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The Best Ways to Transfer Money into Mexico

Updated: Apr 3

If you earn and/or keep most of your money in bank accounts outside of Mexico, moving funds here only as needed, this post is for you. Keep reading to learn the most economical ways to move money from the U.S. to Mexico.


the best ways to move money to Mexico

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Whether you need money to pay recurring expenses like rent and groceries, or cover the occasional big-ticket purchase like a new sofa, house, or car -- there are plenty of occasions where expats need to bring cash into Mexico.


The best method to use typically depends on two factors:


1) How much you need to transfer, and

2) How soon you need the money to be here


Scenario #1: Moving less than $500 USD at a time


For small-ish cash needs of $500 or less, by far the easiest and most convenient method is to use an ATM (cajero automatico), since you can get the cash in your hot hands immediately.


The maximum amount you can withdraw from a Mexican ATM varies by bank, but is typically around $9,000 pesos in my experience here in Guadalajara using Santander, BBVA, and Banorte. At $17.5 Pesos to the USD, this equates to a little more than $514 USD.


Besides the daily limits, one other potential barrier to reliance on ATMs for moving funds across borders is not knowing if the machine will have that much cash on hand. I've had transactions fail repeatedly when attempting to withdraw amounts near the limit, whereas efforts to withdraw smaller amounts, e.g. $3,000 pesos or less, usually go through. As with nearly everything in Mexico, your mileage may vary.


If you're new at using Mexican ATMs, be sure to read my post about how to avoid overpaying local banks when you withdraw funds from a foreign account.


For those of you who happen to live someplace in Mexico where ATMs aren't plentiful and withdrawal limits are lower, you're going to want a second option. In this case, you're better off setting up an electronic bank-to-bank transfer, but it will require a bit more information to execute than simply taking out funds at an ATM.


See Scenario #2 below for details on how to do a cross-border, bank-to-bank transfer.


Scenario #2: Moving more than $500 USD at a time


Most people know that the fastest way to send large sums of money is via wire transfer.


With a Fidelity brokerage account or cash management account, you can execute free outgoing or incoming wires to your bank accounts there. In my experience, these are best executed by phone.


For international wires you will need the destination bank account as well as the SWIFT code, which identifies the Mexican (or any) financial institution receiving the funds.


This does NOT mean the Mexican bank receiving the funds from Fidelity won't charge you for a wire. Your mileage may vary depending on the policies of the bank on the other side of the transaction.


While I do not have direct experience wiring to or from Charles Schwab accounts, my research has found that incoming wires to Schwab are free, but a $25 fee is charged on outgoing wires. Not terrible, but can get costly if you wire funds often enough.

If you need to transfer more than $500 USD to Mexico at a time, your best bet is an electronic bank-to-bank transfer.


Besides U.S.-based brokerages like Fidelity and Schwab, international money transfer specialists like Wise are a great resource for bank-to-bank transfers.


Wise now operates in 160 countries handling transfers in 40 different currencies, and supports wire, ACH, and debit/credit card-based money transfers.


I've used Wise to make local payments to furniture makers, retailers, and friends here in Mexico, with cross-border payments typically processed in an hour or less.


Account creation with Wise is free and takes about 15 minutes to complete on their website. It involves linking your foreign bank account to Wise for use as the "source" account when transferring funds to Mexico.


Wise's fees vary by transfer size. My most recent transfer incurred a 1.5% fee, but I've seen it go as high as 2.5%. As for transfer limits, most users can wire up to $1,000,000 USD with Wise. Limits on ACH transfers are set at $15,000 per transfer per day. On a debit/credit card, the transfer limit is $2,000 USD per day.


Wise offers some of the best USD/Peso exchange rates on large money transfers. What's more, through the Wise app you can see the total transaction fees you will pay and the exchange rate you'll receive before executing a transfer. This enables you to comparison shop with other money transfer platforms to ensure you're getting the best deal.


The Wise platform is easy to use on a laptop or mobile device, and seems to be adding new features all the time. Even people with limited technical expertise can master this platform.


Besides one-off transfers, Wise also provides users the ability to schedule recurring transfers and direct debits, as well as execute conversions between two currencies that you specify, when the exchange rate hits your preferred value.


For example, if you want to be sure to capitalize the next time the Peso weakens to $18, you can set up an order to convert a fixed amount of funds when this "strike price" is reached. While there's no guarantee that your strike price will ever be hit, you don't pay anything if no transaction occurs, so what do you have to lose?


This feature, dubbed "Auto Conversions," can be executed in 24 currencies, including US dollars, Canadian dollars, British Pounds, Euros, and Mexican Pesos. While the converted funds will remain within your Wise account (it can't be automatically sent post-conversion to an outside account in your name) you can manually move the converted funds at any time thereafter. The finance geek in me finds this pretty cool!


Wise's security protocols are legit, using two-factor authentication on both their proprietary platform and on your linked source account. The destination account in Mexico will never see your Wise or source account's private data, for your safety.


An alternative to Wise for international money transfers is OFX. In business for 25 years, OFX now operates in 170 countries handling 50+ currencies. In my experience, they offer very competitive exchange rates comparable to Wise in most cases.


Unlike Wise, the account setup process at OFX involves verification with a human being before you can begin using the service. OFX users also have access to customer support by phone around the clock, which can be reassuring if you’re either new to conducting international money transfers or sending an especially large amount of money across borders.


Like Wise, OFX has a user-friendly website and mobile app to handle money transfers. On OFX's platform, a simple conversion calculator shows you how much your recipient will receive in the new currency based on the amount of source funds you input. Unlike Wise, however, OFX does not break out its fees; it only shows you the exchange rate between the two currencies. In my experience, the cost to transfer funds with OFX is slightly above Wise.


OFX's platform offers its customers a variety of features to help manage exchange rate risk. Akin to Wise's "Auto Conversions" option described above, OFX's "Target Rate Transfer" feature allows customers to move a set amount of money when a desired exchange rate value is hit, during a fixed time frame that you specify in advance.


OFX also offers users the option to enter into forward contracts, whereby a customer locks in the current exchange rate (a good idea when it's favorable) for a transfer of funds at a later time. With a forward contract you can provide source funds to OFX up to 12 months later.


And billionaires take note, on OFX there are no transfer limits. If you move large sums of money around on a regular basis, OFX may even decide to give you a personal FX (foreign exchange) dealer to handle your financial needs. Don't expect this sort of high-touch service with Wise.


To date, I've had one good and one not-so-good experience using OFX. While I didn't lose any cash, on one occasion I was unable to promptly reach the OFX customer service team when the destination bank in Mexico claimed to not know where my funds were. Talk about stress!


Because I made that transfer during a week when multiple crypto exchanges were blowing up, I attributed the customer service wait times to higher-than-normal demand for cross-border money transfers, though I could never confirm it with OFX.


If you missed my series on real estate last August, you can read more about that episode here.


Western Union is another longstanding provider of cross-border money transfers with solid customer reviews. That said, I know of no expats in Mexico who rely on or recommend using WU.


As I've never used the platform I am not recommending Western Union, merely referencing them as another option to investigate, if Wise and OFX are not to your liking.


Do your own due diligence


If you're like me and want to thoroughly investigate service providers before making your first transfer (highly recommended), you can check out customer reviews on Trustpilot or customer theads on Reddit, then make up your mind on what's best for your situation.


Sometimes a money transfer service will have a great track record in certain countries and a lousy one in others. It pays to do your research.


The Worst Ways to Send Money to Mexico


Before we wrap up, I'd like to share some advice on how not to send money across borders.


1. U.S. bank directly to Mexican bank. Most U.S. banks charge very high fees for international wires, while at the same time offering customers less competitive exchange rates.


To use one example, Wells Fargo charges a $30 fee per international wire, with an additional 4%-10% margin on the exchange rate. What's great for the shareholders is no bueno for you! And because U.S. banks handle international money transfers less often than the specialists, you can expect to spend more time executing a transfer, while waiting longer to receive your money.


Even if you love your overseas bank, I urge you to explore my recommended options instead. After all, who doesn't want to have more cash in their pocket at the end of the day for tostadas and tacos?


2. Paypal. With charges between 3.5%- 4% on international transfers, you'll net a lot less relying on Paypal than Wise or OFX. On top of that, it's virtually impossible to reach a human being if something goes wrong while using Paypal.


And as anyone who's leveraged their service can attest, Paypal has a pitiful track record of resolving user problems. (current Trustpilot score: 1.3 out of 5)


3. Venmo. This popular app for electronic money transfers in the U.S. doesn't work in Mexico, period.


Conclusion


In summary, while this recap is not exhaustive, using one of the options recommended above just about anyone can move money across borders with minimal hassle.


And regardless of what method you choose, you should know that banks and money transfer providers are legally obligated to report international transfers exceeding $10,000 USD under the Bank Secrecy Act. The law applies to U.S. financial firms as well as foreign banks with branches in the U.S., as a means to help the U.S. government combat money laundering.

 

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