Using Bitcoin for international money transfers

Bitcoin could one day offer a simple, safe and affordable way to send money across international borders.

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In September 2015, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac alongside Barclays, Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan participated in the international R3 project with a financial innovation company, Ripple Labs. The R3 project is focused on creating a distributed ledger technology that works much in the same way as the ‘blockchain’ structure on which all Bitcoin transactions are based. The aim of the project was to help the banks transfer funds to one another at a lower cost.

In the same month, the big four banks also suddenly withdrew banking services from several Australian Bitcoin companies. Although this move was linked to tighten anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing rules, it also prompted speculation that the banks were trying to gain the upper hand on it’s potential future rivals.

Coupled with the findings of a senate inquiry earlier in 2015 that found that Bitcoin should be treated as a regular currency, these signs point to Bitcoin being an important player in financial transactions of the future.

But what sort of impact will Bitcoin have on global finance and will it one day represent a safe and effective international transfer option? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that was established in 2008. Commonly referred to as the currency of the Internet, it is based on a peer-to-peer network that allows users to pay others using a digital unit of exchange called Bitcoins. These Bitcoins are stored in the user’s digital wallet.

This alternative payment system removes the need for a centralised authority and instead uses a public ledger known as the ‘blockchain’. This contains all processed Bitcoin transactions and allows new transactions to be verified and a user’s wallet to calculate its spendable balance.

Just like any other currency, the value of Bitcoin is determined by supply and demand, and in its early years it has been known to fluctuate wildly in value. At the time of writing, 1 Bitcoin was worth $553 Australian Dollars. But if you wind back the clock just a little, after hovering around the $140-$150 AUD mark in September and October of 2013, by December the value of 1 Bitcoin had climbed above $1,362.

If you want more information on how and where you can buy Bitcoins, our handy guide has all the details you need.

The impact of Bitcoin

In the early years of its existence, Bitcoin came in for criticism from several quarters due to a range of factors. In some cases, it has received bad press for making it possible for people to anonymously purchase illegal goods online. Its volatility, as demonstrated above, has also been criticised, while others have pointed to the lack of regulation of Bitcoin as grounds for concern. It could lead to money laundering and even the financing of terrorism.

Every new technology is bound to attract its share of criticism. Despite its detractors, Bitcoin does have many potential benefits for a range of people. It has been lauded by international migrants from companies such as the Philippines and India because it offers an affordable way to send money home to their families while working overseas.

Bitcoin’s benefits include low transfer fees, protection against identity theft and the control they allow users to have over their own money. The Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association (ADCCA) estimates that around 7 per cent of the world’s $5 billion worth of bitcoin is in circulation in Australia.

Could bitcoin soon offer a safer and more effective way to transfer money around the world?

The involvement of Commonwealth Bank and Westpac in the R3 project shows that the banks are aware that Bitcoin offers plenty of potential benefits for digital commerce. “The development of the blockchain will certainly have a very interesting and potentially disruptive impact on financial services,” Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer said at the time.

There are also hundreds of other open-source blockchain experiments underway around the world, as financial institutions search for ways to streamline and simplify payments infrastructure. With lower fees on overseas transfers, fast processing of transactions and the ability to cut out the middle man, Bitcoin represents an exciting opportunity for international money transfers.

However, any transition to Bitcoin payments among banks and other established financial institutions is likely to be a slow one. Not only is much of the technology still in development, but regulators in Australia and around the world are still catching up with the many implications of digital currencies. As research such as the R3 project continues around the world, finding a way to transform the international money transfer market is going to take some time - but the interest shown by large global banks indicates the possibilities.

In the meantime, the way we send money overseas will remain the same. While there is the option of sending a telegraphic transfer via your bank, specialist online money transfer companies still offer a cost-effective solution. It offers better exchange rates and charge minimal transaction fees compared to the banks, so it's definitely worth considering when you need to send money abroad.

Compare international money transfer today

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
GBP 0 1 - 2 days AUD 0.00 0.699 USD
6,986
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 0.701 USD
7,010
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 1 Within an hour AUD 0.00 0.7 USD
7,005
New customers get their first transaction for free with code FIRSTFREE. T&Cs apply.
Send money in minutes at competitive exchange rates with this Australian money transfer service.
Go to site Show details
AUD 250 1 - 2 days AUD 0.00 0.701 USD
7,007
$0 transfer fees for Finder customers.
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
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AUD 2,000 1 day AUD 0.00 0.701 USD
7,005
Send guarantees to match any competitor’s exchange rate. T&Cs apply.
Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 Within an hour AUD 0.00 0.7 USD
7,000
XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools. Go to site Show details
AUD 1 Same day AUD 3.99 0.695 USD
6,948
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.
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AUD 1 1 - 2 days AUD 45.00 0.701 USD
6,974
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 50+ currencies. Go to site Show details
AUD 200 1 - 2 days AUD 50.00 0.703 USD
6,992
Exclusive: New customers sending over 500 AUD from Australia use code FINDER50 to get 50 AUD off. Pay zero fees on your first transaction. Valid till 31 December 2021. T&Cs apply.
Instarem offers simple transfers with a flat 0.5% transfer fee for most transfers.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 1 day AUD 52.00 0.7 USD
6,963
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 0.696 USD
6,955
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.
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AUD 5 1 - 2 days EUR 3.00 0.701 USD
7,005
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
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Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

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International Money Transfer Offers

Important Information*
Logo for Azimo International Money Transfers
Azimo International Money Transfers

Azimo sends money directly to a bank account or over 280,000 cash pick-up points. It also has fast transfers to 50+ countries.

Logo for TorFX International Money Transfers
TorFX International Money Transfers

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.

Logo for MasterRemit International Money Transfers
MasterRemit International Money Transfers

New customers get their first transaction for free with code FIRSTFREE. T&Cs apply.
Send money in minutes at competitive exchange rates with this Australian money transfer service.

Logo for OFX (Ozforex) International Money Transfers
OFX (Ozforex) International Money Transfers

$0 transfer fees for Finder customers.
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.

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