Are international bank transfers safe in Australia?

Roberto Efflandrin

When you are sending money internationally, you should always make it a priority to check that your money is kept safe and secure. Fortunately for customers of banks and other money transfer providers in Australia, there are a range of legal safeguards that protect your money when you are transferring abroad.

However, issues can still arise, so we’ve put together this guide on everything there is to know about the safety of international bank transfers in Australia.

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Are International transfers safe in Australia?

Yes, international transfers are very safe in Australia. Australian banking customers have many protections in the form of federal laws and enforceable safeguards provided by the banking code of practice.¹

When it comes to international transfers, Australian banks utilise SWIFT – Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication’s network. SWIFT is the world's leading provider of secure financial messaging services.²

Many of the issues that do have an impact on the security and completion of a transfer is from human errors. This can include incorrect or missing details, miscommunications between sender and beneficiary.

Who regulates the banks and international money transfer companies in Australia

Australia has some of the strictest laws in the world for banks and money transfer companies that offer international money transfer services. The authorities that regulate these entities include:

  • Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)
  • Australian Investment and Securities Commission (ASIC)
  • The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA)
  • The Australian Treasury

To be able to legally operate and offer foreign money transfer services in Australian, a provider must³:

  • Hold a valid Australian Financial Services License (AFSL)
  • Holds registration and reports to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)

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How are transfers kept safe?

On top of these regulatory safeguards, there are several security features that are implemented to keep transfers as secure as they can be. Technical safeguards can include:

  • SSL Encryption
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA)
  • Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant
  • Verified by Visa protocol
  • Mastercard Secure Code
  • Fraud monitoring and detection
  • A safeguarding account

The level of protection on transfers can vary depending on the type of transfer method used. For example, bank to bank transfers benefit from security guarantees joint collaboration of security measures taken by the banks themselves and the SWIFT corporation.

For example the SWIFT Customer Security Programme (CSP) which helps make sure all member banks network security defences are up to date and effective to protect the global network.⁵

Read more: Wise vs International bank transfers: Which one is better?

What to watch out for when making international transfers

When making international transfers, there are a few things to watch out for to save yourself from any surprises. You should:

  1. Check out the regulatory and security guarantees that a provider offers
  2. Prepare all the required details you need for an international transfer
  3. Double check you have inserted the correct details of your beneficiary if you are setting up the transfer yourself
  4. Make yourself aware of all potential fees that may be incurred to set up, send, trace, recall or cancel a transfer

It is always best to check out what to expect before making an international transfer.

What to do if your international transfer has not arrived?

If you or your recipient has noticed that a transfer is taking longer than expected, here is what you can do.

  1. Reach out to your recipient or sender to confirm the status of the transfer
  2. Check over the details you used to set up your transfer
  3. Reach out to the sending bank or provider to track your transfer. For SWIFT, an MT103 document from the sender bank could help the recipient bank check the incoming payment.

How do banks help in these cases?

Almost all Australian banks, including the big 4 banks may be able to help you trace, recall, amend or cancel your international transfer after it has been sent. However, you may need to pay additional fees to use these services.

For example, requesting to amend or trace a transfer with Commbank incurs fees of $25AUD plus any overseas fees for either service.⁶

With NAB, if you need to cancel a transfer, a fee of $20AUD plus any overseas bank fees will be charged.⁷

What usually causes delays with international transfers.

Sometimes international transfers can be delayed for reasons outside of you or your bank's control. Reasons include:

  • Public holidays in the sending or receiving country
  • Sending a transfer to an exotic country
  • Missing a transfer processing cut off times
  • Technical issues such as system outages

Each money transfer company will have a range of estimated transfer times.

How to keep safe from scams.

Scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Here are a few pointers that can help you avoid being scammed in the future with a money transfer.

  1. Only transfer money to those you know and trust.
  2. Scammers like to impersonate businesses, banks and individuals. If you receive any sort of correspondence that seems out of the ordinary requesting you to make a money transfer urgently, make sure you take the time to confirm the correspondence is legitimate. This could be by reaching out to the person, your bank or the business directly.
  3. Never disclose any of your passwords to anyone or insert your passwords into websites you are not familiar with
  4. Don’t use money transfers to make purchases or be coaxed into sending an immediate payment without checking the terms, security guarantees of a business first.

When making international money transfers, do your own research, ask questions and trust your instinct if something seems too good to be true or feels a bit off.

Send money safely with Wise

It is important to choose a money transfer provider that is transparent in providing information on how your money is protected when making international transfers. With Wise, this is exactly what you’ll get.

Safety is super important at Wise and it’s regulated wherever it operates. In Australia, it is regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL number 513764). On top of this, Wise has dedicated compliance teams and systems working around the clock to keep our customers’ money safe.

Most of Wise’s transfers don’t even cross a border. Wise receives the money directly in the sender's country, and then pays out the money from an account in the recipient’s country – bypassing the SWIFT network and saving you loads on fees.

Transfer fees at Wise are shown upfront and kept as low as possible, with conversion also calculated using the mid-market rate. Check out how much you can save with Wise on your next international transfer with the calculator below.

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Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

  1. Banking Association code of practice
  2. SWIFT transfers
  3. ASIC foreign exchange service
  4. AUSTRAC money transfer reports
  6. CommBank trace and amend fees
  7. NAB cancel fees

Sources checked on: 29th November 2022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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