How to send money internationally from Canada


How to send money internationally from Canada

If you’re send money from Canada, whether for work, leisure or family reasons, you have plenty of different ways to do it. But they’re not all the same.

Your first thought might be to use your bank to send out a wire transfer. That’s long been a popular option. But there are plenty of other companies that offer this service, and it might be possible to save money by using one of them. So before you commit, you should be sure to do a little research and compare a few different options. That doesn’t just mean comparing the fixed fees that services say they charge - you have to compare the exchange rate too because that can make just as big a difference to the real cost of your transfer. Use an online currency converter that uses the mid-market exchange rate, in order to find out how much your money is actually worth in the foreign currency.

A quick example:

Sending C$1,000 from Canada to a euro bank account in Germany via online bank transfer with Scotiabank, one of Canada’s largest banks, or via Wise. Wise charges slightly different fees depending on how you send the money to Wise, in this example we have used the fee for the direct debit payment method.

ProviderFeesExchange RateTotal Cost
Scotiabank (via Western Union)C$9 + 1% of the total amount1Exchange rate + markupC$19 + Exchange rate markup1
WiseC$6.69 + C$2.74 for direct debit of fundsThe real exchange rate you see on GoogleC$9.43

Sending money to or from Canada? Wise could save you up to 8x versus your bank

Before you get started, a word.

Banks and money transfer providers often give you a bad exchange rate to make extra profits.

Wise is different. Its smart new technology skips hefty international transfer fees by connecting local bank accounts all around the world. Which means you can save up to 8x by using Wise rather than your bank when you send your money abroad.

Check out how to make your first transfer with Wise. And give it a try.

Oh, and while you’re at it, check out Wise’s borderless multi-currency account. Where you can manage and send dozens of currencies all from the same account. You can also get the Wise multi-currency debit card, which you can use to pay for goods and services all over the world.

Now, back to what you came here to read.

Option 1: Choose an alternative transfer service

As you might notice from the example above, if you make an international transfer with Scotiabank online you’ll actually end up using Western Union - Scotiabank uses Western Union to make these international transfers. This is not always the case with banks - many do have their own bespoke systems - but it shows just how common it is to use alternative transfer services, especially if you want to make the transfer online.

Some companies like Western Union and MoneyGram have been offering this service for many years, but many others like PayPal and Wise have taken advantage of recent advances in technology, to speed your transfer up and - potentially - allow you to keep more of your money.

Inevitably, with so much competition, there are lots of different fee structures. Some services offer ‘zero fees’ or ‘no commission’ on their transfers, for example. You should always take notice if you see this, though: there is bound to be a fee somewhere. Often, you’ll end up being charged through the exchange rate you’re offered: if the company converts your money at a worse rate than they have to, they effectively make money through the transfer that way.

A different approach is taken by Wise, which only ever converts money at the mid-market exchange rate - the rate you’ll find on Google and other online currency converters. Using that rate means that there can’t be any hidden exchange rate fees in the transfer at all. The only fee Wise charges is a small percentage cost, always stated upfront, so there are no nasty surprises and you’ll know exactly how much money you’re paying, and how much will be received. And yes, it frequently does work out a lot cheaper than using a bank. Wise can be one of the cheapest ways to send money abroad.

Take a look and see if you could save on your transfer.

Option 2: Make an international bank transfer online

You can still make your transfer online through a bank if your bank offers that service. If you want to do it online, both Scotiabank and Bank of Montreal only let you transfer internationally via Western Union - they don’t offer their own internal service. 2,3 The three other banks that make up Canada’s ‘Big 5’ - RBC, TD Bank and CIBC - do all offer their own services for international transfers.4,5,6

Here’s a quick guide to how to make an online international transfer via your Canadian bank.

  1. Check who’s actually offering you the service. If you want to make the transfer via your bank, do make sure whether they’re actually going to do it for you, or if they’ll just get Western Union to do it for them. Besides not necessarily being the service you actually want, this could be inefficient if Western Union ends up sending the money in cash to an agent location, rather than transferring it directly to a bank account.
  2. Log in online or use your mobile app. Log in to your bank’s website or mobile app and find their section on international money transfers.
  3. Recipient details. Fill in the bank details for the person you’re sending money to. Most often, the transfer will be a SWIFT transfer. For that, you’ll need their name, address and IBAN, and their bank’s name, address and BIC/SWIFT code.
  4. Amount and currencies. Enter how much you want to transfer, and specify which currency you want to use. Make sure you know what currency your recipient’s bank account is in - that’s probably the best currency to choose. Using that currency would likely end up being cheaper than setting the transfer up in Canadian dollars.
  5. Research fees and exchange rates. Before sending, make sure you see a quote saying how much it’ll cost. Check both flat fees and the exchange rate. Always check how much the recipient will actually receive into their bank account, this way you can do your own calculations and see if there are any hidden fees which you aren’t being told about. Take a look at how long the transfer should take, too.
  6. If everything looks good to you, hit send and your transfer should be on its way.

Option 3: Make an international bank transfer in person

Perhaps you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way and make the transfer in person, at a branch of your bank’s. No problem - so long as you check the costs. Go in with some idea of what the transfer should cost you, to make sure you don’t end up paying more than you’re comfortable with. This is what to do once you’re there.

  1. Find your nearest branch. Remember your bank details, and head out to your local bank branch. Remember to take your recipient’s bank details, too.
  2. Decide the amount and currencies. Talk to a bank teller, and give them the amount you want to transfer, what currency you want to use, and where the money has to go. Be sure to know what currency to use.
  3. Check the costs. Ask for a quote before saying yes, and make sure you’re happy with the fees - and that includes the exchange rate. Be aware that sometimes there might be an extra fee for processing the transaction in a branch as opposed to online.
  4. Give them the necessary details and pay them the money.

Whichever of these three options best appeals to you, good luck in transferring your money out of Canada. Just make sure not to fall for that ‘zero fees’ trick - find out what your transfer really costs before agreeing to it.


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