Are you NRI or POI transferring money from USA to India? Want to get the most rupees for your dollars? Not sure which provider is the best, cheapest or fastest? YOU came to the right place! We will cover all most important topics:
Current state and key trends for sending money from USA to India
Rupee to dollar exchange rates and timing
Top money transfer providers
Finding fastest and cheapest vs. better and best money transmitters
Please note this post is specific to India. If you are looking for general knowledge of how to best transfer money, please review this other SaveOnSend blog post first.
Before we get started… Great news if you are a consumer transferring money from USA to India: it is currently the most competitive corridor from USA, attracting much more competition and larger investments than any other destination. You are in luck with variety of choices and lavish promotions which for many other destinations simply don’t exist. So you could make a relatively safe assumption that when transferring money to India with any top provider you would get a reasonable price and service.
But we are recommending trying providers with the cheapest price – this way, you are not just helping more your family but also supporting India’s growth. By always using the least expensive method of sending money home, each 1% in savings generates additional $100MM annually for your families and India’s economy.
1. USA-to-India Money Transfer: current state and key trends
India is the world’s #1 destination for cross-border money transfers, also known as remittances:
Such leadership is due to the combination of two factors: 1) The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs estimates that 16 million of NRI and POIs live outside of India, 2) Indians have very stronger ties with their families regardless of the distance in-between (read about comparison between Chinese and Indian immigrant habits with regards to transferring money). Out of all countries linked to India via money transfers, USA is the second largest source of funds:
There are 3+ million Indians living in USA, with around 2 millions who were born outside of USA. Indians mostly reside in large metropolitan areas concentrated in few key states: NY, CA, DC, IL and PA. New York City Metropolitan area has by far the largest population of Indians living in USA.
Migrants from India to USA are among top 3 in terms of new arrivals, together with China and Mexico.
Money Transfer: USA immigration trends among new arrivals from Mexico, India, China
More directly linked to how Indians in USA transfer money is their #1 rank in Higher Education across all religious groups…
… and all ethnic groups living in USA:
Besides being the most educated group among migrants, Indians also earn more income than anybody else (see the table below).
This results in 4 fundamental characteristics differentiating consumers who transfer money to India: 1) higher degree of trust in allowing online services to handle important aspects of their lives such as finances, 2) higher price-sensitivity, 3) investing more effort to research information before making a decision, 4) more willingness to change providers. So while 90+% of consumers globally are still sending money using cash agents (e.g., Western Union captures 9% of its revenues online), the majority of consumers transferring money to India are using online channels: a provider’s website or mobile app.
As the result, the USA-to-India corridor also attracts more online competition than any other destination from USA and money transmitters have to compete more aggressively on price: see how low margins are in the table below and then use SaveOnSend app to compare with other destinations:
Comparison of providers: transfers from USA to India, $1500, bank-to-bank, October 12, 2016
On the receiving end, India recipients of money transfers are also somewhat unique in their usage patterns. They receive money into a bank account to a much larger degree than any other main migrant group. Plus, Indian government has launched an unprecedented program to further engaged so-called “unbanked” consumers.
If you are reading this and haven’t yet tried sending money to India online, via a website or mobile, you should definitely give it a shot. Most of well-known providers have such tools, and the setup shall only take few minutes. Once you link your bank account or debit card, you might be surprised how easy it is and how much you could save. This way, all your past transfers are available for your review any time, plus your future repeat transfers shall take less than a minute to complete since you don’t have to enter the same information again. Because linking your bank account or debit card is done without a human intervention, providers spend less money and are passing those savings onto you, hence, a much lower margin for this method.
Use SaveOnSend app to compare margins for transferring money with a cash agent vs. online, so you could see how much you are wasting. The difference for receiving money online to your bank vs. a cash agent is less significant – many providers could charge the same margin for either receiving option, but there are exceptions so check our app before your next transfer.
2. Rupee to dollar exchange rates and timing
Are you wondering if you shall wait for rupee to increase in value or for a dollar to fall? Trying to time the best exchange rate is unbelievably difficult if not impossible. If anybody gives you an advise on this topic while not making millions trading on same information, it might be a sign that you shouldn’t follow such recommendation. Still not convinced? Look at the graph below for changes across rupee to dollar during the last 10 years – do you see any logic in your currency’s short- or long-term movements? While the overall trend is upward, you can notice multi-year periods when exchange rate dropped or was stagnant.
However, there is a more practical approaching to timing money transfers – based on the analysis of FX markup (the difference between a rupee-dollar exchange rate that providers get on the market vs. an exchange rate that you get from a provider). Not only each money transmitter applies a very different FX markup, each provider makes daily changes to its FX markup to maximize profits. Some providers are even applying different FX markups for different sending-receiving methods. For example, for transferring money from USA to India, MoneyGram has different FX markups for sending a) cash, b) online-to-cash, c) online-to-bank. So how do we use this knowledge against money transmitters? Look at this chart below that shows fluctuations in FX markups for top providers:
As you could see, almost all providers have significant deviations in FX markups. One exception is TransferWise which makes all money on charging you fees but not FX markup (do you see one line consistently near 0% axis?). The way you could take advantage of this is to compare your favorite provider’s FX markup to its average in the previous few months based on SaveOnSend charts. If the current FX markup is at or below the average trend, you could proceed with transferring money; otherwise, it might make sense to wait 1-2 weeks till your provider’s FX markup comes down to its average level.
3. Top money transfer providers
In otherwise super competitive field, there are 2 key providers for USA-India corridor. Xoom leads among consumers sending money to India online and Western Union among those who transfer money to India via cash agents. Xoom is known for almost instant money transfer and good customer tools and support… but you get charged more for it (review again the table above with margins across providers). Western Union, on the other hand, is known for the largest network of cash agents worldwide; and it also has one of the lowest margins for USA-to-India. With the help of SaveOnSend app, you could compare and decide which factor is more important for you.
4. Finding fastest and cheapest vs. better and best money transmitters
As we discussed in another post on the overall strategy for sending money, “better” and “best” money transmitter is different for each of us based on our unique preferences among cost, speed, convenience, and customer service. No one provider clearly leads among all these factors.
So overall, here are the leaders:
– Cheapest: Remitly, Ria Money Transfer, IndusInd, Transfast, Western Union
– Availability of cash pick-up locations: Western Union, MoneyGram
There is another consideration: consistency of experience with a particular provider. As consumers, we like to pick a particular brand or local business and use them for years. That experience includes not just service but also prices. Imagine if your favorite restaurant or grocery store keeps changing prices every time you go there plus they also have different prices based on how much you purchase. Western Union and MoneyGram are by far the worst offenders in this regard. Not only their fee structure has more tiers, they are also frequently changing their prices.
On this dimension our favorites: TransferWise, Remitly, and Ria Money Transfer, all with simple, easily to remember fee structure that doesn’t change every couple months.
Hopefully, you found this overview helpful and feel more confident in how to find the best way when sending money from USA to India. If we missed anything, please leave a comment. We will be keeping this post regularly updated, so come back soon!