In a lot of ways traveling around the world is easier than transferring money online to someone else across international borders, especially if you don’t have a bank account based in the United States. Making payments for things like short-term rentals or paying your share of a trip with travel buddies is often a hassle involving discouraging fees. Unfortunately for many people, the best online payment services are restricted to those with American bank accounts.
Cash isn’t always an option and being able to move money online has significant advantages when you’re dealing with different currencies. Although you can’t get around fees (here’s how to when dealing with airlines), these services have a good combination of international reach with ease of use.
Currently operating in 41 countries (sorry, you can’t transfer money to U.S. accounts) Xoom gives you the option to make payments using your bank account or credit card. All you need is someone’s bank account number and recipient can either take the payment as a direct deposit, cash pickup, or home delivery (where available).
Xoom was recently purchased by Paypal so their low-flat fee structure might not be around for long but until any changes are implemented, it’s a great option to consider where it’s available.
The payment service with an incomprehensible fee structure everyone hates but still uses anyway. Paypal has a very wide reach though, available in over 200 countries (including America), and lots of people have accounts with them. It’s straightforward plus there are ways to get around Paypal fees under the right conditions. You don’t need to exchange long bank account numbers with Paypal – a mobile number or email will do – and works well with people who aren’t the most tech-savvy.
Low fees, international coverage, without the need to visit a physical location even though that’s probably what you associate most with Western Union. Both sender and receiver need to have an online account with Western Union, which is basically as easy to set up as an Instagram page. Transfers have relatively low fees compared to the other options on this list but the drawback of both parties needing an account makes Western Union potentially less user-friendly.
Very similar to the service provided by Western Union, MoneyGram also has physical pickup locations around the world. Optionally you can send money directly into another bank account without the other side requiring a MoneyGram account.
How To Use These Service Effectively
Given that all of the money transfer services listed above essentially provide the same function, you might be a little confused as to what the differences are. Keep in mind that each have their own mobile apps so you can give or get money from your phone and tablet. Also, most transfers take 3-5 business days. For ease of use, go with Paypal; Xoom is better alternative if a U.S. bank account isn’t involved. Both Western Union and MoneyGram are less intuitive to use but are great choices if you want to send cash to a person who might not have access to an online banking account.
There’s nothing stopping you of course from signing up to some of all of the above. Doing so can be a good way to compare fees so you can save more of that money to travel. You’ll have more flexibility to manage your digital travel budget, particularly by selecting a fee-free travel bank.
Quite a disservice to not even mention Bitcoin as an option worth investigating. While I appreciate that it is not for the newbie’s and requires a bit more effort than the others, the rewards for learning about and using it can be tremendous given the benefits. Naturally I am not suggesting you list as an equal as it’s still in the early years but completely excluding is not the answer either.
I considered it, but it’s not an elegant solution currently for most people. I’ve covered it though in the past: http://foxnomad.com/2014/02/11/find-best-travel-banks-spend-bitcoin-maximize-miles-articles-mine-around-web/