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Online Money Transfers: All You Need to Know to Get Started

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All you need to know about money transfers
Sarah Badani
Sarah Badani
Dec. 31, 20203 min read
Find out everything you need to know about sending and receiving money transfers online, from making the payments and applying the rates, to receiving the funds quickly and reliably.

If you’ve ever needed to send money to someone, or if you’ve ever needed money sent to you, you know what a hassle it can be. Figuring out how to send the money, finding a location to send the money from, understanding the fees and charges and tracking down a convenient location to receive the money can prove to be a daunting task imaginable.

Money transfer services offer people a fast, convenient, and economical way to send money all over the world. How do money transfers work, what fees can you expect to pay, and when will the money arrive are all questions, you’ll get answers to in the sections below. In the end, you’ll finally have a means for sending money to the people you love when they need it.

How Money Transfers Work

Money transfer services offer consumers different ways to transfer money, and each method comes with various fees and procedures. The broad term given to these transactions is a wire transfer which refers to any type of electronic transfer of money, regardless of destination, payment method, or issuer, though you may hear it referred to as a money transfer as well.

There are different ways to send money, including:

  • Domestic wire transfers (within banks from one branch to another or between different banks)
  • International wire transfers
  • Local bank transfer services like Payoneer, your own bank, or money transfer services like MoneyGram or OFX

Money transfer services are an easy and convenient online method. When sending a money transfer with a service, you can:

  • Drop off cash at a branch location
  • Pay via your mobile wallet
  • Send money from your bank account
  • Send money via your credit or debit card

Depending on the method of choice, various rates will apply. On the receiving end, the recipient can choose to pick up the money transfer in cash on either the same day or a different day, have it directly deposited into their bank account, or have the money sent to their credit card. Obviously, the faster you want to receive the money, the more expensive the transfer will be.

Online money transfers are convenient because you can go on your computer or smartphone, tap a few buttons, and the money is transferred without you having to go anywhere or do practically anything. Online rates are slightly higher than in-store money transfers.

Money Transfer Fees and Rates

One exciting part of using a money transfer service is that it will generally cost you up to 50% less than other methods. This is because fair companies will charge you the daily exchange rate instead of adding markups to their fees. That’s a huge savings and a good reason to opt for this method.

Money transfer fees will vary based on several factors including where you’re sending the money to and from, what transfer method you choose, how fast you want the money to get there, what type of money you’re sending, and more. Some of the fees you should expect to pay include:

  • Service fees for sending money: this can be a percentage fee and/or a flat transaction fee
  • Payment method fee: if you are paying with a credit card or in cash
  • Conversion fee: this fee is charged sometimes to cover the costs of converting from one currency to another

Here is an example of the various pricing structures you can expect to find when sending a money transfer. These prices are quoted from Western Union, so rates and fees may vary based on other service’s terms. This chart shows a typical fee rate for a $250 money transfer within the United States:

Via the website
At a storefront location with cash
Send to a bank account
$.99 from your account (six days to receive)
Same day cash pick up
Next day cash pick up
$12 from your credit card

If you are sending the money out of country, the fees will be altered according to the service's terms. It's important to keep in mind that when you send money via your credit card, the issuer will count it as a cash advance. This means the transaction will incur whatever fees and interest rates a cash advance incurs from that credit card issuer. All of these compounded charges make using a credit card the least popular method for making money transfers. With debit card transfers, you avoid these unnecessary credit card charges.

Transfer Times

How long it takes for the transfer to go through depends on where you are sending the money to and from, what form of money you are sending, and how much you’re willing to pay. Instant transfers that let the recipient pick up cash immediately cost the most, but they’re the fastest. Bank-to-bank transfers can take up to a week depending on the service and their specific terms. 


Locations are a key factor when choosing a money transfer service. The more locations a service has, the easier it will be for you to send the money and receive it on the other end. There is a long list of countries that are available for you to send money to and from, and which countries make the list depends on the money transfer service you choose. Of course, there are some commonly accepted countries across the board. For example, every service you find will let you send money to and from the US, UK, and countries throughout Europe.

Some locations will have fewer services that allow money transfers, but you can still find a service location close by in most cases. Some services, like Western Union, make sending money to developing countries easier by making transfers to these countries faster or cheaper than standard transfers. Some companies, like TransferWise, have dozens of locations around the globe including Australia, Brazil, and Canada.

Still other companies, like MoneyGram, have more than 350,000 branches spread over 200 countries globally. You want to look for a money transfer service that has branches in as many locations around the world as possible, so both the sender and the recipient are likely to find a location right near them, making the task of transferring money a cinch. Western Union even has branches situated within convenient stores and local groceries for added convenience.

How to Find an Online Money Transfer Service

Now that you have a clearer understanding of how money transfers work, it's time to test drive a service. With as many options as are available, it may be hard to find the right one for you. What's more, there are several services that look like legitimate money transfer companies but are really just scams in disguise. Money transfers are an easy way for scammers to steal money because once the transfer goes through, it’s very difficult to reverse the charges and get your money back, like you can with a paper check or credit card charge. So, how do you find a reliable money transfer service online today? There are several things you can do: 

  • Read Online Reviews

While this is not always fool-proof, reading online reviews of money transfer companies can give you a better idea of what type of company you are investigating. Read comments left by real users to get a feel for how the company treats its customers, browse online reviews to see what industry professionals have to say about the service, and notice what type of feedback the company is receiving.

  • Read Through the Terms of Service

A reliable money transfer service will have its terms clearly stated on the website. They’ll be transparent and straightforward with their fee structure, additional charges, and rates.

  • Get More Information and Services

The top money transfer services will not only take your money and send it to where it needs to go. Rather, they’ll offer consumers convenient tools, services, and educational material to help make the process even easier. Currencies Direct, for example, has currency charts, a daily rate checker, and the ability to set up alerts for specific currencies. Services like this show you that the company is not just out to make a quick buck, but there to help you as well.

  • Look for Trust Symbols

Reliable companies will have obvious trust symbols on their websites. Look for write-ups and recommendations from major publications, accolades they may have earned, and security feature symbols on the site. OFX is a great option for seeing this in practice. It has recommendations from CNBC, BBC, Forbes, Money, the Business News Network, and more, TrustPilot reviews, ASX listed, Deloitte approved, Better Business Bureau accreditation, and uses Norton Symantec for secure transactions.

Using a money transfer service has never been easier, thanks to modern technology. Now that you know how it works, you can send money to people who need it faster, easier, and cheaper than ever.

Sarah Badani
Written bySarah Badani

Sarah Badani has extensive research and review experience in the finance industry. With a degree in psychology and education, she brings a level of depth and understanding to her writing along with her own flavor to spice up each topic in a unique and inviting way. She writes for BestMoney and enjoys helping readers make sense of the options on the market.‎

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