Sending money overseas this Christmas: what you need to know

By Katherine O'Chee ·

As anyone with loved ones overseas can attest to, spending Christmas away from family is tough. But with travel bans and border closures still in place, that may be the reality for many Australians this year. 

Still, there’s no need to hit ‘cancel’ on celebrations just yet. Besides navigating time zones to Skype call your nan or sister on Christmas Day, if you’re looking to treat your loved ones to something extra special this festive season, cash is a popular gift option. 

Given the convenience, speed and low cost of international money transfers, it’s little surprise that they’ve become an attractive avenue for migrants looking to support - or in this case, pleasantly surprise - family back home. In fact, in 2019, Australians sent a whopping $7.44 billion across the globe according to the World Bank.  

But before you send off your first batch of cash, it’s worth doing your research on things like how to pick the right provider for your transfer and the biggest traps you’ll want to avoid. To keep you in the know, we’ve answered some of the burning questions you might have about Christmas money transfers below. 

How long will it take for my cash gifts to arrive? 

While cash certainly takes far less time to send than physical parcels, you’d be mistaken for assuming all international money transfers are an instant process. Between setting up an account and the actual transfer period, you could be waiting 1-5 business days before your money reaches your relatives in China or the UK

The exact timing will of course vary depending on the provider you pick, your payout method and the country you’re sending the money to. Other factors like missing your provider’s cut-off times for payments processing could also cause slight delays. So to play it safe, aim to send your cash by 18 December (five business days before Christmas Day).

Which countries can I send money to? 

If you’ve got family around the world from Greece to Thailand, you may be wondering whether your bank or money transfer service actually covers all those countries you’re hoping to send cash gifts to. 

The general rule of thumb is if it’s a popular destination like the USA or New Zealand, you won’t have much to worry about, no matter which provider you transfer with. But for more exotic locations, it’s best to double check the provider’s website beforehand for a list of accepted currencies or countries.

Can I send any amount I want? 

The short answer is, not always. Many IMT providers have minimum and maximum transfer limits, which can sometimes start at as high as $2,000 and go all the way up to the millions. So while those limits may be okay for the couple thousand bucks you’re sending mum and dad for a new flatscreen, you may run into problems for the $50 you’re planning to give to your little cousin for his new toy. In the latter case, you would need to shop around for a provider that permits smaller transfers. 

What’s the best way to send money overseas? Should I stick with my bank? 

There’s no denying that sending money overseas with your bank is the easy option - all you’ll need to do is log in via internet banking to make those transfers. But that added convenience can come at a cost, with the big banks generally charging higher fees and poorer exchange rates than foreign exchange specialists like TorFX, WorldFirst and OFX.

Take it from the Mozo international money transfer calculator which shows that at the time of writing (16 November 2020), sending AU$5,000 to your family back in New Zealand with the TorFX exchange rate would net you about NZ$5,285. By contrast, if you stuck with the average big four bank exchange rate your family could expect to receive NZ$5,116 instead, or NZ$169 less. 

Ready to compare exchange rates? Scroll down for a list of competitive specialist offers for AUD/NZD transfers. You can also customise the table below by punching in your transfer amount as well as sending and receiving currencies.

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Today’s foreign exchange rates

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$7,409 USD

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$7,394 USD

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$7,401 USD

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$7,412 USD

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Bear in mind, exchange rates are constantly fluctuating, so even waiting an hour before you lock in your transfer could result in a difference in pricing. 

How else can I save on my money transfer? 

Besides shopping around for the cheapest international money transfer deals, there are a couple of other savvy moves you could make to help keep costs to the minimum: 

  • Bundle your transfers: If your uncles, aunts and cousins all live in the same country, why not streamline things and combine your cash gifts into one single transfer? It’ll take a bit of organising to make sure that one relative then distributes the right amount to all your other family members. But the big plus is you’ll save heaps on transfer fees (which are usually charged per transaction).
  • Plan ahead: While signing up and getting approved for an IMT account shouldn’t take more than a few business days, it’s best to get that step out of the way as soon you can so you’re ready to make a transfer when exchange rates do move in your favour. The good news is many foreign exchange specialists also offer features to help you monitor and secure a more favourable rate. These include rate alerts (which allow you to set a target rate and receive an email or SMS notification when that rate is hit) and limit orders (similar to rate alerts, except that the provider will automatically make your transfer once that rate is hit, so you won't be able to change your mind).

*The exchange rates offered by each provider are indicative exchange rates that have either been supplied by each provider or gathered by Mozo. Exchange rates fluctuate constantly and as a consequence the exchange rates listed here may vary to the actual exchange rate you are quoted by a provider. Please ensure you confirm the actual exchange rate with the relevant provider prior to conducting any transaction. These exchange rates are updated every hour.

^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice International Money Transfers Awards

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Katherine O'Chee
Money writer

Katherine O’Chee is Mozo’s international money transfer and forex expert and business banking writer. She keeps Mozo’s readers on top of the latest news and writes in-depth features to inform and help Australians make smarter financial decisions. Her work has been published in major media outlets including Sydney Morning Herald, SBS News and Bangkok Post. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) from the University of Sydney.