Money transfer services: An introduction
Money transfer services are becoming more and more essential for our daily live.
If you are working overseas and you want to send money anywhere in the world, including the Middle East and African countries, the last thing you want is to have to put up with technological glitches, delays, and other restrictions.
Furthermore, it is important that you get more for your money without it being swallowed up by high fees. E.g. read this New York Times article "The Best Way to Transfer Money Internationally? Avoid Bad Rates."
Despite recent technological advances, the cost of transferring money to Africa remains extremely expensive, with fees often surpassing 9%. However, sending money abroad doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. With the right online money transfer provider, you can even save a fortune on remittance fees.
This article provides plenty of helpful information to help you choose from some of the best methods to make online money transfers hassle-free. Get access to the latest technology available with some popular financial apps just waiting for you to download.
I. Money transfer services with established money transfer operators
1. Western Union
To begin with, there are the traditional financial services providers who can help you to send your money online. These include the big names like Western Union, who are one of the most well-established international communications companies based in the United States.
Western Union is one of the largest and oldest money transfer providers worldwide. The service allows people to send and receive money at more than 550,000 agent locations in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. The money transfer provider has a network of 39,000 agent locations in 49 African countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Guinea, Tanzania, and Senegal to name a few.
The provider offers more flexible services to its vast range of customers when compared to other money transfer providers. In addition to the agent locations, Western Union offers its services through a variety of channels including bank accounts, mobile wallets, ATMs and post offices making sending and receiving money quick and convenient.
With Western Union, you can choose to transfer funds to Africa in person or online using the provider’s website or mobile app. Payments can be made with cash at an agent, directly from a bank account, with a credit or debit card or with Apple Pay. Worth mentioning is that transferring money to a mobile wallet and qualifying bank account is only available in select countries.
Fees and foreign exchange rates often vary depending on the channel and location. Transfer fees for funds up to £1,000 ranges from £0 to £95 but the money transfer provider’s rate markups range from less than 1% to 10%. These fees may be less when a person transfers money regularly using the WU app and pays at a participating Western Union agent location.
The money transfer limits also vary depending on the service the sender chooses, their transfer history, the sender and recipient’s location, and payout and payment methods. The provider’s website generally limits the transfer of funds above £7,500.
With Western Union, same day delivery is possible when you send money using debit or credit card, pay cash in person or have transfers sent to pickup locations. However, this may cost you more. Transfer to bank accounts is a cheaper option but can take over a week for funds to reach the recipient. The date of delivery will be made available for transfers over £15. It’s important to note that funds may be delayed depending on certain factors including the delivery option selected, the amount sent, currency availability, destination country, agent location hours and regulatory issues.
In terms of customer service, Western Union delivers exceptional customer experience. They offer 24/7 customer service via phone and you can also reach them by live chat, email or snail mail. A huge downside to their customer support is that the FAQ section isn’t easily discoverable or thorough.
What Western Union Can Offer You
- Money transfer services to 200 plus countries
- You can send money to a bank account or a phone
- They have 500,000 plus agent locations to collect money
Where Western Union shines:
• Transfers to destination countries not offered by other providers
• Wide range of payment and delivery options
• In many cases, the recipient is able to access funds within minutes
• Exchange rates are slightly better than those offered by major banks
Where Western Union falls short:
• Costs tend to be higher than average
Similarly, money transfer services are also provided by big players like Walmart with their Moneygram business. You can make online money transfers and your recipient[s] can collect the monies from one of Walmart's approved agents.
If you choose this option, however, you need to be aware of the hours of business that agents near to your recipient operate within, in order to avoid inconvenience.
What Walmart Moneygram Can Offer You
- Low transfer fees
- Online money transfer services
- Local, approved agents are available
- Hours of business of local agents may vary
Since its inception in 1999, PayPal has played a significant role in the e-commerce sector. With this electronic commerce company, you can shop online, make and receive payments if you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer and send cash to friends and family across the world.
PayPal account holders can send and receive money in over 20 currencies across more than 200 countries. The service is also available in several African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Chad to mention a few.
While PayPal is great for sending money to friends and family living in your country, it isn’t the best way to send money internationally. PayPal does not charge fees on domestic money transfers but it does charge a fee on international money transfers. The transfer fees depend on where you’re sending money to, how much you are sending and how you pay for the transfer.
PayPal transfer costs are quite high when compared to other money transfer providers on this list. Funding with a bank account is relatively affordable and you may be charged £4.99 or less regardless of how much you send. Transferring funds using a card carries high fees – you can pay £90 to transfer £2,999 to a PayPal account holder who hasn’t filled out basic information on their profile and hasn‘t verified essential information with PayPal.
There’s also a hefty margin on the exchange rate. Like banks, PayPal charges a currency conversion fee that’s above the wholesale exchange rate. The rates vary and can range between 3% and 4% depending on the currency that you’re buying. Your credit card provider can also tack on extra fees such as cash advance and interest fees.
Generally, PayPal charges high markups - 1% to 3% above the mid-market rate. Depending on the currency, you may incur costs at least 2.5% of the transaction amount and in some extreme cases up to 10% including both payment and currency conversion fees.
One upside to PayPal is that it is fast. Funds can arrive within minutes even transfers made with bank accounts which usually take days with some competitors. Like with other money transfer providers on this list, you can send money through PayPal’s website and mobile app and pay with a credit card, debit card or bank account. In addition to being fast, the service offers high transfer limits for verified accounts - up to £25,000 per day.
Where PayPal shines:
• A variety of delivery options
• Same-day delivery to many African countries
Where PayPal falls short:
• Costs are generally higher than competitors’
• Lacks some support channels like live chat support
II. Money transfer services by mobile phones and apps
While all of these methods are perfectly okay, you don't want to miss out on taking advantage of the improvements in phone app technology that make money transfer services convenient and straightforward.
Essentially, if you have a phone the world can become just that bit smaller and more manageable whenever you want to transfer your money.
Money transfer services have surged forward into the 21st century, with the development of some brilliant apps that can make your life less complicated, at least as far as transferring money is concerned.
It doesn't matter where you are working in the world, anytime day or night, money transfer services apps can get your hard earned money transferred to whoever, whenever and wherever in super quick time.
To help you get started, here are some of the most popular money transfer services phone apps available today.
If you want to start transferring your money with ease, backed up with the peace of mind of first-class inbuilt security and reliability, then read on to see the great benefits waiting for you and download one of these apps today.
WorldRemit is an online money transfer service that delivers to more than 140 countries across the world. Of the 140 countries, users can send money to 41 African countries including Burundi, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique, and South Africa.
The service heavily focuses on money transfers via computer and mobile devices, on the sending side the service in 100% cashless. In fact, a third of the company’s transfers are received on mobile phones making it one of the leading remittances senders to mobile wallets worldwide. Sending and receiving money is simple and seamless and you can find clear and self-explanatory instructions on the website as well as the mobile app.
The money transfer provider offers the flexibility of paying with a debit or credit card or from your bank account. You can also pay via Android or Apple Pay. The recipient can receive the funds as mobile wallet deposit, in their bank account or pick it up as cash from one of the 30,000+ agent locations worldwide.
The biggest advantage of WorldRemit is cost. It is one of the cheapest international money transfer services on this list. Like other online money transfer providers, the fee you pay to send money to any African country depends on the amount you send, the recipient’s country and how the recipient will receive the money. The provider’s markup is less than 1% and you can expect to pay less than $4 for a bank deposit of $1,000 to an African country.
Another competitive advantage for WorldRemit is speed. Most transfers arrive almost instantly. Some take longer depending on the type of transfer and how you paid for the funds. For example, card transfers may take longer due to card authorization. If you choose bank transfers, it can take from between 24 hours to five days depending on which banks are involved.
The minimum transfer amount is $0 and the maximum transfer amount is $5,000. However, the maximum transfer limit for funds sent through credit or debit card is $2,000.
Where WorldRemit shines:
- Large range of destinations
- Competitive exchange rate
- Fast money transfer services
- No minimum transfer amount
- Quick download available for iPhone and Android devices
Where WorldRemit falls short:
• Maximum amounts apply when sending
• Transfer charges increase as the amount goes up
- This UK based company offers online remittance services to more than 200 countries around the world 40 of which are African countries. Azimo’s website and mobile apps allow you to transfer funds conveniently from anywhere and anytime. You can pay for the transfer with your credit or debit card, through a bank account or with an online direct payment method such as SOFORT. Recipients can receive the funds through their bank accounts, mobile phones or any of the Azimo pick-up locations.
Sending money using Azimo is easy. To get started, you need to set up an account with the money transfer provider. Then choose a country, method of delivery and enter the recipient’s name. Choose the amount you’d like to transfer and pay with bank transfer or debit/credit card. Check all the details provided then confirm the payment. Most transfers are completed in less than 24 hours. Instant cash delivery is only available in 50 countries.
Azimo’s pricing is cheaper than your average high-street bank and other money transfer providers in terms of fees and foreign exchange rates. The first two transfers are fee-free. The other international money transfer costs can be as low as £1 depending on how much money you’re sending, where you’re sending the funds and the method you send the money with. But no matter what, you can expect low rates – in most cases up to 90% lower than banks and other money transfer providers.
Where Azimo shines:
No transfer limits
- Considerably cheaper than most money transfer providers
- An award winning money transfer services app
- No recipient details? No problem - send money just using a phone number
- Take advantage of up to the minute biometric security
- Your first money transfer is 100% free
- Great customer support
- You can track all your money transfers
- Leading provider for remittances to African countries from Europe!
Where Azimo falls short:
• Mobile wallet transfers are available in a few select countries
• Transfers can take up to two business days or longer to arrive.
This online peer-to-peer currency exchange service helps Africans receive funds via an online portal just like Worldremit. The company, which has its main office in Ireland, also has offices in the UK, Newcastle, Australia, NSW, and Singapore. It offers its money transfer service in 19 major currencies.
On CurrencyFair, money never crosses the border, which eliminates costly money exchange fees. When customers have one currency but need it in another, they will be matched with someone who has a need for your currency.
On CurrencyFair, customers are matched with someone immediately using the Auto-Transaction process. You are given the option to set the desired rate and you can choose to wait until you find a match. This service allows people in Africa to send money to their home country from their bank account to another bank with rates being up to 90% cheaper than using other services. The company believes that most of their growth will come from people in the developing world such as in Asia and Africa.
More than 10% of CurrencyFair users say that they have gotten a better rate than if they had used the interbank rate. This is the rate set by banks; it is the midpoint between the buying and selling prices of two currencies.
If you do not want to wait until you find another customer that matches your rate, you can choose to convert your funds using the rate set by CurrencyFair. The rates on this platform are usually about 0.35% below the mid-market rate.
CurrencyFair will let you exchange between 19 currencies and you can send funds to more than 150 nations, including many in Africa. The company has local accounts with the supported currencies, which helps to reduce transfer fees. They also have robust support staff that speaks English, German, and even French.
The platform will charge you a flat rate of just €3 for most transfers and you can send funds to the account you like. Most transfers take about a day but others may take up to 3 working days, depending on your location.
You can use the CurrencyFair website or download the app to make transfers. The app works on iOS and Android at all times except for the weekend and holidays. There is also a business money transfer service for businesses that manage a global payroll to send and receive money.
Where CurrencyFair shines:
- Low flat fee
- Transfer money to over 250 nations globally
- Support for 19 currencies
- Great exchange rates
- Easy to make deposits to local CurrencyFair account
- Intuitive mobile app helps you exchange funds without complication
- Quick download for your iPhone or Android devices
- Fast growing peer-to-peer network for African and Middle East countries!
Where CurrencyFair falls short:
• Only supports 19 currencies
TransferWise is an innovative online money transfer service that lets you send and receive money cheaply. It employs a smart new approach to achieve this. The provider uses two local transfers instead of one international transaction allowing it to bypass high international fees. Unlike other money transfer providers on this list, TranferWise supports a handful of African countries and they are Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa.
This money transfer provider focuses on making bank transfer more affordable than high-street banks. The smart system that TransferWise employs ensures that money doesn't move across borders and the currency conversion is performed with the real mid-market exchange rate. The provider, therefore, doesn’t charge an exchange-rate markup on money transfers. This allows the customer to avoid banking fees and losing money by transferring at an unfair rate.
Making money transfers with TranferWise is easy. Just go to the provider’s website and create an account – the sign-up process takes only a few minutes. Type in your details and those of the recipient and the amount of money you want to transfer. You can choose to send funds from your online bank account or your credit card. Either way, the money will be sent directly to the recipient’s bank account. You will receive confirmation emails when you complete the transfer process and when the recipient receives the money.
The fee you’ll pay depends on the amount of money you send, the destination country and how the recipient will receive the funds. The fixed cost charged by TranferWise is a combination of a fee slightly less than 1% of the transfer amount and a flat cost of around £1. The upfront fee for transferring a pound sterling to euro is 80p plus 0.35% of the transfer amount. Therefore, if you are using bank transfer to send £1,000 you will pay £4.29 for the service.
With TranferWise, you can only make transfers to bank accounts. This is a huge drawback as most providers offer mobile wallets and cash pickup locations worldwide that make it easier for people who don’t have bank accounts. However, the provider offers a variety of sending channels including the mobile website and mobile apps and different payment options which include Bank account (wire transfer or ACH), Apple or Android Pay, credit card and debit card.
Transfer times depend on the currency you are sending but most transfers to Africa take anywhere between three to seven business days to arrive. There is no minimum limit but the maximums are £1 million for bank wire transfers and £15,000 for the first time using ACH and £20,000 after that.
Where TranferWise shines:
- Fair exchange rates
- Transparent fees
- Easy to use
- Easy download on iPhone and Android devices
- You can keep track of all your financial transactions while on the move
- You can make new money transfers anywhere in the worldAccess records for all your previous recipients and their details
- Repeat money transfers without needless repetition - so convenient for regular money transfers
- Everything available at the touch of a button on your phone
- Leading provider for remittances to India!
Where TranferWise falls short:
• The recipient needs to have a bank account
• Fees add up as transfer amount increases
Xoom is a major money transfer service that lets you send money from the US and Canada to more than 130 nations globally. You can fund your Xoom account using a bank account, debit, or credit card. Depending on the location where the funds are sent, the funds can be delivered as cash, sent to a bank account, or used for airtime top-up. In 9 nations around the world, Xoom can be used to pay for utilities. These are the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, and Vietnam.
Xoom is a service owned by PayPal and the services are integrated. Since Xoom is part of PayPal, you can use a PayPal-linked account, debit card, or credit card. However, you cannot send funds out of your PayPal balance.
Xoom comes as a mobile app for iOS and Android. Their site can also be used for transfers and it is available in English, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Simplified Chinese, Koreans, and Spanish. You will be informed of the status of transfers using text updates or emails.
This service has an upper limit of $2,999 daily. If you do not provide verification documents, your limit is set at $6000 a month and $9999 in six months. To increase your limit, you should provide additional documents such as an ID, proof of income, and a bank statement. You will also need to answer some security questions when you increase your limit on Xoom. For instance, your relationship with the recipient will need to be established and the purpose for sending the funds.
Where Xoom shines:
• An excellent network of delivery options including cash pickups in the Philippine’s and Mexico
• A large network of transfer options for Latin American residents
• Quick transfer speeds to many nations globally
• Reliable customer services
Where Xoom falls short
• Only offered to those residing in the US and Canada
• Exchange rate markup is not done transparently
• The total costs are usually higher compared to some other money transfer options
Wave is a money transfer service renowned for its high transaction speeds in Africa. Although they are only available in a few African nations, they do not charge a fee and they have a mobile app, which is easy to use.
Wave will only let you send funds using their mobile app on Android devices. Those in the UK, Canada, and the US, can send money to receiving nations such as Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania. While the nations receiving funds are limited, Wave is planning to expand its reach to more nations in Africa.
There is no fee to use the service. Instead, they make money by using a base exchange rate that is slightly worse than the interbank rate. This rate is usually 1.5 percent to five percent lower. It can make it slightly more expensive than other providers can for money transfers.
You are only able to send money from your debit card linked to an account in the US, UK, Canada, and any other nation approved by Wave. The mobile app can be used in any location around the world as long as payments come from an account approved by Wave.
You cannot use a credit card, direct bank transfers, or PayPal to fund your account. There is also a limit on how much money people can send. You can send a maximum of $999 a day and $2999 per month. The limits can be raised to $2999 and $12000 a month. The limit is only raised after you provide proof of identity via a photographic ID.
Where Wave shines:
• Money transfers are very fast, often taking 30 seconds
• The Wave app is simple to use
• The Exchange rates for some pairs are quite competitive
• There is no fee except for the percentage charged on the exchange rate
Where Wave falls short:
• Limited availability since you can only send funds from the US, UK, and Canada
• Limited receiving ability since receivers must be in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, or Nigeria
• The exchange rates for some pairs are not competitive
• You can only access the Wave service via a mobile app, there is no website
SimbaPay is a money transfer service created by Nyasinga Onyancha. The service is based in London and allows those in Nigeria and Kenya to receive funds. Countries that can access the service are Ireland, Italy, the UK, Ireland, Germany, and France.
With this service, you can receive funds to a bank account or a mobile wallet such as Paga, M-Pesa, or Airtel Money. This was the first money on mobile service to allow international access to the M-Pesa Paybill service. With the Paybill menu, you can pay bills to various companies in Kenya directly from the Safaricom mobile wallet. As such, using SimbaPay, you can go online and pay bills to any company in Kenya operating a paybill. This is all possible without owning a Safaricom line as is the case with Kenyan subscribers.
The company has partnered with various banks in Africa such as KCB, Family Bank, Co-Op Bank, and M-pesa to allow users to make utility payments online. Customers will only need their MasterCard or Visa card to fund their SimbaPay account. There is an upper limit of $45000 per transaction.
Where Simbapay shines:
• Fast payment service for those in Kenya and Nigeria
• Partnership with various banks, which makes it easy to pay utilities
• Zero fees charges
Where Simbapay falls short:
• An upper limit of $45,000
• Only offered in Kenya and Nigeria
Mergims is a Rwandan start-up that has created an Android app, which offers Rwandan expats to choose and select from abroad services and goods that can be delivered to their relative in Rwanda by companies in Rwanda.
The founder of the app, Muhure Louis Antoine was born in Rwanda and moved to Canada during the Rwanda Genocide. Like many expats, his family was sending funds to those still in Rwanda. He thus had firsthand knowledge of how difficult it can be to send funds back home. The process was slow and the fees were high using services such as Western Union and other banking services. There is also the fact that there is no warranty the funds will be spent well.
He thus created Mergim to tackle some of these issues. After fundraising $50,000, a site and an Android app were created. The sender will then be able to choose a product that is delivered in Rwanda, a supplier and the amount that is sent. Many products including insurance, food, health costs, and school fees are sent.
There are over 2500 customers using the app and more should come once the Apple version of the app is released. Besides that, the service will be extended to other nations in East Africa and services accessible via the app will also be increased.
The app charges a small fee of 5% on each transaction. This payment can be made via PayPal or a credit card. The receiver can then use the service or good that has been paid for. Mergims offers a better rate than traditional money transfer services, which charge a fee of as high as 15%. This app is quite easy to use.
Other companies can only compete with Mergims via the cash-to-cash service. However, Mergims offers a cash-to-good service where other companies are not present. The sender gets their funds quickly and the money is spent for the intended purpose. This model will enable Mergims to be compensated by collaborating firms in Rwanda besides that the commission rates and app add income.
Where Mergims shines:
• Fast money transfers
• Convenient cash-to-good service
• Easy to use
Where Mergims falls short:
• Only offered in Rwanda
• Limited services and goods can be bought
If you have a relative working in the developed world or you work in the developed world, then you no doubt know how much the development of communication technology has been a good thing for Africa. With the SawaPay money transfer service, you can send funds to Africa with the click of a button. People working abroad have lost millions of dollars as they attempt to send funds back to Africa. However, apps like SawaPay are making a huge difference, ensuring that families can get their money with ease.
SawaPay is run by First Choice Global Ltd and allows users abroad to send money and make simple payments with ease without worrying about losing their funds. The app is offered in various states in the US to send money to Kenya instantly to bank accounts, M-Pesa or to a Paybill with no fees.
The app lets you deposit funds to a bank in Kenya instantaneously. The funds are received instantly and the user can start using them. Funds are sent to M-Pesa or a mobile wallet. Besides that, the service can be used to pay bills, tuition, or utilities. Even mortgages can be paid via the app. Senders give specific instructions on how their funds should be used. The app is offered on Android but will soon be offered on iOS.
The app is able to avoid transaction fees by charging a slightly worse rate on the exchange rate. This can be 1.5% to 5% in some cases. It is still much better than the high fees of up to 15% charged by existing money transfer services. Since funds are sent instantly, it is a great app for the purposes of sending emergency funds when the need arises.
To allows sending funds with ease, the app partnered with CoinX, which is a registered Money Transfer Operator in 42 US states. The agreement makes SawaPay its exclusive agent in SubSaharan Africa.
Where SawaPay shines:
• Quick funds transfer from the US
• Easy to use
• Allows those working abroad to pay utilities and even school fees for their relatives in Kenya
Where SawaPay falls short:
• Only offered in Kenya
• Not available in all US states
Money Transfer Services: Conclusion
Modern communication technology is having a huge impact on Africa. It is also allowing residents in remote areas of Africa to access simple banking services securely.
Just two decades ago, receiving funds was costly and it often resulted in losses. The fees of as high as 15% were also a major issue. However, the few startups mentioned above are changing the story of Africa. They allow people in Africa to receive funds securely and with ease.
Money remittances have been shown to have a much greater impact on alleviating poverty for developing nations than aid. While the fees have gone down, they could still go down more.
Besides that, these apps all rely on communication technology, which is still lacking in some areas of Africa.
There is also the issue of technology literacy. Some receivers still require the service of a technologically literate person to login to the app and receive the funds.
However, these are all surmountable odds that can be handled with ease.
Another issue that needs to be handled is the legal protection for the app users. With some many apps being launched, there is the risk of the space being high jacked by scammers.
The money you make is hard earned and you need to know that the money transfer services you access are trustworthy, with iron clad security to keep your financial transactions secure.
Financial services apps have harnessed technological advances to best serve the modern worker, and they are perfect to meet the needs of people like you who work overseas and need to get money to every corner of the globe quickly and easily.
Banking apps help keep you in control of your money without hitting you with high fees and are super convenient.
Don't hesitate to download your app today to take your financial transactions up to the next level, and make your work life just that bit easier.
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