TransferWise : Is this the Hawala with paperwork ? Plus alternatives which are better in our opinion for NRIs

One of my friends recently posted about Transferwise. As a NRI who often has to send remittance to India for various purposes, I was intrigued. For our readers I did the grunt work to find out why this service is buzzing.

So here are my findings :

Its a money transfer service which seems to be headquartered in Estonia from the founders of Skype (claim on every page). I wished to try it out to see if it supports my debit cards. After going through the process I noticed a few things. 

Their exchange rate is competitive, slightly better than Xoom but worse than RIA and Western Union.

I prepared all the details of my transfer entering the recipient’s email address and account information and on the payment information I was surprised to see the method of payment. They want you to actually wire them the money in Estonia. WTH !

Not only would the international wire cost you more money from your bank, wiring money to a third party into a non-escrow account is never a good idea. Yes, the Nigerian prince, I know your game. I also dont see checks and balances of validating who sent the money. Imagine I signup etc. and a terrorist then wires the money, perfect hawala. I wonder if the company addresses identity questions and source of wire transfer some other way. I really hope for the sake of the world that they do.

Another problem I noticed was that the company has a text box for remittance reason to India, most other companies has a list of options in drop down which I think is what it gets classified into at RBI.

Anyway, long story short, I chickened out. Its a billion dollar startup, so chances are you would be ok. However I just cannot wire money to a random bank account in Estonia. Also I fail to see how transferwise makes an iota of sense of non-Americans and NRIs and PIOs in USA. Other sites even without the crappy wire transfer are net green when I compare what value I get in terms of final INR (Indian Rupees received). So even though Transferwise showed a better exchange rate for (USD-INR), the fee made it such that western union turned out to have better overall money in INR.

If you are looking to send money to India, I would suggest using one of these 3, most of these are fee free and do not have bad exchange rates. I usually use whichever is cheapest that day.

Xoom , RIA , Western Union

Ria Logo

Western Union Logo

xoom logo

Since these are affiliate links, you get some bonus for your first transfer anywhere in the world for signing up using the above links. If you have any experiences good or bad to share while sending money using the above links whether to India or elsewhere, let us know in comments. Non Resident Indians and everyone else is welcome. Also let us know if you have any question regarding these services to transfer money to India.

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  1. Lol dude, cracked up at the title, using western union for my nri to india transfers without any issues.

  2. Thanks for sharing, this is a goldmine for NRIs looking to send money to India, did not even know that so many services existed, now I can compare and send across the money.

    I found the rates of RIA to be better in my case. Western Union a close second, however I chose XOOM because the transfer was instant using NEFT into my Indian NRO account.

  3. Thanks Sanjeev, remember the above being affiliate links, you actually save some money transferring to india as a nri, which you would not save, and being able to get the best exchange rate is like sone pe suhaga :D

  4. Check out *** to send money back to India. Zero fees and instant transfer. Better rates than xoom.