How to transfer foreign currency?

Canada By Mitchell Steiman June 9, 2021

There are many reasons why you might need to send money internationally, from buying a property in another country to sending funds to support your family back home. But foreign currency transfer is different than paying your friend back for lunch using an app on your phone or transferring funds from one of your bank accounts to the other. A lot goes into sending money overseas, and we’re here to provide you with the tools and resources you need to get your money where it needs to go.

There are many options to choose from when making an international money transfer, but in this blog, we look at two of the most common methods: bank transfers and money transfer services.

Sending money overseas with your bank

Most banks offer international money transfer options. Here are the things you should know before choosing to initiate an international money transfer with your bank:

Banks use SWIFT transfers

When sending money internationally using your bank, you will need to know your recipient’s SWIFT/BIC code.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is an organization that establishes processes and standards for international money transfers. SWIFT serves as a universal way to send and receive money internationally and connects more than 10,000 financial institutions around the world!

SWIFT works similarly to an airline, but for your funds. Because there is no direct route between all international banks, the funds need to go through many stops along the way. These stops are called intermediary banks and they send the transfer orders between different institutions using SWIFT codes. The SWIFT network also uses International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN) and Bank Identifier Codes (BIC). Transferring money through the SWIFT network can take up to five business days, depending on how many stops your money needs to make.

Consider exchange rates

One thing to consider when dealing with foreign currency transfer is that your local bank will have to convert your currency into foreign currency to be able to transfer it. Different banks may use different exchange rates and they may have different policies regarding exchange rates when initiating international transfers.

Different send methods have different fees

Even though you are transferring funds through your bank, different methods may have different fees. For example, Royal Bank charges 6 CAD for Canadian money transfers of $1000 or less but charges more for transfers over $1000. It’s worth researching to see if your bank charges different transfer fees for in-person and online money transfers.

Prepare your transfer

Lastly, if you are sending money internationally through your bank, you will want to make sure you have all the required information. The information you will need may vary by your bank, but will likely include:

  • The SWIFT code of the recipient’s bank
  • The recipient’s full name
  • The recipient’s bank information (bank name and branch location)

You may also need to verify your own identity by providing:

  • A government-issued ID (like your Canadian driver’s license or passport)
  • Proof of address
  • The reason for the transfer
  • Proof that you own the bank account or debit card that you’re using to pay for the transfer

Sending money overseas with a money transfer service

International money transfers aren’t just available at banks. Another option is using a money transfer service like Western Union. Here are some things to consider before choosing this method for sending money.

Money transfer services can cost less than bank fees

Bank fees can range and depend on where you are sending money to and the exact policies of a specific bank. On the other hand, some money transfer services utilize a flat rate, no matter where the transfer is going. Meanwhile, some money exchange transfer services, like Western Union, have options that make overseas transfers more affordable.

You don’t need an account with a specific bank

One of the drawbacks of using a bank for an overseas money transfer is that you need a bank at that institution to initiate the transfer. This means that your options may be limited because you are captive to the bank’s requirements and fees.

With money transfer services, all you need to do is make an account and connect your bank account. You can have a bank account at a different financial organization, as can your recipient. Some money transfer services also offer ways for you to send money internationally without a bank account at all. You can visit a Western Union agent location, pay in cash, and your receiver can get the funds in the payout method that is most convenient for them.

They can be faster than a bank

With a money transfer service, you can send money in a flash with several options. In some locations, you may be able to initiate a same-day cash pickup. You can also save your recipient’s information so you can send money even faster next time.

How to send money overseas using a money transfer service

Sending money using a money transfer service will vary depending on the service provider you send with. When you send money internationally with Western Union, there are just a few steps:

  • Create and verify your free account. You can register online in just a few minutes and verify your profile with your passport or Canadian driver’s license.
  • Choose a destination and input the amount. You can send money to billions of bank account around the world.
  • Enter your receiver’s details. To send money to a bank account, simply enter your receiver’s details including their name and address and bank account details. If you’ve sent to the same receiver before, their details are automatically saved.
  • Select your preferred payment method. You can pay for your transfer via debit or credit card, or bank transfer.
  • Your money is on its way! Depending on the method chosen, it can arrive in as fast as a few minutes.

Which foreign currency transfer option is right for you?

As you can see, you have a few options when making an international money transfer. Choosing the right option will depend on your needs.

Using a bank to initiate an international money transfer is great if:

  • You have all the relevant information, including your recipient’s SWIFT code
  • You have an account at that particular bank
  • You know all the transfer fees upfront
  • You know the exchange rates upfront

Using a money transfer service to send money internationally is great if:

  • You want more options when it comes to how to send money (online, in-person, on an app, etc.)
  • You send to the same recipients frequently (their details are saved)
  • You want to set up automatic transfers
  • The fees are lower with your transfer
  • You don’t have an account with a particular bank, or don’t want to use their transfer service.

Whether you choose to use your bank or a money transfer service to send funds depends on your needs. Banks offer consistent options, but often come with hidden fees and aren’t set up for repeated transfers. Money transfer services make it easy to send to the same receivers and you have more flexibility with how you send funds.

Send money easily to bank accounts around the world

Knowing about foreign currency transfer will make you feel confident in sending money overseas, whether you’re sending money to your loved ones back home, buying goods and services abroad, or paying international bills.

The next time you need to send money from Canada, Western Union can help. With convenient ways to send money online, with the app, or from hundreds of thousands of agent locations worldwide, we make money transfer convenient.

Ready to send money quickly and with ease? Simply add the details of your transfer in the online send money form and we’ll provide everything you need to know to complete your transfer.

Send money with the Western Union mobile app

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