International Money Transfer! What’s the Cheapest Way

I’ve been needing to send a significant amount of money from the USA to Japan, so I decided to research the cheapest international money transfer methods.

Until now, Wise (formerly TransferWise) was my go-to. Last year, I transferred around $10,000 using Wise, and I remember thinking, “Hmm, the fees aren’t as high as I expected.” So, I decided to look into it again.


What is Wise?

Wise, founded in London in 2011, has experienced rapid growth since its inception. It’s been aggressively marketing in North America recently. Originally known as “TransferWise,” it shook up the expatriate community with its revolutionary exchange rates and transparent fee structure when banks were charging exorbitant fees. Born out of the frustration of one of its co-founders who immigrated from Estonia to the UK but still had to make mortgage payments to an Estonian bank while working in the UK, the service caters not only to immigrant needs but also to the international money transfer needs of business users

Advantages of Wise

Wise offers overwhelmingly favorable exchange rates and transparently presents all transfer fees in advance.

When you compare international money transfer websites, Wise may initially appear to have higher fees. However, since Wise allows you to transfer at rates close to the real exchange rate, it often turns out to be cheaper in the end. However, it’s worth noting that the rates used on comparison sites may not always be accurate, so it’s recommended to log in to the actual site and simulate the transfer whenever possible. The reason for Wise’s low fees and quick transfers is that it combines domestic transfers in each country rather than international transfers. However, once the amount exceeds a certain threshold, it switches to international transfers using the SWIFT system, which may result in slightly higher fees. Depending on the amount and currency pair, there may be services cheaper than Wise for simply “sending money to someone else.”

However, Wise also offers the advantage of being able to withdraw funds using a debit card in another country or keeping funds in another currency. For example, when traveling between Japan and the US, instead of exchanging dollars and yen every time or making international transfers, you can keep a certain amount in “Japanese yen” in your Wise account. There are no fees for keeping money in your account. Therefore, it’s recommended for expatriates, not just in the US, to create and maintain a Wise account.

Disadvantages of Wise

There are three main disadvantages to Wise:

  1. It takes time for verification.
  2. If you register with Japan as your base, the limit per transfer is ¥1 million due to Japanese law restrictions.
  3. Lastly, and this depends on the case, when you only look at the “fees,” they may be higher than other services.
Wise: the international account | Money without borders
160+ countries, 40 currencies, one account. Save when you send, spend and manage your money internationally.

When you register with Wise through this link, you can send up to £500 with no fees. Since Wise generally offers the best exchange rates, if the fees are waived within this range, Wise is definitely the cheapest option.



XE is a company founded in 1993. While the fees are free, the FX rates are higher than Wise. However, there may be cases where the total cost is cheaper than Wise, so please check.

Xe: Currency Exchange Rates and International Money Transfers
Get the best currency exchange rates for international money transfers to 200 countries in 100 foreign currencies. Send ...

Advantages of XE

XE has two advantages:

The first is that the upper limit for sending money is high. If you need to send more than ¥1 million in Japanese yen, you need to split the transfer into two with Wise, but with XE, you can send it all at once.

When you register with XE for the first time and send over $300 through Rakuten‘s cashback, you’ll receive additional $11.25.


Remitly is an online money transfer service company founded in Seattle in 2011. It was created specifically for immigrants working abroad with family back in their home countries. Similar to Wise, it emphasizes “transparent fees.”

Advantages of Remitly

Remitly offers pretty good exchange rates. While it can’t quite match Wise, it’s about halfway between XE and Wise in terms of rates. The fees may also be lower than Wise, so please check.

The first transfer is fee-free with Remitly. Since it’s definitely cheaper when considering it’s fee-free, it’s recommended to use Remitly’s first-time offer.

When you register for the first time with Remitly and send over $300 through Rakuten‘s cashback, you’ll receive $7.5.

Disadvantages of Remitly

Remitly is not available in Japanese. Since Wise and XE are available in Japanese, many may find this inconvenient.

While it’s not necessarily a disadvantage, when setting up the recipient for transfer, it emphasizes being designed for personal transfers, with messages like “Enter the information of your loved one.” It gives the impression that it’s not intended for business use.

Remitly - Send and receive money online from the United States
Transfer money internationally to 170+ countries and 100+ currencies with no hidden fees. Receive funds securely using c...


I also compared the overseas fees of the traditional bank Chase.

For international transfers in foreign currency, it’s free for amounts over $5,000. However, the trade-off is that the exchange rate is poor, creating a scenario criticized by Wise and others for its “hidden fees that consumers pay without realizing.”

However, it may be convenient for customers already using Chase Bank as they can handle everything with Chase alone without registering for external transfer services.

Exiap – money transfer comparison service

Exiap is an international money transfer comparison service provided by Wise. Although operated by Wise, it offers transparent information and straightforwardly recommends other services if their fees are cheaper. They earn affiliate income from the services they recommend.

However, the result may vary if I try the same currency pair in a short period of time, making you wonder how accurate this service is.

So, it’s always a good idea to do your research as well.