What's the safest way to transfer a large sum internationally?
September 19, 2014 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Someone is trying to send money from Canada to the USA and it must not get lost, misdirected, or stolen. This has proven to be harder than it sounds. What's the best way to do this?

A sender has a five figure amount of money in Canada that they are trying to transfer to me in the USA. They already tried to wire it to me but somehow this failed (they told me that the bank says that my account number doesn't exist, what). They are now proposing to FedEx me a bank draft but I'm concerned that I may be SOL in the unlikely event that FedEx loses the draft since drafts are close to equivalent to cash. If they were in the USA, I would ask them to send a cashier's check registered mail, but it's my understanding that there is no equivalent of sending an item registered mail from Canada to the USA. And I live too far away from them to drive over to Canada and pick up the money in person.

Is FedExing a draft like they described safe? If not, what is the absolute, safest, most idiot-proof way of transferring a large sum of money internationally, when a currency exchange is involved?
I am kind of surprised that there does not seem to be a great way to do this.
posted by phoenixy to Work & Money (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Please have them check the routing numbers for the wire. International wires are different than domestic and there is often a difference in routing, you can't always go by the routing number as seen on the check. Call your bank to check, they will know what to do.
posted by readery at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2014 [11 favorites]

Presumably this is someone you actually know and trust? Because otherwise the whole "i was mysteriously unable to wire it" has a definite tinge of scamminess to it. I do large international bank transfers for work reasons all the time and have never had a problem doing so.

You need to call your own bank and ask for all the correct ABA/SWIFT codes and routing and account and everything that a foreign bank would need in order to complete a wire transfer to your account.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:49 AM on September 19, 2014 [27 favorites]

Agree with the answers above. The answer to the question in your title is undoubtedly: International Wire Transfer. Your bank's website should list the specific codes that the other bank needs to use in order to complete the transfer.
posted by msbubbaclees at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nth'ing everyone else. I do this fairly often - they need to go to the bank in person to execute the wire transfer, and it sounds like you should be at your back at the same time and they can call you to ask any questions about routing numbers, etc which you can answer from your bank.

Or get the info from your bank ahead of time, "what information do I need for someone to send an international wire transfer to my account".
posted by jpeacock at 10:54 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, I know about wire transfer routing numbers and SWIFT codes, I gave them the correct information. They still managed to get it wrong. I'm concerned that if they try again they will somehow manage to send the wire to some other random person whose bank account differs from mine by one digit and I'll never be able to get the money back.
posted by phoenixy at 10:55 AM on September 19, 2014

Best answer: If this person really can't correctly print out account and routing information that you send to them in writing and take it to a bank to complete a transfer successfully then unfortunately I don't think there's much hope that they will be able to successfully address a fedex envelope to you either, tbh.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:58 AM on September 19, 2014 [28 favorites]

If the BANK screws up the wire transfer, that's on them, not you.

Western union is another option, but they are not cheap.
posted by zug at 11:00 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it's really impossible to get the bank transfer to work, there are a couple of other options:
  1. Canada Post sells USD-denominated money orders. Each individual money order can be for an amount up to $999.99, so you'd have to use several of them. Moreover, each one has a fee associated with it, which would eat into the money you're sending. Finally, the Canada Post folks would be required to submit a report concerning the transaction (see here.) This is apparently a requirement to combat money-laundering schemes.
  2. Many Canadian banks offer US dollar accounts. If your payee could open a USD-denominated chequing account, then they could send you a cheque that you could deposit in your own bank account.
I have successfully received money from Canada via both of these methods (although I haven't used the first method for quite so large a sum as you're talking about.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:00 AM on September 19, 2014

I have used XETrade on numerous occasions in the past to transfer large sums of money (on one or two occasions five figures) that involved a change of currency. My feeling was that it was one of the cheapest options available, as the exchange rate was very reasonable and I don't think that they charged a fee beyond that. I have never had a problem with them, and in fact, their customer service was surprisingly helpful when I was having trouble once with the form. It took about a week for me for the money to come through, I think (maybe a bit less? And it depends on the particular currencies, and whether you want to pay extra for a wire or whatever). I would definitely look into this, as it sounds like exactly what you're looking for and I have used it to good effect.
posted by ClaireBear at 11:13 AM on September 19, 2014

I have used Paypal and sent large amounts of money from my US bank account to my Australian one at the time to cover mortgage payments. Not five figures large at once, though they ended up easily totaling that much. I think you can send $10K in one transaction if you have a verified account. I had no problems at all, though after 18 months of it Paypal contacted me wanting proof I wasn't doing questionable business transactions. Just watch the currency conversion, they work it so they make some money there on top of fees, but so do banks.
posted by wwax at 11:14 AM on September 19, 2014

Have them wire a small amount first. When that works, send the rest.
posted by anonymisc at 11:15 AM on September 19, 2014 [20 favorites]

For a normal transaction you want to wire the money.

If you have receive to believe the other party will be incompetent or dishonest, you could use an escrow service. Here's one example. Here's another. That will give you the absolute highest level of security.
posted by alms at 11:17 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

For a large enough five figure amount, I would seriously consider spending the mid three figure amount ($400?) to fly roundtrip and pick it up. I had a summer job for a law firm and there were three times I got on a plane from JFK to LAX and did the roundtrip in a day. Tiring, but with no luggage and nothing to worry about except a large envelope, it was actually relaxing watching movie on plane and having a beer or two.
posted by 724A at 11:28 AM on September 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

I can well believe it's difficult. I've had regular problems with my overseas parents sending me cash, whether it's massive charges on their end, or inability to get the routing right. It's complicated by the fact that my credit union doesn't have an international swift code, but still. Where I live, they're all "HSBC? Never heard of them!". One time, and this eventually worked, my Dad was told to cross out "pounds" on a regular check and send that!

Recently tried paypal, and it did work pretty seamlessly if not particularly quickly. I think you can do transfers with google wallet now too.
posted by idb at 11:35 AM on September 19, 2014

I hate to bring it up, but I assume you have some good reason to think that the sender isn't just fucking with you or scamming you?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:05 PM on September 19, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Sounds like wire is really the best way (opening a USD account is undesirable because in this situation it would require a ton of paperwork, PayPal and $999 money orders aren't really feasible) so I'm pushing back and asking them to double check that the bank used the right account number, asking if they can try sending a wire to my other bank account, etc. We'll see how it goes.
posted by phoenixy at 12:06 PM on September 19, 2014

For a large enough five figure amount, I would seriously consider spending the mid three figure amount ($400?) to fly roundtrip and pick it up.

And have the pleasure of dealing with US Customs in person? No thank you.
posted by Behemoth at 12:09 PM on September 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Someone reasonably competent was unable to wire me money, and it seemed to be because I use a credit union. Just a data point.
posted by theora55 at 12:44 PM on September 19, 2014

For a large enough five figure amount, I would seriously consider spending the mid three figure amount ($400?) to fly roundtrip and pick it up.

And have the pleasure of dealing with US Customs in person? No thank you.

Yeah and you'd be filling out the FinCen 105 form as well, because it's 5 figures of cash. Definitely an intrusive mechanism.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:46 PM on September 19, 2014

RBC has branches in Canada and in the US. When we needed to get money to our daughter in Canada, she opened RBC accounts in both countries. We got the money into the RBC US account, and then it was easy for her to access the money on the Canadian side. Presumably that could work in reverse.
posted by jasper411 at 12:58 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check the routing codes to make sure they are correct.

There is indeed international registered mail, as I have received (in the US) registered mail from other countries that I have had to sign for.

TD Bank also has both US and Canadian branches, as another option to jasper411's suggestion of RBC. (Fun fact: TD stands for Toronto Dominion.)
posted by tckma at 2:34 PM on September 19, 2014

If 724A's suggestion of flying to Canada to get the money in person is attractive, you could get a cashier's check rather than cash, then deposit it in your US bank. I occasionally need to deposit foreign checks, and while my bank charges me $50 for the privilege, my wife's credit union charges only $5, so we deposit foreign checks there. (Both accounts are joint; we just each manage one account to avoid overdrafts.)
posted by brianogilvie at 3:53 PM on September 19, 2014

I'm unclear on why you can't fedex a regular old cheque, which is not equivalent to cash like a cashier's cheque. My US bank (Bank Boston -> Fleet -> Bank of America) used to charge $5 to deposit a cheque from a Canadian bank.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:14 PM on September 19, 2014

And have the pleasure of dealing with US Customs in person? No thank you.

Passing customs with cash/cash equivalents is completely uneventful. You declare it, fill out this form, customs looks at it (and may or may not count it), and then you move on.

The only time I've ever heard of people having problems at customs is when they didn't declare.
posted by grudgebgon at 4:57 PM on September 19, 2014

It's amazing how banks can get ABA/SWIFT codes or whatever else wrong. When I had to do this one time after a transfer had failed, I sat in the sending bank (my account) as they got on the phone with the receiving bank (also my account) and got it sorted out. They hadn't been able to get it right before that.
posted by Gotanda at 8:22 AM on September 20, 2014

Response by poster: Followup -- literally a few hours after I emailed the sender and asked them to try wiring the money again, the wire arrived in my account. Thanks all!
posted by phoenixy at 11:41 PM on September 22, 2014

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