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Sending money internationally during the coronavirus pandemic

Learn what you need to know about getting money abroad to loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Self-quarantining and social distancing are changing the way we send money across borders. Here’s everything you need to know about what impacts the coronavirus might have on getting money to your loved ones.

How is the coronavirus affecting money transfers?

As South Africa reacts to the coronavirus pandemic, the remittance industry is being affected by the following:

  • Closures. Non-essential businesses like bars and theaters are closing indefinitely or after certain hours. Although banks and money transfer agent locations may remain open, using 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 rands 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 centers. 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 R10,000 from South Africa to Europe during the coronavirus pandemic

Let’s say you need to send R10,000 to friends or family members that are stuck quarantined abroad. Here is what you might face in fees and physical contact risks as of March 19, 2020.

Online money transfer serviceCash transferBank transfer
Physical contactNoYesMaybe
Fee$1.99$3.99$25 + additional correspondent bank fees
Exchange rate1 ZAR = 0.058 EUR1 ZAR = 0.053 EUR1 ZAR = 0.047 EUR
Transfer speedWithin minutes, or 1-2 daysMinutes2-5 days
Amount receivedEUR€528EUR€526EUR€449
Verdict
  • Best value – no physical contact
  • Fastest – physical contact
  • Slowest and most expensive – maybe physical contact

The bank option ends up being both the slowest and gets the smallest amount of money to your recipient, but you may be able to send it entirely online. If you go with the digital money transfer service, your recipient ends up with EUR€79 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

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.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 60 1 day ZAR 0.00 0.062 USD
617
Skrill offers easy transfers to many popular destinations, but keep an eye out for added fees. Go to site Show details
AUD 2,000 2 days ZAR 0.00 0.062 USD
617
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour ZAR 500.00 0.062 USD
586
Use promo code FREE to send your first transfer with no fee. T&Cs apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Go to site Show details
EUR 8 3 - 5 days EUR 3.00 0.062 USD
615
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
USD 2,000 1 day ZAR 0.00 0.062 USD
617
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

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. Learn more about the limits and fees for emergency transfers.

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 doesn’t have a bank account, look for a local company that supports storefronts for cash payments. These services include agent locations in other countries that allow your recipient to pick up cash without a bank account.

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 regularly. That will help you gauge when it’s a good time for you 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.

To see how the Rand is performing globally, use our A to Z list of ZAR exchange rates against other currencies.

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Updated: 29 Nov 2021 04:29:34 UTC

What other ways can I send money around the world?

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.

Bottom line

Sending money internationally may be more important for you now than ever, especially if you have loved ones quarantined abroad. Although it’s 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 Rand’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.

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