Overseas remittance guide: An overview of transfer fees and processing time, and choosing the right remittance service

Kirstie Lau10 min
Business tipsGuides
Overseas remittance guide: An overview of transfer fees and processing time, and choosing the right remittance service
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Efficiency and reliability of overseas remittances are paramount for the success or failure of wholesale businesses. Given the global reach of wholesale operations, each transaction involves dealing with multiple currencies. Traditional banks often take longer to process international transfers, with funds sometimes taking up to 5 business days to reach their destination. This delay not only undermines trust with clients and suppliers but also burdens wholesalers with high remittance fees, overseas transaction fees, foreign currency exchange fees, and more. These additional costs can significantly diminish their profits.

Evaluating the international transfer needs for your wholesale business

To choose the most suitable overseas remittance service, you should first evaluate your specific remittance needs. Begin by understanding the following four key points:

  • Transaction amount: some banks charge a percentage based on your transaction amount. If your transaction usually involves a large amount, you should find a service provider that charges a flat fee.

  • Transaction frequency: traditional banks generally take 1-5 working days to process an overseas remittance. If your transaction frequency is high, you may face an unwanted problem where your supplier refuses to arrange shipping before the previous transaction is settled.

  • Currency: clarify the currencies involved in your transactions and their ratios. Most banks only support major currencies such as USD and RMB, and charge additional fees for other currencies, further increasing your operational costs.

  • Destination of the receiving bank: the location of your suppliers or customers. Traditional banks use the SWIFT network to process overseas remittances. In some cases, due to local rules and regulations, the remittance request may be rejected, severely affecting the integrity and operation of the wholesaler. 

How to choose an international transfer service that best suits your wholesale business?

1. Cost efficiency - foreign transaction fees and hidden charges

Although traditional banks recently started offering free international transfer services, these services are limited to a certain number of major currencies and designated countries or regions, often also requiring the payee to hold an account with the same bank. In the end, wholesalers may still need to make overseas transfers through wire remittance. 

In general, if you request wire transfers or draft transfers from traditional banks, you will incur a charge per transaction. This means that regardless of the amount you transfer, the service fee remains constant. Worth noting, that this service fee does not include intermediary bank fees and receiving bank fees. Additionally, there are hidden surcharges for large transactions and wire language conversion. If you want to ensure that your payee receives a specific amount, you must add these service fees and other surcharges to the transfer amount to cover the costs of your bank, intermediary banks, and the receiving bank.

On top of a basic fee of HK$50 to $200, additional fees may be applied by agent banks, receiving banks, or settlement institutions, ranging from approximately HK$100 to $300. Some banks may even impose fees for services such as inquiries, cancellation, or adding remarks to the transfer instruction, costing around HK$100 to $200.

On the contrary, Airwallex’s international transfer service charges a $0 transaction fee, with no minimum transfer requirement. You can avoid all the above bank fees, while enjoying the same level of reliable service.

2. Speed of transaction - time required to complete an international transfer 

The time required to process wire transfers differs - it depends on the transfer network of the bank, the time of remittance request, the location of the receiving bank, and more. When making overseas remittances, pay attention to the transfer cut-off time of online banking. While some banks offer instant peer-to-peer transfers, in general, banks take 1-5 working days to process wire transfers. 

3. Exchange rate and exchange rate fluctuations

When conducting wire transfers through banks, the exchange rate is usually 4-5% higher than the interbank rates (the rate you find through a Google search). For businesses that require daily transfers in different currencies, the costs can add up significantly when those currency exchange rates are volatile.

With Airwallex, businesses can enjoy the advantage of real-time exchange rates to save on remittance cost. Commercial clients pay fees as low as 0.2% above the interbank exchange rates, with no minimum transaction amount.

4. Limitation of overseas remittances - transfer limit 

You may have already experienced the inconvenience of transfer limits. To ensure the safety of their customers, traditional banks set upper limits for online transfers and remittances. The limit is usually lower for cross-bank transfers, which severely impacts business operations. For wholesalers who need to frequently conduct cross-border transfers or overseas remittances, we recommend that you register the payee account with your bank in advance to increase the limit.  

In addition, the transfer limit varies from currency to currency. Take RMB as an example, Hong Kong residents can only transfer up to RMB$80,000 per person per day. The funds can only be transferred to a personal account with the same name. 

5. Security and reliability 

While traditional banks may appear to offer the most secure and reliable international transfer service, professional money transfer providers also provide an equally reliable level of service. In fact, these providers handle an annual remittance amount comparable to that of conventional banks.

We highly recommend that you thoroughly check the security measures of the money transfer institutions to ensure the safety of your funds and transactions. Make sure they have encryption systems, anti-fraud mechanisms, and compliance practices in place. 

Airwallex has beenauthorised by regulatory bodies in major countries, including The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the United Kingdom, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) in Australia, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Airwallex is also regulated by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, securely helping customers send money across the globe.

Once you understand the pros and cons of different remittance service providers, compare them with your actual business needs to come up with a priority.

For instance, vegetable and seafood wholesalers should give priority to providers with low service fees, due to their frequent purchases and relatively small transaction amount; wholesalers of electronic gadgets or large machinery should consider the safety and reliability of the provider first, given the large sum of money involved and the relatively low transaction frequency. 

Tailored for wholesale businesses: international transfer service by Airwallex

Airwallex’s international transfer service supports payout in 46+ currencies across 150 countries and regions. Transfer requests can be processed as quickly as one business day, helping wholesalers to boost their reputation, and build a stronger relationship with suppliers.

Airwallex charges a $0 monthly fee and zero hidden surcharges. When you transfer money internationally, and if it involves foreign currencies, we will only charge a small markup above the interbank exchange rate (the rate you can find on Google) as our service fee.

Compared with the high exchange rate and multi-layered charges by traditional banks, Airwallex’s market-beating rates and low transaction fees allow wholesalers to conduct international transactions in the most cost-efficient way possible - an easy way to retain maximum profits. 

The most important of all is security. To warrant the safety of your transaction, personal information, and your funds, Airwallex has adopted advanced financial technology with comprehensive security measures in place, strengthened by extra protections such as multiple layers of authentication on data and two-factor authentication on your account. You can rest assured that except for yourself, no one can access the funds in your account. In addition, Airwallex is a licensed Money Service Operator (MSO License No. 16-09-01929) regulated by Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department. We also work with over 60 bank partners across the globe to safeguard smooth, fast, and secure transactions. 

As financial technology advances, industry regulations and compliance rules keep evolving, Airwallex continues to keep abreast of the latest developments in the industry and ensure the compliance and security of our offerings. We also work tirelessly to perfect our products and services, striving to break boundaries and create a more cost-efficient business environment for you.

Open a global multi-currency account for free in Hong Kong

International transfer processing time: a comparison between Airwallex and traditional banks 

It usually takes traditional banks 1-5 working days to process a wire transfer. The actual processing time will depend on the location of the receiving bank. If the remitting and receiving banks are the same, instant transfer is possible.

On the other hand, as Airwallex processes international transfers through our network of local banks, it usually takes 1 working day for the amount to be reflected in the account.

Expand your international business in the digital age with Airwallex

When choosing international money transfer providers, bear in mind 4 critical factors: cost efficiency, transaction speed, overseas transfer limit, and security. 

The best international transfer service should help you save time, reduce costs, and improve operational efficiency, allowing you to focus on business development, instead of wasting time tracking remittance progress and mending trust with your clients and suppliers.

Sign up for Airwallex’s international transfer service today, and enjoy the competitive advantages brought by cutting-edge financial technology: expedite international transfer, multi-currency payment, and market-beating exchange rates. Break through the limitations of traditional banks, and usher in a new era of growth for your business. 

FAQs on international money transfer

What information do I need to provide to initiate an overseas remittance? 

To request overseas remittance through traditional banks, you will need to provide basic information such as remitting bank account number, transfer currency, transfer amount, and receiving bank account number. You will also need to fill out the “Outward Transfer Beneficiary Details Registration Application Form” to register the overseas payee at a branch or mail it back to the bank. If you decide to go to the branch yourself to initiate the remittance, you will still have to fill out the remittance application form and verify it with your signature. 

If you decide to make international transfers through Airwallex to streamline your operation, you only need to provide the payee’s bank details and account number, transfer currency, and transfer amount to start.

How much does it cost to transfer money internationally through Airwallex?

Airwallex charges zero transaction fees, and a small markup as low as 0.2% above the interbank exchange rate when you conduct international transfers in foreign currencies. We do not have any hidden surcharges either. 

How long does an overseas transfer usually take?

It usually takes traditional banks or wire transfer providers 1-5 working days to process a wire transfer as they use the SWIFT network. The actual processing time will depend on the remittance route and the location of the receiving bank.

As for Airwallex, it usually as fast as one business day to complete an international transfer.

Interested to know how Airwallex helps wholesalers reduce the costs of international transfer? Find out more here, or watch our demo to learn more. 

Open a global multi-currency account for free in Hong Kong

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Kirstie Lau
Senior Associate, Growth Marketing

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