In this article I tell you my experience sending money to Russia using different methods: bank transfer, Western Union, PayPal and TransferWise. You will see how the price differences between one method or another are very noticeable.
Updated May 17, 2020
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0. The different ways of sending money to Russia
On several occasions I have had to send small amounts of money to relatives to Russia or Georgia. Sending money abroad always means paying commissions, and if you do it to countries of the former USSR (Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, etc.) these commissions are even higher.
Let’s analyze what it costs today to send $1,000 to Russia (the results are the same if you send Australian dollars or New Zealand dollars), with the recipient receiving the money in rubles, by comparing 3 methods:
- Traditional methods: such as WesternUnion or MoneyGram.
- Online payment services: such as PayPal, WebMoney or Yandex Money.
- P2P money transfer services: like TransferWise.
I have used these three methods to send money to Russia. For comparative purposes, all calculations were made on Mat 17, 2020.
The first thing I have to say is that for small amounts of money, a bank wire transfer is the worst method, since the fees charged by the banks (from both the issuing bank and the receiving bank in Russia) are usually very high. For this reason, I have stopped using bank transfers for sending money to Russia for many years, since these are very expensive.
1. Traditional methods: WesternUnion or MoneyGram
WesterUnion or MoneyGram are specialized companies in sending money abroad. They have an extensive network of offices, which I have used on different occasions, though they are now offering the money transfer service through their Internet website.
Well, sending $1,000 to Russia through Western Union has a high commission if you send it by bank transfer ($25) or by debit or credit card ($25), but it applies a good exchange rate. This means that if you send $1,000 to Russia today, you would be charged an exchange rate of 71.9160 rubles per dollar, so that the recipient in Russia will receive 71,916.00 rubles.
2. Online payment services: PayPal, WebMoney and Yandex Money
PayPal is a payment method already known by virtually anyone, which allows you to buy in many websites, as well as transferring money between users by email. Other similar methods implemented in Russia are WebMoney and Yandex Money.
PayPal, contrary to what many people think, is not an economic method to send money to Russia (or to countries in which it implies a currency change), mainly due to two reasons:
- Firstly, when it comes to international personal money transactions to Russia, the commission is not free, as PayPal charges a fee of 2.15 USD if it’s being sent from a bank account, and 4% if it’s sent from a credit card, whether debit or credit. In the case of commercial transactions, commissions are even higher. You can consult the commissions at this link.
- Secondly, when you send dollars to a recipient in Russia, Paypal applies a rather unfavorable exchange rate. Today it applies an exchange rate of 70.0678 rubles per dollar.
Thus, if you send $1,000 to a relative or friend of Russia, the commission would be $2.15 ($40 if you use your bank card), but your friend or Russian family member would receive in its Paypal account a total of 70,067.81 rubles. Also, keep in mind that if the recipient wants to transfer this money to its Russian bank account, it would have to wait a couple of days to have the money available.
3. P2P Money Transfer Services: TransferWise
Recently, several financial peer to peer (P2P) online services have emerged, offering money transfers with low commissions and that apply the actual exchange rate of the moment. The most popular of all is TransferWise (from the creators of Skype).
This is the method I currently use to send money to Russia because it is cheaper and easier for me.
For example, sending $1,000 to Russia today has a commission of 1.6% (16.01 USD) but the good thing about TransferWise is that it applies an exchange rate close to the real exchange rate (73.4870 rubles per dollar). As a result, the recipient in Russia receives 72,310.47 rubles (having discounted already the applied commission, unlike previous methods where commission is paid separately). In addition, note that TransferWise allows you to make the payment by card without additional costs:
4. In summary
- You send $1,000 and the recipient in Russia receives 71,916.00 rubles.
- In addition, you have to pay a commission ranging of $25.
- You send $1,000 and the recipient in Russia receives 70,067.81 rubles.
- In addition, you have to pay a commission that varies between $2.15 and $40.
- You send $1,000 and the recipient in Russia receives 72,310.47 rubles rubles (with the commission of $16.01 already discounted of this amount in rubles, unlike previous methods where commission is paid separately).
All calculations were made on May 17, 2020. As you can see, the price differences are very large between these different methods.
Have you sent money to Russia or to countries of the former USSR? You can tell me your experience below.
Hi. Irena. I need an urgent help. The first is the details on how to reach to St. Petersburg State University from the nearest Airport. I have been selected for contract based study education in Graduate School of Management at SPBU. I have to report to the University on 02 Septemeber, 2019.
One more important thing is that i will have to pay a big amount of my tution fees to the university. They said they only accept in rubbles. And they gave me the study contract in russian language including the bank detail. When I asked them to give detail in English language they are stubborn to provide me the details in Russain language as Russian is the Official language. I have to pay the fees and I don’t know how will I pay the fees once I reach there. Also commission and other things like exchange rates are so high. Please help me with the same. i need your urgent reply.
Thank you for this article. I’m hoping you can help me. I need to transfer money from Australia, to a business account in Russia which only accepts Rubles. I’ve tried multiple methods including TransferWise, MoneyGram, PayPal etc. however they don’t transfer to business accounts. I’ve also tried an international money transfer via my bank, however the funds weren’t exchanged from USD to Rubles and also received, the funds weren’t accepted by the back in Russia and I’ve been notified they’re sending the money back. I can’t find any information on how to make this transfer – I’m hoping you might be able to help me?
Any experience transferring the other way? Money from Russia?
paypal does not work from us banks. 🙁
Hello Irena, thanks for the article. I have been using PayPal for the past few month to send around $1000 from Australia to family in Russia with no problems until just recently. I attempted to do so yesterday on 13 October 2017 but this time a message came back saying payment was denied by my card provider. I know there were sufficient funds on my card because looking at my bank account shows the funds were taken but they were not received. Have you experienced this at any time using PayPal? My concern is that recent sanctions have affected Mastercard transfers to Russia via PayPal.
I do not know, it’s been a long time since I used Paypal to send money to Russia, it’s expensive and there were always problems. I usually use Transferwise
Hello Irena, thank you for this article – very useful. Have you ever tried sending larger amounts (thousands) via TransferWise, and what was your experience? TIA, K )
Yes, works fine, money takes 1-2 days to arrive