Best Remittance Service: MoneyGram, Remitly, TransferWise, Xoom, or WU?

Millions of people from developing and emerging countries relocate to developed countries to earn higher wages, for example, Latin Americans who migrate to the United States for work. Wages, low or high, in developed countries often exceed salaries in developing countries. While migrants try to find better opportunities, sending money back home is often an objective as well. Remittance is the money immigrants send to their families residing in their native countries. Globally, migrants sent an estimated $466 billion to developing countries in 2017. The top nations to receive remittances are India, China, the Philippines, Mexico, and Nigeria. That’s a lot of money, and where billions flow, financial institutions are quick to follow.

Sending money and money transfers aren’t new. Money transfer companies like Western Union and MoneyGram have been around for decades. Some banks have been around for centuries. What is new are the many financial technology companies (FinTechs) that facilitate online money transfers at a fraction of the cost of traditional businesses. FinTechs aim to “disrupt” conventional lines of business by operating efficiently to pass savings to their customers.

While money can be sent for free or at a low cost through some FinTechs, some individuals pay ridiculous fees. For example, people can spend as much as 9 percent to remit to Sub-Saharan Africa. Paying high costs is a way of life for people who live in underdeveloped areas. However, where internet providers, mobile operators, and internet cafes exist; there are alternatives.

Money transfer and remittance companies are similar but differ in their goals and send/receive options. PayPal is a well-known provider of online money transfer services. They enable customers to send and receive money by email and online money accounts. PayPal’s primary objective isn’t remittance, which is why they acquired Xoom. Xoom, Remitly, WorldRemit, and other remittance-centric companies focus on convenience, costs, and ways to pay and collect money. For instance, Remitly customers can pick up money at 15,000 locations in Mexico whereas PayPal doesn’t deal with cash pickups. Cash pickups are critical for the unbanked and underbanked, that is, people without bank accounts or small bank accounts.

What to Consider

When evaluating providers, exchange rates and fees are two of several items to understand and compare.

  • The quoted exchange or conversion rate: The best exchange rate you can get is known as the real-time or mid-market rate. I call it the “Google rate” because Google showcases real-time rates between two currencies in their search results. Most money transfer providers quote non-real-time rates to profit from bid-ask spreads.
  • The flat or percentage fee: Companies will quote a flat or percentage fee to convert currencies. For example, $3.99 or 1 percent of the total amount exchanged.
  • Funding methods: Funding methods may include bank transfer, debit card, credit card, in-house credit, or cash for in-person transfers.
  • Ways to send money: Ways to send money might include in-person, phone, online, and app.
  • Ways to receive/collect money: Ways to send/accept money might include bank account, online money account, and cash pickup.
  • Processing times: Processing times vary depending on how a transfer is funded, sent, and received. For online transfers, the process can take minutes to a few business days.
  • Transparency: Transparency refers to how transparent a company is regarding their exchange rates, fees, and processing times. For example, the company provides a transfer calculator/transaction estimator and does not force a user to create an account or submit a payment before getting details.
  • Tracking: Tracking methods might include SMS/mobile notification, email notification, account activity/status, and customer support.
  • Currencies: currencies matter to the point that the currency or currencies you need are supported.
Remittance Companies

Maps 2A few reputable companies come to mind for transferring money. These providers serve the top remittance destinations along with many other countries including Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Guatemala, and Colombia.

  1. Azimo
  2. MoneyGram
  3. Remitly
  4. TransferWise
  5. Western Union
  6. Xoom

Azimo – Founded 2012

Azimo is the “better way” to transfer money worldwide. They are “fast, safe, simple and you can do it all online, or on your mobile, to fit in with how we live today.” Services/products:

  • Money transfer

MoneyGram – Founded 1940

MoneyGram is a global provider of money transfer services. Whether online or through a mobile device, at a kiosk or in a local store, they “connect consumers any way that is convenient for them.” Services/products:

  • Bill payment
  • Check management
  • Mobile phone top-up
  • Money order
  • Money transfer
  • Prepaid cards

Remitly – Founded 2011

Remitly is an international payments company that leverages digital channels to send money internationally. Their digital products are “fundamentally faster, less expensive, and far more convenient for customers to send money across borders.” Services/products:

  • Money transfer

TransferWise – Founded 2011

TransferWise is a financial services company for people that travel, live, and work internationally. They make sending money overseas up to eight times cheaper than banks. They provide “the fairest, easiest way to manage your money internationally.” Services/products:

  • Money transfer
  • Online money account
  • Prepaid debit card

Western Union – Founded 1851

Western Union offers one of the easiest ways for families, friends, and businesses to send money. Together with their agents, “we speak our consumers’ languages and live in our consumers’ neighborhoods. And we share our consumers’ cultures.” Services/products:

  • Bill payment
  • Money transfer
  • Money order
  • Prepaid cards

Xoom – Founded 2001

Xoom is a leading digital money transfer provider that enables consumers to send money, pay international bills, and reload phones for family and friends around the world. Their mission “is to deliver the fastest, most transparent, and pro-consumer digital money services.” Services/products:

  • Bill payment
  • Mobile phone top-up
  • Money transfer

Revolut & WorldRemit

Revolut is a digital banking alternative that offers a prepaid debit card, currency exchange, and peer-to-peer payments. They have developed a platform allowing users to transfer, exchange, and spend money with a multi-currency card. Revolut has a lot going for itself, but of the top five remittance destinations, they only support Mexico. As they expand to other countries, they’ll become one of the best options to remit money given they charge no fees alongside real-time rates.

WorldRemit is a money transfer service. Unlike many of their competitors, they aren’t very transparent and don’t provide a homepage calculator. Also, they lock users into one currency during account setup. For example, I couldn’t switch to euros to assess different transaction scenarios. WorldRemit operates in the dark and is not a platform I recommend. For those reasons, I excluded them from my comparisons.

Comparison

Although people remit from everywhere and use different base currencies, I’ll use US dollars and euros for my comparisons. I will compare multiple providers for the top five destinations using the most cost-efficient methods, which is usually by sending money online from one bank account to another. Paying with credit cards and cash pickups typically attract higher fees. In my scenarios, the customer only has $100 (or $1,000) to send so expenses must be deducted from the amounts. All calculations were made within seconds of each other to make fair evaluations.

100 US dollars sent from the United States (The best rate is in bold)

$100 USDChina (CNY)India (INR)Philippines (PHP)Mexico (MXN)Nigeria (NGN)
AzimoCannot send US dollars
MoneyGram639.606,598.045,176.721,841.0533,482.18
RemitlyNot available6,559.405,171.001,764.6634,421.03
TransferWise622.646,759.795,051.651,814.0034,126.15
Western Union673.676,826.215,174.111,786.0033,472.06
Xoom639.346,590.005,063.201,713.0033,272.50

1,000 US dollars sent from the United States

$1,000 USDChina (CNY)India (INR)Philippines (PHP)Mexico (MXN)Nigeria (NGN)
MoneyGram6,678.7567,674.6151,767.1918,410.53350,681.78
RemitlyNot available68,320.0051,710.0018,380.00352,121.03
TransferWise6,714.5168,214.6652,169.4418,349.00350,771.95
Western Union6,736.7268,262.0951,741.0918,354.00350,575.81
Xoom6,695.5667,595.0051,660.0017,939.00348,452.50

100 euros sent from Spain

€100 EURChina (CNY)India (INR)Philippines (PHP)Mexico (MXN)Nigeria (NGN)
Azimo686.887,624.396,017.012,069.0739,850.83
MoneyGram777.977,874.366,009.202,103.2640,333.28
RemitlyNot available7,776.385,840.792,018.1339,685.23
TransferWise766.017,862.365,948.462,106.0040,572.59
Western Union774.867,940.396,063.832,050.5039,072.38
XoomCannot send euros

Recap
$100$1,000€100
China (CNY)Western UnionWestern UnionMoneyGram
India (INR)Western UnionRemitlyWestern Union
The Philippines (PHP)MoneyGramTransferWiseWestern Union
Mexico (MXN)MoneyGramMoneyGramTransferWise
Nigeria (NGN)RemitlyRemitlyTransferWise

Final Word

Your money is important, or at least it should be since you work for it. To maximize your remittance activities, you should stay engaged and compare providers at least once a year in case their fees and operations change. MoneyGram, Remitly, and Western Union are fantastic options when the United States is the country of origin. In Europe, TransferWise and Western Union are excellent options with TransferWise being the best all-around online provider.

 

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