Whether you run a small import/export business which wants the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective way to make international payments, or you're the CFO of a larger business that requires highly tailored strategic hedging advice with fast, cost-effective execution, you'll need an unbeatable foreign exchange provider. Let’s take a closer look at how businesses can send money to and from the UK, and why it’s so important to find the right broker to meet your needs.
At its most basic of levels, international money transfer is the transfer of funds overseas – but there’s a lot more to it than that. As you’re not sending money to an account in the UK there are conversion rates to consider, together with commission fees and transaction costs, which in some cases can be significant. It can cost a lot more than transferring money to UK-based accounts, which is why finding the right service provider is key, particularly for businesses which are likely to use such services on a regular basis.
There are several ways that you can transfer money internationally, including:
For business purposes, utilising the services of a specialist international money transfer firm is normally preferred. Fees tend to be cheaper and exchange rates more favourable, and with secure online processes, the entire transfer process can be completed quickly and easily.
All you have to do is sign up to create an account, get a quote and, once agreed, transfer the money into the account in sterling. Then, your chosen FX provider will convert the funds into the required currency and send it to the bank account specified. Many providers even have app capability, allowing you to conveniently transfer funds wherever you are.
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This will depend on the service you use. Bank transfers, for example, can take as long as six working days, while high street transfer services may only take a couple of days to complete. However, specialist foreign exchange brokers can often ensure your money arrives the same day – and in some cases, payments can be made in a matter of seconds.
Unlike with transferring money to UK-based accounts, international money transfer often comes with a lot of additional hidden costs which you need to be aware of. These can include transaction fees (some providers charge a fee for every transfer) and commission costs (additional costs for the provider itself, often levied by banks), while some charge receiving fees to the recipient that you may want to cover.
Then there’s the exchange rate to consider. Even a difference of a few percentage points can add a lot to the cost of large business transactions, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on current exchange rates, bearing in mind they can fluctuate in a matter of hours. Different providers will always offer different rates, too, with banks again tending to be the least favourable; this is another reason why opting for a specialist transfer service is often recommended.
If you’re planning your international money transfer in advance – which, if you run a business and have set payments to make, could be likely – it’s perfectly possible to lock in today’s exchange rate and transfer the money later, and to fix a future payment at the current rate so you know exactly what the cost of that payment will be.
This is what’s known as a forward contract and allows you to plan up to 12 months in advance, and for this reason can be particularly suitable if you think exchange rates are exceptionally good at present and may falter in the future – but of course, rates are volatile and could just as easily move against you.
As well as analysing the rates offered, you’ll also need to consider how much money you’re sending, with some offering higher fees for smaller amounts and others only offering transfers above a certain amount. For regular payments, you may want to talk to your bank to see if they can offer individual deals, though in many cases a currency specialist could still prove beneficial. It’s often more cost-effective to transfer money in larger quantities rather than several small payments, but a good rule of thumb is to work out how much money you’ll be left with after fees and charges to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal.
All firms that handle overseas money transfer have to be either authorised by or registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), offering certain regulatory protections. Firms that are authorised must keep your money ringfenced away from their own company funds, giving you a greater likelihood of having your money returned should the firm go bust. All larger international money transfer firms have to be authorised by the FCA.
Firms that are only registered with (as opposed to authorised by) the FCA can choose how they handle your money and don’t have to ringfence it, but they may still choose to do so. They still have to show the regulator that they’re based in the UK and that none of their managers have criminal convictions related to financial crimes. Smaller firms tend to be registered rather than authorised.
You can check the status of a firm using the FCA’s register, and can refer to online reviews to check the level of service offered by different firms. It’s also worth noting that international money transfer services are not included in the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), though if the firm is authorised with the FCA rather than registered, your money is as protected as possible.
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Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.