Alternatives to an International Money Transfer (IMT)

An IMT is a great way to ship funds overseas, but it isn’t the best solution in every situation, as we all have different travel money needs. So in this guide we’ve run through everything from how international money transfers work to some of the main alternatives to help you decide which will work best for you.

What is an IMT?

An international money transfer, or IMT, is a way of electronically transferring your money to an overseas bank account. There are often a bunch of useful features on offer, like forward contracts, which let you lock in a great rate for a future transfer, limit orders, so you can transfer only when an exchange rate you’ve chosen is available, and regular payments plans, for if you’re often sending money overseas.

When is an international money transfer the right choice?

An IMT is often the most convenient and cost-effective option for sending money to an overseas bank account. You might use it to put a deposit on an overseas property, pay international employees, put money into friends and family’s bank accounts when they’re abroad, or to set your financial situation up if you move overseas for an extended period of time.

What are the alternatives to IMT?

While an international money transfer can be a wallet friendly way to send money overseas, if you’re simply heading off on holiday for a short period or doing a little online shopping at overseas stores it’s probably not the best option for you.

So what are the alternatives when it comes to transferring your money overseas? Here are some of the main ones, along with a brief summary of what they do well, and… not so well.

Travel credit card

A travel credit card can be a super convenient way to make purchases while overseas, and it can also be useful for payment security when booking accommodation or tours.

What’s it good for? If you’re looking for a travel money option that allows you to securely shop online from international retailers, or make day-to-day purchases while you’re holidaying overseas, a travel credit card that comes with a low or no foreign exchange commission could be for you.

What are the downfalls? Credit cards, even ones designed for travel are not made for ATM withdrawals, as you’ll generally be hit up with a steep cash advance rate. Plus, regular credit card interest applies, so don’t get caught with a high balance at the end of the month that you can’t pay in full and on time!

Travel debit card

A travel debit card is just as convenient as a credit card, but without the risk of winding up paying sky-high interest charges, since you’re using all your own money.

What’s it good for? Like a credit card, this is a convenient option for small purchases overseas and when shopping online. It’s also good if you’ll be making frequent ATM withdrawals while travelling, as most travel debit cards come with low or no overseas withdrawal fees.

What are the downfalls? Lower spending limits will likely apply to your debit card - which might not work for you if you’re planning on spending up a storm on Rodeo Drive. In that case you might want to bring a travel credit card along with you, so you have access to a higher spending limit, as well as low or fee free ATM withdrawals with the debit card.

Prepaid travel money card

If you need access to your own money during a long term stint away, a prepaid travel money card might be a good alternative to transferring money into an overseas account.

What’s it good for? You can lock in a competitive rate and preload the card with the currency of your choice, then use it just like a debit card. The good news is that there are usually no international transaction charges - just make sure you get a good exchange rate initially.

What are the downfalls? Many prepaid cards are limited in the currencies you can choose from, plus, there are fees to consider, including purchase, reload and ATM fees. It’s worth keeping in mind too, that if you load your prepaid card up with a few different currencies and run out of one, you might be charged a fee for paying with a non-native currency.


Quick, trusted and safe, if you’ve got a Paypal account, you probably already know how convenient it is to make payments this way.

What’s it good for? Paypal is great for small payments and online shopping. 

What are the downfalls? If you’re transferring large amounts, Paypal can get expensive because its fees are a percentage of the amount you want to transfer. Also, keep in mind the recipient will have to have a Paypal account to receive the funds.

International Bank Draft

This is the safer version of posting a cheque. Basically, you give your money to the bank and they give you an internationally guaranteed cheque which you post to the recipient to cash locally.

What’s it good for? If your recipient doesn’t have a bank account or if you don’t know their details, an International Bank Draft is a safe way to get funds to them.

What are the downfalls? While this is a safe option, it can be more expensive and slower because you’re relying on old fashioned snail-mail.