The Ultimate Australian Guide to International Money Transfers

Transferring money overseas can be incredibly expensive and confusing.
We'll tell you what the banks won't - the real costs of international money transfers.

How to transfer money internationally

  • Step 1
    SET UP YOUR ACCOUNT
    Thankfully, you only have to do this once. You'll have to register your details like name, address email and provide some identification.
  • Step 2
    MAKE YOUR TRANSFER
    You'll need to enter the bank account details of the person you are transferring the money to. This is also when you lock in the exchange rate.
  • Step 3
    PAY FOR YOUR TRANSFER
    Before the money is transferred overseas, you'll need to pay for it. All companies offer their bank account details for a direct bank transfer. Most companies offer Bpay and some even allow you to pay using a debit or credit card.
4 Tips for Making an International Money Transfer 4m 08s

Making sure your money is secure

The most important part of any payment overseas is the safety of your money. When it comes to international money transfers, Australia is one of the most highly regulated countries in the world. This doesn’t mean there are no scams, but it does give you the opportunity to do your homework first on the company you're thinking of using.

Make sure the bank or company you use has these 3 things:

  1. An Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL)
  2. Is registered with AUSTRAC
  3. A member of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

All the banks and companies that we compare on our table meet these requirements.

NOT ALL BANKS AND MONEY TRANSFER COMPANIES ARE THE SAME

Compare money transfer exchange rates and fees

Transferring a large amount of money overseas

When it comes to money transfers, transferring larger amounts overseas is different.

If you're sending more than $20,000 internationally, it’s really important to choose the right way to transfer your money. Getting it wrong usually means you end up paying massive fees and charges.

For larger amounts, the most important cost to focus on is the exchange rate you receive. Any change in the offered rate can make a huge difference to the final amount you send.

Fees and charges: what to look for
  1. The baseline exchange rate
  2. The exchange rate margin
  3. Any commission fees
  4. Any flat fee

While there are many fees you may be charged, these are particularly important with bigger transfers.

Related: Transferring Large Sums of Money to and from Australia

 

Three different directions to walk

Sending money to family and friends

Buildings of banks HSBC Citibank Barclays State Street
Using a bank

Using an Australian bank is the most common way to send money to another country. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive methods to transfer money overseas.

Banks have different charges to send money abroad. The ‘Big 4’ charge between $22 and $32 to wire money from a branch and between $18 and $22 to do it online.

Related: How Much It Costs to Transfer Money Overseas
Related: 8 Sneaky Bank Fees and How to Avoid Them

Online Money Transfer Specialists

Money Transfer specialists are companies that transfer money from your account to your family members account overseas. It’s similar to using a bank, except with much lower fees and better exchange rates.

Some specialists in Australia include OFX (formally Ozforex) TorFX and World First

You will have to register and account with them online. From there, the process very similar to using internet banking:

  • Get a exchange rate quote to send your money overseas
  • Enter the banking details of where you are sending the money. They are usually called the “Beneficiary” or “Recipient”
  • Confirm the details and lock in the exchange rate
  • Transfer the Australian dollars to the specialists (usually through BPAY or bank transfer)

Related: VIDEO: How to Transfer Money to an Overseas Bank Account Without High Fees

No Bank Account? Cash Pick-up Options with Western Union or Moneygram

Not every family member is going to have a bank account. Western Union and Moneygram both offer a cash pick-up service. The advantage of this service is that your family member can access the cash very quickly on the other side of the globe, provided they have the right identification. The disadvantage is the cost. The fees and exchange rates for cash pick-up are considerably worse than a transfer to their bank account.

Related: Western Union vs Moneygram
Related: Western Union Review
Related: Moneygram Review

Paying using debit card
Sending Money to Family Overseas Using Paypal

Paypal is great for paying small amounts under $200 to family and friends. Unlike many other options, Paypal have a no-minimum payment size, allowing you to transfer any amount. Paypal may be a cheaper alternative to using the bank transfer because they charge a relatively small transfer fee.

Paypal is particularly fast if your family member has a Paypal account as well. If they don’t there is a set-up required and your relatives may wait up to 28 days for funds to arrive.

Related: Converting and Sending Currency via PayPal – How does it compare?

Buying or selling property

Whether you have sold an investment house in the USA or a unit you bought while working in the UK, the whole process can be riddled with hidden costs. Once the property has settled and you need to get the foreign currency back to Australia, you have a few choices of how to do it.

Transferring money after a property sale is a big deal. Because of the size of your transfer, the small difference in exchange rate when you send the money can work out to be a huge difference in overall cost.

This guide will take you through the most common methods of getting the money back into Australia. It details the pros, cons, benefits and costs of each approach.

The 3 most common ways of transferring the proceeds of your property sale back to Australia

1. Get a cheque

Try to avoid this at any cost, unless you have a local bank account in the same country of the property. If you bring a bank cheque in a foreign currency back to Australia and convert it, it can be a nightmare.

Banks and only a handful of financial institutions will even provide the service of converting it back to Australian dollars. Those that do offer the service, often take weeks to convert it, will charge you a host of fees and usually provide an uncompetitive exchange rate because you are tied in with them.

2. Local help

This is by far the quickest, easiest and most convenient way to send the money back to Australia. Unfortunately, it can also be the most costly. You have no control over what exchange rate you receive from your bank and most of the time, you’ll only find out after the money has already been converted.

The exchange rate you receive is particularly important for large amounts so make sure you compare exchange rates before you transfer the funds.

5 Cheaper Ways of Transferring Money Oversesa
3. Use a money transfer company

When you don’t have time to shop around for the best way to transfer you money back to your home country, using a money transfer company you trust to be reliable and affordable is a smart way to deal with international money transfers.

Our currency conversion specialists at The Currency Shop have lots of information about the best way to deal with your international money transfers.

Related: What you need to know when transferring $100,000 overseas

Living and working abroad

Life as an expat is exciting but it also has unique challenges.
If you’re an expat sending money overseas, some basic knowledge helps you compare exchange rates and avoid some of the common problems.

Here are 4 common issues you may face – and some tips on how to overcome them.

Siblings selling a property house unit in another country

1. Poor exchange rates

The rates listed as ‘official’ refer to the interbank rates and the fact is, this is not the rate you will be offered. This is why you can do better by shopping around. Comparing your options is the best way to get a good rate and avoid getting ripped off.

2. Fees

Beware of banks that charge flat fees for each transfer. If you send money overseas regularly, you may end up spending a small fortune in fees.

3. Lack of personalised service

When you choose a big financial institution to look after your foreign exchange conversion, you may find you get lost in the mix. Instead, consider looking for a local currency exchange expert and aim to create a positive, personal relationship. With some genuine customer service, you can have your questions answered to help you make the best currency conversion decisions that minimise your costs.

4. No access to hedging tools

This isn’t about gardening – just trimming costs. Hedging tools limit your exposure to the fluctuations in foreign currency that can add up to wasted dollars.

Which company is best for expats?

The top two on our list are and TransferWise and OFX

What we looked for included:

  • The ability to make regular payments.
  • Customer service that is dedicated and personalised.
  • No (or very low) fees.
  • Impressive exchange rates.

If you are an expat, look for a professional currency provider in your local area by asking some questions that matter to you. This will ensure you are happy with the answers provided.

Choose a provider that suits your needs and won’t cost you a fortune in either precious time or money.

Making international business transfers

Transferring money for business purposes shouldn’t be a negative experience. With the right information at your fingertips and a professional currency conversion expert at your disposal, you can boost the potential benefits for your company and minimise your risks. But you need to look at your options.

With the right foreign exchange specialist, it is possible to:

  • Achieve a spread of 1% – and even lower.
  • Reduce or remove fees.
  • Create a strategy for purchasing currency.
  • Access hedging tools. These types of contracts enable you to buy currency at a fixed rate for a set period of time – often 1 or 2 years. With your rate fixed, you will avoid the stress of market volatility and have a clear idea of what you will pay and how much you will receive in exchange, before each transaction is completed.

 

How to make an international business transfer?

If you wish to send money internationally on behalf of your business, you will need to register your business details for the account.

This includes the business name and registered address, the ABN, ACN or ARBN number, details of the company directors, owners and/or shareholders and a description of what the business does. You will also need to register a bank account that is in the same name as the business.

Once you have registered your company and bank account, you can either make a transfer using a money transfer company or your bank. Refer to our 3-step guide on how to make an international money transfer.

 

International fees and charges for businesses

The most common international fee for business is on credit and debt cards. If you pay for something in US dollars, banks will charge an international transaction fee that can be between 2-5% of the transaction. It’s no big deal if it’s a $10 monthly subscription, but if you are buying more than $1000 of products or services, you should look at more affordable options.

Banks do charge fees for sending money overseas and for receiving foreign currency into a local Australian dollar account.

For a better run-down of all the fees and charges, check out The Real Cost of Transferring Money overseas

 

Related: Foreign Currency Accounts: Explained and ComparedForeign Exchange Insights To Help Your Business Grow,

Our most frequently asked questions

What is an international money transfer?

An international money transfer means you can send money to an overseas recipient for a variety of reasons. You either choose to make your international money transfer with your bank or an independent money transfer provider.

 

How long does it take for a money transfer?

There are dozens of factors that affect the speed it takes to send money overseas. Generally, it can take anywhere between 0-5 working days, depending on the method you choose to transfer your money. If you are transferring money between two banks in different countries you will mostly use the SWIFT payment network, which can be slow.

Related: how long an international money transfer takes.

 

Are international money transfers safe?

Yes. Many international money transfer services hold an Australian Financial Services Licence and are members of the Financial Ombudsman Service. It's an industry standard for international money services to use a 128 bit SSL encryption system as a minimum. In most cases you can also check the progress of your international money transfer from your account or via an online tracker.

What’s the maximum or minimum amount I can send overseas?

The minimum or maximum amount you can send depends on both the transfer service you use and the type of transfer you're making. Some have a minimum of $500, while others go as low as $1. There are also certain providers that waive money transfer fees or give you a better exchange rate when you plan to send larger amounts, for example, over $10,000.

Why can’t I send money to a particular country with my selected transfer service?

Banks and money transfer services are unable to send money to a country if they haven't yet built the facilities and networks required to send money to that country. Banks and money transfer services are also unable to send money to economically sanctioned countries (e.g. Iran).

Related: International Money Services Reviews

 

Can I cancel a transfer after I have placed it?

It varies from one transfer provider to the next, so you need to check with your provider. Some companies allow you to cancel or change a money transfer within a certain time limit of lodging your transfer, for example 30 minutes. Meanwhile, others will allow you to amend your order any time before your recipient picks up the funds. However, some companies do not allow you to cancel or change an order once it has been lodged.

 

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