Families are important. Whether you’re sending money home or supporting distant relatives, you want to make sure your loved ones end up with more of the money and that you pay less in fees. Unfortunately, sending money internationally, also called a remittance, is a pretty lucrative industry. According to Forbes, the U.S. sends about $74.6 billion to individuals in low- and middle-income countries each year. And in 2021, the average fees were 6.4 % on international transfers, reported the World Bank. That means if you send $200, your friends or family only walk away with $187.20.
Here are a few things to consider to make your money go further.
It may be worth the effort to help less tech-savvy relatives set up a bank account. If you send transfers to multiple family members within the same country, consider making one larger transfer, to save money on fees. It’s usually free for your family to transfer funds within the same country. This may not work for all family situations.
2. Avoid credit card payments. - Not only do money transfers cost more when you pay with a credit card, but your card provider will process that payment as a cash advance. That means your credit card provider will charge you a $10 fee or 3% - 5% of the amount charged, whichever is higher. You’ll also start paying interest immediately, and the interest is often higher than your regular purchase rate. For a $250 money transfer, your card provider will charge you $10 - $12.50 in fees and another $3.90 - $7.20 in interest each month until it’s paid off. That’s $14 - $19.70 on top of the money transfer fees.
3. Shop around. - You’ve probably found an app you like. But don’t assume your favorite app always offers the best deal. For example, when you look at reporting from Nerd Wallet, OFX tends to offer the best bank-to-bank transfer rates in Mexico, while Remitly will save you on transfers that must be made in-store. The fees and the exchange rates also change depending on the amount you’re sending. MoneyGram has more competitive prices for large transfer amounts. If the details of your transfer change, it’s wise to shop around to get the best deal. Monito lets you compare costs for free. It offers a good estimate, but it’s not perfect. Exchange rates also fluctuate with the market. Rather than sending funds on the same day, each month, set a notification within your app or on Monito to notify you when the exchange rate is most favorable. Sometimes sending the money a few days early could get a better rate.
4. Use a high-yield savings account. - Consider setting up high-yield savings account specifically as a family support fund. You can set aside funds when you get a bonus or extra shifts. Then when emergencies occur or your hours are reduced, you’re prepared. Several high-yield savings accounts earn 1.3% - 1.5% and don’t charge monthly fees or require a minimum balance. If you move to send money less often, a savings account can make sure those funds are earning interest.
5. Don’t skimp on your 401K payments. - It may be counterintuitive, but 401(k) contributions may enable you to offer more support long-term. If you only contribute $50 each month starting at 30, you will contribute $21,000 by the time you’re 65 and will earn approximately $65,055 in interest. That’s $86,055 total.
Contributing to your 401(k) will put you in a better position to support your family, even after you retire.
"If we’re not helping all employees of color earn more, invest more and develop genuine autonomy, we’re not uplifting disenfranchised communities. The financial health of marginalized workers is critical to achieving equity and creating a productive and engaged workforce."
Founder of OfColor