Withdrawing Earnings from oDesk: Local Currency Wire Transfer VS Payoneer Debit Card

oDesk released Local Wire Transfer recently, a payment method that allow you to receive money directly into your bank account, in your local currency. In this post I’ll attempt to make a comparison between Local Wire Transfer and Payoneer’s Prepaid Master Card, another payment method.

First, some numbers about the two methods: The minimum amount of money you can withdraw using Local Currency Wire Transfer (COP) is $51 (plus a $3.99 fee). With Payoneer the minimum amount is $20 (plus a $2 fee). You can check Payoneer fees here.

Now, let me tell you a story… or something like that:

Friday, Jul 8, 2:00 PM: I withdrew $55 using Local Currency Wire Transfer to my account in Colombia (Bancolombia) and then transferred the same amount to my Payoneer Debit Card. The fees for each transaction were as described above. oDesk notified me about  both transactions and I’m now waiting for the next step.

Monday, Jul 11, 8:27 AM: oDesk sent me a notification email saying my withdrawal request had been processed, the important part of the email is shown below:

We have processed your withdrawal request submitted on 08-Jul-2011.

  • Amount withdrawn: $51.01 USD
  • Amount you should receive: 87989.46 COP (*)
  • Bank account: <censored>
  • Exchange rate on 07-11-2011 13:05 UTC: 1724.9228 COP/USD
  • Expected date of delivery:  14-Jul-2011
  • oDesk Ref ID: <censored>

(*) This amount does not include any fees your bank may deduct.

At the same time, I checked my Payoneer account and noticed there was a pending transaction with a link that reads “Click to load your card”. When I followed the link I was asked to choose between Standard Load or Immediate Load (with a $2.5 fee); I chose Standard Load and I was told:

Your account will be loaded with $53.00 (Fees will be deducted on card load) by the 7/13/2011 11:00:00 PM EST.

I checked my account on Friday and saw the pending transaction but didn’t knew I had to follow that link for the transaction to be processed, I thought that was necessary only if I wanted to use Immediate Load. That said, I think I could have choose Standard Load on Friday and have the money loaded on Tuesday (2 business day later).

Wednesday, Jul 13: My personal account was loaded with 85041.00 COP (exchange rate was 1765.32 COP). At 8:00 PM, my Payoneer card was also loaded with $53. I’ll withdraw the money from my card tomorrow and then I’ll compare.

Thursday, Jul 14: I withdrew 80000.00 COP from my Payoneer account, the cost of the transaction was $48.84 (including a withdrawal fee: $2.15).

Using Payoneer, I received 1713.43 COP for each dollar and if I would be able to withdraw all the money I received from oDesk that would give me 1713.42 COP/$  * ($53.00 – $2.15) = 87127.91 COP for the $55 I withdrew last week; that’s a bit more than the 85041.00 COP I received using Local Wire Transfer.

When you do the maths, assuming the bank paid me with that day’s exchange rate, you realize that using Local Wire Transfer I received only $48.17 of the $51.01 I was supposed to get. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to clarify whether the bank was using a different exchange rate or they charged a fee for the transaction and without that kind of information is hard to give a conclusion. However, I used Local Wire Transfer before; a that time I transferred  $117 and the bank told they received about $114 so I’m starting to think they charge a fee for the transaction that is somewhere between $2 and $3.

The information I gathered is insufficient to give any general advise but, at least for this time, I can say the following:

  • The exchange rate when using Payoneer’s Card to withdraw money is lower greater (Updated Jul 17, 2011) than the exchange rate used by the bank (assuming both transactions occur on the same day).
  • Payoneer fees are lower (Withdrawal from oDesk: $2, Withdrawal from ATM (Outside USA): $2.15) than Local Wire Transfer fees – with Bancolombia (Withdrawal from oDesk: $3.99, Transaction fee (worst-case, unverified): $3).
  • The time between the time I withdrew money from my oDesk account and when I received the money into my bank account or Payoneer card was about the same, although I could have paid an extra $2.5 to have Payoneer’s money last week.
  • If you are withdrawing $150 or less, you’re probably going to get a bit more money if you use Payoneer (please note that if you use the ATM several times you’ll have to pay $2.15 each time). For larger movements I believe Local Wire Transfer is a better option (if the bank charges constant fees and they use the standard exchange rate).
  • Using Local Wire Transfer you are able to convert every dollar to cash in your local currency, with Payoneer you are restricted by the amounts returned by the ATM which are usually multiple of 10000 COP. That means you’ll have to lave a few dollars in you card and those can be evaporated by the maintenance fees. ATMs also have a maximum amount of money you can withdraw and that means more fees if you can’t withdraw all your money in one transaction.

When I started writing this post I was thinking I would be able to say which one of the methods was better, but the truth is the experiment didn’t gave me all the information I wanted. I still don’t know which one should I use to get more of my earnings. I’ll try to withdraw more money next week and hopefully would be able to provide a better comparison between these two methods. I’ll let you know.

If you happen to work on oDesk and have some information about this methods (or other you use to get your money), please let me know in the comments section.

Update [Jul 17, 2011]: I received a receipt from my Bank saying the total amount I received using Local Wire Transfer was $49.85 (I withdrew $51.01 from oDesk) and that the exchange rate used was 1705.93 COP.

Update [Jul 26, 2011]: Last week I withdrew $300.00 using Local Wire Transfer and received $290.11 in my bank account with an exchange rate of 1702.03 COP. That means there was a cost for the transaction of $5.90 (because oDesk takes another $3.99). Given this information, I would say that my bank is taking about 2% of the money I send through oDesk.


  1. Jeff
    March 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Hello Man,

    Interesting post, I have a doubt, can I make transfer to any bank in Colombia with Wire Transfer or can I only to Bancolombia?, Thanks

    1. wvega
      March 6, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      Hi Jeff,

      You can transfer money to most banks in Colombia. You can even have two or more banks configured as withdrawal methods with WireTransfer. You will need an account number and the SWIFT code for the bank. Some codes are available online but is better if you call the bank directly.

      1. Jeff
        March 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm

        Hello Wvega,

        Thanks for your answer, but there is still a doubt, actually, what is better?, which one gives to you more money, I ask because the post was wrote more than 1 year ago.


        1. wvega
          March 7, 2013 at 11:07 pm

          I posted a comment yesterday (http://wvega.com/464/withdrawing-earnings-from-odesk-local-currency-wire-transfer-vs-payoneer-debit-card/#comment-821648780) where I said I have been using Payoneer during all that time. I never tried again with Local Wire Transfer so I can’t say for sure which one gives more money.

          What I can do is to tell you why I prefer Payoneer:

          1. I can calculate with good accuracy the amount of money I’m going to get. I know the oDesk withdrawal fee, the Payoneer deposit fee, the Payoneer maintance fee and how much it cost to withdraw the money from an ATM. I never figure out how much money to expect using Local Wire Transfer.

          2. I can withdraw money from oDesk at any time and have it 5 min later on my Payoneer account, ready to be withdrawn using any ATM. Local Wire Trasnfers take about a week to clear.

          Payoneer is just easier and faster, IMHO. There is, however, one advantage of using Local Wire Transfer. Most banks in Colombia won’t consider the money your earn in oDesk a valid source of income, BUT, if you use Local Wire Transfer, some banks, like Bancolombia, will count 75% of the money you receive using that method as valid income, and that can help you get products like credit cards and loans.

          I’m currently having troubles getting a loan, even though I deposit all my money on a Savings Account, right after I withdraw it using the Payoneer card. The bank can verify where did I get the money, because I deposit in cash and hence they assume I don’t any income, despite having money in my account :. If I were using Local Wire Transfer, the story could be different.

          Have you ever worked for foreign customers? If so, have you had any luck using the money you earn in that way as a valid source of income when you apply for financial products like credit cards or loans?

          I hope my answer helps and I appreciate if you can share your experience with me.

          1. Jeff
            March 26, 2013 at 5:40 pm

            Hello Wvega,

            Thanks for your answer, your knowledge is appreciated, and thanks for sharing your experience, actually, I’m looking for the best way to transfer money to a Bank in Colombia, but I have doubts about how to create/use Payoneer, someone says you get a card, others say don’t, I really appreciated if you can share some information about this.

            Thank you.

          2. wvega
            March 26, 2013 at 11:44 pm

            Hi Jeff,

            I can’t assure you 100% success, but I know of at least five close friends who got the card without problems. They signed up through oDesk, the card was approved in lest than a week and almost a month later an envelop with the card arrived.

            I don’t know if Payoneer is the best option. I have tested Local Wire Transfer and Payoneer only. The card is the one that has worked better for me.

            If you want to try it, I’ll recommend you to apply. It is completely free (if you do receive the card, you have to pay ~12 USD for activation before being able to use it) and all you have to do is fill a form and upload scanned versions of some documents to verify your ID. If you get the card, great, if not, all you lose is the time it took you to follow the steps of the process.

  2. wvega
    March 6, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    It’s been more than a year since I wrote this post. Now I consider myself an oDesk full-timer and I get most of my earnings through oDesk. The withdrawal method I have been using for the last year (and more) is Payoneer. The reason is have a better idea about how much money I’m going to get; the only variable seems to be the exchange rate.

    Using Local Wire Transfer, on the other hand, is still hard for me to know how much money to expect in my account. Bancolombia said they didn’t charge additional fees, that they used the exchange rate, but there is always a missing amount I can’t explain and I hate that :).

  3. fab
    May 25, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Hi Wvega,

    I am also in Colombia and have a payonner card.

    What is the current rate you get when you withdraw in COP?

    At what ATM you get the best deal? because I know some ATM charges more fees when you withdraw from a foreign card.

    Thanks for your help

    1. wvega
      May 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

      I try to withdraw money from my Payoneer account only once per month. I use Davivienda ATM only, because it allows me to get more money (720.00 COP) in a single transaction, so I need less transactions to withdraw my monthly wage (Payoneer charges 2.15 for each transaction).

      After several months using Payoneer and taking notes about the numbers I was getting, I came up with a *magic* formula to calculate the rate you get:

      Rate = TRM * (1 – 0.0272)

      – TRM: The TRM for the day, which I get from http://bit.ly/uYuXiz.
      – The 0.0272 (or 2.72%) is my magic number, and it’s because the rate you get is between 2% and 3% below the TRM at the time you withdraw your money (Payoneer’s documentation mentions that fact somewhere). I haven’t tested the formula in ATM’s other than Davivienda, so, the results may vary.

      The following is what I would do if I want to know how much money to expect, given an amount of USD in my payoneer account:

      Let’s say I have 1,000 USD and the TRM for today is 1,874.10 COP.

      Rate: 1,874.10 * (1 – 0.0272) = 1,823.12

      The first thing is to calculate how many transactions do I need to do using a Davivienda ATM and withdrawing the max amount (720,000) whenever possible. The value should be rounded up to the next integer.

      Transactions: CEIL( ( 1,000 * Rate ) / 720,000.00 ) = 3

      Then, I calculate how much is Payoneer going to charge me for the transactions required.

      Fee = Transactions * 2.15 = 6.75

      Finally, I subtract the Fee from the original amount and multiply the result by the Rate to get the expected amount in COP:

      Expected amount: (1,000 – 6.75) * 1823.12 = 1,810,813.94 COP

      With that information, I can go to the ATM and do two withdrawals for 720,000 COP and one for 360,000 COP (I believe you only can get amounts that are multiple of 20,000 COP from Davivienda’s ATMs).

  4. Ana Est
    May 28, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Hey, I’m trying to get my oDesk payments to my Bancolombia account but it gets rejected every time, how did you get yours to work? Do I have to call Bancolombia and get some kind of special service activated? Any help would be great, thanks.

    1. wvega
      May 29, 2013 at 7:56 am

      Hi Ana,

      The first time I withdrew money to Bancolombia I had to go to a Bancolombia office to receive the money personally. They made me sign an agreement in order to be able to get the money and to have future withdrawals deposited to my account automatically. That was almost two years ago, I’m not sure how does it works now for new transfers.

      I recommend you to go to Bancolombia and ask if you have to do anything particular in order to receive money from USA. Also, ask what’s the SWIFT code and make sure is the one you entered in oDesk.

      Is it possible that someone representing one of the companies involved in the process of getting your money from oDesk to Bancolombia will try to call you the first time you transfer money to an account. It is important that you have updated Contact Info (phone numbers – https://www.odesk.com/UserSettings/profile) information in your oDesk account.

      Let me know if any of the above helps you. I hope it does.

      1. AnaEst
        June 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

        They did call me and I had to active the Abono Automatico service. I just tried transferring the money again, hopefully it will work now! Thanks for your response!

  5. Stefan Alexander Meng
    February 9, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Hey Willington, I’m planning to move to Colombia, Medellín, specifically, and I have a Payoneer card where I receive my earnings.

    This posts has more than 3 years now, I would like to know if you still in Colombia and still use Payoneer to withdraw from ATMs. Does the formula you exposed in comments remain valid? And still is 720.000 COP the limit per transaction (at Davivienda ATMs, or have you found a better ATM?)?

    – Stefan

    1. wvega
      February 9, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Hi Stefan,

      I was the one who posted the formula in the comments and also the author of the post. You asked to Jeff, but I think the questions where for me, so I’m going to answer :P.

      1. I’m still in Colombia, in Medellín, to be more precise. I was born here and still live here.

      2. I no longer use Payoneer. Since all my earnings come from oDesk, I now use their Local Wire Transfer service to transfer the money directly into my account. Is easier and costs less (a single 3.99 USD fee vs a fee for every withdrawal).

      3. Since I haven’t used Payoneer recently I can’t confirm the formula remains valid for that service. However, I use the same formula to calculate the Rate (Rate = TRM * (1 – 0.0272)) the bank is going to use to exchange the money I transfer from oDesk. I would expect the formula to still work in ATMs.

      4. 720.000 COP is still the limit per transaction in Davivienda ATMs. I haven’t used an ATM with higher limit.

      It appears that ATM’s from Servibanca have a limit of 780.000 COP per transaction for international cards. However, if your card is a Visa issued in Europe, the limit goes down to 300.000 COP. I found the information here (Spanish) http://www.servibanca.com.co/general/preguntasfrecuentes.htm and it may be outdated, so Davivienda is still the best confirmed option.

      1. Stefan Alexander Meng
        February 9, 2015 at 10:29 am

        Yeah! I messed with your name while reading the thread, I corrected it after some minutes. 😀

        Thank you for the info!

        720.000 COP isn’t bad. Local Wire Transfer is not an option for me right now.

        Another question: how do you handle income taxation over your money coming abroad? I guess that since you’re receiving your funds in a local bank you use your bank balance. But do you know what’s the case when using a Payoneer card?

        – Stefan

        1. wvega
          February 17, 2015 at 9:05 pm

          Sorry I couldn’t answer before. Unfortunately I don’t think I have much to say this time. I did used the bank statement las time I presented my tax declaration.

          As I understand it, is not a matter of where does the money comes from (as long as it is a legal business, of course :P) but how much you earned during the year. The DIAN (National Tax and Customs Direction) will take your word, or rather your accountant’s word, on how much you earned, but if they start thinking you are hiding money, you will need your Payoneer Card statement and other documents to support the numbers you gave.

          I’m not sure if there are special rules for non-Colombian persons living in the country, but it appears so: Wikipidia says foreigns are subject to individual income tax after they have lived continuously in the country for five years.

          I hope this helps, but definitely don’t give me too much credit because I’m a newbie in taxation affairs.

          1. Stefan Alexander Meng
            March 5, 2015 at 3:22 pm

            Hey dude! Thanks for all the info. I’m currently in Medellin and will talk to an account manager about tax and stuff.

            About ATMs: I tried in some Davivienda ATMs and all had a 400.000 COP limit. Bancolombia has a 600.000 COP limit and I found Servibanca to be the best one with a 780.000 COP limit per transaction.

            I’m leaving Medellin tomorrow but will be back soon. I can invite you a beer to thank you your help when in back. 😀

            – Stefan A. Maric

          2. wvega
            March 6, 2015 at 1:24 am

            Thank you man. That would be great. Let me know when you are back!

            You can contact me directly using this form: http://wvega.com/contact/ or on https://twitter.com/wvega.

            Have a nice trip.

    2. wvega
      February 9, 2015 at 9:50 am

      BTW, let me know if I can help you with other information about Medellín. I’m happy to help.

      (use the contact form here http://wvega.com/contact/, for questions not related to this post)

  6. Magdiel Juma
    March 18, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Because oDesk charge 30USD fee on wire transfer method, you need to compare with a higher amount(650USD and above is better in wiretransfer than Payoneer for me, in Dominican Republic, using a USD local account, but under 650 is better Payoneer(the 30USD fee of wiretransfer + bank fee make the difference).

    1. wvega
      March 18, 2015 at 9:24 am

      For countries where oDesk charges 30 USD or similar values, your recommendation makes a lot of sense. However, I think oDesk fee is different for each Country. Using Local Funds Transfer oDesk charges me 3.99 USD (per transaction) to transfer any amount to my bank account in Colombia.

  7. Pablo Perez
    May 19, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Greetings Willington, I´m new to Upwork and would like advise as to the best way to withdraw the earnings. Can I get your phone number to give you a call? I´d appreciate it a bunch

    1. wvega
      May 19, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Hi Pablo, I prefer to use email. I just sent you a message.