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Where to go to get US dollars in your hands: Comparing the best international money transfer services

With the Australian dollar up one day and down the next, transferring money to the US can be a nerve-racking affair. So with all the transfer options out there, where will you get the best price? Techly has done the leg work for you.

We went to a number of services, and compared how much they differed from the current exchange rate, which was 0.7182 at the time of writing. (It’s doing a little better today but continues to fluctuate.)

Unless otherwise specified, the dollar sign [$] refers to Australian dollars.

One more thing – while we’re looking at US transfers, many of these apply to more global currencies as well, such pound sterling, euros, and many more.

World First

worldfirst
World First offered close to the exchange rate, give or take a few tenths, at 0.7138. While there is a $10 fee for transfers under $10,000 the only fee for transfers over $10,000 is the takeout on the exchange rate.

As such, World First seems geared towards big spenders, or businesses making large and frequent transactions.

Transfers can take up to a day to complete. World First also offer locking in a rate for up to two years in advance.

How many US dollars you’ll get for $1000
The fee comes out at the front end, so you’d actually be sending $990, for which you would receive a total of $US706.62.

OrbitRemit


OrbitRemit offered an exchange rate of 0.7046, plus a $5 fee – although your first transaction with the company is free, as are transfers over $10,000.

Transfers through Orbit Remit are done strictly via internet banking, go straight into bank accounts, and take one to two days.

The only option for cash pick-ups are for China, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

How many US dollars you’ll get for $1000
With Orbit Remit charging their fee in Aussie dollars, your $1000 is actually $995, which will give you a total of $US701.08.

CurrencyFair

With the Australian dollar slowly descending to a point where it has descended past the point where it was during the GFC, transfer money to the U.S. can be a nerve-racking affair.  (via CurrencyFair and Finovate)

CurrencyFair offered a rate of 0.7105, as well as charging a $US4 transfer fee. CurrencyFair say the more users they get, the more this transfer fee will decrease. Also, it generally takes a few days for the money to clear.

How many US dollars you’ll get for $1000
$US710.50 minus the $US4 for a total of $US706.50.

PayPal

With the Australian dollar slowly descending to a point where it has descended past the point where it was during the GFC, transfer money to the U.S. can be a nerve-racking affair.  (via PayPal)

Known as the business to take care of your money online, PayPal offered an exchange rate of 0.691795. Unlike the other systems, PayPal’s international transfer fees are based on a percentage: 1 per cent for transfers to the US if the money goes from your bank account or PayPal account, but 3.9 per cent of the total amount transferred, plus a $USD0.30 transaction fee, if you use a credit card (for a full list of transfer fees according to country, click here).

How many US dollars you’ll get for $1000
Let’s assume you’re using your bank or PayPal account.

$1000 gives you $US691.79 minus a 1 per cent fee leaves you with a total of $US684.87.

Western Union

westernunion
Western Union offered an exchange rate of 0.6917, with fees starting at $4.99 and scaling up to $30.

Transfers can be picked up instantly if done in person at one of the over 45,000 US locations, but be warned: Western Union has a somewhat unclean reputation online, notoriously used by scammers.

That said, don’t be put off by a classic Nigerian scheme – Western Union is a legitimate, 164-year-old operation. If you trust the person you’re sending money to, or receiving money from, there shouldn’t be any problem.

How many US dollars you’ll get for $1000
For $1000, you’ll be slugged with a $20 fee at the front, so you’ll actually just send $980, and receive a total of $US677.87.

The big banks

Of course, the whole point of these new internet transfer services is to take on the big banks, who offer notoriously bad exchange rates and high fees.

Also, you’ll need an account with the relevant bank, which takes time and money to set up, and if you want to save money, you’ll need to have internet banking as well.

However, it’s worth noting that there’s a reason these guys are called ‘the big banks’ – because a lot of people use them. As such, while we aren’t having a go at any of the above services, the security provided by the banks really is second to none.

National Australia Bank

nab
The NAB offered an exchange rate of 0.6761, their transfers are available via internet banking, to another bank account, and fees for doing so cost $22.

How many US dollars you’ll get for $1000
With the $22 fee, you’re actually exchanging $978, which will see you end up with $US661.

ANZ

With the Australian dollar slowly descending to a point where it has descended past the point where it was during the GFC, transfer money to the U.S. can be a nerve-racking affair.  (via Australia and New Zealand Banking and First Class Accounts)

ANZ offered 0.6794, with transfers taking up to two working days. Fees for transferring cost $32 in person or on the phone, or $18 with internet banking.

How many US dollars you’ll get for $1000
You’re online at the moment, so we’ll assume you’ve got internet banking.

With $18 out, you’ll be transferring $982, for a total of $US667.17.

Commonwealth Bank

With the Australian dollar slowly descending to a point where it has descended past the point where it was during the GFC, transfer money to the U.S. can be a nerve-racking affair.  (via Commonwealth Bank and 4vector)

Commbank offered an exchange rate of 0.6720. Fees for transferring start at $18 for netbank, but go up to $30.

How many US dollars you’ll get for $1000
Your $982 will land you $US659.90.

The winner?

World First $US706.62
Currency Fair $US706.50
OrbitRemit $US701.08
PayPal $US684.87
Western Union $US677.87
ANZ $US667.17
NAB $US661
Commonwealth Bank $US659.90

The best place to take your $1000 is World First, who edged out Currency Fair by 12 whole cents, and was about $5 better than Orbit Remit – but with their first transaction free, you might as well give them a go at least once!

So really, any of these new services give you the best bang (or should that be buck) for your buck, beating some of the more traditional methods by almost as much as $US50!

Furthermore, these new services are getting rave reviews.

If you’re in need of money now, and businesses are still open, then Western Union is your best bet, with money able to be picked up almost instantly.

At the end of the day, any of the non-bank alternatives work out well for international transfers, but if you’re really desperate and feel like paying an incredibly large fee, there’s always the banks to fall back on.

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