Ask Sindie: What's the best way to transmit money overseas?

Registered post didn't deliver, so a reader asks about electronic services


Q: I have been sending money for two years to a Croatian refugee from the war in the former Yugoslavia. She is now in Holland and studying to be a chemist.

I have been using Royal Mail registered post, but on two occasions recently the deliveries have not arrived. So I have had to send the cash by ordinary mail in several letters as she needs it promptly.

After a long wait, I have been refunded the lost money by Royal Mail.

My friend has no bank account but her landlord is willing for her to use his. Occasionally, I have sent money by electronic mail to his account but I need to know the cheapest way of doing this.

RD, Bournemouth

A: Cost is always a problem for those who want to send small amounts overseas - particularly to people without bank accounts.

Putting cash in the post is obviously both expensive, in terms of the insurance you need to buy, and risky. And, as you have found, reclaiming lost funds can be a laborious business.

The orthodox way of sending cash abroad is to use one of the two main money-transfer organisations, Western Union and Moneygram. But they are very expensive, charging £12 to send just £50. On the plus side, though, the funds do arrive in minutes.

You don't say which electronic service you have used in the past, but the best-known one is Paypal.

Paying in is free, and withdrawals from the Paypal account into a bank account in the Netherlands cost 3.4 per cent of the sum sent plus €0.35 (roughly 20p) for up to £1,500.

Another foreign transaction service you might consider is www.moneybookers.com. The system works in a similar way to Paypal: you set up an online account and transfer the funds to a Moneybookers account before they are transferred on to the receiving bank account.

The service charge is 1 per cent with a maximum fee of just €0.50. Receiving money in another Moneybookers account is free but the account holder at the other end - in this case the landlord - will pay a €1.80 flat fee to transfer the cash into his bank account.

Moneybookers is a remarkably cheap service. The firm makes its margins on the exchange rate but to no greater extent than all other money-transmission services, which charge higher fees on top.

If you want to avoid using your friend's landlord, there are a couple of other options. The first of these cannot be officially recommended so you use it at your own risk. On the plus side, it is cheap.

The idea is that you open a Nationwide FlexAccount, an ordinary current account which gives you a debit card that can be used in shops or to draw money from an ATM in the UK or abroad.

This is the cheapest debit card for overseas use as it does not charge exchange-rate loading. You could pay money into your Nationwide account, then pass the card to your friend in the Netherlands and tell her the PIN, so she could withdraw cash from Dutch ATMs. You will have to trust your friend completely, and be sure she knows when the account has cash in it, so you don't go overdrawn.

Another option is a prepaid card or "electronic traveller's cheque" card, available from banks, travel agents and some shops. You can get these either with a fixed amount of cash (often known as "gift cards") or you can "load" them with a sum of your choosing. When the initial amount has been spent, you can top the card up again, either in person at the bank or remotely by phone or over the internet.

For your purposes, you'll need a card that you can top up remotely.

Among the most versatile pieces of plastic is the American Express Traveller's Cheque Card, which can be reloaded with additional funds free of charge, online or by telephone.

The initial cost of the card is £20 and you will need to put in £200 to get the ball rolling, but once it is loaded, it can be used in ATMs to withdraw up to £250 a day or the equivalent in US dollars or euros.

You can also use the card to purchase goods and services in shops, hotels and restaurants, provided you have funds remaining on the card and subject to a 2.73 per cent fee.

If you need help from our consumer champion, write to Annie Shaw at The Independent on Sunday, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email sindie@independent.co.uk. We cannot return documents, give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice given

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor