Free international money transfers: myth or fact?

Everyone loves a good bargain. That’s why businesses are always looking to use sweet-sounding deals to get customers. In that regard, money transfer operators are no different.

If you’ve done a couple of international transfers, you’ve probably come across offers telling you to send money for next to no fees. Tempting? Of course. After all, if you’re performing a transaction at zero fees, it’s bound to be cheaper as you’re saving on fees. Right? Well, not quite.

Hidden charges are a common marketing tactic that companies used to convince customers that they’re making the best purchasing decisions, when in fact they might not be. The practice is rather common in the remittance industry, where a simple sleight of hand can be used to communicate one thing to users when another thing is meant.

“Zero fees,” “free transfer”, “Send money for free”, “zero cost,” are all terms that money transfer operators use to get users to believe that they are getting the best rates. However, they don’t really mean that.

MTOs make money through three ways: fees, exchange rate arbitrage, and bank/credit card charges. Usually, when a transaction is said to be free, what it means is that the company is not charging you an upfront fee to perform the transaction. However, this has no bearing on whether the company gives you the best exchange rate for the transaction. The common practice by MTOs is to hide the fees inside the exchange rate so that they can still make money on the transaction.

Take the curious case of the Facebook ad below. The ad was pulled from Facebook’s ad library by searching a few keywords.

Sendwave ad promising fee-free transfers
Sendwave ad promising fee-free transfers

Created by, SendWave—a popular money transfer operator with immigrants sending money to Africa—, the ad, targets Cameroonians in the diaspora urging them to make secure, quick, and “fee-free” transactions to their loved ones in Cameroon.

However, a quick search of the SendWave website tells us that “fee-free” don’t necessarily mean the best rates on the market. 

Searching the rates on SendWave vs Zazuu’s comparison tracker showed that SendWave was more expensive than at least two other money transfer operators: Remitly and Ria Money.

So, are offers of fee-free international money transfers a lie? No, they aren’t. They just don’t guarantee the best transaction value.

It is, however, important to share that not all offers of fee-free international money transfers are the same. In some cases, money transfer operators will waive the fees for the first few transactions that the user carries out. If it’s your first time using a service like that, you can take advantage of it.

Final thoughts

Fee-free ads are set up as a psychological tactic to make users feel like they’re getting the best deals. However, as we’ve proven, that’s not always the case. In fact, you’re likely to be getting a poor deal when the fees are hidden.

Unfortunately, ads promising free transfers are commonplace with remittance companies, so are unlikely to go away soon. However, with an ally like Zazuu, you can always get the best deals on all your transfers to Africa. 

Remember to check the rates on Zazuu before you send money via any money transfer operator.