Money transfer services: The lowdown

Samuel Clennett

Sending money from Australia overseas used to be surprisingly difficult – and expensive. Actually, it still is in a lot of cases, especially if you use a bank. But these days, it doesn’t have to be.

Simply put, that’s because of specialist money transfer services. This article will give you the lowdown on what they are, what they do, and how they could save you time and money.

What is a money transfer service?

In a nutshell, a money transfer service is anything that gets your money from one place to another. Banks have long offered that sort of service. However, there are other, more specialist international companies that do that as well – and they’re the ones we’re mainly talking about here.

Unlike banks, these specialist money transfer providers devote most of their energy to optimizing international transfers, which means the process is usually both cheaper and quicker – not to mention less hassle – than it is if you use a bank.

Specialist money transfer service providers have existed for ages – Western Union and MoneyGram are examples of long-established services that are still going today. But in recent years, a lot of new companies have emerged, harnessing the power of technology to make things even easier.

These days, you can even use mobile money transfer services, sending money across the globe with just a few taps of your phone. And, again thanks to technology, your money can often make it to its destination very quickly, rather than taking days or even weeks.

So, then. What are the best options for money transfer services out of Australia? Let’s take a look at a few of the leading contenders.

A few examples of money transfer services

The best international money transfer service for you depends on a range of factors, including how much you’re sending, how you choose to pay, and of course where you’re sending to. The best money to India transfer service, for instance, might be different from the best service sending to New Zealand. And there are so many options out there that we couldn’t provide you with a definitive list.

But below, we’ve compared 4 online money transfer services set up in the last couple of decades, that’ll give you an idea of what the movers and shakers are up to in the industry these days.

Before you take a look, here are some of the key questions you need to be asking yourself when you select a money transfer service:

  • Which countries does the service send money to?
  • How long will the transfer take?
  • What exchange rate will I get? Is it the mid-market rate, or is it marked up at a margin?
  • What other fees are there?
  • Are there notable maximum or minimum transfer amounts?
Transfer timeSame day or 1-2 working days¹Same day “in most cases”³Usually minutes if you use a card (Express), or 3-5 business days (Economy)⁵Varies depending on destination – can be same day⁸
Exchange rateMid-market rate with margin added²Mid-market rate with margin of between 0.50% and 0.15%³Mid-market rate plus likely margin⁶Mid-market rate with no margin⁹
FeesNo other feesNo other feesVariable based on transfer amount and currency⁷Low percentage cost based on transfer amount. Varies by currency¹⁰
Currencies available from AUDSend AUD to 45 currencies listed online¹24 online and others available via phone³50 online with several more coming soon⁴Over 100⁹
Other features includePersonal account manager, business servicesLower exchange rate markup offered for high-value transfers: 0.25% above $750k, 0.15% above $7.5m³Exchange rate locked in when you order transfer⁶Borderless account with multi-currency Mastercard, business services
Notes Minimum transfer amount $2,000³Emphasis on sending to countries in South America, Africa and Asia

As you can see from this table, there are a variety of different approaches that transfer services take. Some, like WorldFirst, target only higher-value transfers, while some, like Remitly, focus on particular parts of the world rather than others. And certain providers offer additional services, for instance for businesses.

But the key figure you want to keep your eyes on is the overall cost, including both the exchange rate and any fixed fees. The exchange rate might sound like a minor detail, but in fact it can affect the cost just as much as – or more than – separate fees.

To compare some more providers, check out Wise’s comparison table, which looks at various specialist providers as well as a few banks.

Money transfer services vs your bank

The 4 options discussed above all have their own specific features, but how do they compare to the banks?

Just like the specialists, of course, different banks provide different services. Most often, however, a majority of banks will use the same method to send funds overseas: the SWIFT network. This is an international system that connects banks to each other – sometimes directly, but sometimes via “intermediary” or “correspondent” banks that form a chain between your bank and the recipient’s.

There are 3 potential problems with that system. First of all, because so many different banks might end up involved in the transfer, the process can take quite a while to complete, leaving your recipient short of funds for longer than really seems necessary.

Secondly, and maybe even worse, is the question of fees within a SWIFT transfer. Any or all of the intermediary banks might charge a fee – even though it’s very tough to find out exactly what these fees are before you make the transfer. Even your bank might not know exactly what it’ll end up costing. The fees will just come out of your transfer amount, meaning that less money makes it through to its destination.

Thirdly, there’s the exchange rate to consider. Your own bank isn’t always responsible for the exchange rate used for the transfer, and because the process can take days it can be difficult to predict what rate you’ll actually end up getting.

All that said, the SWIFT network undoubtedly made a difficult process somewhat easier, and is able to handle a huge range of international transactions. But these days, there are often other options, and specialist money transfer providers are better able than many banks to take advantage of them.

A simple alternative: Wise

Wise, for instance, uses a system of interlinked local bank accounts around the world, so that the SWIFT network often isn’t involved at all. And it always provides the real mid-market exchange rate to its customers, so you’ll always have clarity about the full cost of your transfer from before you commit to it.

For anyone who often travels abroad or who sends or receives money internationally, a borderless account from Wise can help further still. For no monthly fee, it gives you a place to hold your money in 40+ international currencies, and you even get virtual account details in Australian, New Zealand and US dollars, British pounds and euros – so you can receive money in those currencies just like a local. You get a debit Mastercard too, reducing the cost of spending while abroad even further.

Conclusion: Money transfer services

There have never been more options for you to send your money abroad. While that’s great news for you, it does mean that you have to do a little bit of shopping around to find the best deal. A little bit of research could save you a lot of money.

Good luck in finding the best money transfer service for you, and keep your eyes peeled for hidden fees.


  1. TorFX
  2. TorFX Margin
  3. Worldfirst
  4. Remitly
  5. Remitly help
  6. Remitly pricing
  7. Remitly pricing 2, Remitly pricing 3
  8. Wise help
  9. Wise Comparison
  10. Wise Pricing

Sources accurate as of 2 December 2019

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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