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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4. Charles Schwab Checking 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.
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.
It’s also 1 of the most expensive options.
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!
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.