Australians waste $3.1 billion annually on fake exchange rates

Posted: 23 August 2017 5:00 am
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The banks are being called out for ripping consumers off via dodgy currency exchange rate mark-ups.

New research by TransferWise released today revealed poor exchange rates and pricey overseas card charges are costing Australians a whopping $3.1 billion a year. The international money transfer provider is calling on the banks to stop misleading consumers by adding such extreme mark-ups on the real exchange rate.

The real exchange rate, often referred to as the mid-market rate or the interbank rate, is the true currency exchange rate and is the rate used when banks buy and sell currency among each other. When banks and money transfer providers sell foreign currency to consumers, they hike up the exchange rate to make a profit on each transfer.

This mark-up varies greatly between providers. TransferWise offers consumers the real exchange rate and makes money via the transfer fee, while banks are notorious for offering poor rates in addition to hefty fees. The Big Four, particularly Westpac and Commonwealth Bank, are among the worst offenders.

As it's not often clear how much banks are marking up the real exchange rate, consumers often underestimate how much an international transfer through their bank will cost them. In fact, the research by TransferWise found that consumers transferring money internationally through their bank underestimate the real cost by 11 times.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of consumers don't understand the fees banks charge for sending money internationally, and 72% think banks make it hard to see how much they charge. Over the last five years, Australians have spent over $14.7 billion in fees on foreign currency transactions alone, not even including the exchange rate mark-ups.

It's not just consumers copping these costs, Australian businesses are losing out too. Small and medium businesses lost $146 million on exchange rate mark-ups when exporting goods and services overseas in 2016.

In light of the research, TransferWise co-founder and chairman Taavet Hinrikus is calling on the banks to give consumers the real exchange rate.

“Most banks tell their customers that they only pay a small upfront fee for international payments. But in reality customers pay much more. Huge hidden charges are taken in the form of the terrible exchange rates, often without the customer realising," said Hinrikus.

“These practices aren’t transparent and hide important decision-making information from customers. It’s time to take a stand. Aussies deserve a fair go and should get the real exchange rate when we make an international money transfer. Banks should end their deceptive practices and the Australian Government should make sure they don’t continue to rip off customers.”

If you need to send money overseas, take a look at our guide and compare international money transfer providers to avoid being slugged with poor exchange rates and hefty fees.

Check out some of your options below

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
GBP 0 1 - 2 days AUD 1.99 0.758 USD
7,574
Azimo sends money directly to a bank account or over 280,000 cash pick-up points. It also has fast transfers to 50+ countries. Go to site Show details
AUD 2,000 1 day AUD 0.00 0.76 USD
7,599
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Go to site Show details
AUD 2,000 1 day AUD 0.00 0.76 USD
7,599
Send guarantees to match any competitor’s exchange rate. T&Cs apply.
Fee-free transfers in 30+ currencies to over 200 countries.
Go to site Show details
AUD 2,000 1 day AUD 0.00 0.76 USD
7,599
Better exchange rates for Finder customers.
WorldFirst sends 60+ currencies at competitive rates with no fees. If you find a better eligible quote, WorldFirst will beat it.
Go to site Show details
AUD 250 1 - 2 days AUD 0.00 0.76 USD
7,599
$0 transfer fees for Finder customers.
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 1 day AUD 52.00 0.759 USD
7,552
Pay no fees on your first two transfers, up to $3,000.
SingX offers the real exchange rate every time you make a transfer and can help you send money across the world.
Go to site Show details
AUD 10 Within an hour AUD 2.99 0.755 USD
7,543
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 Same day AUD 0.00 0.759 USD
7,591
XE has fast transfers with no fees and a range of foreign currency tools. Go to site Show details
AUD 200 1 - 2 days AUD 50.00 0.762 USD
7,581
Exclusive: Use code FINDER10 to receive US$10 off your first transaction.
InstaReM offers simple transfers with a flat 0.5% transfer fee for most transfers. Zero-margin rates on some currencies.
Go to site Show details
AUD 5 1 - 2 days EUR 3.00 0.755 USD
7,551
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 Same day AUD 3.99 0.754 USD
7,535
Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 1 - 2 days AUD 45.00 0.763 USD
7,595
TransferWise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

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