More and more people across the world are turning to online money transfer providers, instead of their bank or money transfer agent locations, to make international transfers. And they’re praising these transfer services for many reasons, most notably the convenience of these services and the lower costs they offer.
The comparison data we collect on Monito indeed shows that online providers are on average between 4 and 8 times cheaper than international bank transfers or transactions paid in cash. This is a compelling reason to start sending money online, but for many, the switch is still intimidating.
But why is it intimidating? Some fear a complicated sign-up process, painstaking forms or hidden fees. Many are reluctant to trust a new - and sometimes unknown - company with their money.
This study was launched to discover how easy, or complicated, sending money online really is and to highlight the providers that are currently offering the best user experience.
To do this, we decided to wear the shoes of 50 people sending money online with a provider for the first time. This allowed us to understand their pain points and common misunderstandings, and enabled us to identify what the key the ingredients are for a great experience.
In collaboration with the user-testing company UserBrain, we recorded and analyzed a total of 50 users and tested 10 different money transfer companies (see our methodology section for more information).
This unique dataset revealed a lot of interesting insights, all highlighted throughout this report which is the first-ever comprehensive user-experience benchmark study of the industry.
For this study, we focused on the process of sending money online from a computer (excluding mobile devices from our scope).
Testers were recruited randomly from a very diverse pool of more than 10,000 users via the user-testing platform Userbrain. They were asked to imagine that they live in the United Kingdom and need to make a £250 transfer to a friend’s bank account in France using a provider assigned to them. Testers made the test with their computer, in their home, while their voices and screens were remotely recorded.
We ask our testers to provide dummy data for some of their personal information (such as a fake name and email address), but we provided them with fake phone numbers and bank details for the recipient.
For each of the 10 providers included in this study, we recruited five random testers, according to industry standards “the best results come from testing no more than five users” and this amount enables discovering most of the usability issues of a website.
All user tests were carried out between March and June 2018.
10 criteria for a great user experience
- The user has a positive first impression when landing on the page
- The user has no issue understanding what the website is about and how to get started
- The sign up is straightforward
- After the sign up, the user knows where to start to set up a transfer
- It’s easy for the user to complete a profile with personal information.
- It’s easy for the user to enter the recipient’s information, including banking details
- The user understands exactly how much a transfer will cost before signing up
- A detailed cost breakdown with the amount to be paid, the fees, the exchange rate and amount received is displayed
- If the provider takes a margin on the exchange rate, the user understands it and know exactly how much is lost in the conversion
- The whole experience puts the user in a position of trust with the website
Overall, this study shows that sending money online is a relatively good experience. With the exception of MoneyGram, all money transfer providers obtain a score above 7/10.
However, only three providers (TransferWise, TransferGo and CurrencyFair) scored 9.0 or above, which is the threshold needed to obtain the “Excellent User Experience” label. These providers are extremely close to each other in terms of their scores and our ranking, but TransferWise officially takes the number one spot thanks to their excellent results around cost transparency (the fact that they apply the mid-market rate without any margin is significant and really differentiates them from other providers).
Providers such as Azimo or Remitly (and to some extent Western Union), are also very easy-to-use but lose some points on cost transparency because users weren’t able to understand how much they were losing on the exchange rate.
On the other hand, InstaRem performs very well when it comes to cost transparency, but our users encountered quite a few issues during the sign-up process.
Toward the end of our ranking, we find WorldRemit, a provider who is primarily focused on offering the best possible experience to send money from a mobile device; Xendpay, whose user interface could be more modern and less confusing; and finally MoneyGram.
MoneyGram is first and foremost a cash-based money transfer provider and seems to have more difficulties than Western Union when it comes to offering a good user experience for users who would prefer to send money online.
In order to evaluate the user experience of the providers we analyzed for this study, let’s start by describing what an ideal user experience would be.
Based on the reactions, feedbacks, and expectations collected from our 50 testers, we selected 10 criteria that are necessary to have a great experience when sending money online.
The criteria we used for this ranking are listed in on the previous page of this section, and each one of them is explored in detail in the next section of this report.
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What is an ideal user experience for sending money online?
In the following sections, we explore each one of the 10 criteria listed in the previous section, highlighting best practices and common pitfalls we encountered in our tests.
We organized our 10 criteria in four categories: (1) first impressions and how to get started, (2) sign-up & transfer process, (3) cost transparency and (4) trustworthiness.
First impressions and how to get started
With only a few exceptions, our testers hadn’t heard of the providers they were testing, which means the homepages were their very first impression given by the provider.
It’s obviously very important for users to directly understand what the website is about, where they can get started with their transfer and where they can find more information about the service offered if they need to.
The user has a positive first impression when landing on the page
Overall, all the websites we tested had well-optimized landing pages and offered a good first impression.
Providers have different approaches to illustrate the service they are offering. Some providers like Western Union or Remitly highlight the fact they’re sending money around the globe by featuring a map, a globe or even the earth from space as the background of their homepage.
InstaRem goes one step further and displays a bold imagery of an astronaut, with a sci-fi atmosphere, focusing on branding.
Other providers like TransferGo, Azimo, MoneyGram or WorldRemit feature images of people sending or receiving money, with a special mention to TransferGo as they took photos of actual customers to illustrate their homepage. This human touch was usually well-received by our users, although there’s a risk when using the picture of one person, that it’s not relatable to everyone, which is some of our testers noted about Azimo’s homepage.
Finally, CurrencyFair and TransferWise opted for a clean and modern looking layout with no images, featuring the currency calculator as the main visual element.
Our user-tests didn’t really allow us to determine whether one of the above approaches was more efficient in nailing a positive first impression. As long as the design was well executed and the website looked professional, users appeared to be satisfied.
For this criteria, the only provider that lagged slightly behind was Xendpay. Their homepage hasn’t been updated much in the past few years and it isn’t the most modern looking. The background image of birds flying in the sky doesn’t really add anything to do with the service offered.
The user has no issues understanding what the website is about and how to get started
Beyond the first impression, two additional elements are key to a good user experience when a user lands on a money transfer website for the first time: (1) a clear tagline describing the service offered and (2) an obvious call-to-action to get started with his transfer.
While we observed very different approaches when it comes to the layout of the homepage, many address first-time users using very similar taglines (see table below). Remitly uses “The best way to send money online,” to which WorldRemit answers “A better way to send money,” CurrencyFair announces “Fast, secure money transfers.” Azimo “Faster, safer money transfers.”
Some taglines don’t include the “money transfer” element, like the “Free, Fair & Fast” from Xendpay or the rotating hashtags used by InstaRem (#SendMore, #SaveMore, #DoMore) which meant some of our testers took slightly longer to fully understand what their website was about.
The only provider that differentiate themselves is TransferWise, highlighting the fact that they use the “real exchange rate” as a key value proposition.
How to get started
When it comes to the first step the user is invited to take to get started, we identified three different approaches:
- A “transfer calculator” where the user can select the amount and currencies of his transfer and a call-to-action to “get started”, “transfer now” or “sign up”.
- A simple drop-down (or a list) of countries where the user is invited to select the country he wants to send money to, which redirects him to a country-specific landing page.
- A single call-to-action to “send money” or “register”
Our user-tests showed that the “transfer calculator” approach provides the most straightforward user experience and our testers liked the possibility to directly see the cost of their transfer and the amount received.
Asking the user to select the receiving country first has some advantages, as it allows the provider to redirect the user to a country-specific landing page with more relevant information. Providers who offer different kind of payout options (cash pick-up, airtime top-up, etc.) tend to favor this solution in order to display more information about those different options that are different for each country on the landing page.
However, in addition to requiring one more step before accessing the exchange rate and fees information and the sign-up call-to-action, this second approach was the cause of some confusion as some users thought they had to select the sending country as a first step. Azimo does a good job of labeling the field clearly and allowing users to change the sending country during the next steps, but this isn’t the case with Remitly and WorldRemit. Even if relying on the IP address of the visitor to select the sending country probably works in most cases, it would be better to avoid any confusion here.
Our users encountered a similar issue with Western Union. After clicking on the call-to-action “send money” from the homepage, users are redirected to a “calculator page” where the need to select the sending country, the amount and the pay-in and payout options. As Western Union has a different site for each country they operate in they don’t have a field to select a sending country, but the receiving country dropdown defaults to the country the user is actually sending money from, which obviously led to many confused users.
MoneyGram’s homepage faces the challenge of wanting to advertise both their online and offline services. But to complicate things even more, users have four different ways to get started (the “Send Money” and “Estimate Fees” links in the main navigation menu, the “Start Sending Money” call-to-action at the center of the page and the traditional “sign up” button at the top right of the page.
Sign-up and transfer process
Before asking their customers to pay to fund the transfer (a step which we didn’t include into our study), all providers needed their users to sign up with their email address, fill out personal information about themselves and the recipient of their transfer and set up the currencies and amount of his transfer.
As you can see in the infographic below, not all providers follow the same logic. For example, most providers allow users to enter the amount and currencies before signing up, but not all.
A majority of providers have a clear call-to-action to register on their homepage, while others first ask the user to select the receiving country in order to be redirected to an intermediary landing page. Another key differentiator is to observe which provider asks for the recipient’s details prior to asking for the user’s personal information.
In this section, we will evaluate how straightforward it is to sign up with every provider, whether or not our testers knew how to get started with their transfer after they created an account and finally how easy it was for them to enter their own personal data and the details of their recipients.
The sign up is straightforward
Most providers ask for little information - an email address and a password - for the first step of the sign-up. In order to reduce the friction to a minimum, many also offer one-click sign-up with a Facebook or Google account.
InstaRem, TransferWise, TransferGo or CurrencyFair are all good examples of this approach. Remitly reduces the friction even more by displaying the sign-up form directly inline in the landing page.
Other providers already collect additional information during the first step of the sign-up. Azimo and WorldRemit ask for the First and Last name at this step, and Western Union requires more information such as the Date and Country of Birth, the Postal Address, and Gender of the user.
Xendpay, CurrencyFair, Azimo, and MoneyGram have a second step directly after the sign-up to complete the profile with the user’s personal information, while TransferWise, Remitly and TransferGo ask for this information later on in the transfer process.
While there are some clear advantages to a straightforward sign-up process where the user has to enter as little information as possible, our testers were sometimes surprised when the signup process was “too easy.” Therefore, asking for some information upfront is also a valid approach, as long as it’s easy for the user to enter his information (see details in one of our next sections).
One small annoyance encountered by our first-time users trying to get started with their transfer on Western Union and Azimo was the fact that they were redirected to a login screen when clicking on the main call-to-action of the homepage rather than to a sign-up screen.
After the sign up, the user knows where to start to set up his transfer
The majority of the providers we tested allow their user to seamlessly continue the set-up of their transfer once they finish the sign-up.
TransferWise and Remitly repeat the same calculator the user already played with on the homepage (bonus points for remembering the currencies and amount entered by the user before the sign-up), while Azimo or Western Union start by asking the user to select the delivery methods.
TransferGo adds a small intermediary step before the transfer calculator in order to give an overview of the transfer process which many of our testers found reassuring. CurrencyFair also has an intermediary step giving their users the option to get started with their transfer or to explore their CurrencyFair account. Xendpay adds a rather strange step - users have to select all the countries they want to send money from and to, before they are redirected to the transfer process itself.
InstaRem and WorldRemit offer a less optimal experience by redirecting the user to the homepage, only replaying the “Sign-up” button in the top-right navigation by a “My Account” button. This is confusing as some users thought that something wrong happened and that they had to start again and there wasn’t any clear next step.
MoneyGram redirects the user to his “account dashboard”, with an empty list of past transactions, information about the monthly payment limit but no clear call-to-action to get started with a first transfer.
It’s easy for the user to complete a profile with personal information.
In order to be able to make a money transfer, every user has to enter a set of personal information.
The timing of when the user needs to share this information is important. As we saw earlier, some providers ask for personal information during the sign-up process while others ask this information later on during the transfer process, either as the first or last step of the process.
In our view, none of the 10 providers we analyzed got it perfectly right. Needing to complete a full profile before actually starting the transfer can have the effect of rebutting some users.
Another issue some of our testers ran into (for example on Remitly’s website) was that they entered their personal information in the section where they were supposed to enter the recipient’s details.
Making sure that the sections are clearly labeled and appear in a logical order (like TransferWise do for example) is a solid way to avoid any confusion.
Some money transfer companies ask for more information than others, but it is mostly how they ask for this information that makes a good or bad user experience.
Our tests showed that the design of the form plays a big role in how easily (and happily) users can fill them in. InstaRem’s layout with a big form and there were no clear distinction between sections and fields and this made entering personal information a daunting task. But CurrencyFair’s clearly structured form and playful placeholders transformed this part of the process into an easy task.
Even more important is how errors are handled. Too many providers (Western Union, MoneyGram and Xendpay were the worse examples) display a generic error message when one of the fields isn’t filled properly, leaving the users to guess the expected format of their phone number via a lengthy trial and error process.
In the end, small details like auto-formatting phone numbers, clear labeling of optional fields, helpful tooltips, straightforward navigation and live error feedbacks are key elements that contribute to a great user experience.
It’s easy for the user to enter the recipient’s information, including bank details.
For the user, entering the details of the recipient of the transfer is a similar task as entering his own information, with the difference that the banking details also need to be entered.
For this study, we asked our testers to make a £250 transfer to the recipient’s bank account in France and we provided them with the IBAN of the recipient.
Too many providers made this trivial task of copying the IBAN into a field a major pain point for our users. For starters, some providers (Xendpay, InstaRem) decided for obscure reasons not to allow their users to copy-and-paste the IBAN in the field, forcing them to enter the 27-character long IBAN manually. This was annoying for our testers and of course, led to input errors.
While most providers accept the IBAN if it had spaces into it, some providers, like Xendpay, don’t enable this and usually don’t provide a clear instructions nor do they display an error message prompting the user to simply delete the spaces. As a result, some of our users spent as much as five minutes to check if the IBAN they entered was correct.
The majority of the tested providers only asked our users for the IBAN, but some also asked for the Bank Name or BIC code (which they could simply infer from the IBAN), adding unnecessary friction to the process.
When sending money abroad, understanding how much it will cost and how much the recipient will receive are key aspects of the user experience. As we will see in this section, presenting the fees and exchange rates in a way that allows the user to know exactly how much a transfer will cost isn’t as straightforward as one would think.
The user understands how much a transfer will cost before signing up
Our tests demonstrated that users expect to be able to understand how much their transfer will cost before signing up. Therefore, the way money transfer providers communicate and display the transfer costs on their homepage is very important.
The simpler the cost structure is, the easier it is to explain.
One simple approach taken by TransferGo is to have a fixed fee that is the same for any transfer (regardless of the amount and currencies) and to communicate the margin they take on the exchange rate proactively.
Another simple and efficient approach (used by TransferWise or InstaRem) is to not take any margin on the exchange rate and offer a simple calculator to allow the user to calculate the exact fee for a specific transfer (as fees then depend on the amount and currencies selected by the user).
Many providers decided to compare their cost with the cost of other providers or banks. While this is a great way to show how competitive a provider is, this was sometimes misleading. Remitly for example only compare the transfer fees (saying that they charge zero transfer fees) but not the margin on the exchange rate.
Providers advertising “free” transfers on their homepage, the way Remitly or Xendpay do, also misled some of our users and confused others who were surprised to see that their transfer was not free in the end.
Xendpay’s “pay-as-you-go” model, although competitive and interesting in principle, also confused our users.
As a general rule, providers who have promotions applied on the first transfer faced the challenge of both communicating on the promotion and the regular cost of the transfer.
In terms of upfront cost transparency, the worse experience is on MoneyGram’s website, where most of our users didn’t find out how much their transfer would cost until after they created an account. MoneyGram does have a “fees estimator” page on their site which requires the user to fill out a 2-step form, but only a minority of our testers found it.
A detailed cost breakdown with the amount to be paid, the fees, the exchange rate and amount received is displayed
All providers tested in our study displayed a cost breakdown at different steps of the transfer process. During our tests, this cost breakdown was generally the best source to obtain reliable and thorough information about the cost of the transfer.
There are some clear layout differences between the easy-to-understand cost breakdowns those that were slightly more complicated for our users to understand and where they had trouble identifying all the elements.
Some providers add the transfer fees to the amount the user entered (in other words, if the user wants to send £250, they add the £5 fees and display an “amount to be paid” of £255), whereas other providers deduct the transfer fees before converting the money in the receiving currency. In some cases, the second approach led to some confusion among our panel of testers.
If the provider takes a margin on the exchange rate, the user understands it and knows exactly how much is lost in the conversion.
On average, almost half of the cost of a money transfer is due to the difference between the exchange rate of the provider and the mid-market exchange rate. However, in many cases, the users are oblivious to this part of the cost.
In all our tests, the exchange rate applied to the transfer and the amount received in the receiving currency were displayed at some point during the process, but many providers don’t communicate proactively on the margin they apply the mid-market exchange rate.
On MoneyGram or WorldRemit, none of our testers stumbled upon any information regarding the exchange rate. On Western Union’s website, a minority of our testers read the small footnote indicating that Western Union is making money on the exchange rate.
Some providers communicate more directly about the margin they take on the mid-market rate- in other words, they usually provide a range. TransferGo displays their “exchange rate markup” prominently on their homepage, while Azimo explains their “FX costs” on their how-it-works page. The range displayed is usually quite large ( 0.1% - 2.25% for Azimo for example), which means it still not possible for the user to get a clear idea of how much it will cost. CurrencyFair displays an average margin of 0.4%.
In the end, none of the providers who take a margin on the exchange rate displayed the actual margin applied for a given transfer. This meant our users were not able to understand how much they’ll end up paying without doing the math themselves.
Remitly was the only provider in our study to advertise different exchange rates for different services (they offer their customers the possibility to send money faster but at a worse exchange rate). They also offer a promotional exchange rate for the first transfer, which is actually better than the mid-market rate. While the display of various rates made it clear for all our testers that Remitly was making money on the exchange rate, this created quite a lot of confusion as our testers didn’t understand how much they were paying with these different rates.
Of course, the best kind of transparency is the one you don’t even need. TransferWise, InstaRem, and Xendpay simply apply the mid-market exchange rate without any margin on top of it, which means there are no hidden costs for the user. This is by far the best solution and offers a genuinely transparent user experience.
Sending money online for the first time can be intimidating and users need to be reassured that the website they are about to use for their transfer is secure and trustworthy.
Many of our users mentioned that they would, in any case, do their own research and look at independent reviews before making their transfers, but it is really important that the provider’s website convey a feeling of security and trust to start with.
The whole experience puts the user in a position of trust with the website
Overall, all the providers included in our study are doing a pretty good job at reassuring first-time users that their company is secure and trustworthy.
Customer testimonials, logos of prestigious newspaper, SSL certificate, phone numbers to contact the support or security badges (ex. “Verified by Visa”) were all important elements mentioned by our testers as helping them trust a new service. But a professional-looking website and a smooth user experience were even more critical in the users’ assessments. For example, a badly handled error in the sign-up form of MoneyGram really “took away” some of our users’ trust.
Interestingly, it appears that for a minority of our users who are used to a “boring-looking banking interface,” a great user experience and modern interface can sometimes cause a sort of “too good to be true” feeling. This was, for example, the case on TransferWise’s website, where some users thought the sign-up was “almost too easy.”
The brand power of providers also plays a big role in how quickly a user is ready to trust a company. Western Union, for example, is such a powerful and well-known brand that they have already gained the trust of most of users even before they land on their website. Even some user-experience mishaps weren’t enough to bring doubts about the company’s credibility in the mind of our testers. Some of our testers had also heard about companies like TransferWise and WorldRemit before starting the test.
This report is the one of the most extensive studies ever published on the user experience of sending money online.
By rigorously analyzing the experience that ten providers (all representative of the industry) currently offer first-time users, this benchmark analysis provides a lot of insights into what makes a great or poor user experience.
The key ingredients of a good experience we identified within this report include a clear cost-calculator on the homepage, a well organized and linear transfer set up that leads the user through the process, forms that are well-thought through and easy to fill out and total transparency on the cost of the transfer.
The common pitfalls and missteps we highlighted throughout the report were mostly found in the tedious forms the users need to fill out and how input errors are handled, or in situations where the next step wasn’t clear for our users. The lack of transparency concerning the margin providers take on the exchange rate was, in many cases, where companies lost points and where there is the most room for improvement.
At Monito, we believe transparency in the money transfer industry is crucial in providing a good user experience for people sending money abroad and enabling them to make informed decisions about the providers they want to use. This is why those factors were weighted quite strongly in our analysis.
Overall though, we found that the quality of the websites we analyzed is good. Companies listed at the top of our ranking truly offer top-notch user experiences, making sending money online an easy task for everyone.
Individual analysis of the 10 providers included in our study
We published blog articles with an in-depth analysis of each provider included in our study
What users say about TransferWise
“Everything is totally clear (what’s happening and what I have to pay), and I think it’s a really great deal!”
What users say about TransferGo
“The website looks good and professional, testimonials are always good. I see friendly faces, everybody is happy.”
What users say about CurrencyFair
“You’re in complete control, you get to select an exchange rate and it’s just a matter of whether or not CurrencyFair will ever offer that exchange rate.”
What users say about Azimo
“You land on the homepage and you can straightaway select the country you want to send money to, I was basically sending money within ten minutes.”
What users say about InstaRem
“It was easy to sign-up, but to set-up your account, putting your address and the recipient’s address was a bit painful.”