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If you’re looking for a convenient, fast and cheap way to send and receive international payments, it’s worth doing some research to find the right service for your needs. WorldFirst offer a few different options, for individual clients, SMEs and business owners, and online sellers. You can send and receive money to a range of destinations depending on your needs.
This guide covers everything you need to know about how WorldFirst works, including the account types, exchange rates and more. You can also compare the services available from WorldFirst with an alternative - fast and cheap cross border payments with Wise - to see which fits your needs best.
WorldFirst have been operating since 2004, offering international money transfers for personal and business customers. As well as cross border payments for individuals and SMEs, they offer a specific currency account product aimed at online sellers. This lets ecommerce business owners and people selling on international marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy hold their money in 8 different currencies, and send it back to Australia as and when they want to¹.
There are different products and fee structures available depending on what services you’re interested in - more on that in a moment.
WorldFirst services are split according to the client type. You’ll need to register as a customer, and model the payment you want to make, to get an exchange rate quote. This will allow you to see the price you’ll pay for your cross border transfer or currency exchange.
It’s good to know that the exchange rate you get will depend on the details of the transaction you’re making. This rate will be lower than the exchange rate given in the currency converter on the WorldFirst website, reflecting the markup added as a fee for the service. All you need to know about that, in the next section.
Here’s a rundown of the services available from WorldFirst by client type.
WorldFirst offers international payment services to individual private clients. You can send money to a broad range of countries and currencies, with no upfront fee.² However, it’s important to know what exchange rate will be used for your transfer, to make sure you understand the real cost of your transaction. We’ll cover this in more detail below.
It’s also helpful to know that many banks and international payment companies process cross border transactions using the SWIFT network. The SWIFT network is a way of getting money from one country to another, which can involve several banks working together on a single transfer. This can take a few days, and can also result in unexpected fees, as up to 3 banks may handle any single payment - and each can charge for their services if they choose to.
Check whether your payment will be processed using SWIFT, to avoid any surprises - or choose a provider which doesn’t use this payment method, like Wise. More on how to make low cost international payments with Wise later.
WorldFirst also provide business payment services for SMEs and corporate clients. They do not charge an upfront fee for this service, but warn that some intermediary banks may take a fee for processing the transfer.² These charges are usually related to the SWIFT network - and it’s not always possible to know in advance how much extra you’ll pay.
If you’re using WorldFirst for a business payment you’ll also want to check the exchange rates available, compared to the market rates offered by other providers. It’s common for banks and payment services to charge an exchange rate markup or margin for their service, instead of a transparent upfront fee. You can see this margin by comparing the WorldFirst business exchange rates with the mid-market rate you’ll find on google, so you know exactly what the transaction is costing.
Online sellers can get a WorldFirst account to hold their money online in up to 8 different major currencies. That means you can accept payment online in euros, pounds or yen, for example, and either hold the foreign currency, or convert it back to dollars and withdraw it to your local account. There’s no charge to withdraw money to your regular Australian bank account, but you may pay to convert your foreign currency to dollars, either in an upfront charge or through an exchange rate markup.³ Make sure you understand the terms and conditions in advance if this is a service you’re interested in.
When you visit the WorldFirst website to arrange your international transfer, you’ll be able to access a currency converter to check the latest exchange rates. However it’s really important to realise that the rate you get from the converter isn’t the rate you’ll be able to access when placing your transfer. Here’s how WorldFirst explain it:
“The rates on the converter are the "interbank" rates. These are the true market rates - the rates at which banks deal with each other in amounts over £5million. Private individuals and small to medium size business cannot access these rates. So the rate you get quoted when you make a transfer will be slightly lower.”⁴
What this means is that WorldFirst take the interbank rate - which is also called the mid-market exchange rate - and add a margin or markup to calculate the rate they pass on to their customers.⁴ This is common practice, but can mean that your currency exchange costs you more than you’re expecting.
Not all international payment services work in this way. Some - like Wise prefer to use the mid-market exchange rate for their international payments, and charge a transparent fee for the service. This makes it easier to see exactly what you’re paying for your remittance or cross border payment - and can also work out cheaper, too.
If you need to send or receive payments frequently - or if you’re an online seller looking to maximise your profits and make life easier - the Wise borderless account could be a great tool for you. You can receive payments in over 40 different currencies, allowing you to reach even more customers, and switch foreign currencies back to dollars using the mid-market exchange rate when you choose to. There’s just a small transparent fee to pay, for each fast and secure transaction you make.
When you’re working out the price of an international transfer with WorldFirst, you’ll need to take into account the following costs:
- Exchange rate margin
- Potential SWIFT network charges
You’ll be able to see the exchange rate margin simply by comparing the rate quote you get from WorldFirst with the mid-market rate you can find online. However, you may not be able to see any SWIFT charges in advance, because these are levied by third party banks involved in transferring the payment. WorldFirst say they cover these charges where they can but this won’t always be possible.
Compare the price of an international payment through WorldFirst, with Wise, to see if you can save. All payments are made using the mid-market exchange rate, with a transparent fee so it’s easy to see the price you’ll pay.
If you’re an online seller, or make and receive international transfers frequently, you might save even more time and money with a Wise borderless account. This account can hold any of over 40 currencies, and you’ll be able to receive international payments using your own local bank details for major currencies like US dollars, euros and pounds. You can then spend your foreign currency online or while you’re travelling, or switch it back to dollars with the mid-market exchange rate and withdraw it to your regular bank account when you need to.
Before you decide which transfer service is best for your international or ecommerce payments, it’s a smart idea to do some research. Make sure you compare all of the potential costs of any service you’re interested in, as it’s not always easy to see the true price you’ll pay. Look at the upfront fee, exchange rate markup, and any SWIFT costs, to get a real picture of the costs involved, and make sure you’ve got the right provider for your needs.
All sources accurate as of 12 April 2019
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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