Cheapest way to transfer money from Australia abroad

It’s undeniable that Australia has a significant demand for international money transfers. Despite being known for having a fairly tech-savvy population, finding the cheapest way to transfer money overseas is not always easy. Unsurprisingly, a large majority of these transactions are still handled by the country’s leading banks. However, with growing frustration over high rates and fees, more and more Australians are conducting research and turning to non-bank money transfer providers in search of a better deal.

View the cheapest international money transfer rates below

0 AUD -> NZD
  • Fee & exchange rate
    Fee: 0
    Exchange rate: 0
    This company uses individualised quotes that depend on many factors. To receive a quote specific to your requirements, you will need to sign up with the company and ask for it. The rate displayed is representative of what you can receive, but it is not guaranteed.
    0.05% below the mid-market rate
  • Fee & exchange rate
    Fee: 0
    Exchange rate: 0
    This company uses individualised quotes that depend on many factors. To receive a quote specific to your requirements, you will need to sign up with the company and ask for it. The rate displayed is representative of what you can receive, but it is not guaranteed.
    0.05% below the mid-market rate
  • Fee & exchange rate
    Fee: 0
    Exchange rate: 0
    This company uses individualised quotes that depend on many factors. To receive a quote specific to your requirements, you will need to sign up with the company and ask for it. The rate displayed is representative of what you can receive, but it is not guaranteed.
    4.12% below the mid-market rate
  • Fee & exchange rate
    Fee: 0
    Exchange rate: 0
    This company uses individualised quotes that depend on many factors. To receive a quote specific to your requirements, you will need to sign up with the company and ask for it. The rate displayed is representative of what you can receive, but it is not guaranteed.
    1.66% below the mid-market rate
  • Fee & exchange rate
    Fee: 0
    Exchange rate: 0
    This company uses individualised quotes that depend on many factors. To receive a quote specific to your requirements, you will need to sign up with the company and ask for it. The rate displayed is representative of what you can receive, but it is not guaranteed.
    2.97% below the mid-market rate
Last updated: 19/06/2024

What else do I need to know?

In this piece, we will cover the fees you can expect to pay for international wire transfers, including the average fees when using both banks and non-bank money transfer providers. This information will help you confidently determine the cheapest way to transfer money internationally.

What fees must you understand to calculate the cheapest way to transfer money overseas?

There are two main types of fees associated with sending money abroad: international wire transfer fees and the exchange rate markup, also known as the FX spread. Understanding when and where these costs are applied, as well as how to calculate them, is crucial to understand which providers actually offer the cheapest international money transfer. The following guides will help you get a better understanding of the specifics of each destination:


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International Wire Fees

The payment structure for international wire fees depends on the type of money transfer provider you are using. For instance, traditional banks typically employ a fixed fee structure, which is usually determined by one of three variables: whether the transaction amount exceeds $10,000 AUD, if the transfer involves currency exchange, and the method of conducting the transaction (in-branch, digitally, or over the phone).

In contrast, some digital banks like Revolut charge an international bank transfer fee that increases as the transferred amount grows. Therefore, it’s essential to closely monitor wire transfer fees when using any bank for international money transfers, as these fees can vary significantly and quickly become expensive based on the variables mentioned.

Exchange Rate Markup Fees

Any international money transfer involving a currency exchange is also subject to an exchange rate markup. This is an additional fee that nearly all money service providers impose by offering an exchange rate different from the interbank rate at the time of the transaction. The percentage difference between the exchange rate offered by your provider and the interbank rate is referred to as the ‘FX markup’ or ‘FX spread.’ This fee is less conspicuous than standard international wire fees because customers need to calculate it themselves to understand the amount their provider is charging.

Does zero fees mean you’re getting the best deal?

Back when banks were the primary method for transferring money internationally, it was almost expected that customers would have to pay a wire fee for all foreign transactions.

However, as the fintech space evolved and numerous dedicated money transfer services emerged, increased competition led many providers to either lower their wire fees or offer them at zero cost for international transfers.

As a result, offering ‘zero wire fees’ has consistently proven to be a powerful marketing tool. It’s easy for customers to compare company A’s $30 international wire fee with company B’s $0 wire fees and choose company B, assuming it’s the cheaper option.

However, we must emphasise that comparing wire fees alone only tells half of the story. This is why we delve into the details at MTA, providing you with the most comprehensive information so you have the confidence to determine who offers the most cost-effective international money transfer services tailored to your needs.

Why choosing the lowest wire transfer fees doesn’t always result in the cheapest international money transfer

Whether or not they charge an international wire fee, both banks and money transfer providers generate the majority of their profit through their FX markup. Despite Australian legislation requiring institutions to publicly advertise their currency exchange rates, it can still be challenging for customers to quickly calculate the actual cost of transferring money overseas.

To compare costs, customers must first calculate the FX spread offered by the providers they are considering. Then, they need to determine the fee associated with this spread based on the total amount they intend to send, and finally, add any fixed wire fees. In the following fictional example, a customer wants to transfer $10,000 AUD to USD. 

 Transfer TotalFX Markup Fixed Wire Fees Total Cost 
Company A$10,0001.32%$20$152
Company B$10,0001.99%$5$204

Company B promotes a low fixed wire fee of just $5, compared to Company A’s $20 fixed fee. Both companies offer an FX markup of less than two percent, however Company A’s is lower. Therefore, despite Company A charging $15 more in fixed fees, the customer would in fact save more than $50 by choosing company A to transfer her money overseas. 

Whilst many of the best providers for international transfers do in fact offer zero wire fees, a key lesson is to not get drawn into an impulse decision solely based on an attractive statement made by an institution’s marketing team. Similarly, this example also highlights some of the nuances of sending money overseas, which is why we often refer to the total fees as the ‘true cost’. 

Why banks are not the cheapest way to send money overseas

Despite remaining the most popular method for transferring money internationally, our research consistently shows that using your bank is one of the most expensive ways to complete your transfer in nearly all cases.

Whether it’s a lack of knowledge or simply habitual behaviour that drives people’s decisions, the fact that you’re conducting research and reading this article means you have the potential to save a significant amount of money by choosing a more cost-effective method for your international money transfer.

The majority of Australian banks still charge up to $32 AUD in fixed wire fees for overseas transfers conducted in-branch. Interestingly, our research indicates that many of Australia’s larger banks have recently eliminated their wire fees (previously $6-$10 AUD) for transfers made using their apps, likely in response to the growing popularity of competitive banking options. As previously discussed, this has allowed banks to heavily promote their overseas transfers as ‘fee-free,’ which may be helping them retain customers.

However, even when offering zero wire fees, banks remain among the most expensive options for sending money abroad due to their very high foreign exchange markup rates. Australia’s ‘big five’ banks impose exchange rate markups in the range of 2.5% to 5% for common currency transfers such as AUDUSD, AUDGBP, and AUDEUR.

For example, as of September 2023, a $10,000 AUD to USD transfer with major Australian bank Commbank would incur a total of $266 AUD in markup fees, with an additional $30 AUD if conducted in-branch.

Are credit cards or crypto a cheaper way to wire money internationally?

Many people choose their bank for international transfers due to the convenience it offers. However, upon discovering the high fees associated with banks, a natural progression is to consider using their credit card as an alternative. While we acknowledge that using a credit card is indeed an easy way to transfer money internationally, it’s not always feasible, and in many cases is not the cheapest method.

Firstly, you would need to ensure that the recipient can accept card payments and find out if they are willing to accept funds in your domestic currency. If the recipient does accept payment in your domestic currency, then using a credit card could be a cost-effective method, as you would only incur a percentage transaction fee, which is often quite low.

However, in many cases, your recipient would require you to handle the currency exchange through your card provider. This immediately places credit cards in the same category as banks, as one of the most expensive ways to transfer funds overseas, as they typically impose high exchange rate markup fees ranging from 2% to 5%.

Bank/ProviderInternational Transaction ChargeForeign ATM Withdrawal Fee
Suncorp CUA3.4%$5
Bank of Queensland3.4%$4
Virgin IMB Citi3.3%$5
HSBC Diners Club American Express Westpac NAB ANZ3%Varies
Heritage ME Bank2.5%$5, –
Bank Australia Bendigo2%$3.50, $15

Considering Australia has a tech-savvy population, it’s worth discussing whether cryptocurrency is a viable option for cheap international transfers. While some fintech companies have recently begun offering crypto-to-bank payments, this service is still in its infancy, and given the notorious volatility of cryptocurrencies, it should be approached with caution.

Are crypto transfer cheap?

Although it’s an intriguing addition to the fintech space, current exchange rate markup fees in the crypto-to-bank domain seem to be in a similar range as bank or credit card fees. For instance, the Australian-based crypto-to-bank payment provider ‘RelayPay’ charges approximately 3.2% on a £10,000 value bank transfer of Bitcoin to GBP. You can also consider making crypto-to-crypto payments; however, fixed fees from major crypto platforms typically fall within the same range of 3% to 5%, making this a similarly expensive option.

So what non-bank alternatives actually offer cheap money transfers abroad?

Fortunately, there’s an option for sending money abroad that is significantly cheaper than the previously mentioned methods: choosing a dedicated money transfer provider or currency broker. These are firms whose sole purpose is to offer rates that beat those of banks and provide either low or zero fees, resulting in a ‘true cost’ that is, by far, the cheapest way to transfer money overseas.

Despite having a comparatively small population of just 25 million people, Australia is a significant international hub for overseas money transfer firms, ranking second only to the UK. With more than 5 million small businesses, a substantial expat community, and the fact that an overwhelming majority of Australian businesses engage in international sales, all contribute to why many money transfer firms have chosen to establish themselves here.

This is beneficial for Australians seeking the most cost-effective way to send money abroad because more options translate to more competition, ultimately resulting in customers receiving exceptional exchange rates. While there’s no such thing as a completely free international transfer, some of the leading providers in the market come remarkably close, allowing you to make substantial savings.

Should you feel safe trusting a money transfer provider?

Let’s take the money transfer giant OFX as an example. OFX is a massive company with an annual FX turnover of $33 billion AUD in 2022. They are one of the oldest and largest global money transfer firms, maintaining an outstanding reputation over more than two decades of service. This reputation, combined with their award-winning money transfer platform, should provide customers with the peace of mind and confidence to move away from traditional banks and recognize other major players in the international money transfer industry.

As of September 2023, OFX charges an average of around 1.5% in fees for major currency exchanges (such as AUDUSD, AUDGBP, and AUDEUR), but their fees have been known to average as low as 0.8%. This represents a significant percentile saving compared to major banks. Therefore, a company like OFX may very well be the cheapest way to transfer money overseas for transactions less than $20,000 AUD.

Can the cheapest international money transfer provider also be the best? 

While price is undoubtedly the primary consideration for those searching for the most cost-effective way to transfer money abroad, many consumers may speculate that the cheapest option might come with lower service quality.

This speculation by consumers is, to some extent, justified, as some of the most affordable providers in the market, like Wise, do make certain sacrifices, such as foregoing currency dealer functions, to offer the lowest rates. This can be particularly important for customers transferring larger sums (>$20,000 AUD) who are seeking the most competitive rates along with comprehensive service offerings.

For these customers, we recommend considering one of the industry’s leading currency brokers, often our top choice for those seeking the cheapest way to send money abroad. Much like other online money transfer services, the prominent currency broker TorFX provides some of the most competitive, bank-beating rates and, in most cases, offers zero-fee transfers, all while delivering first-class service to provide you with the best of both worlds.

Our comprehensive research has shown that TorFX clients have reported savings ranging from 2% to 4% compared to the exchange rates offered by banks, resulting in substantial cost savings. Coupled with the fact that TorFX charges zero fees for overseas transfers, it stands out as one of the cheapest ways of wiring money internationally. Additionally, TorFX will assign you a dedicated account manager based in Australia to assist you in making the most of their services, ensuring your transfers are executed correctly and at the optimal times.

Are there other ways to make your international transfer even cheaper? 

Despite already being the cheapest way to transfer larger sums internationally, currency brokers offer several additional services that can help you secure the best possible exchange rate.

By having a dedicated dealer who understands your unique requirements, they may recommend a slight delay in a transaction if they believe the exchange rate is likely to improve shortly. This can secure you a better rate. A dedicated dealer may also suggest additional products offered by currency brokers, such as forward contracts, which enable you to lock in and fix an exchange rate for a predetermined period. This can assist you in saving on your international transfers, particularly in situations where you have regular payments over that period. By securing a better rate as part of a forward contract, you will achieve savings for every international payment where your agreed exchange rate is superior to the offered rate

How much can you actually save choosing a currency dealer or specialist money transfer provider? 

A customer’s total savings will vary on a case-by-case basis but will be determined by two key factors: the currencies involved and the transfer volume. To illustrate, let’s consider two examples—one at each end of the spectrum.

For a private customer making a relatively small AUD transfer into an exotic currency as a one-off transaction, the cheapest ‘true cost’ might be around 1%, representing roughly a 70% saving compared to using a bank.

Business users who regularly transfer much larger sums into common currencies may incur zero wire fees and secure an FX markup as low as 0.2%. This is more than 10 times cheaper than the average bank markup and can lead to huge savings.

In summary – what is the cheapest way to transfer money internationally?

Based on our research, we can confidently say that for higher-value transactions (>$20,000 AUD), opting for one of the leading currency brokers is undeniably your best choice.

For lower-value transfers, it’s advisable to compare currency brokers with some of the leading online money transfer specialists, as some of their subscription models may align better with your needs and bring you as close as possible to a free international transfer.

The only situation you should contemplate using your bank for an international transfer is in the rare event that your recipient agrees to receive a ‘same currency’ payment. In nearly all other circumstances, utilising your bank, cryptocurrency, credit card, or e-wallet for transferring money overseas ranks among the most expensive methods, resulting in fees ranging from 2-5% to 8%.

To start making huge savings on your next international transfer, take a look at our top rated currency brokers for 2023.