Sending money internationally has become an essential aspect of our interconnected world, enabling individuals and businesses to effortlessly transcend geographical boundaries and conduct business across borders. On average, around $10 trillion is transferred internationally each year.
Whether you're supporting family members abroad, conducting business with international partners, or engaging in the global marketplace, the process of money transfers abroad can be tricky. From traditional bank wire transfers to innovative online platforms, the landscape of international money transfer offers a multitude of options to suit different needs. In general, consumers look for speed, security, and convenience.
In this guide, we’ll break down the basics of how to send money internationally as well as the best way for businesses to pay employees across borders.
Most banks and credit unions have some function or feature that allows for international bank transfers.
Businesses often send money through an international wire transfer because it offers the safest and quickest option. However, wire transfers usually come with an exchange rate or fee that can vary anywhere from $30-$50, depending on the institution. Wire transfers can also lead to delays. For this reason, wire transfers are not the best or most efficient approach to making international payments, especially if you’re sending multiple payments across borders each week or month.
A remittance refers to a sum of money that is sent or transferred from one individual or entity to another, typically from one bank account to another. They can be sent through various channels such as banks, money transfer services like Western Union, wire transfers, and prepaid bank cards.
Making international money transfers involves several methods and platforms, each with its own set of steps and considerations.
Here are some common ways to send money internationally:
Bank Wire Transfer: This is a traditional method where you can transfer money from your local bank account to an overseas bank account. You'll need to provide the recipient's checking account or savings account details, including their account number and the bank's SWIFT/BIC code.
Online Money Transfer Services: Platforms like PayPal, TransferWise, SWIFT (now known as Wise), Remitly, and WorldRemit allow you to send and receive money abroad. You'll usually need the recipient's email address or mobile number associated with their account.
Mobile Payment Apps: Some mobile payment apps like Venmo and Cash App also offer international money transfer options. These services might have specific requirements and fees for cross-border transfers. These options are best for sending money across borders for friends and family who plan to transfer the money directly into their checking or savings account.
Bank Drafts or International Money Orders: These are paper documents issued by banks that can be sent to the recipient via mail. The recipient can then deposit these instruments at their local bank.
Foreign Exchange (Forex) Brokers: If you're sending large amounts of money, forex brokers can assist you in transferring funds and allowing you to compare exchange rates and other transfer fees.
Although sending money internationally should be a simple process, there are specific steps that everyone should follow:
Select a Method: Choose the most suitable method based on factors like speed (usually transfers can arrive in minutes, hours or days), cost, and convenience.
Gather Recipient Details: Collect the recipient's accurate details, including their full name, bank account details (if applicable), contact information, and location.
Choose Transfer Amount and Currency: Decide how much money you want to send and in which currency. Be aware of exchange rates and potential fees.
Select Transfer Service Provider: If using an online platform, create an account or log in to your existing account. Provide the required information and follow the platform's instructions to initiate the transfer.
Pay for the Transfer: Provide the necessary funds for the transfer. This might involve using your bank account, credit/debit card, or another payment method, depending on the service.
Track the Transfer: Depending on the service, you might be able to track the status of the transfer. Some platforms offer notifications for successful delivery.
Notify the Recipient: Let the recipient know that you've sent the money and provide any necessary transaction details they might need to access the funds.
Sending money internationally can come with a lot of challenges including:
Hidden costs, and bad or foreign fees and exchange rates. Unfortunately, you might not know about fees until payment is delivered.
Delays for bank holidays, weekends, currency conversion, global events, natural disasters, or for fraud detection.
Compliance problems. Businesses can run into a lot of compliance problems because of currency conversion.
Bank fees that the bank adds without notifying you beforehand.
Communication problems related to banks being located abroad or not being able to speak the native language when sending money.
Payment not matching the amount being sent because of miscommunications related to unclear exchange rates.
Deciding how to send money to your employees internationally should come with a lot of consideration. Are you simply paying contractors a one-time payment? Do you need to figure out how to regularly pay full-time employees in Mexico from the United States?
Here, we’ll break down some of the most common methods and tricks for paying international employees.
Using direct bank deposits to the employees' local bank accounts is a secure method. Ensure that you have accurate and up-to-date banking information for each employee. This method minimizes the risk of loss or theft associated with physical payment methods.
To seamlessly deposit money in their accounts, however, you will likely need a bank account in the country, and opening one can be a tedious process.
International wire transfers can be a secure way to transfer funds directly to employees’ banks. However, make sure to use secure channels and reputable banks to guarantee the safety of the transfer. Verify the recipient's bank details at their financial institution carefully before initiating the transfer.
While this account might cost more than a standard direct deposit, you will not need an in-country bank account.
Utilize well-established and reputable online payment platforms like PayPal or similar services. These platforms are some of the best ways to send money overseas because they often offer secure encryption and robust fraud prevention measures. This is a good option for paying contractors, but not full-time employees.
An employer-of-record (EOR) like Via can help pay full-time employees in countries where the employer doesn’t have an entity. EOR’s already have a local bank account in the foreign country the employer needs to pay workers, so they have the ability to pay employees compliantly. With Via, for instance, you don’t have to worry about high FX fees, bad exchange rates, bank fees, or other hidden fees.
Wise (formerly TransferWise) is a good option if you want to transfer money to contractors, or make one-time payments to full-time employees for reimbursements, commissions, or bonuses.
When using online platforms, enable multi-factor authentication for added security. This requires employees to provide additional verification beyond their password, such as a code sent to their mobile device.
When sharing sensitive information related to payroll, such as banking details, ensure that communication channels are encrypted. Use secure email services or encrypted messaging apps.
International payroll involves adhering to various local and international regulations. Ensure you are compliant with tax laws, labor regulations, and any reporting requirements in both your company's country and the employees' countries.
Maintain detailed records of all international payroll transactions. This helps in case of any discrepancies or issues that may arise in the future.
If you're not familiar with international payroll regulations, consider partnering with a global PEO or EOR that specializes in cross-border payments. They can guide you through the complexities of international payroll.
An EOR serves as a valuable solution for businesses seeking to efficiently manage the complexities of paying international employees in countries where they lack a foreign entity.
By partnering with an EOR, companies can delegate the administrative burden of payroll, tax compliance, and legal obligations related to hiring and compensating employees in foreign jurisdictions.
An EOR acts as the official employer for these individuals, handling tasks such as calculating and disbursing salaries, ensuring adherence to local tax regulations, and managing contributions to social security and other benefits. This streamlined approach not only saves time and resources for the hiring company but also minimizes the risks associated with navigating unfamiliar labor laws and cross-border financial intricacies.
Ultimately, utilizing an EOR empowers businesses to focus on their core operations while ensuring accurate and compliant compensation for their international workforce.
Via makes hiring talent around the world and building your global team seamless by helping you onboard workers in as little as 2-3 business days. With our easy-to-use platform, Via helps you manage local HR processes for direct employment such as work visas & permits, employee data privacy compliance, benefits, global payroll, background checks, and more. Our team of local labor lawyers and on-the-ground experts provide 24-hour local support and ensure that your company remains compliant while expanding abroad. As your employer-of-record/entity abroad, Via assumes responsibility for employment liability, so that you can focus on what matters: recruiting and managing your team.