We are often asked: Can you use a Credit Card to Transfer Money Overseas?
Yes you can. Most often this is done directly through your bank or a vendor like Paypal. It’s generally not a good idea to use a credit card to transfer money for several reasons:
- The interest rate you pay will likely be higher as the transaction will be considered a “cash advance” from the day of the transfer
- You will be charged higher fees
- You probably won’t get the best exchange rate
The Currency Shop says:
- Generally speaking, a better approach is to fund a transfer via your bank account, an electronic funds transfer, or a direct debit.
- For lower fees and a more favorable exchange rate opting for a dedicated currency provider can be another good solution.
What we will cover in this article:
It’s rare to find anyone today who doesn’t have a credit card, and with the hassle-free buy now pay later convenience it’s not hard to see why. In some cases, credit cards can be used to transfer money internationally. But before you do this it’s critical to understand fees, surcharges and the fine print so you don’t end up getting overcharged. In the following, we’ll take a closer look at:
- When should you use a credit card to transfer money overseas?
- Emergency transfers – Moneygram, Western Union, and PayPal
- Standard transfers – Your own bank
- Best value transfers – Dedicated currency providers
- Understanding the fine print
- The Currency Shop reviews different currency providers (OFX, HiFX, TorFX, Moneygram, Transferwise, WorldFirst)
When should you use a credit card to transfer money overseas?
It may be tempting to use your credit card when you need to transfer money internationally, but proceed carefully, the fees and charges can make it more costly than other methods.
When it makes sense to use a credit card
- If you stand to benefit from a reward program, earning air miles or cash back for example.
- It’s an emergency and you don’t have any other options for funding the transfer.
Eric is from Michigan and his daughter is studying abroad in Barcelona. After a panicked Skype call he becomes aware that her wallet was stolen and checking account cleaned out. He needs to get her some money quickly and is not worried about the cost. He funds a Paypal transfer with his Amex card and saves the day. What Eric didn’t know is that he could have saved a lot of money in fees and exchange rate by using a dedicated currency provider to get his US dollars converted to Euros in his daughter’s pocket.
Cons of using a credit card
Some of the drawbacks to using a credit card are:
- Not all providers will accept credit cards as a method of funding a transfer.
- The credit card issuer will charge high interest on your transfer as it’s considered a “cash advance”.
- Typically you will get dinged with more fees and charges when using a credit card.
Emergency transfers – Moneygram, Western Union, and PayPal
PayPal, Western Union, and Moneygram are all handy services but they’re best left for emergencies. The added fees and the possibility of a “double conversion” (penalty for funding in a currency other than USD) mean that you will get charged a higher amount to make your transfer.
- Moneygram will take credit card or debit card payments for either agent transfers in person or online transfers. If you’re going with this method don’t forget about those pesky cash advance fees and that other interest charges may apply.
- Western Union accepts international payments online via debit or credit card, at no additional cost. They accept both Visa and Mastercard. The maximum daily amount for an online transfer is $5,000 USD.
- Paypal allows you to fund an international transfer with a credit card, but you will pay for the convenience. They accept also Visa, Mastercard, and Amex, but charge a minimum of 3.4% plus a fixed fee (dependant on which country you’re sending money to). For Hong Kong this is 2.35 Hong Kong Dollars and 0.2 Pounds for the UK, to give two examples. This compares to the considerably smaller 0.5 – 3.3% for using a Paypal account funded through a direct debit from your bank. This means the credit card fee can dramatically affect the cost you pay to transfer money. For smaller amounts these percentages are insignificant but as the amount grows, it matters more and more. The sender has the option to choose who pays that fee (you or the recipient).
Standard transfers – Your own bank
In terms of international transfers, banks can be a useful go-to, but they don’t come without their drawbacks either. Most (big) banks offer a diversity options for transferring money, but you’ll be charged fees for any method you select. In many cases, you’ll pay higher rates than alternative transfer providers and the exchange rates can be less competitive. It depends on the bank, but often times this option isn’t worth it.
Top value – Transfer via dedicated currency providers
If you want to pay the lowest fees and get the best exchange rate (who doesn’t?) your best bet is likely to go with a dedicated currency provider such as OFX, HiFX or TorFX. Although none of these accept credit card payments directly you can always place funds in your checking account from the credit card and send the money this way.
Pro tip: Moving money from a credit account to a checking account will be considered a cash advance, and you will probably have to pay increased interest rates from the date of the transaction. Make sure to check the details to learn your bank’s fees and specifics.
OFX currently does not accept payment directly from a credit card. In order to fund your transfer you’ll need to electronically transfer money from your bank. Note: OFX does not accept cash or personal checks.
HiFX does not accept direct credit card payments, but you can use your credit card to fund the account with USD when going through the electronic funds transfer process (credit card>checking account>HiFx account).
TorFX also does not accept credit cards as a direct source of funding for transfers. They require you to send your USD funds to their account via a standard electronic bank transfer.
Understanding the fine print
If you want to make an international transfer from a credit card you have few options but regardless of the approach, you’ll need one issued by a US-based financial institution (like a bank or specialized credit card issuer).
Funding a credit card-based transfer in a currency other than USD almost always ends up meaning higher cost(s). The fees will go up and the exchange rates tend to work against you. On top of that most overseas providers (with the exception of Paypal and WesternUnion) will not accept overseas cards in a different currency for funding a payment in USD.