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Best Way to Send Money Overseas: Western Union, Debit Card, or ?

I was twenty when I received an ROTC scholarship and enrolled at San Jose State University (SJSU).

How to Transfer Money Internationally

Transfer Money Overseas Free using one easy online trick!

Transfer Money Overseas Free using one easy online trick!

All over the world, transplanted workers desire to send money back home. What is the least expensive method? Is there a way to conduct a free international money transfer? There is. When you finish reading the explanation, you will wonder why you never thought of it yourself. This article also addresses several methods to send money, how much they cost, and how long the transfer takes before your recipient can withdraw money.

Transferring Money by Western Union

Western Union is easy to use. Just find one of many offices local to you. Pay the cashier, list the name and city of your recipient, and money transfers from your location to their overseas location.

Once you pay the local Western Union office, you receive an MTCN number. This is the number you must get to your recipient. You can phone it, email it, fax it, or send it however you can. Your recipient only needs to drive to the nearest Western Union office, present ID, give the MTCN number, and receive the funds you paid in a local office. That is how easy it can be to send money overseas.

This is not the easiest method, however. And, it is not the cheapest, either. Keep reading to learn how much Western Union charges to transfer money internationally.

How Much Does Western Union Charge?

How much does Western Union charge to send money overseas? As an example, here is the cost to send money from the U.S. to Ukraine. After I selected my destination, Ukraine, the site told me I can transfer a maximum of $2,500.

Notice there are three options: "money in minutes", money in 1–3 days, or money in 3 days. For the amounts I checked, there was no difference in price between the latter two types of transfer. Here is a table:

How Much Does it Cost to Send Money to Ukraine by Western Union?

Amount to Send"money in minutes"1-3 days delayafter 3 days









After I checked two different amounts, Western Union booted me out. When I logged back in, I found an entirely different web portal. The address bar gave an interesting line:

Notice the "price shopper" part. Did Western Union redirect me to a cheaper page? Maybe. I checked the cost to send $2,000. This time, I received two options:

Cost to Send $2,000 Internationally by Western Union

Amount to SendMoney in MinutesNext Day




The Ukrainian monetary symbol. Most often, hyrvnia is annotated as UAH.

The Ukrainian monetary symbol. Most often, hyrvnia is annotated as UAH.

Best Way to Send Money Overseas: Debit Cards

My wife has two accounts with Bank of America. One is the "Kiev" account and the other is the account we use to pay our bills. Here is how we transfer money cheaply to her family in Ukraine:

We transfer the money online from one account to the other. Of course, with both accounts at the same bank, this is free. My wife tells her family how much is available. They go to an ATM machine in Kiev and withdraw the money. They have the card for the second account. She left it with them on one of her visits.

The cost to withdraw the money is $8 per every 300 USD. The Ukrainian grivnya (UAH) is conventionally pegged to the US dollar and fluctuates within a very narrow horizontal band. We always use a flat $8 to calculate how much to tell them to transfer.

Withdrawing from the international ATM costs $5. Bank of America also charges a 1% foreign exchange fee. Here is the math for $200:

$200 - $5 ATM fee = $195

Different bank's ATMs (bankomats, in Ukrainian) have different limits. PrivatBank sets a limit of 1500 UAH. CreditBank, meanwhile, allows my bank's maximum of $400 per day (about 3200 UAH.) So, I use Creditbank's bankomat.

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Next, when you find a well-manage place you frequent, such as a chain grocery store or franchise restaurant, and you feel you can trust the enterprise, use your debit card for purchases. You will pay only your bank's currency exchange fee, and not the $5 ATM fee.

$195 - (.01 x $195) = $193.05 available to withdraw

Automatic Teller Machines are the same in all countries- you must withdraw an even number of the units dispensed. In Ukraine, the machines dispense funds in 100 UAH bills. In the United States, money must be withdrawn in units of $20. So, your calculation and transfer must consider this. Here is how I calculate for the $200 deposit example we are following:

$193.05 x 8 = 1544.40 UAH

This means they can withdraw 1400 UAH. Since the amount is close to 1600, we typically will deposit a few more dollars to round it up:

1600 / 8 = $200

So, we transfer an additional $7 to cover the extra amount. Of course, there will be a small increase in the 1% as well. Rather than always calculate this, we typically add $10 to amounts under $300. We usually send less than that, so we have no problems.

Easy Way to Transfer Money Internationally Using a Debit Card

It is also possible to do this with just one bank account. Use the same procedure. Open a bank account with a large national bank like Chase or BofA. Mail the card to your family overseas, make deposits. Call them and tell them how much they can withdraw.

Send Money Internationally Using Xoom

A relatively new method to send money overseas or internationally is Xoom. To send money with a debit or credit card can cost a market price. However, users of Xoom can save a lot of money by linking a bank account to their Xoom account.

Transfer Money Overseas Free

Now, here is the winning combination to transfer money free overseas. You will need a bank account. But, not just any account is needed. You need an online account. Some credit unions also will work for this method. The key thing is that the bank has none of their own bank cash machines—so they pay your cost to use other bank's ATMs.

Basically, you need to open an account with a bank that offers free ATM withdrawals. All banks make withdrawals free when you use their own machines. However, online banks, to remain competitive, pay the fee for you. USAA is one online credit union offering free international ATM withdrawals.

Since foreign exchange usually costs less through the bank than it costs to use a currency exchange specialist on the street or in airports, transferring money this way will actually save you money.

I hope these suggestions will help you to save money when transferring money overseas.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Man from Modesto


Caro on April 10, 2020:

How to transfer money to ATM from mobile bank apps

Zaton-Taran from California on February 09, 2017:

We give our extended family credit cards in Montenegro instead of sending cash, and then just pay the monthly bill. They are disciplined and never go over the limit.

Leo on May 05, 2015:

Seems like good advice for those, who are transferring money on a regular basis.

I used Currencyfair and Paysera online transfer options for a number of times. Their advantage is that they offer better currency exchange rates than banks do. So if the transferred amount is large, it makes quite a big difference in numbers you receive in the end.

teacherjoe52 on October 08, 2012:

Hi Man from Modesto.

Thanks for the advice but I prefer to be an independent. I don't like that I receive a pitenance from the book sales. I prefer to ask for a gift and in exchange the book will be given to them as a gift.

God bless you.

Man from Modesto (author) from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California) on October 07, 2012:


Have you tried selling books on Kindle? Some of the people in my writers' group published there. They said there are some important formatting rules, and exclusivity/promotional options. Other than that, they made it sound easy.

teacherjoe52 on October 07, 2012:

Good morning.

Thanks for the great resources. I am lookinh into Xoom now. Where I live we cannot use PayPal. I would like to sell my ebooks independently and thought the only way would be through Western Union or through American Express which would mean going to Hong Kong a lot.

God bless you.

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