Not All Money Remittance Service Providers Are Created Equal; Find Out Which Offer The Lowest Rates And Best Protection For Sending Money Overseas

In today’s consumer and manufacturing markets, almost any business can have a global supply chain and/or cultivate a global market reach. With both types of globalization comes the guarantee that the company will eventually, need to process (and pay) international invoices.

Moreover, China is the biggest trade partner to Australian businesses — since the signing of a bilateral free trade agreement in 2015, the percentage of Australian imports and exports from/to China have surged to 24% and 35%, respectively. Consequently, any Australian business making international imports/exports, whether for sales or manufacturing, is likely to have some contact with Chinese suppliers. That contact will often involve invoices.

Online- and mobile-optimized money remittance service providers present the easiest-available solutions to businesses in need of international money transfer services. These firms facilitate quick money transfers and online payments and enable companies to send money overseas easily. In this article, we will examine the challenges of paying international invoices and compare and contrast the services of the most popular money remittance service providers.

What Is An International Money Transfer

Put simply, an international money transfer (or overseas payment) is a disbursement of financial capital by a buyer to a seller wherein the parties are in different countries and often use different currencies. This post focuses on trade payments; that is, international payments made in exchange for goods or services.

The means and methods of international money transfers for trade payments (and personal remittances) have changed over time in response to evolutions in trade policy and innovations in financial technology.

The earliest known international payments occurred between the 15th to 18th centuries AD, with the first foreign banks opened at intervals along trade routes. However, exchange rates in international payments were not commonplace (or standardized) until recovery after World War II when world leaders recognized the importance of exchange rates in reducing volatility. Today, sending money overseas is both far easier and vastly more complicated. While the advent of internet-mediated banking has brought about an age of near-instant proof and availability of funds, it has also increased the vulnerability of buyers to predatory activity.

The Current & Projected Economic Importance of International Money Transfers

The benefits and opportunities presented to an individual or firm capable of making online payments abroad are well worth the risk of fraud. Compared to domestic-only firms, companies that buy from foreign markets tend to project more significant increases in revenue. Moreover, their products have a longer market lifespan, and their business models are more resistant to competition and display lower risk. Individual consumers, in turn, gain access to a broader selection of better quality products at competitive prices.

Considering the importance of China in Australia as a trade partner and import leader, the ability to pay invoices to Chinese suppliers is essential to the success of many Australian businesses. Despite Australian consumers’ preference for domestic products, Chinese goods are becoming increasingly more integrated with Australian purchasing habits.

In the last fiscal year, Australian businesses and private consumers turned to Chinese suppliers to purchase $8.5 billion in telecom equipment and parts, $6.5 billion in computers, ($3.3 billion in furniture, mattresses and cushions, and $2.6 billion in family-oriented consumer goods lime prams, toys, and sporting goods. Within the merchandise import market, specifically, transactions involving Chinese suppliers have now surpassed 90% of total import purchases. All told, investment in Chinese goods represented more than 22% of Australian imports, and that figure is trending upwards.

The present-day value of the Australia-China trade relationship is more than $47 billion in imports from (and payments to) Chinese suppliers. In the next five years, almost one-in-five Australian businesses project growth in trade with China, while the value of Chinese imports will likely increase more than 4% above the current baseline growth trend. The single most significant barrier to the success of Australian companies in trade with China is a difficulty with international payments.

International Money Transfer Vocabulary & Mechanics

When paying suppliers abroad, it is important to understand the transfer fees, exchange rates, payout speed, and other convenience and safety factors of different international transfer options. Though every international transaction involves the same components, there is no standard service package or cost schedule for international money remittance service providers.

Those standard components are:

  • Transfer Fees: Most international money remittance service providers charge either a flat rate per transaction, an incremental rate based on the transfer amount, a percentage of the transfer amount, or some combination of a fixed fee and percentage. Transfer fees are most often, though not always, solely incurred by the buyer.
  • Exchange Rates: Foreign exchange rates determine (and illustrate) exactly how much the currency of one country is worth in terms of the currency of another country.
  • Exchange rates are almost always flexible — that is, they tend to change on a minute-by-minute basis based on economic stability, interest rates, and inflation.

Mid-Market Rate: The mid-market rate is the most common “true” foreign exchange rate. It represents a midpoint between the buy and sell prices of the two currencies involved in the transfer. Almost all quick money transfers will include paying above this rate, as transfer providers collect the markup as profit.

Live Rates: Live (or real-time) foreign exchange rates are continually updated to reflect the exact minute-by-minute changes to the exchange rate. When international money remittance service providers use a live rate, they generally charge customers a small margin above the live rate to ensure they turn a profit of each transaction.

Daily Rates: Unlike live rates, daily rates reflect a fixed exchange rate set by a foreign exchange provider which is used in all transactions throughout the day. Providers using daily rates often charge about 5% on top of the mid-market rate to ensure a profit even if the live rate changes.

Historical Currency Exchange Rates: Historical foreign exchange rates are easily-accessible metrics for gauging the plausibility of service providers’ exchange rate claims and offers. Though currency exchange rates fluctuate rapidly and often significantly in value, an overly inflated exchange rate in comparison to historical rates is likely a sign of an unfavorable international transfer deal.

  • Hidden Fee: A hidden transaction fee is not explicitly named as such, though the buyer unknowingly agrees to pay it under the umbrella of another cost. The most common hidden fee is the markup over the mid-market exchange rate. Often, the rate plus markup is presented as the exact exchange rate.
  • Transfer/Payout Speed: Given the near-instant pace of business, rapid processing for quick money transfers is an essential component of the successful payment of foreign suppliers. That said, funds are often near-impossible to recover after a transfer, so buyers engaged with near-instant transfer services should be sure of the seller’s integrity prior to transfer initiation.
  • Convenience Factors: “Convenience” varies depending on the size of a buyer’s business and the scope and frequency of their purchases. Some relevant convenience factors are the accessibility of the service provider across a variety of platforms, the ability to use different forms of payment, and the ability to set up or lock-in favorable fixed exchange rate contracts for planned or recurring international payments.
  • Safety Factors: Good quality international remittance service providers are accredited and overseen by the appropriate international and domestic regulatory bodies. Moreover, the best foreign payment providers provide some degree of fraud protection and empower buyers to dispute and recover fraudulent payments.

What to look for when choosing an international transfer provider:

  • SWIFT International Money Transfers: SWIFT (Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) transfers involve financial institutions that are members of a global network defined by its secure and standardized transfer practices. Though the SWIFT system decreases the scam risk of international transfers, it often increases fees and transfer/payout speed.
  • AUSTRAC Registered Remittance Service Providers: As a general rule, Australian business owners should aim to conduct their international money transfers through AUSTRAC registered remittance service providers. Unregistered service providers are highly vulnerable to being targeted for use by sellers seeking to commit fraud, criminal activity (including human trafficking and illegal firearm sales), and terrorism.
  • Good Fees: There is no objective “best” fee schedule, as the fees associated with any given international money transfer vary depending on its size and payment method. Smaller fees are not always indicative of a lower cost-to-transfer, as they are often coupled with high exchange rates. What’s more, some providers charge additional fees for debit/credit card use and arranging transfers via the phone. Conversely, some providers waive fees for transfers above a certain amount.
  • Good Rates: There are limited reliable practices buyers can use to secure the best exchange rates when sending money overseas. Primarily, buyers should independently verify the mid-market exchange rate for their currency. They can also research the historical mid-market rates and those offered by providers. It is also essential to secure quotes from multiple transfer providers. Moreover, buyers should explore transfer providers outside of their banks, and banks tend to offer the most fee-laden transfer services.

Comparing The Biggest International Money Remittance Service Providers

When arranging money transfer services, the primary aim should be reducing transfer costs. Yet buyers must also seek to increase the convenience and time savings for the seller. Sellers, especially in China, are hesitant to agree to transfer services when the benefits are skewed in favor of the buyer.

BFX Australia

  • Summary: BFX Australia provides arguably the best balance of low-cost, high-convenience services. Moreover, it is an industry leader in its focus on fraud prevention and security.
  • Fees: Uses the real-time exchange rate so charges a smaller margin; no flat fee
  • Time: 24-48 hours
  • Convenience: SWIFT-enrolled. Only bank transfer is eligible. Promises the highest degree of fraud protection of any money remittance service provider; regulated by ASIC and AUSTRAC.
  • Extras: Also offers e-commerce accounts

Direct Bank-to-Bank Wire Transfer

  • Summary: Direct bank-to-bank wire transfers offer some of the most secure, standardized methods for international transfer, yet they are often the most costly, time-consuming transfer providers available.
  • Fees: Vary by bank and transfer country of origin; often subject to poor exchange rates; often use daily rates with high margins
  • Time: 5-7 business days
  • Convenience: Legal limitations on foreign-initiated bank transfers and the relative inexperience of regional banking staff in China make this process challenging.
  • Extras: n/a

PayPal

  • Summary: Though popular and easy-to-use, PayPal is not a beloved transfer provider in China as its benefits skew towards the buyer. What’s more, it is ill-suited for large international payments due to its costly fee structure.
  • Fees: At least 5% with maximum $4.99; additional 2.9% for debit/credit funded transfers; twice-daily adjusted fixed exchange rate plus markup percentage; additional AUD 0.30 fee for using AUD.
  • Time: Proof of funds immediately visible; withdrawal in 3-5 business days
  • Convenience: Easy to sign up and use; remarkably low use among suppliers in China; suppliers often unwilling to accept PayPal online payments.
  • Extras: n/a

Western Union

  • Summary: Western Union is a well known international money transfer provider. Its reputation and ease-of-access are almost unparalleled, though it presents a heavy fee schedule and little security.
  • Fees: 5% of transfer total plus a real-time exchange rate with markup; markup margins known to be near 5%.
  • Time: Same day withdrawal availability
  • Convenience: Available online, in-app, and in-person; almost no fraud protection or recovery tools
  • Extras: n/a

Other Methods & Platforms For Making International Payments

See the table below for a detailed comparison of these and other major international money remittance service providers.

Making Safe International Payments

Buyers making quick money transfers are vulnerable to scams and predatory selles. Even secure money remittance providers do not guarantee buyers the return of their funds should a seller turn out to be fraudulent. Instead, it is the buyer’s responsibility to be thorough during negotiations. Wary buyers should cultivate an awareness of the most popular scams. This includes sellers who ask for full payment upfront with no collateral or who offer minimal security (like a tracking number) as proof of order fulfillment in exchange for payment.

Buyers who become suspicious of the seller’s intent should seek to integrate additional security measures into their contracts. Measures may include an escrow process, which would prevent the seller from withdrawing funds until the merchandise has been received.

In the absence of a formal escrow, buyers can increase the security of their quick money transfer by seeking descriptive proof that the order has been fulfilled and merchandise is on its way. Buyers can also withhold partial payment until order delivery. Moreover, in every international contract, buyers should include clauses that clearly define service and fulfillment expectations, layout the conditions and methods of dispute and arbitration, and create provisions for contract termination.

Conclusion

Businesses that want to grow and be successful now and in the coming decade must engage with international markets. Chief among those engagements, for Australian businesses, are suppliers in China.

Though there is no way to guarantee safe money transfers overseas, there are safe habits. Using an AUSTRAC registered money remittance service provider, maintaining an awareness of international payment conditions and characteristics, and crafting detailed contracts are the best practices for doing safe international business.

About BFX

BFX Money Transfer is a dedicated money exchange provider, proudly based here in Australia. We are a registered AUSTRAC business, and pride ourselves on helping our customers get the most out of every money transfer they make.

We have an easy to use App available, and setting up your online profile is simple. Once you’re ready to go, you can regularly secure a great exchange rate and make sure each transfer is successful.

To learn more set up your free online account.

We hope you enjoyed this article.

BFX Team

As a side note, here are some of the main countries and currencies that we exchange currencies with.

With BFX, you can transfer to  India (INR) Europe (Euro) Pakistan (PKR) USA (USD) China (USD, CNY) Bangladesh (BTD) and over 200 more currencies!

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BFX Money Transfer is regulated in Australia as a designated remittance provider with the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), remittance sector registration number: IND1000519571-001. Australian Company Number (A.C.N) 611 376 820. Member of LEI Identification Number 5493001WDPYLPVM7RZ80.

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