Saturday, July 13, 2024

Best Ways to Send and Receive Money While Studying Abroad

Make smart money moves across borders. 💰

Good news: you’re a college student studying abroad in your dream destination. Bad news: you’re pressed for cash despite having limited part-time job options as an international student. 😬

Loved ones back home now have to decode international money transfers to send some help. Here’s the rundown on sending and receiving money while studying abroad, plus the best services available from the US to wherever you are and vice versa. 🌎

How to Send and Receive Money While Studying Abroad 

A trio of college students about to study abroad discuss money transfer apps and research banking options
Diligent research, talking to friends with similar experiences, and seeking guidance from the university office will tell you what you need to know about available banks and money transfer apps abroad. Photo: Freepik

Understanding how to send or receive money in a different country is an essential skill, especially when studying abroad alone. There are two common ways to transfer money overseas: international wire transfers and money transfer services. Both options typically involve fees and exchange rate markups. 

International Wire Transfer

This method requires a bank or financial institution to act as an intermediary and move existing cash from one account to another. 🏦 

International money transfers typically have high service fees (ranging from $30 to $50 per transaction) and may take a few business days since they pass through multiple authentication systems. While this option isn’t the most convenient, it’s the most secure for transferring large amounts of cash like tuition. 😄

Good to know: The US Office of Foreign Assets Control monitors international wire transfers to ensure the money is not being used for money laundering or terrorism. 

Money Transfer Services

Money transfer services are best for sending smaller amounts of cash because they charge low or no service fees and usually arrive in real-time. These are for day-to-day expenses, like bill payments or emergency cash, while studying abroad. 

The sender connects a bank account, credit card, or debit card to a digital wallet to facilitate transactions. Some apps put transaction limits, but be mindful of the associated fees and the currency exchange rates to get the most bang for your buck. ✅

Good to know: The US dollar can have a higher or lower value when converted to another currency. Look at different banks and financial services to find the best exchange rates (with little to no markup fees).

8 Best Ways to Send and Receive Money Internationally 

1. International Student Bank Account

A female international student fills out a bank application form while talking to the bank's customer service on the phone
Online research or touching base with the bank’s customer service to double-check your documents can avoid delays when opening an account. Photo: Freepik

Opening an international student bank account can be used to pay rent or utility bills and receive your part-time job pay, making it easier for those studying abroad. 

An international bank near campus or housing is a good place to start an account because it’ll likely have perks for foreign students, such as account options for non-residents, little or waived monthly fees, mobile banking, and free service subscriptions. 😄

Students from the US need to apply in person with identification requirements (a passport showing the right type of student visa, a valid ID, proof of enrollment and residence, and the money for your initial deposit. You can ask your university’s international student office for assistance in opening a bank account, too. ✅


  • Can build a local credit history if you plan to live there
  • Save up on cash conversions


  • Language proficiency may be needed in non-English-speaking countries

2. Wise

Every time you request money from your parents back home, service fees and exchange rate markups pile on top of the actual amount you need. 😬

Wise can help eliminate added costs because it uses the mid-market rate for different currencies with no hidden fees. This means most of the money sent will go to you instead of banks or money transfer services. 

Sending and receiving money abroad requires you to sign up for an account and prepare verification documents. Then, specify the amount, the recipient, the modes of payment, and your transaction status within the app. 📱


  • No mark-ups or hidden costs
  • User-friendly interface (mobile and desktop)
  • Offers a debit card (with a fee) for ATM withdrawals


  • Slow customer service
  • Can only receive money via Wise or bank account

3. Western Union

Studying abroad in an uncommon destination? Choose a money transfer option with a wide network like Western Union, which is present everywhere except North Korea and Iran. 😲

Students in a developing country (especially those with limited access to traditional banks) can usually find multiple Western Union outlets. A bank account isn’t required since this money transfer service can release money to recipients with just an ID and a 10-digit Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN).

While it may not be the cheapest money transfer option, it’s one of the oldest and most reliable ways to send and receive money internationally. Sign up for free online to receive money in your bank account or mobile wallet or claim it in a physical location. 👍


  • Multiple payment options and receiving options
  • Multiple outlets around the world
  • User-friendly mobile app


  • Pricey exchange rate and service transfer fees

4. Revolut

Splitting the bill with friends after a night out can be a headache. If you’re studying in a European country like the UK, it’s a good idea to register for a Revolut account to sort out that problem and even send and receive money overseas. 🌍

Revolut offers subscription services with different inclusions, but a free standard plan allows you to send and receive money anywhere. Cash is stored in your digital wallet and can be withdrawn via ATM, although there’s a £200 or five-times maximum withdrawal limit. 

If you’re backpacking through Europe during your break, exchange up to £1,000 into around 30 different currencies with no additional fees during weekdays. 📅 Higher transaction limits plus other perks (like travel benefits) are unlocked with paid subscription plans



  • Has no physical bank branches
  • Creating personal accounts is only available for legal residents in the EEA, Australia, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK, and the US

5. Xoom

An African-American male international student studying abroad opens a Xoom account via the mobile app to send and receive money
Through Xoom, recipients can claim their money via bank account, cash pick-up, or cash delivery. Photo: Freepik

It would make sense for avid PayPal users to use Xoom, the company’s international money transfer service. Depending on the currency and amount, Xoom offers fee-free transactions using PayPal and the service itself. 

US residents can send up to $100,000 using Xoom, and there’s also a money-back guarantee giving senders a full refund within 30 minutes (only if the recipient hasn’t claimed the funds). 👍

Your family can pay your bills abroad, reload your mobile phone, or even have cash delivered to you (depending on location) through the service. Xoom keeps your financial information secure, but in case of hiccups, round-the-clock customer service in different languages is available. 📞


  • No fees if using a PayPal account
  • Issues full refund for canceled or failed transactions within 30 minutes 


  • Pricey transaction fees
  • May require extra documentation 

6. OFX

Need emergency cash while studying abroad? Tell your folks that OFX has no amount limit in more than 50 currencies. 🤑

In case your parents aren’t tech-savvy, this Australian company also offers the option of setting up money transfers via phone call, plus 24/7 customer service to resolve any issues. 📞 

The service’s personal use option lets you keep more of your money instead of losing it to fees with transactions above AU$10,000 (or its equivalent) due to its fee-free transfer feature and favorable customer exchange rates compared to most banks. 


  • 24/7 customer support
  • Can lock in a good exchange rate applicable for up to 12 months 


  • High minimum transfer amount

7. WorldRemit

Feeling homesick is common when you’re studying abroad, but parents can show support through a hefty allowance sent through WorldRemit. 😄

WorldRemit makes it easy to receive money wherever you are with its multiple receiving options: airtime top-up, bank transfer, mobile money, or cash pickup. You can also track your money’s movement to avoid anxiety in case you’re chasing a payment deadline. 

Use the app or the website to create an account to start sending money and pay for it using your credit card, debit card, or bank transfer. WorldRemit also offers special codes for discounts or fee-free transfers for first-time customers. 👀


  • Maximum $9,000 transfer limit every 24 hours
  • Can receive cash without a WorldRemit account


  • Pricey transfer fees

8. Xe

A semester or two in your dream European country can awaken your wanderlust after graduation. Xe can be the perfect companion as the app operates in over 130 countries. 💯

Money sent via the app is delivered to your bank account located anywhere in the world, which is helpful when studying abroad. Typically, accounts registered in the US transferring at least $500 don’t have to pay extra fees, depending on your mode of payment

The app shows your money’s estimated arrival date, but remember that bank transfers and similar payment options, currency types, or additional verification requests (which you can upload via the app) can affect the transfer speed. 📲


  • Has live chat, phone, and email support
  • Multiple available currencies


  • Adds a markup on the mid-market exchange rate
CompanyTransfer FeesCoverage
Wise– Same-currency money transfers using Wise is free
– Sending money to a different currency has a fee starting from 0.43 percent
50 listed countries, but users can send to others as long as the recipient’s account is in USD, EUR, or GBP
Western UnionVaries depending on the transfer type (bank, credit/debit card, Western Union agent location)More than 200 countries and territories
Revolut– Fee-free for bank transfers within the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) Zone
– Varied fees for other international payments for Standard Plan users
160+ countries
XoomVaries depending on the transfer type (PayPal account, bank account, debit card, credit card)US, Canada, the UK, and most countries in the European Economic Area
OFX– Transfers below AUD $10,000 have a standard fee of AUD $15
– Transfers above AUD $10,000 are fee-free
Over 190 countries
WorldRemitVaries depending on currency, but the first bank transfer is freeOver 130 countries
XEVaries depending on payment method, currency type, and recipient countryOver 130 countries 

With multiple ways to send and receive money abroad, choose a service or two that covers your host country and has the lowest fees and exchange rate markups for the best value for money. 

Part of being a responsible student studying abroad is sticking to a budget and understanding the available money transfer options to make a balanced decision. ⚖️

Best Ways to Send and Receive Money While Studying Abroad: Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the safest way to send money abroad as a college student?

The safest way to send and receive money abroad is through international wire transfers. These come with multiple layers of verification among banks and related financial institutions within the home and recipient countries, but the processing time tends to take multiple working days. 

Are there any hidden fees associated with international money transfers?

How can I avoid unfavorable exchange rates when studying abroad?

What alternative options exist beyond traditional bank transfers?

What factors should I consider in choosing a money transfer service? 

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