The truth about international wire limits

6 minute read

Need to send an international wire transfer? You’re definitely not alone. Whether you’re making a payment, doing overseas business, or just sending money to family or friends abroad — you’re part of a vast network of messages and money being sent between banks in hundreds of countries.

Wondering what the limits are for how much money you can send? Want to know why those limits exist? In this article we’ll cover:

  • How international wire limits are determined by the IRS and in general
  • What else you should consider other than limits when sending money abroad
  • International wire limits for alternative money transfer providers
  • International wire limits for US banks

Read on to learn more.

How are international wire limits determined?

There are many different ways you can send money to someone else’s bank account. Let’s start with the basics of how money moves in the US.

  • ACH (usually only domestic) — The Automated Clearing House (ACH) network is one of the largest payment networks in the US, but still, it’s rare to see an international ACH transfer these days. Whenever you pay bills or receive a direct deposit, odds are that payment went through the ACH network. Even bigger companies like PayPal and Venmo use ACH¹.
  • Wire (domestic or international) — Most international wire transfers are done via the SWIFT network. Just like if there are no direct flights from one place to another you have to take connecting flights, the same goes for international transfers. That’s why SWIFT is around, because there often aren’t direct connections from one international bank to another. If you send money internationally via SWIFT, chances are your money will go through anywhere from 3-5 banks or payment institutions to make it to its destination. And each one may deduct their own charges.
  • Online through an alternative provider (domestic or international) — Online money transfer providers like TransferWise, PayPal, Xoom, Western Union, Moneygram, Ria and others can help you make payments domestically or internationally.

Different ways of sending money have different limits, so you’ll want to do a little research to see which method is going to be best for moving the amount of money you need to transfer. Those limits are in place because of laws that prevent fraud and money laundering, so while they can seem annoying, they exist to protect your money.

IRS international wire limits

By law, banks must report to the IRS all cash transfers — domestic and international — that exceed $10,000.³ However, much smaller transfers may raise suspicions and get reported. Some online money transfer services have policies in place that require them to report far smaller transactions — sometimes anything over $1,000.³ And the Bank Secrecy Act allows the IRS and the Department of Justice to investigate any time they suspect illegal activity with a transfer.³

As far as your own reporting goes, you’re required by law to report to the IRS any overseas bank accounts or assets. And if you send money to a friend or family member either in the US or abroad, anything over $15,000 requires filing a gift tax return.3

What other considerations, aside from limits, are there when making an international money transfer?

How you can pay for the transfer

Some banks can deduct the money for the transfer from the account it’s being sent from automatically. Sometimes you can pay using other methods. Many online money transfer services give you the option of paying with cash or a credit or debit card, though those options sometimes come with extra fees. TransferWise allows you to log into your online banking and deduct directly from your account to pay for transfers.

If you can make the transfer online

Many banks in the US require wire transfers to be made by phone or even in person at a branch. This can be inconvenient, which might result in you leaning toward an alternative transfer service like TransferWise that allows you to handle everything online.

Upfront fees

Costs for international wire transfers vary by bank, so you’ll have to check with yours to see what it will cost to move your money. Online transfer services also vary in cost, and often there are different costs for different destinations. It’ll take a little research to find out exactly what your transfer is going to cost in upfront fees, but be aware that the costs can vary greatly between banks and other services, so it may take some time to determine where you can get the best deal.

Exchange rate

Many banks and transfer services don’t use the real exchange rate; instead, they mark up their rates, on average, 3-5%. That means that whenever you make an international money transfer that has to be converted into a different currency, the bank or exchange service that does the conversion skims a little off the top of the transfer amount. This is basically a hidden fee you have to pay so the bank or transfer service can make an extra profit. On the other hand, TransferWise always moves money at the real mid-market rate. There are no markups or hidden fees with TransferWise.

Correspondent / intermediary bank fees

When you make an international wire transfer through your bank, it’s likely that the transfer will go through a handful of intermediary banks on the way to its destination. Each of those banks is entitled to take a fee from the transfer amount. With TransferWise, there are no intermediary banks.

Recipient bank fees

When you send an international transfer to another person’s bank account, their bank may charge a fee for receiving the transfer. Oftentimes this is just deducted from the transfer amount when the funds are added to the recipient’s account.

How the recipient will collect the money

There are many ways to send an international money transfer that ends up deposited into the recipient’s bank account. But what if the recipient doesn’t have a bank account? If you need your transfer to be picked up in cash, you narrow yours options significantly — you’ll have to use an online service that offer cash pickups, like Western Union or Moneygram.

What are international wire transfer limits for alternative money transfer providers?

Money service providerMaximum to IndiaMaximum to Canada
TransferWise$1,000,000 USD$1,000,000 USD
PayPal$10,000 USD⁴$60,000 with a verified account⁵
Western Union$2,500 USD⁶Restrictions based on your transaction history and how you choose to send your transfer (online, in branch, etc.)⁷
CurrencyFairNo maximum¹⁰No maximum¹⁰
OFXNo maximum¹¹ ¹²No maximum¹¹ ¹²

What are international wire transfer limits for US banks?

BankMaximum to IndiaMaximum to Canada
Bank of AmericaNo limit¹³No limit¹³
Chase$2,000 - $5,000 per day, depending on account type¹⁴$2,000 - $5,000 per day, depending on account type¹⁴
Wells FargoNo limit¹⁵No limit¹⁵
TD Bank (USA)No limit¹⁶No limit¹⁶
HSBC Bank (USA)$200,000 per day¹⁸$200,000 per day¹⁸

No matter what platform you choose for making your money transfer, knowing all your options is the first step. And whether you’re motivated by fees, exchange rates or limits on how much you can send, with a little research, you should be well on your way to finding the bank or transfer service that will best fit your needs.


  1. (September 12 2018)
  2. (September 12 2018)
  3. (September 12 2018)
  4. (September 12 2018)
  5. (September 12 2018)
  6. (September 12 2018)
  7. (September 12 2018)
  8. (September 12 2018)
  9. (September 12 2018)
  10. (September 12 2018)
  11. (September 12 2018)
  12. (September 12 2018)
  13. (September 12 2018)
  14. (September 12 2018)
  15. (September 12 2018)
  16. (September 12 2018)

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location