The holy grail when you send money abroad is finding an organisation that you can trust and one that offers the best exchange rates along with transparent, smart and straightforward customer service.
Let’s demystify the landscape of the foreign exchange market and services to help you to secure the best exchange rates. Whether that be for buying a house overseas, paying overseas tuition fees, or paying your overseas business partners. Whatever the reason may be, the principles to securing the best exchange rates remain the same.
Ultimately, you want to save money and ensure that your money arrives when and where you expect it to.
In regard to the first criteria, saving money – there are two key factors to consider. These are – the current exchange rates, and the potential fees – both that of the organisation that you are dealing with and potentially any foreign banks/ financials institutions that may charge fees down the chain.
Of the two, exchange rates and fees, the most important when you are transferring a large sum of money is to secure the best exchange rate. This means, an exchange rate that is as close as possible to the mid-market rate (Read our guide: What is the Mid-Market Rate?).
Unlike the share market there are no standard exchange rates, the rate you are offered will vary depending on the provider, the market and the currency pair. Having access to information is the key, most importantly you need up-to-date information.
There are no standard exchange rates, the rate you are offered will vary depending on the provider, the market and the currency pair.
You can use the Best Exchange Rates calculator to see clearly who is offering the best deal for your International Money Transfers and Travel Money needs, and most importantly who is taking the lowest margin on the exchange rate and smallest fees to give you the largest possible converted amount.
The largest cost is the exchange rate margin not the transaction fee…but most FX providers only ever mention the fees!
Both banks and currency exchange providers apply a margin (a percentage charge) to the mid-rate you see on the news each night, the mid-rate is what it costs large banks and currency brokers to buy and sell foreign exchange and is also sometimes called the Inter-bank exchange rate.
On top of this exchange rate margin, the other cost to be aware of is the fee and any commission that may be applied. All these add up to your Total Cost of Exchange.
Be sure to ask your chosen organisation if there will be fees down the chain from other organisations. This is particularly important if you are paying a customer or business partner.
Once you are sending over $1000 (or equivalent) the largest cost component is generally in the exchange rate margin not the commissions and fees.
Often banks & currency vendors advertise that their exchange is “Commission Free” but this is because they make all their profit through terrible exchange rates. The largest cost is in the exchange rate margin rather than the fees…but most FX providers only ever mention the fees!
Note if you are making a one-off foreign transfer of less than $1000 (or equivalent) then using your bank’s internet banking foreign payment function might be convenient than using an FX specialist.
However, if you see yourself making multiple smaller global transfers then we would recommend using a fx provider as the small savings will add up over time.
For transfers, you should avoid paying a Total Margin anywhere above 1.5 per cent (of the amount being transferred) for major currencies (USD, EUR, AUD, GBP, CAD, NZD, CHF etc) and 2 to 3 percent for all other currencies.
Using your Bank’s exchange rates services (both via online banking and in bank branches) to make international money transfers can be very expensive – often 5% to 6% worse than you can get by using one of our foreign exchange partner for your transfer.
Bank International Money Transfers are often 5 to 6 percent more expensive than using a global payment provider.
Our BER partner global payment providers deal directly with the currency markets which means they can offer highly competitive exchange rates on all major currencies, they can better the rates offered by banks – for a $10,000 transfer you could save over $500.
They can also offer you advice on timing your transaction and ways to manage currency fluctuations and risk so that you obtain the best possible exchange rate. Opening an account with the Foreign exchange provider is quick, simple and completely free.
It’s all good if an organisation offers the best exchange rate, but not at all worth your while if you are not confident that your transaction will be executed.
Security is critical and you must ensure that your FX provider is a licensed and regulated organisation. All our partners on this website are.
You can also click through and check out the size of the organisation, it’s provenance, and reviews from other customers to allay any concerns. This is always a good way to judge whether or not you are comfortable dealing with a particular organisation.
Use our Foreign Transfer calculator to see how much you can save using an FX specialist for your International Money Transfers compared to your bank.
If you need to make regular international transfers, say, for an overseas mortgage payment, you can economise on your time as well as your wallet by setting up an automated international transfer with FX specialists such as World First and OFX.
OFX and World First also offer forward contracts where you can fix the exchange rate now, but transfer the money in the future.
Other side offers include rate alerts, apps, and more recently Receiving accounts which can be very useful if you are a small business or on-line seller.
Receiving accounts are accounts in multiple different currencies provided by the FX specialist, such as World First. This enables you to accept money into a local account in the country that you are selling to. The money is then transferred back to your home account at a time that suits you – i.e when the exchange rate is favourable.
If you are looking to save on travel money for an upcoming trip then read our guide: Pre-ordering foreign cash online for better currency exchange rates.