If you’re planning to make a major online purchase, a money transfer service could save you a nice chunk of money.
You could enjoy significant savings for online purchase by paying for your shopping with an international money transfer. Let’s take a look at how international transfers work and can be used to do your bank balance a favor.
Compare international money transfers when shopping online
How international money transfers can save you money
International money transfers may be the solution if you’re looking for a cheaper way to pay for online purchases. Specialist transfer companies focus on cheap, quick and secure overseas payments, with exchange rates that take a much smaller chunk of your money that what you’d get with your local bank.
International money transfer providers typically charge lower fees — either flat fees of just a few dollars per transaction or a percentage of your transaction amount. Some will even waive fees altogether for larger transfers, resulting in more savings.
Check out these competitive money transfer providers:
What are the drawbacks of shopping online internationally with your credit card?
One of the most common methods to make purchases while shopping online is with a credit or debit card. However, problems can arise when you’re buying goods from overseas.
- High transfer fees. Your credit card provider will usually charge an international transaction fee — typically 3% of the total transaction. There are a few credit cards that waive foreign transaction fees, so check out the features of these cards if you’re planning to pay for your online shopping with a credit card.
- Weak exchange rates. Purchases made in a foreign currency are subject to the foreign exchange rate your bank offers when transferring your US dollars into another currency. Typically, rates offered by your bank are far weaker than the mid-market rate, which means you’ll pay more in US dollars to convert to the foreign purchase price you agreed to.
The mid-market rate is what your money’s actually worth on the global market compared to another currency. It’s the midpoint between worldwide supply and demand for that currency — and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves.
Use the mid-market rate as a baseline to compare against the rates provided by your bank or transfer service.
The downsides of PayPal for overseas purchases
When making an online purchase with PayPal, the company takes the prevailing mid-market rate and adds a margin of 3.4% to 3.9%, profiting the difference. Add to this margin a potential transfer fee that’s a percentage of your total and PayPal may not be as cheap an option as you’d think.
Case study: Sam’s shopping spree
Sam collects rare and exotic musical instruments from all over the world. After months of searching, Sam finally found a rare Fender guitar in an online store based in Spain. He negotiated a price of €10,000 with the seller and now need to find the cheapest way to pay for his prize.
He decides to compare the cost of using his credit card with the cost of sending an international money transfer to see which offers the better deal.
|Credit card||Money transfer provider|
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 0.892 EUR||1 USD = 0.945 EUR|
|Amount Sam must pay in order to transfer £10,000||$11,211||$10,582|
|Transfer fee||$336.30 (3% international transaction fee)||$0|
|Total cost of transfer||$11,547.30||$10,582|
Sam discovers that he can save $965 by going with an online money transfer specialist to pay for his purchase, avoiding both a weaker exchange rate and the stiff 3% international transaction fee charged by his credit card provider.
Is there a downside to international money transfers?
While they offer strong exchange rates and low fees, international money transfers do have a downside:
- Not ideal for small transactions
- Tend to have high minimum transfer amounts
- Paying a fixed transaction fee may not be the cheapest option for small purchases
Unlike PayPal or credit cards, paying for your online purchases with a money transfer will not offer you buyer protection. Be sure that you can trust the seller before putting down your money with an international money transfer specialist.
How do I compare international money transfers?
Looking for an affordable and secure way to send international money transfers? Consider these features when comparing the pros and cons of transfer providers:
- Exchange rates. Compare the rate you’re offered to the mid-market rate — the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves — and look for the smallest margin between them.
- Transfer fees. Find out whether the provider charges a flat fee or a percentage of your transfer. If you’re sending a large amount, ask whether you qualify for a fee-free transfer.
- Transfer options. If paying off a purchase in installments, does the provider allow you to set up a regular payment plan? Confirm whether any of these special transfer types come with hidden fees.
- Range of currencies available. Will the provider offer an easy way to send money to your favorite transfer destinations?
- Transfer speeds. Compare processing times between providers to confirm that your funds will reach your recipient within the specified time frame.
- Customer service. Most companies offer customer service by Internet chat, phone, in person or by email. Make sure help will be available if you need it.