How to Start a Money Transfer Business in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: February 22, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The money transfer industry is expected to reach $95.1 billion by 2032. With more people living abroad and sending money home, it’s a market ripe for new entrants.


The process of building your own money transfer business can seem daunting. You may wonder how to get started, what legal and regulatory requirements exist, and whether there is room to carve out a niche in this competitive space.

This guide breaks down startup costs, critical factors for long-term viability, and step-by-step instructions on acquiring licensure, launching marketing, and obtaining an EIN. With strategic planning and execution, you can be successful. Learn how to start a money transfer business here.

1. Conduct Money Transfer Market Research

Market research helps you develop a business plan for your remittance business. It offers insight into your target market, trends in the money transfer industry, and even which social media platforms are being used by competitors to get money transfer business posted online.


Some details you’ll learn through market research include:

  • Global migration patterns mean more people than ever live abroad as expatriates and migrant workers.
  • Improving economic conditions in developing countries leads to rises in disposable income available for family members to send home.
  • Advances in digital transfer technology have significantly increased accessibility, convenience, and affordability compared to traditional cash-based means.
  • A closer look at the underlying demographics reveals promising target consumer segments.
  • Expatriate workers are the largest contributors, responsible for over 70% of money transfers.
  • With over 164 million migrant workers globally, there is a huge addressable audience here.
  • The end-user opportunity is immense, and systemic changes create space for new entrants.
  • Stricter regulations have led some banks, including JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, to pull back from the consumer remittance sector, opening a gap for non-bank specialists.
  • Services like PayPal’s Xoom, Remitly and WorldRemit have all expanded operations, but still account for less than 5% of total volume, signaling ample remaining share up for grabs.

With accessible technology, low overhead costs compared to traditional models, and exponential end-market growth anticipated, the conditions for building a money transfer business are ideal. Capitalizing on this potential requires contending with regulatory requirements and significant competition.

2. Analyze the Competition

To understand the competitive landscape, first look at the traditional brick-and-mortar money transfer operators. Observe customer demographics, pain points in the process, and customer service quality. This will reveal targetable weaknesses alongside their brand dominance.


Complement this in-person competitive analysis by evaluating their online capabilities. Register accounts, try transferring funds, and scrutinize strengths like transfer speed, payment options, currency support, and loyalty programs.

While Western Union and MoneyGram’s immense scale can seem daunting, don’t underestimate startups gaining traction in the digital space. Companies like Remitly and Azimo have managed to carve out multi-million dollar niches with more convenient, transparent, and affordable online-first offerings.

Replicate using their services to experience features that delight customers first-hand. Sign up for demos, explore integrations with payment platforms like PayPal, and evaluate customization for funding sources and payout methods. This reveals winning strategies to emulate and build upon.

By benchmarking both traditional big names and emerging digital disruptors, you gain invaluable insight into market positioning and customer priorities. Blend this with target user and region-specific research to identify strategic white space opportunities.

3. Costs to Start a Money Transfer Business

Launching a money transfer business demands a meticulous approach to financial planning. Let’s explore the initial expenses involved in getting your venture off the ground:

Startup Costs

  • Licensing and Legal Fees: Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements is paramount. Allocate funds for obtaining federal and state licenses, alongside adherence to regulations like the Bank Secrecy Act. Estimate these expenses to range from $1,000 to $5,000, varying by jurisdiction complexity.
  • Location Costs: Securing a suitable commercial space is crucial for visibility and accessibility. Anticipate monthly rent or lease costs between $1,000 to $5,000, contingent on the location’s size and foot traffic.
  • Equipment and Technology: Invest in essential equipment and technology infrastructure, including POS terminals and security systems. Initial expenses can range from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on operational scale.
  • Staffing Expenses: Quality personnel are indispensable for customer service and regulatory compliance. Budget for salaries, benefits, and training, ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 monthly, based on staff numbers and local wage rates.
  • Marketing and Advertising: Promotion is key to attracting customers. Allocate funds for marketing materials and online advertising, typically ranging from $500 to $5,000 initially.
  • Insurance Coverage: Shield your business from potential risks with adequate insurance coverage. Estimate annual premiums between $1,000 to $5,000, factoring in coverage limits and operational risks.

Ongoing Costs

Maintaining operational continuity requires foresight in managing ongoing expenses. Let’s delve into the recurring costs:

  • Rent or Lease Payments: Monthly rental or lease payments for commercial space are recurring. Expect costs between $1,000 to $5,000 per month, reflecting market rates and location.
  • Staff Salaries and Benefits: Sustain business operations by budgeting for ongoing staff salaries, benefits, and training, ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 monthly.
  • Technology Maintenance and Upgrades: Ensure seamless operations by allocating funds for technology upkeep and upgrades, typically ranging from $500 to $2,000 per period.
  • Compliance and Regulatory Costs: Maintain adherence to regulatory standards with ongoing compliance costs, varying from $500 to $2,000 annually, dependent on operational complexity.
  • Marketing and Advertising Expenses: Sustain brand visibility through periodic marketing campaigns, with expenses typically ranging from $500 to $2,000 per cycle.
  • Insurance Premiums: Renew insurance coverage annually to mitigate risks, with premiums ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per year.

By meticulously accounting for both startup and ongoing costs, aspiring entrepreneurs can chart a clear financial course for their money transfer business. Regular monitoring and adjustments are essential to ensure financial stability and adaptability in a dynamic market landscape.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When launching a money transfer business, one of the most important early decisions is selecting your legal entity structure. This carries major implications for legal liability, taxation, raising capital, and regulatory requirements. There are four main legal entities to choose from:

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

LLC maintenance tends to have less demand than corporations in most states. Record keeping and required meetings are typically simpler, with fewer forms and filings. LLC formalization separates legally from sole proprietors, makes clear financial accounting a necessity, and boosts perception among license-issuing bodies.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is best suited for a business with a single owner, or a married couple. It puts you in the driver’s seat in terms of ownership but comes with a downside. Sole proprietorships don’t separate personal and professional assets in cases of liability.

With money transmission licenses central to operations, the risks of non-compliance and handling client funds make limiting personal assets at stake prudent.


A partnership works much the same as a sole proprietorship but is intended for a group of business owners. This is a good option for a business run by a family, where each member has an equal investment in the company. Like a sole proprietorship, a partnership doesn’t provide separation between personal and business assets.


A corporation is the most advanced form of legal business entity there is. It offers the most protection and the greatest level of customization for owners. On the downside, a corporation is the most complicated and expensive to initiate.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

One of the key regulatory requirements for launching a money transmission company is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. The EIN serves as a unique taxpayer ID that identifies your business to federal and state authorities for reporting and filing purposes.

Registering for an EIN is free and can be completed online via the IRS website in just minutes.

To apply, you will need to provide basic information about your LLC such as name, address, and ownership details. The online wizard will guide you through a simple 7-step process that includes reviewing and submitting supporting documentation for your entity.

Upon completion, you will be provided an EIN confirmation notice containing your new tax ID number. This universal business identifier will be used on state money transmitter license applications and down the line for employee onboarding, banking, and payment provider integrations.

In addition to the federal EIN, be sure to look at state and local licensing bureaus to understand sales tax permit requirements for money transfer provider services in your geographic areas of operation. The costs are typically minimal ($50 or less).

While EIN receipt alone does not require filing regular business tax returns, integration with payment systems and employing workers down the line will trigger tax and information reporting obligations. The EIN serves as the consistent tracking number tied to your LLC as these tax scenarios emerge over time.

Obtaining an EIN only takes a few minutes but is a mandatory step to operate legally as a money services business in the United States. With the EIN secured, you can proceed to acquire requisite state money transmitter licenses with confidence.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Maintaining rigorous accounting is crucial for money transfer businesses to track high transaction volumes across customer payments. Money transfer businesses must carefully reconcile payroll for expanding local agents and staff, monitor contractor payout pipelines, and more.

Some ways to optimize your accounting include:

Accounting Software

All complex financial workflows are made smoother by leveraging meticulous accounting software like QuickBooks. QuickBooks works to centralize real-time tracking to reconcile and organize every expense. It streamlines accounting services and allows small businesses to avoid an in-house accounting team.

Hire an Accountant

Along with using accounting software, you should work with an accountant part-time or at the end of the year. Accountants are trained in the intricate methods and tools involved in maintaining and balancing records and can help you meet the part-time requirements of your money transfer license as far as the government is concerned.

Open a Business Bank Account

Another way to organize business finances is to open a business bank account. Remittance services should never mix personal and business funds. Adhering to the Bank Secrecy Act is made easier by having separate accounts to remain transparent to shareholders, customers, and partners.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Obtaining the proper money transmitter and related financial services licenses is essential for legally facilitating cross-border transactions and handling customer funds as a money transfer provider. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

For example, requirements to research may include:

  • Money transmitter licensing in states where operations will be based
  • Registration as a licensed MSB (Money Services Business) with entities like FINCEN on the federal level
  • Acquiring positive background checks and compliance histories for owners/officers
  • Securing bonds and meeting minimum capitalization requirements

Because policies frequently evolve, it is advisable to enlist guidance from legal and compliance advisors with a specialized understanding of updated changes proposed by complex regulators like the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

8. Get Business Insurance

Comprehensive business insurance is considered a prudent move for any company handling sensitive customer data and funds. For regulated financial services like money transmission, insurance can provide an added backstop that demonstrates good faith risk management to licensing authorities.

Potential risks include internal fraud, cybersecurity breaches, failing compliance audits, or events like fires or floods that physically destroy servers and records. Having policies that reimburse customers and restore business operations quickly after disasters minimizes business continuity disruptions.

Common coverage includes:

  • Employee theft insurance
  • Data breach plans
  • Errors & omissions liability
  • Property/casualty

With manufacturers crafting over 150 niche solutions, expert guidance is key. Evaluating local transmission regulations to quantify specific coverage gaps, projected customer base value, disaster likelihoods, and growth trajectories can inform smarter buys.

Collaborating closely with an independent broker well-versed in the financial technology sector can illuminate advantageous products unknown to laypersons. They can also assist in interfacing with carriers negotiating tailored solutions like enhanced cyber plans with breach coaches.

While more affordable than some industries, underinsured transmission businesses still risk major continuity threats, hefty non-compliance fines or lawsuits, and even shutdown orders. But those taking a proactive rather than reactive stance on comprehensive insurance enjoy peace of mind as a worthy investment.

9. Create an Office Space

Having a professional office can facilitate customer meetings, support staff collaboration, safely store sensitive documents, and establish legitimacy for licensing boards. Locations projecting security and financial competence may strengthen trust in handling client funds.

Home Office

Many founders launch from home offices minimizing overhead until revenue stabilizes. This allows concentrating resources on core business operations rather than real estate early on. Upgrading later as needs emerge can work well for web-based models.

Coworking Office

For location flexibility at affordable monthly rates, coworking spaces like WeWork provide turnkey environments configurable as teams grow. Built-in amenities, networking events, and central locations offer cost-efficient flexibility difficult to replicate elsewhere.

Retail Office

The option of a retail storefront could provide neighborhood visibility and convenience for cash pay-ins/payouts. But weigh higher fixed costs against target customer digital expectations and foot traffic potential.

Commercial Office

Long-term, strict security and compliance needs may merit eventually overseeing internal spaces like stand-alone commercial offices. This enables highly customized build-outs aligning to data and money-handling best practices as businesses scale up.

10. Source Your Equipment

Many money transmitters function predominantly through web-based platforms, minimizing extensive physical equipment needs early on. But some key components could include:

  • Computer hardware/software for building digital platforms and interfaces
  • Smartphones/tablets for testing, demos, communications
  • Office equipment like printers, and scanners for customer onboarding

When starting, relying on modern personal devices to develop minimally viable technology can suffice and cost little. As efforts grow more sophisticated, upgrading to commercial-grade equipment may support resilience and capacity.

Buy New

Buying new equipment ensures modern furniture and electronics, extended warranty options, and a longer life span. You can obtain new supplies for your business office through retailers like Staples and Office Depot.

Buy Used

To save money as you start, your transferring money business could invest in used equipment. Check platforms like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for deals. Be sure to check that everything is in working order before paying for products.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Entering an industry reliant on consumer confidence in the safe, reliable passage of hard-earned funds internationally. Branding your business helps potential clients recognize you, and for your brand to in turn grow in value online.

Some ways to begin developing your brand include:

Design a Logo

Logos offer a visual indicator of who your company is and what it can do. It helps set you apart from competitors and even inspires consumers and business owners to make a change from a competing service. A great place to get started with logo design is Looka.

Design a Website

In the digital age, it’s more important than ever before for businesses to develop easily navigable websites. Designing websites has become easy, even for newcomers. Wix is a great do-it-yourself option. You can also invest in freelance platforms like Fiverr for a more professional custom design.

Print Business Cards

Business cards provide a professional jumping-off point for referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. As a tangible marketing resource, business cards give potential customers memorable access to your business phone number, website, and more. Try Vistaprint for quick, affordable, and professionally printed business cards.

Get a Business Phone Number

Business phone services from RingCentral provide a focused point of contact for customers, investors, and more. A business phone line helps maintain organization between personal and business calls.

Get a Business Domain Name

An indicator of serious long-term market commitment comes through seemingly small touches. Official domain names, like your logo, help brand your business and offer a memorable way for customers to find you. Check out providers like Namecheap for affordable .com addresses.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Joining localized trade organizations, chambers of commerce chapters, or money transmitter alliances creates opportunities to regularly exchange guidance with specialists navigating similar regulatory nuances, banking bottlenecks, and risk climates within overlapping regions.

Local Associations

There are many groups designed to support newcomers in the financial business sector. The International Association of Money Transfer Networks and Money Services Business Association will connect you with like-minded professionals.

Local Meetups

In-person venues provide local mentorship opportunities. Meetup is a great avenue to find events and trade shows in your area. Don’t see one you like? Create a meetup of your own.

Facebook Groups

Tapping forums comprised of principal compliance officers and licensed transmitters via Facebook Groups is a good place to begin. Check out How to Money and Money Transfer Hub to get started. LinkedIn is also a great digital platform to network. It provides mentorship from long-tenured practitioners over common pitfalls.

13. How to Market a Money Transfer Business

Marketing is essential to starting a money transfer services business. It draws in new interest and encourages current customers to use your service again and share it with others. Some of the major ways to market your business as a money transfer operator include:

Referral Marketing

Gaining visibility and trust in a highly regulated industry often hinges on referral networks stemming from exemplary customer service. Providing transfer fee discounts or cash bonuses to satisfied customers who refer other senders could incentivize organic word-of-mouth promotion.

Digital Marketing

Digital tactics useful for amplifying reach may include:

  • Search ads on Google Ads to drive users from relevant money-oriented keyword searches
  • Social media ads on platforms like Facebook to target expatriate demographics
  • Optimized blogging and video content to organically appear for searched money questions
  • Email nurture tracks guiding interested leads through account signup
  • Retargeting ads remarketing the brand to site visitors

Traditional Marketing

More traditional outlets typically demanding higher spending like billboards or radio may prove less traceable but still contextually valuable:

  • Transit posters in high-traffic pickup and delivery locales
  • TV or radio ads placed strategically around key cultural events when sending spikes
  • Community sponsorships aligned with relevant diaspora organizations

With heavy compliance considerations, however, professional guidance would be advisable before deploying ads to confirm acceptable creative approaches across mediums.

14. Focus on the Customer

In an industry dependent on deep trust to protect clients’ sensitive, hard-earned money, delivering highly responsive, individualized support helps forge meaningful relationships that fuel referrals. Doing whatever it takes to ensure customers feel taken care of can pay dividends.


Consider this scenario: Throwing in a small transfer fee discount for a repeat customer who frequently sends remittances to cover a loved one’s medical bills abroad costs little but signals meaningful support. When their grateful friend later asks where to send their niece’s college tuition, a heartfelt personal recommendation carries far more weight than any advertisement.

Even providing customized guidance to new customers overwhelmed by the transfer options, compliance documentation required, and international policies cements your brand as an ongoing resource at their side rather than just a transactional platform.

By consistently making people the bottom line by nurturing consumer experiences you put yourself in a prime position for return customers.

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