How to Make International FX Payments & Save Money

By 
Alon Rajic
Last Edited Sep 23, 2023

Sending FX international payments can be a hassle-free experience if you will find the right provider for your needs.

Optimally, FX payments can be sent in a matter of a few clicks online or arranged in a few minutes over the telephone, using better foreign exchange rates than of banks’.

Whether you are reading this as a business owner, corporate client, or an individual with constant FX payment needs, or ad-hoc requirements to transfer large sums abroad or receive large sums from abroad

You should know that although international money transfer services often use the same marketing punchlines, there are distinct differences between them.

Moreover, it is important to learn about them and the industry so that you can get the best deal.

 

What are International Payments?

What is the Difference Between International and Domestic Payments?

A domestic wire transfer payment is a simple process.

You simply instruct your bank to transfer money from one account in the same country to another.

It is usually a smooth process that does not incur significant costs.

Whereas international payments, and specifically international fx payments (those that include currency exchange as a part of the cross-border wire transfer), are oftentimes

Error prone

Stressful

Expensive

 

Falsely making businesses and individuals believe that sidestepping your bank would be difficult to do.

It is not.

 

The three main methods of making international fx payment nowadays are

  • Banks: easy to register (you already have a bank account), but expensive and not particularly friendly.
  • Online payment methods: you need to register a new account, it’s expensive, and you don’t any dedicated support with PayPal and the likes.
  • FX payment specialists: you need to register to a new account but you get a superior service and lower costs.

What do FX payment specialists offer customers?

  • Above and beyond anything better fx rates for inbound and outbound payments.
  • Sending FX payments (B2B, B2C or C2C) to bank accounts abroad.
  • Making a payment for a product abroad as a customer.
  • Receiving international payments (as a business or an individual) in multiple currencies.
  • Making currency exchange between self-owned bank accounts.
  • Making international payroll payments.
  • Setting up a rate alert to catch real-time currency exchange rate changes and transact at the best timing.
  • Getting real-time responses to questions relating to payments by a multi-lingual customer service or (for large payments) a currency dealer.

Best For International Payments

#1
UK EU USA Currencies Direct: Best Overall for International Money Transfers
Headquarters:
1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AA, UK
97.8% Editorial rating
7,500 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£100 / €100 / $100 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • 96% Positive Feedback from Customers, Since 1996
  • Service Oriented - Specialising in Large Transfers - Friendly Dealers
  • Very Competitive Rates, No Wire Fees
+Read more
1
Currencies Direct
Currencies Direct: Best Overall for International Money Transfers
97.8%
Editorial rating
#2
UK Australia EU TorFX: Strong Guidance and Staff
Headquarters:
Pz360, St Mary's Terrace,Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4DZ, UK
93.4% Editorial rating
5,500 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£100 / €100 / $100 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • HQ Outside of London - Lower Staff Costs Rolled Over to the Client
  • Quick Onboarding Process and Highly Professional
  • Trading Desk with 100+ Years of Experience
+Read more
2
Torfx
TorFX: Strong Guidance and Staff
93.4%
Editorial rating
#3
UK EU USA UAE moneycorp: Oldest and Most Reputable Foreign Exchange Service
Headquarters:
Zig Zag Building, 70 Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E 6SQ, UK
93.2% Editorial rating
7,000 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£50 / €50 / $50 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • Providing FX Services since 1979
  • Very Recognisable Brand with Excellent Reputation - £36.9in Transfers Annually with Offices in Every Continent
  • Business Specialists
+Read more
3
Moneycorp
moneycorp: Oldest and Most Reputable Foreign Exchange Service
93.2%
Editorial rating
#4
UK EU USA Australia NZ Xe: Biggest Name in Currency Since 1993
Local UK Offices:
Maxis 1, Western Road, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 1RT, UK
91.3% Editorial rating
62,000 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£50 / €50 / $50 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • Excellent Sign Up Process
  • Global Company with Strong Presence in the UK (HiFX, one of the best known UK brokers, was merged into Xe)
  • Combination of Work-Of-Art Online System with Brokerage for Large Transfers
+Read more
4
Xe
Xe: Biggest Name in Currency Since 1993
91.3%
Editorial rating
#5
UK Spain Key Currency: Up and Coming Currency Broker with Local Presence UK/Spain
Local British Offices:
St Piran House, Technology Park, Heron Way, Truro TR1 2XN, United Kingdom
90.8% Editorial rating
800 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
€250
Why Them?
  • Fastest Growing UK Currency Transfer Provider
  • Strong Onboard Team, Get an Immediate Callback
  • Recipient of Multiple Industry Awards
+Read more
5
Key Currency
Key Currency: Up and Coming Currency Broker with Local Presence UK/Spain
90.8%
Editorial rating
#6
UK EU Canada Corpay: 99% Positive Client Feedback
Headquarters:
20 Wood St, London EC2V 7AF
90.6% Editorial rating
4,400 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£1,000/€1,000 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • 99% of its Past Clients Gave the Firm a Positive Review
  • Strong Global Reach with Offices in UK, Europe, and Canada
  • More than Two Decades of Experience
+Read more
6
Corpay
Corpay: 99% Positive Client Feedback
90.6%
Editorial rating
#7
UK EU Brazil Currency Solutions: Best Money Transfer on TrustPilot
Headquarters:
21 Queen Elizabeth St, London SE1 2PD
90.4% Editorial rating
1,900 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£1,000
Why Them?
  • Best Customer Satisfaction Score on TrustPilot
  • Welcoming and Clear Website, Easy to Sign Up
  • Excellent Currency Transfer Rates
+Read more
7
Currency Solutions
Currency Solutions: Best Money Transfer on TrustPilot
90.4%
Editorial rating
#8
Australia UK EU USA New Zealand OFX: The Publicly-Traded Money Transfer Company from Down Under
Headquarters:
Level 19, 60 Margaret St, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia
90.4% Editorial rating
1,500 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£100 / €100 / $100 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • Traded Publicly in Australia
  • £20bn Turnover per Year
  • Ultra Professional
+Read more
8
OFX
OFX: The Publicly-Traded Money Transfer Company from Down Under
90.4%
Editorial rating
#9
UK Halo Financial: Excellent Online Platform and Support
Headquarters:
Battersea Studios 2, 82 Silverthorne Rd, Nine Elms, London SW8 3HE
87.3% Editorial rating
100 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£1,000
Why Them?
  • Feefo 2020 Platinum Trusted Provider
  • Excellent Website and Online Flow
  • Highly Professional
+Read more
9
Halo Financial
Halo Financial: Excellent Online Platform and Support
87.3%
Editorial rating
#10
EU UK USA Australia Wise (Previously TransferWise): Valued at £10bn
Headquarters:
17 Avenue Marnix, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
86.8% Editorial rating
32,000 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
No Minimum
Why Them?
  • Largest Money Transfer Provider of its Kind
  • Fully-Online Journey
  • Transparent Pricing
+Read more
10
Wise / TransferWise
Wise (Previously TransferWise): Valued at £10bn
86.8%
Editorial rating

Compare Various International Payment Providers

Broadly speaking, we can separate international payment providers into three main categories.

There are a handful additional options to make payments in foreign currency, but we think

Banks

Currency Brokers

and Digital Providers

are the three most popular ones.

Here is how they stack up:

BanksCurrency BrokeragesDigital Providers
PriceExpensive for both low and high value transfers. High spreads and high payment fees.Normally always cheaper than banks & PayPal. Usually cheaper than other online payment providers for larger transfers.Prices can vary hugely. PayPal is very expensive but Wise is one of the cheapest international payment providers on the market.
ServiceArrange spot payments online, over the phone or in a branch. Pay more for payments made in branch and over the phone.
  • Wide variety of international payment options including forward contract, market orders and swaps.
  • Book online or over the phone with an account manager. Should not pay more for phone trades.
  • Make spot payments online or via the app.
  • Some have support staff to speak with, though like banks they are not trained specifically in foreign exchange.
ExamplesBarclays, HSBC, Citi BankCurrencies Direct, TorFX, MoneycorpWise, Currencyfair,Paypal, Skrill
Advantages
  • Security of money
  • Largest insitutions
  • “All-in-one” – don’t have to find a specific service provider for international payments
  • Great rates.
  • Bespoke service – speak directly to a currency dealer.
  • Wide variety of hedging tools.
  • Wide variety of currencies.
  • Rate alerts.
  • Some platforms can be cheap (Wise and Currencyfair are cheap for fx payments, while PayPal is extremely expensive and Skrill is quite expensive).
  • Best for smaller transfers and DIY type of people.
  • Get a multi-currency account to receive payments from abroad (with Wise)
Disadvantages
  • Expensive
  • Can be cumbersome
  • No direct access to FX trading room, cannot speak to a dealer, get guidance or advice
  • Spot transfers only unless corporate client
  • Smaller institutions than banks without government guarantee for funds (but authorised and supervised by FCA)
  • Apps are not as good as those of online payment specialists (like Wise)
  • Usually only spot transfers are available.
  • Cannot negotiate price for larger trades.
  • Much more limited support than with brokerages.

While banks are easy to differentiate from other international payment providers, there is definitely a strong crossover between brokerage firms and online international payment specialists.

Leading FX brokerages happen to have some of the most advanced online software for international payments as well – clients just get the choice whether they would like to deal over the phone or online.

For example, Moneycorp is known to have one of the very best online international payment platforms where clients can perform a variety of functions, including; setting up new beneficiaries, quick and easy repayments to existing beneficiaries, bulk payments, API to integrate with most accounting softwares, and fx payment hedging such as forward contracts.

Another popular solution is Amex International FX Payments service has become synonymous to the term International FX Payments, with American Express’ positioning as a global leader – an organisation employing more than 75,000 employees and total equity of more than $24.5bn.

Cheap International Payments? Depending Who You Ask

To understand what makes for cheap international payments as opposed to expensive international payments we first need to understand how banks and money transfer companies make money when sending international payments.

The grand summary of that is that they make most of their money on the large spreads between the actual rate and the rate offered by the bank

. The same is true for international payment startups, apps and brokers – they just apply lower spreads than banks!

So what is the cheapest way to send international payments?

The cheapest way to send international payments will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The size of the international payment
  • The currencies involved (exotic currencies are more expensive but some providers are cheaper than others)
  • The timeframe one has to complete the payment
  • The type of FX solution required

As we’ve already stated, the best bet for cheap international payments is to avoid the banks. You’re much more likely to find cheap international payments with a dedicated provider.

Online focused companies such as Wise provide some of the cheapest international payments available today, particularly for lower value transfers. The payment fees are completely transparent and the exchange rate margin is (by and large) fixed.

How to initiate a transfer with a non-bank provider?

Initiating online international payments in foreign exchange can feel much like the process for setting up a domestic payment through online banking but it should be noted foreign currency payments complete a much more complex journey than local, domestic, bank transfers.

The currencies involved, the destination country, the size of the payment, how the payment is settled and the nature of the remitting and beneficiary party will all influence the ease and speed to which fx payments can be made.

To ensure a smooth experience, it’s all about choosing one of the top foreign exchange services which has the required international footprint and a proven track record of handling payments in the countries involved in the fx payment.

I have broken it to 5 steps as follows:

Step 1: Picking a provider for international payments (bank or non-bank)

When it comes to sending international payments, the first major decision is deciding between using a bank or a specialist. If you have opted to use your bank to make the payment then you probably don’t need additional steps. If you want to use a provider then you need to register.

Step 2: Register with your chosen provider

Financial firms are legally required to follow Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations.

This is particularly true for firms engaging in international wire transfers who have clients sending international payments as they are a key component in preventing financial crime.

When any new client is onboarded the client is required to pass identification & verification before they are able to make payments. With online international payment companies, most of this is now done completely online.

It’s simply a case of sending a copy of your ID and verifying your address. For some companies a selfie might be required too!

Step 3: Choose the FX payment solution most suited to your international payment requirements

Understand the different foreign exchange solutions that are available and identify those that meet your requirements. A lot of the time, individuals make international payments at the spot rate (i.e. agreeing to make an international payment today). T

his is the only option available for individuals and SMEs through banks and one of the limited options offered by online international payment companies.

Overseas payment specialists offer a myriad of different fx payments solutions, including; forward contracts (lock today’s exchange rate for a payment in the future), market orders (trade when the exchange rate reaches a certain level), swaps (agree to buy a currency today and agree to sell the same amount of currency at a point in the future).

It’s worth doing research on the FX solutions available through each international payment provider prior to registering with them to avoid the unnecessary hassle of passing the identification and verification process only to find out the payment provider doesn’t have the solution you’re after.

Step 4: Book your trade and lock-in an exchange rate

Either online or over the phone. Select the currency you wish to sell and the currency you wish to buy and input details of the beneficiary.

For international payments an IBAN (International Bank Account Number) is likely to be required.

Once submitted, the international payment provider will provide the current exchange rate. If you’re happy with the exchange rate, you can accept the rate and proceed.

Step 5: Settle the trade and monitor progress

If you make an international payment with a bank or a money transfer company that allows customers to open Multi-Currency Accounts, such as Wise (private customers) or WorldFirst (business customers) then the trade can be automatically settled from the available balance.

If not, international payments can usually be settled via debit card or a domestic bank transfer.

Once confirmation has been received that your international payment has been settled, keep track of the international payment online or by speaking to an account manager.

Most international payments complete on the same or following business day. For more information on payment speeds see our guide ‘how long does an international money transfer take’.

 

Can you Send International Payments with PayPal Instead?

Providing both the remitter and beneficiary involved in the payment both have a PayPal account then sending international payments via paypal is possible.

Given the transfer moves only on PayPal’s ledger and simply debits one account and credits another, the process is very, very quick. ‘

The major issue however is cost.

To conduct FX through PayPal fees are a minimum of 4% of the total value of the transfer. Other fees, such as for moving money between different jurisdictions or when paying for a good/service can also apply, taking, in some instances, the overall cost up to around 8% of the value of the transfer. 

You aren’t able to send international payments with PayPal to a bank account abroad.

PayPal does however own the online payment provider Xoom – a wide variety of currencies and countries are available, but they are around two to three times more expensive than Wise for international transactions.

Can you Send International Payments with Zelle or Venmo?

Zelle and Venmo which have been receiving glamorous reviews by customers who are impressed with the ease of use, high availability and low costs (for domestic transfers), but unfortunately don’t support international payments.

International Payments via Crypto

With so much being said about crypto and most people treating them as high-risk assets that they simply trade on an exchange it’s easy to forget that cryptocurrencies are, as the name suggests, currencies that can be used for making payments.

In fact, in many cases, cryptocurrency payments made over blockchain will be immeasurably faster than international payments made through traditional banking networks such as SWIFT. This is particularly true for developing countries that do not have a reliable banking system

As an example, payments moving across the XRP Ledger settle in 4 seconds regardless of whether you’re sending money within the same country or from say UK to Australia.

Sending international payments to Australia from the UK via SWIFT takes 2 days.

The downside of course is the volatility seen across all cryptocurrencies, including XRP and bitcoin.

Though payments can be made near-instantaneous, depending on when the beneficiary converts crypto back to a fiat currency it could be worth a completely different value. This could be negated by using a stablecoin such as USDC which tracks the value of US Dollar. 

Perhaps the most pertinent issue to consider though is cost. Coinbase allows users to send money internationally via XRP, Bitcoin and USD – and whilst there is no payment fee to consider there is a cost for buying crypto in the first instance.

Coinbase charges 1.5% to both buy and sell crypto so both the remitter and beneficiary will incur a fee. At 1.5% it’s cheaper than using banks for international payments but not as cheap as online international payment providers such as currencyfair and Wise.

Nor as cheap as brokerages who should certainly charge less than this for high value transfers.

With the recent collapse of multiple cryptocurrency funds and lenders as a result of the collapse in Luna which was supposed to be a stablecoin (pegged to fiat currency), there is even more skepticism about the ability of crypto to become a mean of sending or receiving international payments.

An even more recent FTX collapse, coupled with extreme fluctuation in digital currencies, add up to that notion.

International Payments via Payoneer?

When it comes down to how to receive international payments, Payoneer deserves a special mention.

Whilst 99% of all international payment specialists set out to improve how to send international payments, Payoneer took the reverse approach. Payoneer’s primary focus has always been on making it easier to receive international payments.

The service is largely built around the same multi-currency account functionality that is provided by Wise and WorldFirst.

Payoneer users can provide clients with local account details in USD, EUR, GBP and more to get paid as if they had a local bank account in those currencies.

Users can also be paid via a SWIFT transfer into their receiving accounts.

Where Payoneer goes a step further, they provide an extensive range of alternative ways to receive payment too.

Users can also send links to their clients to receive payment via debit/credit card transfer as well. In the US the accounts can even be used to process ACH bank debits, i.e. automated direct debits. This is generally not seen with other multi-currency account solutions.

On top of all of this, the firm has worked hard to establish relationships with all of the leading freelance websites including fiverr, Upwork and 99Designs in order for freelancers to be able to easily receive payment from these platforms.

The primary issues with Payoneer are around customer support and fees.

The tremendous growth Payoneer has enjoyed seems to have almost certainly impacted the customer support it can provide as customer growth has far outweighed Payoneer’s investment into customer support.

Payoneer has invested so heavily in tech that when something goes wrong with making or receiving an international payment, they lack the client-facing capabilities to get this resolved.

Fee wise to convert money between your own payoneer accounts a 0.5% fx spread is applied – Wise charges 0.35% for this.

To make payments to non-Payoneer accounts a 2% FX spread is applied – significantly higher than many other international payment options available on the market today.

Fees are a little higher with Payoneer but they are completely transparent with their fee structure, unlike banks.

International Invoices with Flywire?

One of the most sought-after services in the international payments space is Flywire (flywire.com), which is offering the other end of the service.

Rather than a payment tool, it’s a tool for international invoicing that does the processes laid out in this guide for C2B payments, something which other FX payment specialists covered in this article don’t.

An alternative to Flywire would be Payer (payer.eu) which offers a comprehensive “order to cash” service geared at international customers payables.

Receive International Payments

If you’re asking the question ‘how do i receive international payments?’ then the chances are you’re a business who has recently started making sales overseas or you’re an individual that’s due to receive money from a friend/family member abroad. Perhaps you could be due an overseas inheritance or an insurance payout from another country.

Whatever it is, there are a number of different options to consider if you want to receive international payments.

The Sender Takes Responsibility

As a business you could simply put the onus on the customer.

Invoice the full amount you require in your domestic currency and rely on the customer to transfer the correct payment amount after they’ve incurred their own international payment fees on the transfer. In this scenario, you may receive slightly less than your invoice amount once intermediary bank fees are taken into consideration.

Plus, and perhaps more importantly, there’s the possibility of losing out on customers if the payment process is just too much hassle for the customer.

You Allow Different Currencies to be Sent to Your Domestic Account

The absolute last scenario you want when looking to receive international payments is to have a different currency trying to credit your domestic bank account.

As an example, if a customer sends USD to your domestic GBP account and you allow your bank (the receiving bank) to conduct the FX then you’re looking at a 7% – 8% margin to be taken on the transfer.

Even more than the already expensive 4% banks charge on outbound international payments. 

Given the wrong currency has been trying to credit your account you can also expect long delays – in fact you likely won’t receive the payment until you agree that your receiving bank will conduct the expensive foreign exchange.

Receive International Payments into Multi-Currency Accounts

One of the biggest breakthroughs in international payments in recent years has been the launch of multi-currency accounts.

Fintechs have launched some truly innovative solutions to rival and even eclipse the services of the largest global banks. Clients can now open accounts in a wide variety of different currencies local to the country they represent (i.e. a USD account based in the USA).

There’s no need to have an overseas address or pass multiple KYC onboarding processes to open each new account that you want to open.

‘Doing business like a local’ is the popular catch phrase and having a local bank account certainly helps with that.

Clients are generated their own personal account number for each currency account they open which they can then provide to customers or whomever they are due to receive an international payment from. An account in the US for example comes with its own routing number. 

Wise has perhaps the best multi-currency account solution for individuals to receive international payments (including freelancers/sole traders), whilst WorldFirst has the best solution for businesses who receive international payments.

Work With a Company That Focuses Exclusively on International Payments

Rather than opening your own multi-currency accounts in your name, it’s also possible to quote the account number of the international payment specialists you work with on invoices or to whomever is sending international payments to you.

The company then conducts the foreign exchange and sends the international payment to your own personal account. The only requirement here is that one of the two accounts involved in the bank-to-bank transfer is in your name, so as the beneficiary who will be receiving an international payment this would be absolutely fine.

You’re also reliant on the remitter inputting the correct reference details so that the overseas payment provider can correctly allocate the funds to your account.

One thing to look out for is that many companies sending money, such as notaire’s and insurance companies, will only pay into an account in your name.

The payment expert you work with will likely have to prove to the notaries or insurance company that you hold an account with them and they will be forwarding the fx payments to you.

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