Can I Use a Debit Card to Transfer Money Abroad?

Debit cards allow you to withdraw cash, make payments in-person (at card accepting merchants) and make purchases online. Can a debit card transfer money overseas? The short answer is yes – it’s the latter category of ‘online purchases’ that online debit card money transfers fall into. There are many international money transfer companies that will allow you to send money to a bank account with a debit card abroad. Learn about them and the payment process here.

Providers Offering Online Money Transfer Through Debit Card 

UK Best for Large International Bank to Bank Transfers Online in UK
Availability:
UK / EU Residents
97.8% Editorial rating
3,000 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£100 / €100 or eq.
Why Them?
  • #1 Rated on MTC
  • Accepts GBP and EUR debit cards
  • Industry Leader with £10m in Annual Turnover
+Read more
Australia UK USA Canada Best Online Money Transfer: Global Availability
Availability:
UK, EU, Australia, Canada and USA Residents
90.4% Editorial rating
1,500 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£100 / €100 / AU$100 / US$100 or eq.
Why Them?
  • Accepts UK, EU and AUS Debit Cards
  • Traded Publicly
  • 20bn Turnover per Year
+Read more
EU Great Rates for Transfers of All Sizes
Availability:
UK, Australia and EU Residents
89.1% Editorial rating
3,300 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
No Minimum
Why Them?
  • Exciting Start-up
  • Transparent Pricing Before Signing-Up
  • Great Exchange Rates (Even for Smaller Transfers)
+Read more
EU The Hottest Money Transfer Startup Today
Availability:
UK, EU, Australia, USA, Canada and More (Almost Globally)
86.8% Editorial rating
32,000 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
No Minimum
Why Them?
  • Accepts UK, EU and AUS Debit Cards
  • Most Recognizable Brand in Money Transfers Today
  • Boast 1,000+ Employees and $4bn in Monthly Turnover
+Read more

How Can I Use a Debit Card to Transfer Money Abroad?

The majority of online money transfer services provide clients with multiple payment options when it’s time to settle the funds for an international transfer. These could be:

  • Domestic Bank Transfer
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Google / Apple Pay
  • SWIFT
  • Available Account Balance (if the firm offers multi-currency accounts)

Meaning it’s usually pretty easy to send money to a bank account abroad using your debit card. In fact, it’s one of the fastest methods to settle an international transfer. The only issue is that it can be a little more expensive for payment providers to process debit card payments than it is bank transfers so you might have to pay a little more for paying via a debit card. Debit cards will however be cheaper than the payment processing fee for credit cards and corporate cards so it should be cheaper for customers when compared to these settlement methods.

If you’re keen to make debit card money transfers it’s worth checking your chosen provider will accept card payments ahead of registering for an account. In our company reviews of the best international money transfer companies we detail the settlement options available with each provider. Alternatively you can check with the provider directly – most have online chat functionality or a number you can call. 

Pitfalls When Using a Debit Card to Transfer Money Overseas

Whilst debit cards will provide near-instantaneous settlement on international payments there are some things to be aware of before selecting this as your first option.

Payment Limits

In the US, daily card payment limits can be anywhere from $1000 – $5000. If you’re making an international transfer that’s larger than this you’ll need to get your payment limit either increased or completely removed by your bank first. 

The same goes for some European countries too – France is notorious to have low payment limits for online purchases which can be as low as Є300 – Є500 per day. Again you would almost certainly have to get limits of these sizes removed prior to funding an international transfer by debit card.

The UK generally doesn’t have payment limits on debit card payments but there are still things to look out for when using a debit card to transfer money overseas from the UK.

Payment Declined by Bank

Even if there are no payment limits on your debit card, a very common reason for unsuccessful card payments is that the bank declines it. This means they’ve told the acquirer not to take the money.

As international bank transfers can often be for larger sums, it might be that the payment looks unusually large when compared to your usual card payments. Your bank will block the transaction just in case it’s fraudulent.

The best way to resolve this is simply to speak with your bank and notify them that it was really you that made the payment.

Secure Authentication

When making a card payment online you’re often redirected to your bank for an extra layer of security – if the payment is large you can expect to enter your password and answer some security questions in order to proceed. Be sure to familiarise yourself with your account details and secret questions so you don’t accidentally block your own transaction.

Insufficient Funds

Though this is rather obvious, it could be that you have insufficient funds on a debit card to fund a transfer. You’re limited to the funds you hold in your linked current account.

Higher Processing Fees

Money transfer companies enjoy the fast settlement of customers paying with a debit card but they will incur higher payment costs as a result of having to pay their own card acquirer for processing debit cards. Wise, for example, only offers its low cost transfers for customers settling their transfer via bank transfer or their Wise account balance. To send money to a bank account abroad with a debit card or credit card through Wise, you have to opt for their ‘fast and easy’ transfers.

The costs incurred will be significantly lower than a direct use of a debit card for foreign currency (i.e. non-sterling transaction fee.

Sending Money to a Bank Account With a Debit Card – The Payment Process

When a debit card is used to send money abroad or make a purchase online, there are more steps and payment firms involved than you might think. They look as follows:

The Remitter / Cardholder – when using a debit card to send money abroad you’ll need to enter your 16-digit card number, the card expiry date and the security code (usually the last three digits on the reverse of your card). This triggers the card payment process.

The Issuer – the bank or financial institution that has issued the debit card to you. You’ll have to complete the authentication process with your issuer to initiate the card transfer. Once this is done they’ll send funds to the acquirer.

The Acquirer – a bank or financial institution which acquires the funds from the issuer and passes them onto the merchant. Acquirer’s can be a bank or a fintech company such as Stripe. 

The Merchant – in this instance, the money transfer company that you are trying to settle your transfer with. In general online purchases, the merchant is just the website you would like to make a purchase from.

The Card Scheme – underpinning the whole card payment process are of course the card networks. These are the likes of Visa, Mastercard and Maestro.

How do I Transfer Money from my International Debit Card to my Bank Account?

The best way to do this will depend completely on your individual circumstances. This includes where you live, the currency your international debit card is held, the payment provider you work with and where your bank account is held. Is your international debit card run in a different currency to your bank account?

Most international currency cards these, such as those provided by Revolut, Starling Bank and Wise, are accompanied by multi-currency accounts which you can manage online or via an app. For these providers it’s as simple as converting currencies between your accounts and then issuing a local transfer to your bank account. 

In other circumstances, there are a number of money transfer providers who accept card payments from a number of different regions. Currencies Direct accepts card payments in GBP and EUR, whilst Wise accepts card payments from a number of different currencies including GBP, USD and AUD.

Paysend’s unique card2card payments are worth a mention too – allowing users to send money overseas with just the recipient’s name and debit card number. You aren’t required to have the recipient’s IBAN/bank account details.

Pros & Cons of Using a Debit Card to Send Money Overseas

Advantages

  • International transfers settled by debit card will cost less than they do with credit cards.
  • An accepted settlement method by the majority of payment providers.
  • Near-instant settlement.
  • Only spend the balance held in your account.
  • Could avoid errors encountered when making a bank transfer.
  • Some banks, such as those in the UK, have no payment limits on card payments but do for online bank transfers.

Disadvantages

  • Depending on jurisdiction and provider, it could be more expensive than a bank transfer.
  • Might have payment limits for online card payments, particularly in Europe and US.
  • Could be detected as fraud if high value.
  • Refunds for card payments can take up to 10 days. 

Final Thoughts - Sending Money From a Debit Card to a Bank Account Abroad

It’s important to remember that if you use a debit card to transfer money abroad you are actually only deciding on the settlement method in the country you are sending the money from. Once the funds hit your bank or money transfer company, they will use an online payment method to deliver the funds to your beneficiary - this could be their own systems, or a payment network such as SWIFT. Using a debit card to transfer money overseas is a solid option though - it ensures fast settlement on your end and it’s a widely accepted settlement method by a number of the leading money transfer providers.

Just be aware of potential card payment limits and, if it’s a significantly larger payment than you’re used to making, expect a potential fraud check from your bank. Debit card money transfers will be cheaper than using a credit card but could cost more than when you settle a transfer via bank transfer.