How to make an international Interac e-Transfer?


Interac e-Transfers allow individuals with a Canadian bank account and email or mobile phone number to send and receive money without sharing personal financial information. This means you can have someone send you money without needing to hand over your bank details — and to make a payment to a friend or contact, all you need to know is their email or phone number.

If you need to send money to someone overseas, you can also choose to pay using Western Union money transfers via Interac e-Transfer. In this case your recipient can collect their money from a Western Union location in cash, in as little as 30 minutes after you arrange the transfer online. However, there are fees to pay if you choose this payment method — we’ll cover them later.

Read on to learn:

  • What an Interac e-Transfer is exactly
  • How to use Interac e-Transfer to make an international payment
  • Which financial institutions offer international Interac e-Transfer via Western Union money transfers
  • The fees and limits you need to consider when choosing this payment method — and some alternatives if you want to compare the costs with other providers

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What is an Interac e-Transfer and how does it work?

Interac e-Transfer is a way to send and receive money directly from one bank account to another. In many ways it functions in a similar way to a regular bank transfer, but is easier to use because you just need to know the email address or phone number of your recipient — not their full bank details¹.

To send money using e-Transfer, you must have an email address or active mobile phone number, access to online banking, and a bank account in Canada.

Over 250 financial institutions in Canada offer e-Transfers. If your bank is one of them, you can make an e-Transfer via online banking, and your bank and the recipient’s bank then work together to transfer the funds using a secure process.

Why should I use Interac e-Transfer to send money overseas?

Sending money internationally with Interac e-Transfer involves you initiating a payment via your online banking, which is then sent to your recipient for collection in cash at a Western Union location near to them. In many cases, the money will be ready within 30 minutes², making this a convenient option for people who do not have easy access to a bank account, or for urgent payments. However, there are fees and charges to consider if you choose to use this method.

If you’re trying to decide whether to use a Western Union money transfer via Interac e-Transfer, or a regular international bank transfer to make your payment, you’ll need to weigh up the fees carefully. The costs associated with e-Transfers are set out in detail below, and you’ll find the costs of international transfers for your own account in the terms and conditions which are usually available online.

It’s worth noting that international bank transfers are often processed using the SWIFT network. This network involves several banks working together to process an international payment, and these intermediary banks can charge fees, as well as your own bank. These fees are usually not known upfront, so you might not know until too late, that you’ve been charged quite a bit more, than you expected.

To avoid both the fees levied by Western Union, and the SWIFT network, you might consider another provider such as the international payment specialist Wise, who uses a clever network of local bank accounts, to save on international transfer fees — more on that point later.

How do I make an international e-Transfer online?

To make an international transfer via Interac e-Transfer, you’ll need to take the following steps³:

  • Log into your online banking
  • Follow the steps to process the payment
  • Depending on the destination you may need to set a security question for your recipient to answer to get their money
  • You’ll be given a Money Transfer Control Number - MTCN
  • You give the MTCN and the answer to the security question to the recipient
  • The recipient will need to visit a Western Union location near to them to get their money - they need to take a valid ID, the MTCN, and security question information to be given the money
  • The payment is given to the recipient in cash, in most cases in the local currency wherever they are

Who offers international Interac e-Transfers?

At present, international Western Union money transfers via Interac e-Transfer are available from the following institutions³:

  • BMO Bank of Montreal
  • Education Credit Union
  • Energy Credit Union
  • First Calgary Financial
  • Libro Credit Union
  • Summerland Credit Union
  • Tandia Credit Union

How much will an international e-Transfer cost?

The first thing you’ll do when you start to process your international payment with Western Union via Interac is to model the costs and fees. You can then decide to go ahead with the transfer, or find a different provider if the upfront costs — and those added to the exchange rate — don’t look good enough.
Here’s what you need to pay attention to:

Sender Fee

The sender fee and exchange rates used for making an international payment with Western Union via Interac, are confirmed when you model your payment in online banking.

You’ll need to check the exact costs involved with your own bank or credit union — but to get an idea of what you might expect, The Energy Credit Union⁵, Libro Credit Union⁶, BMO Bank of Montreal⁷, and Tandia Credit Union⁸ all list the same sender fee in their terms and conditions: $9 +1% of the amount being remitted.

Exchange rate markup

The other cost you need to consider when making an international payment is any potential fee hidden in the exchange rate used. In the section of their website marked, ‘The Legal Stuff’, First Calgary note that⁴:

“Western Union makes money from currency exchange”

If you’re wondering what that means, the chances are it refers to the Western Union exchange rate markup. This is a common practise among banks and international payment providers, who often take the mid-market rate - that’s the exchange rate you’ll see if you google your currency pairing - and add in a markup, which they keep for themselves. This means that you get a worse exchange rate than you might expect, so your recipient could get less than you think they will. The bad thing about the markups is, that the average person will not understand, that there’s an additional fee there and by carefully comparing rates, they may find a better deal elsewhere.

The best way to check if there’s a markup on the exchange rate offered is to compare rates using an online currency converter, or simply by googling your currency pair.

The good news is that it may be possible to make an international payment with the mid-market exchange rate, if you know where to look. Try the service of Wise for international transfers with the mid-market rate streamed straight from XE and a small upfront fee. There’s no hidden cost to worry about, which means that payments with Wise can work out far cheaper than with other providers, who markup their exchange rates.

Get the mid-market rate for your payments, with Wise

Are there any limits?

Each institution sets their own limits for the daily, weekly and monthly maximum amounts that you can transfer internationally using e-Transfer. You’ll need to confirm with your own institution what the limits on your particular account are.

However, to give you an idea here are some of the limits set by a few of the institutions providing e-Transfers:

Institution Limit
The Energy Credit Union Daily limit: $999.99 Weekly limit: $2,999.97 Monthly limit: $6,999.93⁹
First Calgary Transaction limit $999¹⁰
Libro Credit Union Daily limit: $999.99 Weekly limit: $2,999.93 Monthly limit: $6,999.97¹¹

How long do international Interac e-Transfers take?

Interac say that Western Union money transfers via Interac e-Transfer can take as little as 30 minutes from the point that you arrange the transfer in your online banking. However, the exact length of time taken will depend on where you’re sending money, and will be confirmed when you log into online banking and model the transaction.

If you’re looking for a safe and quick way to make international payments, it’s good to know that there are lots of options out there to choose from. You could use a Western Union money transfers via Interac e-Transfer if you want to have your recipient pick up their money in cash - or take a look at an alternative like Wise if you want to make the payment directly into the recipient’s bank account.

Wise offers the convenience of sending money direct to your recipient’s bank - without keeping the fees and exchange rate a secret. And if you send and receive money regularly, you might be even better off with a Wise account. This account lets you hold your money in CAD, USD, GBP and more, make international transfers using the real mid-market rate, and receive money fee free in major currencies. See if you can save, with a borderless account, today.


All sources checked on 16 December 2018


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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