Self-quarantining and social distancing are changing the way we send money across borders. Here’s everything you need to know about sending money during the coronavirus.
The impact of coronavirus on the UK
To keep up to date on the latest coronavirus news and how it affects everything from your shopping and travel plans to your retirement savings, read our comprehensive guide on coronavirus in the United Kingdom.
As the UK reacts to the coronavirus pandemic, the remittance industry is being affected by the following:
Closures. Some banks and money transfer agent locations have temporarily closed and some remain open with reduced opening hours. But either way, online transfer options will help you maintain your self-imposed quarantine.
Exchange rate volatility. We haven’t seen this kind of volatility in decades. Fluctuating exchange rates could make a difference of several hundred pounds to what arrives in your receiver’s pockets, so it’s important to pay close attention to the live rate – things could change quickly. To keep on top of the two global currencies you’re comparing, check out our guide on currency pairs.
Customer service availability. Many companies will be reducing the availability of their customer service agents, both online and in call centres. PayPal, for instance, recently alerted customers that “due to coronavirus (COVID-19) safety precautions, we currently have limited customer service staffing so wait times may be longer”. So if you happen to make a mistake in your online transaction and need to reach someone on the phone to fix it immediately, or need a human voice to help you through the online steps, don’t expect the same support you’d normally receive.
Sending money during the coronavirus: £1,000 from the UK to Europe
Let’s say you need to send £1,000 to friends or family members who are stuck quarantined abroad. Here’s what you might face in fees and physical contact risks as of 12 May 2020.
Online money transfer service
£20 + additional correspondent bank fees
1 GBP = 1.135 EUR
1 GBP = 1.123 EUR
1 GBP = 1.09 EUR
Best value and no physical contact
Fastest, but physical contact
Slowest, most expensive and maybe physical contact
The bank option ends up being both the slowest and gets the smallest amount of money to your recipient. If you go with the digital money transfer service, your recipient ends up with EUR€41 more than the bank offers. If speed is crucial, a cash transfer can typically have your transfer to Europe in as little as 15 minutes; just be aware of the need to pick it up in person.
Be sure to look at the margin on the exchange rate as well as the fees to figure out if you’re getting a good deal. We’ve gone into more detail on this in our full guide on sending money internationally.
Online money transfer services
Table: sorted by a combination of service offering and the amount your recipient will receive
The table below shows a round-up of some of the most popular online services that can help you send money to where it needs to go.
Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.
What if my recipient doesn’t have a bank account?
Depending on the provider, you can still make an online transfer to a recipient who doesn’t have a bank account.
Emergency cash transfers
If you need to get money abroad now instead of later, there are ways to speed it up. Many online money transfer services offer delivery in as fast as a few minutes.
Many emergency transfer options require your recipient to pick the money up in person, as delivering to a bank account often takes more time. Double-check how the transfer will be received, especially if you are sending to a country that is recommending self-quarantine or social distancing practices during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a recent report in Reuters, handling banknotes doesn’t pose any added risk of contracting the coronavirus. Your recipient shouldn’t fear collecting cash so long as they take the usual precautions and wash their hands frequently.
How to send money to someone without a bank account
Unfortunately, options without physical contact are limited when it comes to sending money to someone without a bank account.
If you or your recipient don’t have a bank account, look for a local company that supports storefronts for cash payments.
Call the agent location before sending your transfer, if possible, to make sure they will be open when your recipient goes to pick up cash.
How do fluctuating exchange rates affect my international transfer?
No one has a crystal ball here, so it’s important to keep an eye on exchange rates. That will help you gauge when it’s a good time to send money abroad. Online transfers can often lock in a rate for you, which, with roller-coaster markets, could potentially help you get more bang for your buck.
What are the other ways of sending money during the coronavirus?
Aside from traditional money transfers and bank transfers, there are other alternatives you can use to help move money during the coronavirus pandemic.
International digital banking. Although it may take some time to set up, creating an international digital bank account can help reduce the costs of moving money to loved ones abroad. Read our short guide on international bank accounts to get started.
E-wallets. Electronic wallets are a great way to manage your funds digitally. PayPal is one example, but so are services like Venmo, Coinbase and Apple Pay. By relying entirely on digital services, you won’t have to touch cash or interact physically with anyone. Some stores even accept e-wallets for payment, making your transaction entirely contactless.
Cryptocurrencies. If you and the recipient are both computer savvy, cryptocurrency can be a very fast and cheap way of sending money internationally in a way that doesn’t require either of you to have a bank account or leave your homes. If you’re interested, our comprehensive guide over at Crypto Finder can get you started.
Sending money internationally may be more important for you now than ever, especially if you have loved ones quarantined abroad. Although it has become trickier to send money overseas, there are still plenty of online options that can help you get your money where it needs to go.
Pay extra attention to movements in the exchange rate, and consider locking in a forward contract if you’re concerned about further drops in the GBP’s value. It pays to compare a number of money transfer services to make sure they meet your needs and can give you the best deal.
Zak Killermann is a writer at Finder. He’s ghostwritten hundreds of articles on fintech, finding his love for publication at St. Cloud State University. Traveling internationally for nearly half his life — and getting burned once by an OTC money exchange — Zak's vowed not to settle for anything short of the mid-market rate again.
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