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How to get the best exchange rate on international money transfers
Learn some tips and tricks which will help you get the most for your South African Rand
The best exchange rates will help you get more foreign currency for your rand. Understanding how to exchange money can make all the difference when it comes to trying to save money. We compared dozens of ways to exchange money and found that the best methods typically avoid banks and in-person exchange kiosks.
How to find the best exchange rates
When transferring funds internationally or exchanging currency for a trip overseas, you will want to get the most value for money. So here’s our top tips on how to get the best exchange rates possible:
- Use non-bank exchange services: Providers like OFX, WorldRemit, Wise and similar online money transfer services offer competitive exchange rates and low margins. If you are sending money overseas, these companies typically charge lower fees than traditional banks.
- Convert cash when rates are favourable: If you know you need to make an international transfer or you will be traveling overseas, then try to exchange your cash when rates are favourable to you. Carry out your conversion at an exchange provider that charges low fees and has a competitive rate, and you’ll benefit by saving money.
- Exchange money at airports or train stations: Although such booths may be convenient, they never offer the best exchange rates. You will find they take advantage of people’s need to exchange their money and charge highly for the convenience.
- Use a credit or debit card abroad: Unless you know for sure, your card will most likely charge fees for use abroad and offer poor exchange rates.
How to get the best exchange rate on international money transfers
If you plan to use an international money transfer service, then it’s best to shop around and compare your options. The more time you can leave yourself before needing to send the transfer the better. Here are a few things to think about when comparing money transfer exchange rates:
- Know the mid-market rate for your currency. Money transfer providers skew exchange rates in their favour. Therefore it is best to use the mid-market rate as a baseline and see who is offering the best currency exchange rates.
- Compare providers. Use our table to compare providers. It is also worth getting quotes from a few providers and seeing which offers the better deal.
- Skip the bank. The bank is not your friend in this situation, as they almost never offer the best exchange rates.
- Use transfer tools to save money. Consider using recurring payments, forward contracts and limit orders to get a stronger exchange rate.
- Use a multicurrency bank account. If you plan to send regular transactions using commonly traded currencies, then a multicurrency bank account often offers strong exchange rates and low fees.
- Send larger amounts. You will find that many money transfer providers offer stronger exchange rates for larger transfers.
How best to monitor exchange rates?
One of the ways to save yourself money when making an international money transfer is to carry out your conversion when the exchange rate is most favourable. If you know in advance you will be sending money abroad or travelling overseas, then you can monitor currency trends ahead of time. Take a look at our live currency converter to see what exchange rate you would get for converting your cash today.
Market demand dictates how much one currency is worth compared to another – this is known as the mid-market rate. It is also the rate that banks use to trade money with one another.
When you convert money through a money transfer service, you will typically find that the provider adds a margin on top of the exchange rate to make money. So it is worth keeping this in mind when you are monitoring exchange rates.
Select the currency pair to fit your needs
Compare exchange rates of money transfer services
Where to exchange currency in South Africa before your trip
If you know in advance that you will be travelling abroad, then there are several options for how to get the best exchange rates for your ZAR:
- Check your local bank. If you bank with one of the larger bank chains, they will almost certainly be able to sell you a wide range of foreign currency. Just beware of poor exchange rates. Even smaller banks can often order money from larger branches.
- Use a currency ordering service. Services like Travelex allow you to order more than 50 currencies and have them delivered straight to your door. However, keep in mind you won’t get the mid-market rate.
- Use an international transfer service, but have it delivered to your destination. Find a provider that can deliver your transfer for cash pickup at an agent location and have it waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.
Where to exchange currency outside South Africa?
When traveling internationally you’ll typically get the best exchange rates at banks, ATMs and post offices. If you have a bank card that doesn’t charge international ATM fees, this will most likely be the strongest and most convenient option.
It may be possible to exchange money at your hotel, but double-check the rate against the mid-market rate to see how strong it is. You may also find that some local shops and restaurants offer to accept payment in your native currency.
Here’s our dos and don’ts when it comes to exchanging currency outside of South Africa:
Do exchange money at:
- Post offices
- Your hotel
Do not exchange money at:
- Tourist destinations
- Street-side exchange bureaus
- Airports, train stations, bus stations and the like
Frequently asked questions
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