Whether you’ve come to the Western world from Africa or the Middle East, you’re likely to want to send money back home to your family.
Only a decade or two ago, the only way to do so would have been with credit unions such as Western Union, which threw up a whole heap of problems, or by going to your bank and paying extortionate fees every time you did so.
Now, with the birth of the internet age, international banking and in the near future, cryptocurrency adoption, sending much-needed finances home is easier, faster and safer than ever. While in the near past the best way was to send money internationally with Paypal, now all you have to do is download one of the many international money transfer apps out there and get sending.
This means many of the old problems with economic migration have been broken down, and doing so to provide for your family makes much more sense than ever before. There are many reasons for inward remittances, one of the most common causes is the ability of the people living abroad to support family members, e.g. to study and to get a bachelor degree.
In this article we want to help guide you through the world of how to transfer money through mobile phones, to help you have a great experience in doing so.
How to choose an international money transfer app
Because transferring money to international bank accounts has become so common, there are now many apps on the market that do this. This means it can be very hard for you to make a choice on which app to use.
Your app should have all the standard features: It should be able to show you live currency exchange rates, it should allow you to see your current balance on the app (if you store money with them), and of course it should allow you to make financial transfers to the country you’re trying to send money to.
They may not always send to your country as each app will have to follow international wire transfer regulations, which prevents funding terrorism and money laundering. This is especially important to research beforehand, not all apps transfer to all countries, so be sure to find this out before you sign up to them!
Some extra features to watch out for that can be very helpful are: voice commands, showing you how much you’re saving compared to doing a regular bank transfer with your bank, when some common times of the week are for the best exchange rates for your country, or allow cash pick-ups and mobile phone top ups!
The security of the app you are using is very important. You want to make sure that any app you use has a very strong server to protect it against hackers stealing your data, including bank account details, identification, bank accounts you’ve sent money to and any other personal information you may have stored with them.
The security on your side of the app should be very important too. There have been many times when we’ve lost our phones, or had them hacked into, or even had our children pick it up and start pressing random things, so you want to make sure no one but you can access the app on your phone! This should include features like Google’s 2 Factor Authentication, passwords and fingerprint ID if your phone has that feature.
Ease of use
Whichever app you use should be full of all the features you need, but should also be easy to use. You should be able to access your account and send money very simply and quickly. Two to three clicks or taps should be all it takes to choose an account you want to send money to, and input the amount you’d like to send.
It should also have an interface that’s clear, simple and intuitive, so you aren’t fighting with the app to show what you want for the first few days you have it!
While obviously having great features and an easy to use interface is important, so is how much you’ll be spending every time you send money. This is a very personal decision to you, but you should also try to make sure the fees are at least half of what you would pay with your bank. This way you have the convenience of your app, as well as a cheaper experience.
One thing to be aware of with apps with low fees, is that some of them take a margin on the foreign exchange rates too, so double-check with your research that you’re getting the best deal possible.
Our top 5 picks
Here are our picks for the best international money transfer apps out there, taking into account the above described features, security, ease of use and fees!
Worldremit is our first pick. It is a fantastic app that really cares about its users. They often have sign-up deals with waivered fees on your first transfer, so it is worth waiting to sign up until they have another deal available!
They have a fantastic set of features, enabling you to send funds to over 50 countries around the world, and all with great convenience! Not only can you send funds to another’s bank account, you can choose to organise a cash pick-up, home delivery, mobile phone top-up, or even have the funds sent to a mobile phone wallet.
On top of this, WorldRemit has a tracking service that will keep you updated by SMS at every step of the transfer so you can feel safe in the knowledge your finances are getting home safely with a good timeline!
One drawback to this app however is that it doesn’t work on jailbroken phones due to security reasons, so it’s worth bearing this in mind if you do have one, as many people do!
One of TransferWise’s strong points is its low fees. This is because the app uses interbank rates, so normally the charge ends up being only 1% of the transfer, which is an incredible rate! It also shows you how much you’ve saved on your transfer compared to other services, so you can be sure of the great deal you’re getting.
You can also use a bank transfer for this service, or a credit card, which allows you some flexibility on the money you’re transferring and when you’ll pay it back.
The drawback to Transferwise for those from Africa and the Middle-east however is the low amount of countries it can send to. In Africa, until very recently it would only transfer to ZAR, however, it has a very good rate for this, and ZAR can also be used in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia.
However, in mid 2017, Transferwise created the MEA (Middle-East & Africa) team, to create the opportunity to transfer to more currencies. Since then they have added Israel, Nigeria, Kenya & Egypt to their list of countries, and have improved the service of transferring to South Africa, UAE, Morocco and Turkey.
Currencyfair has a great system of transferring money. Rather than brokering through banks, the app uses peer-to-peer payments, so that the rates are much cheaper. That means you sell your currency to individuals and SMEs in your target country who buy at competitive prices compared to ForEx markets.
You end up with fantastic rates and fees as a result: between 0.1% and 0.6% fees with a 3 euro transfer fee on top. If you’re sending large amounts, this is an absolute steal.
A fantastic feature that CurrencyFair has is their live currency tracker, which enables you to check instantly what the exchange rate for your currency is. This becomes extremely useful if you’re sending to multiple currencies, or want to get the best deal possible for your money! One advantage they have over TransferWise is they also send to many more countries across the world.
This fantastic app is the one to use for outward remittances if you’re from a country not supported by the others. It supports over 200 countries and 150 currencies. That’s almost all available across the world, so even if you’re from a very small country, or one with lots of civil problems, you should still be able to send currency to there.
Another fantastic feature to Payoneer is that transfers are actually free to other Payoneer users, so if you have an international business, this is a very good app to use for your finances.
Finally we have Azimo, This is a very secure app; they are regulated by the FCA and HMRC in the UK, meaning your information is very safe, while you’ll also be insured against bad practices through the app. They also have SSL certificates in their app which add extra layers of security.
Azimo is also dedicated to just being an app, which shows in their app being more easy to use and clear than other apps which also have to support a website and other architecture.
Finally, the app also has 10 different viewing languages, enabling you to use the app in many native languages.
Jens Ischebeck (@JensIschebeck) is an Africa focused website publisher. The two main sites are apps-for-money-transfer.com (international money transfer apps for inward and outward remittances) and fast-bachelor-degree.com (accelerated bachelor degree by inline studying).
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