How do international money transfers work?

If you need to send money overseas, unless you are planning on jumping on a plane with a suitcase full of cash (not the safest option), then it’s likely that you’ll use a bank or money transfer service to send your funds to an international destination.

There are a range of options available to you when you need to send money overseas these days. Some banks offer international money transfer options via their internet banking platforms, you can also use PayPal, get a foreign currency bank cheque or choose to use an online foreign exchange specialist or a peer to peer money transfer exchange.

Which option you choose will depend on how much money you will be sending and which currency or country you need to send your money to and how quickly you need to send your funds.  

Overseas money transfer options - pros and cons

IMT ProviderProsCons

Foreign exchange specialist
- Wide range of currencies available
- Convenient
- Trusted

- Competitive exchange rates
- Low/ no fees
- No minimum transfer limits
- Major and exotic currency options
- Low exchange rates
- Higher fees

- Minimum transfer amounts may apply

To compare the exchange rates of major international money transfer providers in Australia, you can jump over to our International Money Transfer page. We’ve got a listing of today’s exchange rates for a wide variety of currencies as well as key detail about each provider including transfer speed, transfer fees and transfer limits.

Types of overseas transfers

As there are so many reasons for needing to transfer money overseas, whether it’s paying a bill, sending money to relatives or paying an invoice to a business supplier, with some IMT providers you will have a couple of options of the type of transfer you make.

Let’s look at the most common:

  • Spot contract. If you are making a personal transaction or a one-off payment it is likely that you will get a spot rate or spot contract. Think of this as a pay now, deliver now option. You book a trade and the exchange rate you’ll get will be the rate offered at that particular time and day.  Most international money transfer providers and banks will offer this service.
  • Forward contract. This type of transfer will allow you to lock in a rate now, for a time in the future (usually up to 2 years in advance). Not all international money transfer providers will offer this service and there may be a minimum amount that you will have to transfer or pay a deposit, usually around 10%.
  • Regular payments. If you plan on making regular payments to an international account it’s possible to set up a transfer plan that allows you to limit your exposure to changes in rates. Again, this is generally only offered by specialist IMT providers.
  • Limit order. This allows you to set the exchange rate that you want for a particular order and when the rate hits that rate, you make the trade. It means you don’t have to continually check rates as you’ll get the rate you set. This service may not be available with every IMT platform.

How to transfer money

1. Set up an account.

Whether you decide to go with a bank or IMT provider you will first need to set up an account. Thankfully, this is usually a very straightforward process as most providers have an online application process. You will need to get your identity verified so make sure that you have copies of your driver’s license, passport or other identity information handy.   

It usually only takes a few hours for an account to be verified but it is a good idea to have your account set up well in advance of needing to make your transfer so that when the time comes for you to want to transfer your funds you can do it quickly.

2. Book your trade

When you’re ready to make a trade (transfer money) you will login to your account.

Select your currency, how much and who you want to pay and then you’ll be given a quote price for the transfer.

If you are happy with the quote price, you’ll then need to transfer money into your IMT account if you haven’t already done so.  

3. Transfer funds

As soon as the funds have been received, the IMT provider will send your money electronically to your beneficiary. The time it takes for the funds to appear in the beneficiary's account will depend on the currency but it is usually between 1-3 business days for common currencies like GBP, EUROs and USD.

Head on over to our international money transfer page to compare today’s exchange rates and providers.