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What is a remittance transfer and what are my rights?

Federal law defines “remittance transfers” as most electronic money transfers from people in the United States who used “remittance transfer providers” to send money to recipients abroad.

Under federal law, remittance transfers generally describe electronic transfers of more than $15, sent by consumers in the United States to people or companies in foreign countries through a remittance transfer provider. Common terms for remittance transfers include “international wires,” “international money transfers,” and “remittances.”

Certain federal protections apply if you send money abroad

Under federal law, many money transmitters, a number of banks and credit unions, and possibly other types of financial services companies qualify as “remittance transfer providers.” According to the law, a remittance transfer provider is any entity that provides remittance transfers for a consumer in the normal course of its business.

A company is not a remittance transfer provider if it provided 500 or fewer remittance transfers in the prior calendar year and provides 500 or fewer transfers in the current calendar year. If you use such a company to send a money transfer, then federal law does not require them to provide you with the following protections.

The right to receive certain information about your remittance transfer

Remittance transfer providers must generally provide you with certain information before and after you pay for a remittance transfer. This includes information about:

  • Fees and taxes they collect from you.
  • The exchange rate that applies to the transfer, if applicable.
  • Fees charged by the company’s agents abroad and certain other institutions involved in the transfer process.
  • The amount of money expected to be delivered, not including foreign taxes or certain fees charged to you by your financial institution.
  • If applicable, a statement that additional foreign taxes and fees may be deducted from the remittance transfer.

You also must receive information about when the money will be available, instructions on your right to cancel transfers, what to do in case of an error, and how to submit a complaint.

The right to cancel a money transfer

After paying, you will typically have up to 30 minutes to cancel the remittance transfer at no charge, unless the transfer has already been picked up or deposited into the recipient’s account.

The right to resolve mistakes

You have 180 days to notify the remittance provider of a mistake, starting from the date disclosed by the remittance transfer provider as the date when the money will be available. Remittance transfer providers must investigate notices of error. Even though you have up to 180 days to report the mistake, if you think a mistake was made promptly contact the company. Remittance transfer providers generally have 90 days to investigate the matter and they must notify you of the investigation’s results. For certain types of errors, such as if the money never arrives, you may be able to get a refund or have the transfer resent.

Other protections may be available to you, depending on how you send the money and the laws in your state.

Learn more about money transfers.