09/07/2019, updated 15/06/2023
Do you want to transfer money to Chile from abroad? Or do you want to transfer money from Chile to another country? We detail below the different options you can use and the procedure to follow.
The "traditional" bank transfer via SWIFT
The easiest way to make a transfer to Chile from a foreign country (or vice versa) is to use the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) system. This system was created to establish a common and standardized process for international financial transactions, so that today most international transfers are made through this network.
To make a transfer, you need to provide your bank with the following information:
- Name of the Chilean bank,
- SWIFT / BIC code of the bank or branch where the account to be credited is open,
- Full name and RUN of the account holder,
- Account number,
- Reason for payment,
- Detailed costs: OUR (responsibility of the sender), BEN (responsibility of the beneficiary) or SHA (shared costs). By default, the costs are shared. If you make a transfer account to account, it is better to keep SHA. In the other two cases, many banks overcharge fees because they have to surrender some of them.
Make sure all the data are correct so as not to slow down the procedure. If all these data are provided, the transfer takes between 24 and 96 hours to arrive on the beneficiary's account.
You should know that the only proof of the transfer is the copy of the SWIFT message. Copies of payment orders have no value.
If you are a member of the Euro zone, the transfer standard is the IBAN standard. The account's IBAN number is the only number needed to make a transfer within the Euro zone. This system does not exist outside the Euro zone, except a few exceptions that we do not detail in this article. The rest of the world uses the SWIFT system.
Most bank executives in Europe do not understand that other countries can use a different system, and ask for an IBAN number. In this case, let them know that Chile uses the SWIFT system and that an IBAN transfer is not an option.
Price of a classic bank transfer
Each bank has a different price structure. Generally, the commission consists of a fixed amount of 10 to 30 dollars (or an equivalent amount in the currency of the country of issue) and a commission of 2-3%, "hidden" in the conversion rate you are offered between the original currency and the destination currency.
It is possible to negotiate these fees with your bank. It all depends on your relationship with your bank. For large amounts of money, above a few thousand dollars, or tens of thousands of dollars, it is possible to lower this rate. For large transfers as part of investment, the bank transfer remains the best option.
For smaller amounts, banks are unlikely to accept, and it is better to use the transfer platforms described below.
How much money can you send by bank transfer to Chile?
The maximum amount of transfer for which no proof is required is generally USD 10,000, but this limit may vary depending on the country of origin and the transfer method chosen. If you want to transfer an amount over USD 10,000, you have to declare this sum and provide your bank with proof of source of funds.
Most SWIFT transfers to the Chilean peso go through the dollar, even if the original currency is not the US dollar. In this case, there will be two currency conversions during this transaction: the first from the original currency to the dollar, and the second from the dollar to the Chilean peso. The transaction will then go through a US bank called Intermediate Bank, which is entitled to perform this kind of transaction under the Bretton Woods Agreements of 1946. This may involve additional constraints for US residents.
Historical players specialized in international funds transfer: Western Union / MoneyGram / AFEX
Western Union, MoneyGram or the Chilean AFEX are historical players in currency transfers. They have foreign exchange offices, which allows you to exchange cash, but also to receive funds directly in cash. This point is the big advantage of these actors. It allows you to send funds to and from Chile very quickly, without needing a bank account in the country of origin or destination.
As far as prices are concerned, do not rely on their advertising. They almost all use the same strategy of saying they do not take a fixed commission. What they do not say is that the exchange rate offered to you at their office or on their site is very disadvantageous compared to the exchange rate of the day on the financial markets. When comparing them, the gap can go up to 5 or 7% "hidden" commission.
We recommend these companies only in case of emergency, and for small amounts, especially if you need to send or receive cash. However, for larger transfers, or if you have a bank account and are not in too much of a hurry, the SWIFT system or some of the solutions below are financially more attractive.
In every country, there are specialized financial asset management companies (stock brokers / wealth managers), whose clients are wealthy people who want to diversify their investments. These companies generally offer transfers at attractive exchange rates, because for them it is a service for their investors clients.
To be able to open an account in this type of company and avoid account maintenance fees, it usually takes between USD 15,000 and 20,000 worth of assets to invest. Do not bother to contact them for smaller transfers.
This is the best solution for amounts over USD 50,000. You will get a better rate than at a bank. And for such large amounts, the platforms presented below will not accept.
In Chile, the main asset managers are:
Transfer platforms: sending money to Chile from abroad
In the last decade, startups have begun to revolutionize international transfers by offering much lower commissions and reduced transfer times.
How are they achieving this?
The principle is quite simple. The company opens bank accounts in several countries, and has funds on each of the accounts, which allows it to receive or send money only between local accounts.
For example, if you want to send dollars to Chile:
- You transfer dollars from your account in dollars, to the account of the company in the dollar zone,
- The company transfers pesos from its account in Chile to your account in Chile.
It does not actually do the international transfer, which is expensive in terms of time and bank commission, and can offer you a better price than most banks.
Here is a little video which explains this system:
Which one to choose?
There are many international remittance startups. Each has developed itself on a different area and is more or less competitive in terms of price, depending on the currency you are interested in. We only describe here those that work in Chile.
For transfers up to 5,000 to 10,000 dollars, this is probably the best option. All companies listed below are registered in their home country, and therefore subject to controls similar to those in effect in the financial system.
Wise (ex Transferwise)
Wise (ex Transferwise) was founded in London in 2011 by the creator of Skype and is the largest company in this sector. It employs about 1,000 people and transfers several billions USD a month. It is the startup that currently offers the best exchange rate between the major currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, AUD) and the Chilean peso (CLP).
Currently, it only works for transfers to Chile, for example USD > CLP, EUR > CLP or AUD > CLP.
Transfers with an account as an individual are limited to USD 3,300 per recipient account and per month. For larger amounts, Transferwise offers the possibility to create a borderless account, which allows you to receive funds without charge in EUR, USD, GBP and AUD, and send funds in around 40 currencies. They charge a fee when you do a forex conversion, and a minor fee for wire transfer.
In terms of transfer time, funds arrive in the recipient account within 24 hours if you pay by credit card directly on the Transferwise website. If you use the option to make a transfer to their account in euros, it usually takes one more day.
You can register via this link to get a first free transfer.
It is the PayPal money transfer platform. It only works from an account in EUR, USD, GBP or CAD and is limited to USD 2,999 per transfer.
You may be wondering, why not use PayPal to transfer funds? We tested it, and we do not recommend it:
- PayPal is not present in Chile. In fact, if you make a transfer to Chile, to withdraw funds, you have to create a MultiCaja account. Without this account, you will not be able to transfer your funds to your Chilean bank account. And MultiCaja's commission is added to PayPal's commission.
- PayPal is willing to block your account very quickly if it believes that a transaction is not legitimate, as this site is very controlled in the US. In addition, PayPal does not allow transfers of funds between two accounts belonging to the same person, called cash advance. Performing this kind of operation quickly leads to the blocking of your account. PayPal has the right to block your funds up to 90 days.
WorldRemit offers two interesting services, beyond the account-to-account transfer service like Transferwise:
- Refilling a Chilean mobile phone from an account abroad.
- Receiving cash money in an office of the company MORE, after sending it via the WorldRemit website.
You should better avoid it!
We tested the EUR > CLP transfer between two accounts belonging to the same person. SmallWorld required a lot of documents, especially to justify the source of the funds via pay slips... Since the person was no longer in France and it was her savings, she did not have the means of producing such evidence. As a result, we spent a week trying to recover the funds on the account in euros. The customer service is absolutely shabby.
Azimo only operates from European currencies to the Chilean peso. It includes all Nordic currencies outside the euro zone, which is not the case of many of the previous platforms: PLN / SEK / DKK.
Transfer platforms: sending money from Chile to another country
Few platforms currently offer to send funds from Chile. Most platforms are based in Europe or the United States. It is therefore much simpler to send money from the United States to Chile for example, than the opposite. Transferwise allowed this in 2014-2015, but the service has stopped since.
However, two platforms based in Chile exist:
It is a Chilean platform founded in 2014 and registered with the UAF (Unidad de Analisis Financiero), the supervisory body for banks and financial institutions in Chile. It allows you to send funds from a Chilean account to an account abroad (no transfer in cash). You must have a valid Chilean ID card to use this service.
It is a new platform launched in early 2018, focused on clients based in Latin American countries who want to send funds abroad. It is also registered with the UAF. The founders are Chilean entrepreneurs, who contributed 2 million dollars to develop the platform. The company currently realizes several millions dollars per month of transfer.
You can get $10 off your first transfer via this link.
Use Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency
If you want more discretion for your money transfers, you can buy cryptocurrency through a broker in your home country and then resell it through another broker in the destination country.
The fees are higher than with specialized international transfer platforms, but if you need to transfer funds without being asked questions, this may be an option.
Trade money with someone who needs to do the reverse transaction.
Do you have Chilean pesos and need dollars? There are certainly people around you who may be interested in the reverse transaction. For example:
- Expats who are paid in their country of origin and who need Chilean pesos,
- Employees with a local contract in Chile, who need to repatriate funds to their home country, to pay a loan, or help their family.
- You can propose the deal on Facebook expatriates groups. If you do so, specify the approximate amount you want to change. Some people may be interested to change 1000 or 2000 dollars, but depending on whether you have 20 or 50,000 dollars, it will not interest the same people.
How to proceed? It is simple:
- You go to xe.com to check the exchange rate of the day,
- You make an account-to-account transfer abroad, and they give you the pesos in cash or via a bank transfer in Chile.
Obviously, these exchanges rely on trust. If you are suspicious, you can use the methods mentioned above, that are safe, fast and do not cost much more.
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