Online sellers: How to receive international payments from overseas customers
If you’re an online seller, you need a cost-effective and secure way to bring your money back home and save on foreign exchange costs.
As an Hong Kong business selling your goods and services all over the world, you will eventually need to transfer your profits back to Hong Kong dollars. A common problem when doing this is finding an affordable way to repatriate the funds you earn without getting slugged with huge fees and poor exchange rates. An international online seller account might be a way you can keep more of your profits when you make the money transfer each month.
How do international payments for online sellers work?
If you’re an online seller looking to sell your goods internationally, you’ll need to work out how to receive payments from overseas, or payments made in a foreign currency.
If you own an ecommerce site, and manage payments via an online payments processing platform like Stripe or eWay, you’ll need to check whether the platform supports foreign currency payments.
It’s also a good idea to ask your provider when the conversion to your local currency takes place. If you’re looking to receive frequent payments from overseas, you ideally want your service provider to have the capability to maintain payments in multiple currencies, rather than exchange currencies at the time of the transaction. That will prevent you potentially losing money on the exchange rate every time you make a sale to an overseas customer.
Compared to using a payments processing platform, a convenient way for online sellers to sell their goods to international customers is to use an online marketplace, like Amazon or eBay. These online marketplaces have localised websites in multiple countries, and manage the receipt of international payments on your behalf.
However, in many cases, there are hidden costs associated with receiving payments from online marketplaces based overseas to your local bank account. Some will only disburse funds to your Hong Kong bank account in Hong Kong dollars. In addition to charging you fees to transfer the funds, they may also fail to provide you with a competitive exchange rate.
International money transfer solutions for Online Sellers
The solution to this is to find a specialist money transfer company to help you manage your international payments.
A relatively new product on offer from some money transfer providers, such as WorldFirst and OFX, is an online sellers account. With an online sellers account, you can choose from a limited set of overseas destinations (usually up to six, and typically ones with favourable market conditions for Hong Kong) and receive local bank account details in each of those countries. You’re able to receive foreign payments directly to your local account for that currency, and hold funds in that currency for as long as you like. Because you don’t need to convert funds to Hong Kong dollars until you’re ready, you won’t forfeit any of the payment to poor exchange rates. Better yet, neither WorldFirst nor OFX charge any setup or account-keeping fees, nor any fees for receiving funds into your online sellers account.Back to top
Types of international payments
Depending on your circumstances, there are several international payment options that may offer a range of advantages for you and your business.
- One-off spot transfers. When you need to make a fast payment at the best available exchange rate, this is the option you would choose.
- Recurring transfers. Many transfer providers allow you to set up a recurring payment plan for extra convenience.
- Forward contracts. You can protect yourself against exchange rate fluctuations by locking in an exchange rate for a transfer that will be sent up to two or even three years into the future.
- Limit orders. This option allows you to specify a target exchange rate for your international transfer. Your transfer company can then monitor foreign exchange markets and when the desired rate becomes available automatically transfer your funds.
How to compare money transfer providers for your international payments
You’ll need to consider the following features when comparing transfer companies and the options they offer:
- Exchange rates. Getting the right exchange rate is critical to ensure that your international payments are cost-effective. Compare the rates offered by money transfer providers to see which one comes out on top.
- Transfer fees. Check the fee that will apply every time you repatriate funds to Hong Kong and whether it is reasonable. Even fees that seem minimal can add up over time, so shop around for the best deal.
- Foreign account fees. Make sure you’re aware of any fees that apply to the foreign account you use to receive payments. Are there any ongoing fees or transaction fees to contend with?
- Countries and currencies. In which countries can you open an account and in which currencies can you receive payments? The ability to access a wide range of international markets could be critical for online sales growth.
- Flexible options. Does the provider only offer one-off transfers or can you save time by scheduling regular payments? Are limit orders and forward contracts also available to help you get a better exchange rate?
- Processing times. Time means money in business, so consider how long it will take each company to transfer the funds to your account from overseas.
- Customer support. If you ever have a question or a problem with a transaction, knowing that prompt and friendly customer support is just a phone call away can provide peace of mind. See how you can get in touch with customer support and during which hours it is available.
Pros and cons of selling overseas
- Worldwide sales. Finding a cost-effective international payment option allows you to connect with customers all around the globe.
- Save money. International money transfer providers can provide much better value for money for your business.
- Get the best exchange rate. You can use transfer options such as forward contracts or simply choose when to repatriate your funds to Hong Kong in order to take advantage of the highest exchange rate.
- Fees apply. You’ll need to contend with transfer fees when repatriating funds to Hong Kong.
Pitfalls and traps for online sellers
One key problem that online sellers face is setting up an account to automatically transfer funds back to Hong Kong on a set schedule. While this can be convenient, it fails to take exchange rate fluctuations into account and often may not offer the best deal. Finding an account that allows you to pick and choose when to send money to Hong Kong is recommended.
Another thing to avoid is simply opting for the default international payment option offered by an international ecommerce site. This usually involves settling for a lower exchange rate and paying higher fees than are necessary, so compare your options and shop around for better value.