How to transfer money to an international bank account

5 minutes
How to transfer money to an international bank account
In this article

If your company operates internationally, making an international bank transfer is a quintessential part of business operations. However, with multiple options to do this, it’s not easy to understand what’s best for your business and get transparency on the fees involved, speed and features.

This is especially valid for Australian businesses. The World Bank found that the cost of sending money overseas from Australia is about 11% higher than the G20 average. This additional 11% in cost can easily eat into profit margins and can quickly affect your business’s bottom line.

We’ll walk you through the steps that your business has to take to make a fast, cost-effective and on-time international wire transfer.

What are wire transfers? 

Historically, wire transfers refer to communications made via telegraph wires. 

To transfer funds in the past, you had to visit a telegraph office to start the payment process. Then, the telegraph office would dispatch a coded communication to a nearby office. This communication authorised the release of the funds to the recipient. 

Simply put, wire transfers are electronic funds transfers. Generally, wire transfers move money from bank to bank through networks like Fedwire Funds Service and Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). 

Efficient ways to transfer money to a foreign bank account

Domestic business accounts

Most regional business bank accounts are capable of making international payments. These international wire transfers use the global SWIFT payment network, which was created in the 1970s and has grown to include 10,000 financial institutions since its inception. There is usually a minimum transfer fee of AUD10, and the payment can take from two to five days, depending on your destination country.

In addition to this transfer fee, you will need to convert your local funds into the desired currency before sending. Contrary to popular belief, the rate that you see on Google is not the same exchange rate that domestic banks usually charge. They often charge an additional 3–5% above the interbank exchange rate, which is not always transparent when you’re booking a payment. 

It’s important to understand how these fees are charged because they will affect the final amount that the recipient receives on their end.

P2P remittance services

Peer-to-peer (P2P) remittance has been popularised by providers like Western Union, given their significantly lower exchange rates compared to domestic banks. P2P providers make this possible by matching buyers and sellers of foreign currency to effectively transfer funds.

Because P2P providers rely on having matched funds in your chosen country and currency pair, the P2P market can influence your transfers. This can result in a different exchange rate or delays in your transfer.

Today, P2P payment apps like Paypal, Venmo and CashApp make transferring money internationally simple and doable without a traditional bank account. 

Are international bank transfers safe?

In theory, the transference of bank-protected funds is a safe payment method. Transferring money by way of a bank transfer is a safer alternative than sending cash or a check by post. 

However, as with anything virtual, people should be prepared for the possibility of disruption from hackers. The level of security for international transactions has improved over the years in direct response to the scamming community.

Why you should choose an alternative international payment provider

With Airwallex, we are transforming the way businesses move money globally by giving you:

  • Foreign exchange rates up to 90% better than major banks*, with no minimum amounts

  • Access to our global network of bank partners so your transfers arrive fast and in-full

  • Support on all your international payment needs from your dedicated account manager

  • Complete self-service with our digital platform, no paperwork or phone calls needed

Transfer money to a foreign bank account in a few simple steps

Your business can transfer money to a foreign currency account with Airwallex to over 130 countries and in 18 currencies. Here’s how it works:

  1. Create an Airwallex account and verify your business, with no branch visits needed

  2. Transfer money into your Airwallex wallet to fund your transfer

  3. Enter in your recipient’s banking details and create them as a contact

  4. Check the real-time FX rate and fees to know precisely how much money it will cost

  5. Confirm your transfer and track its progress on your desktop or mobile 

This process usually takes anywhere from 1-5 business days, depending upon your destination and the currency pair.

Are you looking for a fast, secure and cost-effective way to pay your suppliers? Learn more with our Ultimate Guide to Paying Oveseas Suppliers.

Information needed for an international money transfer 

Sending money internationally can be confusing due to so many different names for all of the banking codes used throughout the world. That’s why we’ve made it simple with ‘Contacts’. Simply choose the country you are paying to and we guide you through exactly what information you need to provide so your transfer goes smoothly. Your recipient details are saved as a contact so all future transfers can happen in a few clicks. 

In a nutshell, the details you need to collect of your recipient are:

  • Recipient details: Name, address, email

  • Recipient bank details: Routing number, bank name, account number & BSB for Australian recipients

  • Additional transfer information: Examples include proof of payment or order information for transfers when making transfers to China

Whether you need to submit SWIFT and IBAN codes or NCC and BSC numbers, you can find information specific to your country in our Payout Guide. Our Australian support team can also walk you through it all and address your questions.

Streamline and secure your international transfers

When you need to make recurring international transfers, Airwallex is built-in with powerful features to help your business manage this seamlessly.

Use batch payments to send money to multiple receipts, each with a specified amount. This saves hours from creating multiple, individual payments for each contact. Batch payments are especially useful for large, recurring international transfers such as paying your overseas staff.

Free up your time from making frequent international transfers by giving your accountant or team access with the right permissions. You can stay in control and secure your funds by having one team member draft the transfer, and another to approve it.

Eliminate manual reconciliation of international transfers for your bookkeeping by integrating Airwallex directly to Xero. Sync your multi-currency transfers to Xero for visibility of your global cash flow in a single place.

Receive transfers from a foreign bank account

On the flip side, receiving international transfers from an overseas customer, wholesaler or supplier can also be slow and expensive. With Airwallex’s Global Accounts, you can set up local bank details for the US, UK, EU and HK in minutes. Share these local bank details with your sender to receive international transfers faster, with no transfer fees when transfers are effectively domestic transfers.

For example, your customer based in the United States can make an international transfer to you with their local bank, in their local USD currency. The transfer can use the local Automated Clear House (ACH) method with $0 transfer fees, and funds arriving as fast as 1 business day. Book a demo with an Airwallex product specialist to find out how Global Accounts can help your business scale internationally.

Click here to learn how to set up a business bank account in Australia.


*The above estimations are calculated based on published rates for the Big Four banks and what is included in their PDS documents. You can find more information on how we calculated our savings here. Our products and services in Australia are provided by Airwallex Pty Ltd ABN 37 609 653 312 who holds AFSL 487221. Any information provided is for general information purposes only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the appropriateness of the information in light of your own objectives, financial situation or needs. Please read and consider the Product Disclosure Statement available on our website before using our service. The actual fee charged by the Big Four Banks on international card transactions may vary depending on your card. Airwallex does not charge transaction fees on card payments; however, other fees and charges may apply, please see our terms and conditions for more information.

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