How coronavirus is changing the way we transfer money overseas

Posted: 27 March 2020 6:11 pm

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Retail outlets are shuttering but online transfer volumes rise.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic effect on how Australians are sending money to friends and family overseas.

The Aussie stock market is in turmoil. The Australian dollar is tanking too, dropping as low as US$0.57 this month.

Brick-and-mortar money exchanges have taken a whack as social distance is enforced. However, the industry is reacting with digital innovations.

Increasingly, money transfers are shifting to online and app-based transfers.

Today, Western Union announced the soft launch of a new 'Digital Location' service in a handful of European markets. Western Union 'Digital Locations' will allow users to communicate in multiple languages with a representative, via voice or video, so they can send money from their own homes.

That hasn't launched in Australia yet, but WU is suggesting use its website and mobile app instead. Further expansion of the platform is planned.

"As more countries implement COVID-19 lockdowns, shelter-in-place, or restricted movement guidelines and some Western Union Agent locations are directed to close temporarily by local authorities, Western Union is urging customers to use our global online services to send, monitor and payout their money transfers," a statement from the company said.

Another player in the online banking space, MoneyGram, announced last week that now more than 80% of the company's digital bank transfers are conducted on mobile devices, which shows the public's desire even when shops are closed.

Exchange rate volatility

We haven't seen this level of currency volatility in decades. One day the Aussie dollar is at the lowest it has been in decades, and the next it's catching a small rebound.

This month the Australian dollar was only worth US$0.57 -- the lowest it's been since 2003.

Keep on top of where your money stands in the ever-changing marketplace before sending money during the coronavirus by checking current exchange rates.

So what should you do?

If you need to transfer money, online is clearly the preferred option. As public gatherings are pared down and we move to a critical-services-only economy, the more services you can translate to the digital space the better.

That doesn't mean you should just jump on the first provider you find. Check associated fees, commissions and exchange rates. When it comes time to send money overseas, you're likely going to find a better deal with an online international money transfer service anyway.

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