5 Best Apps for International Banking Needs

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Managing money abroad involves more than just keeping track of different currencies and exchange rates. The simple act of sending or receiving money electronically isn’t so simple across international borders. In the U.S., bank accounts are identified by routing and account numbers. In Europe, they use international bank account numbers (IBANs), but different IBANs have different prefixes — FR in France, DE in Germany, IT in Italy, etc. Australia, on the other hand, uses BSB codes.

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If you’re planning on living, studying or even just traveling abroad on vacation, make sure you have a money-management plan beyond just the cash in your fanny pack. The following is a look at the top apps for sending and receiving money, making payments and converting cash securely and safely while outside of your home country. Don’t wait until you’re overseas to plan for how you’ll handle your finances once you get there.

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Wise

Formerly TransferWise, Wise is known for fast and inexpensive transactions to and from just about anywhere — it’s available in 170 countries and supports 50 currencies. 

In a test transfer of $1,000, Wise is cheaper than banks like Chase and Wells Fargo, wire services like WesternUnion and OFX, and payment facilitators like PayPal. That’s because it uses the real mid-market exchange rate for every transaction. There are no maximums or minimums for transfers and Wise charges just one transparent fee. 

Around 400,000 businesses rely on Wise, and travelers, students and expats use it to move money across borders for everything from sending money to friends to paying mortgages in other countries.

Remitly

Wise’s own $1,000 test transfer showed that Remitly was the least expensive out of all the major international money transfer services — including Wise itself. Remitly supports more than 75 currencies and has no hidden fees. 

You can send and receive money in more than 145 countries, including 40 African countries, Mexico, India and the Philippines.

It stands out for its many delivery options for people on the receiving end — you can get your cash as a bank deposit, mobile transfer to your phone, a cash pickup from thousands of locations and even delivery to the recipient’s home.

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PayPal

PayPal is one of the oldest, most popular and most trusted names in payment facilitation, but familiarity is only one reason that international users flock to it. You can send money through PayPal in nearly every country on Earth — more than 200 in total.

The downside is that the pricing and fees can be vague and confusing, but PayPal’s menu of services is tough to match. International users can send and request money, donate and raise funds, deposit checks, sell things and pay with QR codes — PayPal even lets you buy, sell and checkout with cryptocurrency.

MoneyGram

Like PayPal, MoneyGram is available in more than 200 countries.

Also like PayPal, it has a well-established history in the industry — but in that category, the two aren’t even in the same ballpark. PayPal was founded during the Wild West days of the early internet in the late 1990s. MoneyGram, on the other hand, has more than 80 years of history dating back to the Travelers Express days around the time of World War II.

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The app is available for iOS and Android, and online money transfers, in-person transfers or both are available outside of the many countries where the app is supported. 

OFX

Like every service on the list, OFX can beat the rate your bank is likely to offer you for international transfers. The app supports more than 50 currencies in over 190 countries, and OFX offers unrivaled security. As a listed entity on the Australian Stock Exchange, it’s monitored by more than 50 regulatory bodies across the world. 

The app lets you check rates before you send money and monitor transfers once they’re in progress. OFX also offers advanced features like fixing FX rates 12 months in advance for future transfers. You can register in less than five minutes and OFX gets high marks for its customer service. You can talk to a real, live person 24/7, unlike the many other services that require you to navigate time zone differences to get a representative on the phone.

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A Better Way to Bank

About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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