Here’s a seemingly simple question.
Let’s say you are a freelance graphic designer in Germany.
You have completed a project for a client in the USA. You had agreed on a fee of 1000 US dollars for the work.
The client in the USA will send the fee from his bank account in the US to your bank account in the EU (Germany) by international wire transfer.
How much will you receive? Exactly?
Or, consider this. You are an e-seller based in the UK. You find a supplier in Italy who can deliver the exact product you want for 3 Euro each, for 500 units. How much in GBP will you need to send them from your bank account in the UK?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer to questions like these.
COSTS CAN VARY SIGNIFICANTLY
The fact is, the cost of sending money from one country to another, and the cost converting one currency to another can vary a great deal, depending on how and where it all takes place.
Which is precisely why freelancers and international entrepreneurs are very careful about how they pay and receive money from customers and suppliers worldwide.
In many cases how money is moved can make a huge difference in profit margins — and even in profit or loss for a given business.
FIRST ISSUE: EXCHANGE RATES
How many GBP is a Euro worth? How many Euros is 500 US dollars? Or 5000 Yen? Those are known as currency exchange rates: the cost of ‘buying’ one currency in another currency.
There is no official formula for converting one currency to another. The worth of a Euro versus a US dollar, the yen versus the ruble is subject to the forces of supply and demand, much like stock markets.
The economic or political conditions in the one country versus another can shift the exchange rates over time — and so can the actions of speculators and traders on any given day. The dollar may be ‘strong’ against the Great Britain Pound (GBP) at some point, while the Euro may be weak against the Yen. In three months, it may all be different.
BANKS CAN SET THEIR OWN EXCHANGE FEES
The quoted exchange rates are called the mid-market rates — essentially the rates that banks pay between each other. These rates are published much like stock or commodity prices — and they determine how banks charge customers for converting one currency to another when sending funds from abroad.
But note that banks don’t necessarily charge mid-market rate for currencies they send by wire transfer for their customers. They typically charge a percentage margin over and above the mid-market rate.
If the GBP to Euro rate on a given day were, say, 1.15 Euro per British Pound, then 1,000 GBP would convert to 1,150 Euro. But in a wire transfer, the receiving bank may convert those 1,000 GBP to 1,110 Euro. That’s a 40 Euro fee for the conversion.
The larger the amount transferred, the larger that exchange fee would be. So in the above example, wiring 10,000 GBP would involve an exchange fee of 400 Euro.
Which means 400 Euro would be ‘deducted’ from the amount received — or sent — on the transfer.
The actual rates charged by banks on international transfers can vary significantly and may not be entirely transparent or obvious when you are arranging a transfer.
ADD THE COST OF THE WIRE TRANSFER ITSELF
In addition to the currency exchange rates, banks also charge fees for sending, and receiving wire transfers.
In most cases, making transfers within a country are less expensive than the costs for international wire transfers.
Among the largest international banks, such as Chase, Bank of America, CitiGroup, BB&T, and Wells Fargo, for example, the cost of an outgoing international wire transfer can range from $35 to $65. (That’s for arranging wire transfer online or via phone. Arranging a transfer in person, in the bank, usually costs more.)
What’s more, the fees for incoming international wire transfers — charged by the receiving banks above — range from $15 to $25.
It means that the sender pays $35 to $65 in fees for the transfer, while the recipient pays another $15 to $25. On the same transfer.
And that doesn’t include any exchange rate fees, either.
But do note that these typical fees at banks are flat fees, meaning a $500 wire transfer would cost the same as a transfer of $5,000. (Again, not including exchange rate fees.)
In most situations, funds wired internationally will typically be available in the receiving bank account in somewhere between 2 to 5 working days, depending on the time of day of day, the day of the week, the currency involved, and the sending and receiving countries.
A SIMPLER OPTION: NO BANK AT ALL
Instead of using conventional banks for sending and receiving money internationally, more and more small enterprisers — from freelancers and consultants to e-sellers — are opting for global payment platforms, which entirely bypass the complexity and fee structures of conventional banks.
With the Payoneer global payments platform, for example, small businesses and individuals can save significantly over the cost of using banks for conventional international wire transfers.
What’s more, paying and receiving funds via the Payoneer platform is far simpler and faster than manually setting up an individual wire transfer for each separate transaction.
CROSS-BORDER BUSINESS MADE EASIER
On Payoneer, a freelancer in Germany, for example, can send an electronic payment request to a customer in the US in a matter of minutes — and allow the customer to pay via credit card, an e-check, or the customer’s own Payoneer account, all without the trouble of initiating a wire transfer. When the customer pays, the money moves directly into the freelancer’s Payoneer account, where it can be accessed a few different ways.
The fees for the transaction are simple and straightforward — making it ideal for routine, everyday transactions between buyers and sellers.
And since everything runs on the Payoneer platform, there’s no need to keep track of buyers’ or sellers banking information, or worry about the peculiarities of each country’s banking systems.