How to Send Money Internationally to and from Canada?

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Sending money used to be expensive. Traditional banks charge a variety of fees in addition to offering bad exchange rates. Technological innovation has revolutionized how we send money and given birth to a new generation of international money transfer services.

Whether you’re wondering how to transfer money from Canada to the USA, Canada to India, or another country, or looking to avoid paying international money transfer fees, we’ve got you covered.

This guide covers everything you need to know about international money transfers and provides details on how you can send money quickly and cost-effectively.

Key takeaways: Money transfers

  • You can transfer funds by money order, your bank or online.
  • Online money transfer services offer some of the cheapest and fastest international transfers.
  • Money transfers arrive within 2 to 7 business days
  • Some transfers may be available instantly for a higher fee.
  • The recipient can collect their transfer in person, to their bank account or online.
  • You can send or receive funds abroad without a bank accountant.

What is an international money transfer?

You can transfer money to and from Canada using the services of your normal bank or a money transfer company which exclusively sends money abroad.

If you are looking for the most efficient way to transfer money from one country to another then you need to consider multiple factors such as the amount of money to send and the time it takes to send the money.

Depending on the needs, money transfer companies exist that offer various services from international money orders, to international bank transfers and online international money transfer services.

A summary of the different types of money transfer options can be seen below along with some key features. A full breakdown of each different type of money transfer service is detailed after the table.

Money Transfer OptionTransfer Service CompanyTransfer TimeMoney Transfer Cost
Money Order
  • MoneyGram
  • Western Union
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
Depending on service between 1 to 10 daysTypically $7.50 or more. The exchange rate varies.
International Bank Transfer
Any banking institution3-5 business daysTransfer fees of up to $30. Varied exchange rate.
Traditional Transfer Agency
  • MoneyGram
  • Western Union
Anywhere from a few minutes up to 5 daysTransfer fees vary between $0-$50 depending on transfer type. Sometimes the transfer fee may be hidden in the exchange rate.
Online Transfer Service
  • Wise
  • OFX
  • XE
  • Paypal
  • And many more
Anywhere from a few minutes up to 5 business daysLow-cost alternative with either low fixed transfer fees or incorporated into the exchange rate.
Comparison of types of money transfers

What are international money orders?

An international money order is essentially a cheque that is issued by the postal service, bank or another remittance provider, which can be used to send money abroad.

International money orders are a safe alternative to cash since the money order can only be cashed by either the sender or payee. The money order is pre-paid at issuance by the sender and then paid out to the beneficiary at another location, with all the details of the recipient and the amount being listed on the money order form.

Popular issuers of international money orders in Canada are:

  • MoneyGram
  • Western Union
  • Bank of Montreal (BOM)
  • Scotiabank
  • CIBC
  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
  • Canada Post - They partner with MoneyGram to facilitate sending money abroad

Just like any other international money transfer service, money orders have their pros and cons.

Advantages of money orders:

  • They are safer than sending cash and even if the money order is lost, it can be re-issued by the issuer
  • Money is guaranteed since the amount is prepaid by the sender
  • The recipient does not need to have a bank account since the money can be withdrawn in cash

Disadvantages of money orders:

  • The process can be slow since the money order often has to be physically sent to the recipient and is therefore reliant on international postal services
  • Money order issuers often use poor exchange rates
  • There are often limits on the amount of money that can be sent
  • Money orders come with high fees that are paid for by the sender, and also sometimes by the recipient

What are international bank transfers?

An international bank transfer, or international wire transfer, is one of the most common ways to send money internationally. Both the sender and the beneficiary need to have bank accounts.

Nearly all banks in the world offer international bank transfers to their account holders but the way an international wire transfer can be issued may vary. Some banks may require the transfer to be made in person, over the phone or directly through online banking. While international bank transfers are the most common, the pros and cons should be considered since other alternative transfers may suit the sender better.

Advantages of international bank transfers

  • Security since the transfer is made directly from your bank to the recipient's bank
  • There is no need for the money to be cashed by the recipient
  • Fairly fast and only take a few days
  • There are rarely any limits on the size of the transfer

Disadvantages of international bank transfers

  • 2-3 days may be too slow if the money is needed immediately
  • The beneficiary must have a bank account
  • The transfer fees are often quite high and often fees are debited from both the sender and recipient
  • The transfer is subject to the bank’s exchange rates which are often set in advance and not in the user’s favour

What are traditional money transfer agencies?

Traditional money transfer agencies are another service facilitating money transfers abroad without a need for banks. Two of the best money transfer companies in Canada are MoneyGram and Western Union which are also the two biggest money transfer companies in the world.

You can send money with Western Union and MoneyGram by using money orders, but both have transitioned online too allowing you to send or receive money 24/7. If you are wondering how to send money abroad with Western Union or MoneyGram all you need to do is:

  1. Visit their website
  2. Provide information about the recipient
  3. Select how much you wish to send
  4. Select how you want the recipient to receive the funds
  5. Pay the amount that will be sent plus any transfer fees using a debit or credit card

The time it takes to transfer money internationally can range from a few minutes to a couple of days depending on the service and the fees you are willing to pay. If you transfer money with Western Union or MoneyGram for cash pick-up, the money transfer time may only be a few minutes, whereas if you send money with Western Union it may take up to 2-5 days. MoneyGram money transfers to bank accounts can take as little as a few hours, or one business day.

Advantages of traditional money transfer agencies

  • Secure - they are regulated within every country they operate
  • Can transfer money abroad for cash pick-up or to a bank account
  • Lower fees than traditional bank transfers
  • Transfers to cash can be picked up within minutes
  • The top two companies Western Union and MoneyGram operate in over 200 countries and territories

Disadvantages of traditional money transfer agencies

  • Fees are higher than online money transfer services
  • They often offer poor exchange rates as the fee is built into the exchange rate structure
  • You may face limits on transactions based on your history with the company, local regulations and the type of money transfer

What are online money transfer services?

Online money transfer services have boomed in the last few decades as the rise in international online transactions and money transfers has soared.

Fintech companies such as PayPal, Venmo, Stripe, Shopify and Square were created to facilitate online purchases and quick international transfers of smaller amounts of money for goods and services. Some of these have since developed into facilitating international online transfers between individuals to compete alongside Western Union and MoneyGram.

Subsequently, online money transfer services took off and many companies launched to fill the need for alternative low-cost money transfer solutions. You can now send money abroad with any number of secure online money transfer companies that offer various solutions depending on your needs.

What are the best money transfer services?

The best money transfer service depends on your needs, the recipient's location and the amount sent. Compare money transfer rates, fees and exchange rates to find the best service for your money transfer. Our calculator tool at the top will let you compare rates for these services now.

Here are some of the best money transfer services :

Advantages of online money transfer service

  • A low-cost alternative to traditional transfer options
  • Accessible online 24/7
  • Flexible services
  • Security through regulation
  • Discounts for signing up

Disadvantages of online money transfer service

  • Don’t have a physical office or address
  • Limited local pick-up options
  • Varying quality of customer service

How do you send money through email?

Email money transfers, or EMTs, let you send money to someone’s email address. It is an easy and fast way of transferring money between individuals and businesses.

This instant money transfer is growing in popularity in Canada. The money transfer company in Canada that offers email money transfers is known as Interac E-transfer and has partnered with over 200 Canadian banks, credit unions and other institutions.

To send money via email using Interac E-transfer the user needs to:

  1. Create and log into your Interac account
  2. Choose a current recipient, or add a new beneficiary by inputting the recipient’s email address
  3. Enter the amount you want to send
  4. Answer the security question to confirm the transaction

Once the email money transfer has been initiated, both the sender and beneficiary receive email notifications of the transactions. However, while the transfer is initiated using emails and the Interac E-transfer service, the money is still transferred through the banks’ normal and secure platforms.

Tips for transferring money internationally:

There are a few things you need to consider before sending money abroad revolving around how you transfer the money and the cost of sending the money abroad. Below we’ve outlined a few key things to think about when sending money internationally.

Identify the needs of the recipient

Before transferring money to an individual or business ask yourself the following questions. The answers will dictate the type of service you should use.

  • Does the beneficiary have a bank account or prefer a cash pickup?
  • Is it a one-off transfer or will it be recurring?
  • Is the beneficiary an individual or business?
  • Where is the recipient located?
  • In what time frame does the recipient need the money?
  • How much money does the recipient need?

Compare money transfer fees

While the needs of the recipient will dictate how you will be transferring money internationally, you always have to factor in the cost. For example, if the recipient can only accept money in cash then you will need to review the costs of companies that issue money orders or traditional money transfer agencies, such as Western Union or MoneyGram.

Below you can see a breakdown when sending money to India from Canada using both MoneyGram and Western Union. The example considers the payment is made with either a debit or credit card, with the recipient collecting the money via a cash pick-up.

Money Transfer CompanyPayment MethodTransfer Fee (CAD)Collection MethodCurrency Conversion OfferedAmount Sent (CAD)Money Received (INR)
Debit/Credit Card$4.99Cash Pickup1.0000 CAD = 59.7087 INR$990.0059,111.62
Western Union
Debit/Credit Card$10.00Cash Pickup1.0000 CAD = 59.3042 INR$990.0058,711.12
(MoneyGram vs Western Union fees as of June 2022)

It is important to note that the best money transfer service is not always the one with the lowest exchange rate or fee. Review the overall quality of the transfer service in addition to the cost. You can do this by taking a minute to review numerous options through our free money transfer comparison tool.

Want to keep reading about money transfer services? See our articles below:

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Alexandre Desoutter

Alexandre Desoutter has been working as editor-in-chief and head of press relations at HelloSafe since June 2020. A graduate of Sciences Po Grenoble, he worked as a journalist for several years in French media, and continues to collaborate as a as a contributor to several publications.