As modern technology leads to countries around the world becoming increasingly connected, it’s easier than ever before to send your money overseas. If you need to send an international money transfer to friends or family abroad or simply buy something from overseas, there are plenty of options to choose from.
However, you’ll need to shop around and compare your options if you want to find a money transfer provider that offers affordable and efficient transfers.
What are international money transfers?
An international money transfer is when you send money abroad. Also referred to as an international remittance, this type of transfer involves transferring funds to a company that acts as an intermediary between you and your recipient. That company exchanges your New Zealand Dollars for the currency at your transfer destination, for example US Dollars or Euros, and then sends the funds to your beneficiary.
As well as the money you transfer, you’ll need to take two other costs into account when sending money overseas: transfer fees and exchange rates. Most companies will charge you a fee to send your funds overseas, and that fee can vary depending on the transfer method you choose, how much money you send and where you send it.
The exchange rate you receive will also have a big impact on the cost of your transaction. It directly affects how many US Dollars, Indian Rupees or other currency your beneficiary receives.
Every major bank is capable of sending an international wire transfer for you, but using your bank to handle the transaction is not usually a financially wise move. Banks offer a pretty diverse range of products and services, so the exchange rates they offer for international transfers are quite poor. When combined with the high fees they charge, you can often find a much more affordable transfer option when you use a specialist money transfer company.
While the thought of sending money overseas might sound complex, it’s actually quite simple. The first step is to send money, either as cash or a bank account transfer, to a money transfer provider. You could send the funds via your bank, via a transfer company that offers cash pickup locations, for example Western Union and MoneyGram, or through an online transfer company like moneytransfer.co.nz.
Once you provide the details of your transaction (where you’re sending the money, how much you’re sending and in what currency) and pay for it, the transfer provider will convert your funds into the local currency in your destination country and send the funds to the recipient. Some companies allow your beneficiary to pick up the cash you send in person by visiting their nearest branch; others offer transfers direct to your recipient’s bank account. Depending on the option you choose and where you are sending your money, processing times can range from a few minutes to several business days.
When Bevan gets a phone call from his 18-year-old daughter Monique, he knows something must be wrong. Monique is spending her gap year travelling around Europe and only phones her dad when she needs money – sure enough, Monique has lost her wallet after a big night out in Berlin and she asks Bevan to send her $1,000 urgently.
Because Monique needs fast access to the cash, Bevan decides to send a transfer for cash pickup through MoneyGram. He visits his nearest MoneyGram agent to send the transfer to Germany, the details of which are below.
|Exchange rate:||1 NZD = 0.538194 EUR|
|Total cost of transaction:||$1,055 NZD|
|Amount Monique receives:||538.19 EUR|
Ten minutes after Bevan sends the funds, Monique drops in to her nearest MoneyGram location and picks up the 500-plus Euro transfer.
Consider the following transfer options when you need to send money overseas:
- Bank wire transfer
The first option many people think of when sending money overseas is to lodge an international wire transfer request with their bank. Any major bank in NZ can send an international money transfer on your behalf – you will just need to supply your recipient’s name, country of residence and bank account details. The benefits of this approach are that you can deal with an established financial institution you trust, and you already have an account set up from which you can transfer funds. There are some significant downsides, however, in the form of the dismal exchange rates and high fees banks offer on these transactions.
- International bank draft
This old-school approach involves obtaining an international guaranteed cheque from your bank. You’ll usually need to visit a bank branch and supply the name and address of your recipient, while you will also have to pay a fee. You can then post the cheque to your recipient overseas, which means you’ll have to wait several days for it to arrive, and he or she can then cash the cheque at their bank. In many cases your recipient will also incur a fee when they cash the cheque.
- Money transfer service
Money transfer services can offer either wire transfers or online transfers between bank accounts. There are two transfer methods available when you use one of these types of companies:
- Cash-to-cash transfers
Western Union and MoneyGram are the two largest providers of this service and they operate extensive worldwide transfer networks. You can visit your nearest transfer branch and send funds all around the world. Your beneficiary can then pick up the cash you send, usually within minutes, from their nearest agent location.
- Bank account transfers
Companies such as moneytransfer.com.nz and OrbitRemit allow you to send funds from your bank account to your recipient’s bank account overseas, and they let you do it all online. This transfer option is fast, convenient and typically more affordable then sending the funds through your bank.Back to top
There are several companies available that can offer quick transfers, including Western Union, MoneyGram and Xpress Money. These services allow you to send money overseas that your recipient can pick up from their nearest branch within minutes.
Urgent transfers will usually cost more to send than a normal transfer, as you will incur higher fees and have to settle for a lower exchange rate when you send your funds.Back to top
The availability of currencies can vary substantially depending on the money transfer service you use. Some companies specialise in transfers to certain countries, such as India, so will not offer much choice in terms of currencies. Larger providers will offer support for 50 or more currencies, including all the major currencies and rarer, more exotic options.
Commonly traded currencies include:
- US Dollar
- British Pound
- Australian Dollar
- Hong Kong Dollar
- Singapore Dollar
- Japanese Yen
- United Arab Emirates Dirham
- Indian Rupee
- Swiss Franc
- Chinese Yuan
- Transfer a larger amount. Many companies will offer you better exchange rates for larger transfers, while some will waive their transfer fee when you send more than a certain amount, for example $5,000.
- Take advantage of flexible transfer options. Check to see whether your provider offers forward contracts, which allow you to lock in a great exchange rate today for a transfer that will be sent in the future. Another option worth considering is a limit order, which is a transfer that will only be executed when certain market conditions occur, such as the exchange rate reaching a level you specify.
- Be a savvy shopper. Instead of just settling for the first transfer company you find, do some research and compare the costs of sending the same transfer with different companies. Shopping around really can save you heaps.
Take the following factors into account when choosing a money transfer provider:
- Exchange rates. The rate of exchange is a crucial factor when sending money overseas, so shop around for a company that consistently offers competitive rates.
- Fees. Keep in mind that companies with high exchange rates may also charge high fees. Make sure you’re aware of all the transfer fees that apply to any transaction before you commit your funds.
- Transfer methods. How can you send a transfer: online, by visiting a branch, over the phone and/or through a convenient mobile app?
- Transfer options. Can you take advantage of cost-effective and convenient options such as forward contracts and scheduling regular transfers?
- Pickup options. Will the cash you send be available for collection from a transfer agent and if so, how many locations does each provider have in your transfer destination? Alternatively, does the company only offer bank account transfers?
- Turnaround time. How long will the money take to arrive in your recipient’s wallet?
- Customer support. If you ever need help with a transfer, will customer support be on hand to give you the help you need? Look for online help centres and phone and email customer support. Some companies will also offer a live online chat option.
Watch out for the following issues when you send money overseas:
- Hidden fees. Read the fine print to make sure you’re aware of any fees that may apply to your transfer. Once you know the total cost of a transaction you can make an informed decision about whether or not to go through with it.
- Mid-market rates. If you see a great exchange rate advertised on a provider’s website, make sure the rate you see is the rate you will actually get. Some companies advertise the mid-market exchange rate, which is the rate at which banks can purchase foreign exchange, rather than the rate which they actually offer to their customers.
- Failing to do your research. If you want to save yourself some money, compare several transfer providers before choosing one to handle your transaction. Shop around for a company that offers reliable and affordable transfers instead of just diving in head first.
How long will it take to send an international money transfer?
Processing times vary according to the transfer provider, where you are sending your money and the transfer method you select. Transfers can be instant (a few minutes), take place within 24 hours, or sometimes take multiple business days.
How can I track the progress of my transfer?
Make sure you don’t lose any receipt or transaction ID number you receive when you send a transfer. This can be used to monitor the progress of your funds, usually through the provider’s website.
How much will it cost to send an international money transfer?
The cost of a transfer is affected by several factors, including how much money you send, where you send it, how you pay for the transfer and how your recipient will access the funds. Most providers offer online calculators to help you determine the cost of your transaction.
Can I cancel a transfer after I have placed it?
Once again, the answer varies from one transfer provider to the next. Some companies will allow you to cancel or change a transfer within a certain time limit of lodging your transfer, for example 30 minutes, while others will allow you to amend your order any time before your beneficiary picks up the funds. Some companies will not allow you to cancel or change an order at all once it has been lodged.
What do I need to take with me when I go to collect cash from a transfer agent?
Make sure to take a transaction reference number and a valid from of photo ID when you go to pick up the funds.