Most people use their bank to transfer money, getting stung by extortionate rates and fees along the way.
Money Transfer Apps have helped solve this issue.
We've picked out our top 4 providers and discussed what makes them great.
In this article, I'll talk about how these companies can help you and why they've grown so fast.
Best Money Transfer Apps
What is a Money Transfer?
An international money transfer, or currency transfer, is sending money abroad.
If the receiving country uses a different currency, you’ll have to do a currency conversion.
There are lots of ways to perform a currency transfer.
Some are expensive, hard work and take a long time.
For example, using a bank is known to be costly and time consuming.
Nowadays, there’s lots of cheap options that are a lot quicker.
Money Transfer Apps are one of these options.
What is a Money Transfer App?
A money transfer app is exactly what you think it is.
It’s an app that allows you to transfer money.
Usually, in a different currency and to a different country.
You can download these apps straight to your mobile phone.
Or, if you prefer, you can use their desktop version instead.
Most are free to use, and available 24/7, 365.
Money Transfer Apps vs Currency Brokers?
Currency brokers are another method of sending money internationally.
They provide a hands-on, personalised service over the telephone.
Now, some people like this kind of service.
However, brokers are usually used for large volume transfers.
We’ve found that most brokers provide a worse exchange rate for transfers under £5000.
So if you’re trying to decide whether to use a broker or an app, ask yourself:
- How much am I transferring?
- What kind of service do I like?
If it’s under £5k, money transfer apps are best.
For transfers larger than £5k, currency brokers will give you better rates and service.
If you’re interested in a currency broker, check out our guide on the Best Currency Brokers.
Money Transfer App Features
Features are usually limited for money transfer apps.
Their primary function is to convert and send money.
Unlike brokers, money transfer apps do not provide:
- Forward contracts
- Limit orders
- Stop losses
(There is one exception, mentioned just below.)
However, some apps provide useful features.
Wise Multi-Currency Account
This is one account that holds multiple currencies.
You can have as many currencies as you need.
Wise will provide you with the country’s standard account details for each account.
This could be an IBAN and BIC, account number and sort code, etc.
You can convert money between your different accounts using Wise’s conversion service.
This feature is great for frequent travellers and for people who send money abroad often.
Wise Debit Card
With the Wise multi-currency account comes a debit card.
You only get one card, which is linked to all of your currency accounts.
Wherever you are in the world, Wise will know which currency account to debit when you swipe your card.
You can withdraw cash up to 200 GBP equivalent every month, with no charge.
XE Business Account
You can open a business account with XE.
They provide the same money transfers, with risk management solutions too.
These accounts are available to businesses of any size.
Sole traders, small-medium businesses or even massive enterprises.
XE provides forward contracts, limit orders and stop losses for business customers.
This allows you to hedge your risk against currency fluctuations.
Ultimately, protecting your bottom line.
How Do Money Transfer Apps Make Money?
There’s two main ways:
- Fees per transaction
- Exchange rate markup
Fees can be charged at a fixed rate or a % of the transfer amount.
Here’s a quick table showing who charges fees and who doesn’t:
However, fees aren’t everything.
Companies could charge a small or no fee, and have a huge markup on the rate.
This could cost you just as much money.
For example, even though XE doesn’t charge a fee, they’re still more expensive than Wise.
This is because Wise provides better rates of exchange.
The difference between the rate the company buys at and the rate they sell at is their profit.
The bigger that gap, the more it’s going to cost you and the more money the company makes.
Why Use a Money Transfer App Instead of a Bank?
In 2022, it’s basically common sense now.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t use a bank:
- They provide terrible rates of exchange
- They charge extortionate fees
- Service isn’t great unless you have a personal account manager
- They don’t specialise in currency or transfers
The only thing going for the banks is their perceived “safety”.
Nowadays, most apps and brokers are just as safe as a bank.
All of the companies listed on TopMoneyCompare.com are regulated by the FCA.
This is basically a stamp of approval from the financial regulators.
Any company regulated by the FCA is trustworthy and safe to use.
I could go on all day about why to not use a bank.
But, to put it simply, money transfer apps do everything better.
They provide better rates, lower fees and intuitive mobile apps.
How to Compare Money Transfer Apps
At a glance, it might seem like they all do the same thing.
However, each provides different costs, features and level of service.
Here are the four main things to consider.
As I mentioned before, some companies provide worse rates than others.
It’s important to distinguish between them.
The worse the rate, the more it’s going to cost you to purchase your currency.
There’s a simple way to check the competitiveness of each provider.
Get a quote from each at the same time, for the same amount.
You’ll quickly see who’s charging you the most, and the least.
To save you some time, here’s the % markup each of our recommended companies give:
As you can see, Wise is the cheapest and Remitly will probably cost the most.
However, as you keep reading, you’ll understand that it’s not all about the rates.
You can click here to compare rates from our recommended providers.
Further up, I gave you the fees for each provider.
For WorldRemit and Remitly, their fees largely depend on the currency and destination.
If you’re sending through a less common corridor, it’s going to cost the company more to process it.
In turn, they’ll charge you a higher fee.
And vice versa.
This is because of the relationships the companies have with the receiving country’s banks.
If they pass more volume through, it will cost them less.
This is called economies of scale.
For example, sending PHP to the Philippines is one of, if not the most common remittance corridor.
Therefore, it’s going to cost the company less to process these transactions.
You’ll then find that your fees are smaller.
When comparing the overall cost for each provider, make sure to factor in the fees too.
It’s important to know what each company provides and if it fits your needs and wants.
So, always factor this into your comparisons.
I’ll keep this bit short as I’ve already talked about features.
- Need a business account? Use Wise or XE.
- Want a debit card? Use Wise.
- Need to send via mobile money or airtime? Use Remitly or WorldRemit.
- Need cash? Use WorldRemit or Remitly.
- Want home delivery? Use Remitly.
Have a think about the specifics of your transfer and then see if a company is a good fit.
Some companies offer to send to some countries, some don’t.
Wise will send to pretty much every major country, and some more exotic countries too.
However, there are lots of currencies and countries that they don’t provide.
This is where Remitly and WorldRemit step in.
They’ve come in and covered that gap.
However, they don’t provide transfers to major countries.
XE, on the other hand, covers the whole lot.
Here’s a quick summary:
Before signing up, double check to see if they can send to your receiving country.
Are Money Transfer Apps Safe?
The safety of your money is most important.
The overwhelming majority of companies are safe to use.
But, there’s a checklist you should use for each company to be doubly sure.
Are They Regulated?
This is the main thing to consider.
Most apps you’ll come across are regulated in many different countries.
If a company is regulated, it means that they’re constantly under watch for how safe they are.
This comes in the form of full audits, random spot checks and customer feedback.
This means more protection for you.
For companies that aren’t regulated, it’s basically the wild west.
So, it’s best to avoid them.
To find out if a company is regulated, scroll to the very bottom of their website.
They should have a bit of text outlining their regulation and numbers.
If you can’t see it, you might have to do some more digging or even call them up and ask.
Are My Funds Protected?
To give a bit of context, if your bank went bust you’d only receive up to £85k of your money back (UK).
This is part of the FSCS scheme.
However, transfer companies regulated by the FCA are required to safeguard their clients' money.
This is different from the FSCS.
When you transfer your money to a regulated company, they must keep it separate from their own money.
These separate accounts are called “ring-fenced and safeguarded” accounts.
If the transfer company failed, all of the money in these accounts would be returned to clients in full.
They would have to use their own money to tie up the business.
So, always check if they safeguard client funds.
As a regulated firm, they should do.
It’s great to know what other customers think.
It gives a good perspective of what you can expect.
Most companies use Trustpilot to collect client reviews.
As you can see, XE has over 50k reviews.
Search for the company and take a look about what people like and don’t like.
To help, you can filter their reviews by the star rating.
If a company doesn’t have many reviews, I’d avoid them.
How To Make a Money Transfer
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to getting started.
Pick a Provider
That’s what we’re here for, and what this article is about.
Have a think about the amount you’re transferring and where it’s going.
Then choose a provider based on what you’ve read here.
Click here to compare rates from our recommended providers.
Register an Account
Every provider will require you to register an account.
This is to prevent things like money laundering and terrorism funding.
You’ll fill out a form with your details and specifics about your transfer.
Then, you’ll probably be asked to prove that you are who you say you are.
This means sending them:
- Proof of ID, e.g. passport or driver's licence
- Proof of address, e.g. a utility bill
- A selfie
A selfie is a strange request, but should be the last step of verification.
Now you just have to wait for the company to approve your account.
Set Up Your Transfer
Select your currencies, amounts and destination.
You’ll then get a rate.
If you’re happy, proceed with the transfer.
Most companies will lock the rate for 24-48 hours, to give you time to pay for it.
However if the mid-market rate moves more than 5% before you’ve paid, it may get cancelled.
Now it’s time to pay for the transfer.
Pay For Your Transfer
There are lots of possible ways to pay for your transfer:
- Bank transfer
- Debit / credit / prepaid card
- Apple Pay
- Mobile Money
However, different providers offer different options.
Not only that, availability also depends on the currency, amount and destination.
You can simply pay via a bank transfer nearly all of the time.
This is often the quickest and cheapest method.
However, if that isn’t an option, there’s usually at least one other method available.
It’s best to pay for your transfer as quickly as possible in order to keep the rate locked in.
Remember, paying with a credit card will have additional charges and may affect your credit score.
(I learnt this the hard way).
Receiving the Money
Provide the company with the recipient’s bank details.
If this is yourself, then great, simply type in your details.
If it’s someone else, they’ll have to give them to you.
What you need depends on where the money is going:
Once your transfer is paid for, the money will be sent.
How Long Do Money Transfers Take?
Again, this depends on the recipient country.
Different countries use different payment methods.
- UK - Faster Payments or CHAPS
- EU - SEPA
- Australia - NPP
- New Zealand - HVCS
- Rest of World - SWIFT
There are more, but those are the main ones.
Now, it isn’t guaranteed that your provider will use the quickest method available.
Often, they will use whatever is the cheapest for them.
Unless you pay for a quicker payment of course.
Most GBP, EUR, AUD and NZD payments will be available on the same day.
For USD and any other currency, it might take a day or two.
Always double check, as all providers provide different timelines.
How Much Money Can You Send?
Typically, there isn’t a lower limit to how much you can send.
However, all Money Transfer Apps provide different upper limits.
With Wise and XE, you have to call their team to transfer more.
Which Money Transfer App is Right For Me?
In a nutshell, I’d consider 3 things:
- Where you’re sending to
- How much you’re transferring
- The type of delivery you need
If you’re sending to an exotic country, first check to see whether each company provides it.
Sending to a major country? Use Wise or XE.
An exotic country? Use Remitly or WorldRemit.
Need cash or home delivery? Use Remitly or WorldRemit.
Once you’ve narrowed it down, simply check how much each will cost.
Then, sign up with the cheapest.
Money Transfer Apps are a great way to transfer small amounts abroad, quickly.
They do everything better than the banks.
This is because they’re specialised services, compared to the banks who do lots of different things.
Great rates, cheaper fees and additional features are the main benefits.
Most times, you can be signed up and making your first transfer within a day.
- Check if they provide what you need
- Check if they’re safe
- Check their rates and fees
All recommended companies on TopMoneyCompare.com are FCA regulated.
As always though, I’d recommend that you use a currency broker for anything more than £5k.
They’ll give a much better, personalised service, tailored for high volume transfers.
Just below, you can get a quote and compare rates from our recommended providers.