000 per Day

You can spend $3,000 a day on purchases.  And withdraw $400 a day from ATMs.

Sometimes, when sending money to a foreign bank account, banks have fraud alerts after a certain amount of funds are received.  In that case, the person receiving money will have to call PayPal to verify their details and identity.  PayPal will send a link with information to fill out such as an image of the receiver’s passport.

It doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s something to be aware of!

Again, this is a great option if you travel a few times a year.  Otherwise, you might consider opening a regular bank account or an AMEX Bluebird account.

3.   TransferWise

Link:   TransferWise

TransferWise is a great option for sending money to foreign bank accounts.

You can send funds through your US bank account and/or debit card.  But you can only send money abroad.  So this is a good option if you or the person you transfer to already has an international bank account.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

TransferWise Has Low Rates When You Transfer to an Overseas Account

The fee you’re charged depends on how much you want to send and to which country you want to transfer funds.

This is an excellent choice for quick transfers if you or the person you transfer money to are already overseas!

Because the transfer fees are ~1%, and you can earn 1% cash back with the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard, it might sound like a way to get free money transfers.

But wait!  PayPal says:

Transactions that are not eligible for cash back include: purchases that require your PIN and cash withdrawals.

And according to TransferWise:

In some cases your bank may treat the credit card payment as a cash withdrawal and charge a fee.  It is not possible for us to check on our end whether this will happen, so please check with your card provider if you have any concerns before making the payment.

You’ll only earn 1% cash back on purchases with the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard, so it’s not a good card to send cash with, unless you want to use the balance in your PayPal account.

4.   Charles Schwab Checking Account

Link:   Charles Schwab Checking Account

Link:   My Review of the Charles Schwab Checking Account

One of the best free checking accounts for free ATM use is the Charles Schwab Checking Account.  Check out my review of the account.

You can add an authorized user, and they can access money from any ATM wherever they happen to be.  So this is a very flexible option, and 1 worth considering if you or a loved one travels often.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

Unlimited Worldwide ATM Use? Yes, Please!

That’s because you’ll get free, unlimited use of ANY ATM worldwide.  And NO foreign transaction fees on purchases!  Now that’s a great deal!

There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though.

First, you may receive a hard inquiry on your credit report when you open this account, which can cause your credit score to temporarily dip.

And 2nd, you’ll also have to open a Charles Schwab investment account.  But, it’s free and you do NOT have to use it.

Also note that the fee rebates are applied to your account once per month, when your statement closes.

Other than those few things, this is a stellar account for using internationally!

5.   Western Union

Link:   Western Union

One of the most well-known services for sending money is Western Union.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

Western Union Is Reliable for Unforeseen Events, but Not Much Else

It’s also 1 of the most expensive options.

Cheapest Ways To Send Money Abroad

Expect to Pay More With Western Union, but It Can Be a Lifesaver

You’ll pay a fee based on:

  • How much you want to send
  • How you send it (bank account or debit card)
  • Which country you want to send funds to
  • How fast you want the other person to receive the funds
  • Whether you send online or in-person

There are lots of variable fees with Western Union.  But, if you or someone you know is having an emergency, it can be a quick, reliable option.  Just expect to pay more for a quick transfer!

Do NOT Do This

If at all possible, avoid sending cash in the mail.

It can be stolen, lost, held up at customs, or delayed in other ways.  Aside from the tracking number you get from the carrier, there is no other way to know where the money is or who actually received it.

This is a risky way to send cash, so avoid it if you can!

Bottom Line

If you need to send money abroad, either to yourself or to someone else, you can use:

Each service has their best uses, and ideal scenarios.  Be sure to check each 1 and run the numbers depending on where you want to go, and how often you travel.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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7 responses to “Cheapest Ways to Send Money Abroad

  1. It sounds like Charles Schwab is hard to beat. But we shouldn’t abuse the rebate feature, otherwise our accounts may get shut down

  2. Thanks, nice information. It would be very useful to know how each option determines the exchange rate that you are getting, as this can vary wildly and end up costing much more than the small transaction fees.

  3. “Remember as part of the cash reload limit, you can purchase PIN-enabled gift cards and load Bluebird at Walmart or Target.”

    You can load BLUEbird at Target? Is that correct? Or an error?

  4. How about the reverse? Send money from abroad to the US? I have a rental property in Mexico and I am looking for the cheapest way to send the MXN to the US in USD. Do you have a suggestion? Thanks 🙂

  5. @Aidan A – The rebate is unlimited, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

    @kenny – The fee varies based on what country you’re sending money to. It’s worth it to check each option if there’s a place where you frequently transfer money to!

    @Brian – That was an error. I’ve updated the post. Thanks for catching it!

    @Daniel – These options should work in reverse, too. I’ll check!

  6. Transferwise is the best!! Uses the market rate and very very low fees. I used their app to send my AUD to USD and the rate was always great. You can even set a minimum limit. I used to use Paypal as they have low fees as well (2%), but I noticed the exchange rate was a few percentages lower than the normal rate.

    To get your first transfer fee-free use: transferwise.com/u/6069b 🙂

  7. Transferwise is the best!! Uses the market rate and very very low fees. I used their app to send my AUD to USD and the rate was always great. You can even set a minimum limit. I used to use Paypal as they have low fees as well (2%), but I noticed the exchange rate was a few percentages lower than the normal rate.

    To get your first transfer fee-free use: https://transferwise.com/u/6069b 🙂