Forward contracts: Definition and frequently asked questions

Forward contracts offer protection against fluctuating exchange rates when you need to send an international money transfer.

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When you need to send money overseas, the exchange rate you receive is a crucial factor in determining the overall cost-effectiveness of your international money transfer. The value of the Australian Dollar relative to other currencies around the world changes all the time and is influenced by a range of factors. This, in turn has an impact on how much of the money you send arrives to your beneficiary.

You can protect yourself against fluctuating exchange rates by placing a forward contract, which allows you to secure the current exchange rate for use in a future international money transfer.

Updated July 22nd, 2019
Name Product Minimum Opening Deposit Minimum Spreads for Major Currencies Commission Minimum Trade Size Platforms
AU$100
0.7 - 3.0 pips
$0
0.01 lots
Plus500 Web Trader
Finder exclusive bonus offer: Open a new trading account and receive a welcome bonus of AU$60 when you deposit your first $200 into the account and enter the bonus code “Special200”. T&C’s apply.
Open an account and experience Plus500's easy-to-use proprietary trading platform, 24/7 online chat support and free real-time forex quotes.
$0
0.5 - 1.22 pips
$0
0.01 lots
MetaTrader 4
At Pro
Advantage Web
Choice of trading platforms, integrated Reuters news and device-synching so you can monitor trades across multiple devices.
$0
0.6 - 1.5 pips
$0
1 lot
MetaTrader 4
ProReal Time
Introductory offer: For the first two weeks of trading, take advantage of IG's lower minimum trade sizes to help you build confidence.
Choice of trading platforms. Choose optional extras like advanced charting, reporting and order types. Over 90 currency pairs to choose from.
AU$3,000
0.6 - 1.1 pips
$0
5,000 units
SaxoTrader
SaxoTraderGO
Competitive spreads, plus integrated news spreads and reports from Saxo's team of in-house analysts.
$200
1.0 pip
$0
$200 (to CopyTrade)
eToro Trading Platform
Social trading, advanced charting tools, plus receive exclusive benefits through the eToro Club (membership is tiered based on the equity in your trading account).
US$200
0.0 - 0.1 pips
AU$3.50 per 100k traded
0.01 lots
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
cTrader
Choose from a range of fee-free funding methods, plus a suite of 10 different apps available as part of Pepperstone's Smarter Trading Tools.
AU$200
0.0 pips - 1.0 pips
$0
0.01 lots
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
WebTrader
Standard STP or raw ECN accounts available. Choose from 15 different trading platforms. A host of bonuses, rebates and promitions on offer to suite any trader.
AU$200
0.1 - 1.1 pips
$0
0.01 lots
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
Low minimum opening deposit, real-time news and pricing, and customisable alerts based on news or technical trading indicators.
$200
From 0.0-0.1 pips
AU$3.50 per 100k traded
0.01 lots
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
cTrader

Compare up to 4 providers

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
AUD 200 1 day AUD 0.00 0.701 USD
7,009
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
Send 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 0.701 USD
7,012
Send 60+ currencies at competitive rates with $0 transfer fees for Finder customers. WorldFirst will beat any eligible quote from another provider. Go to site Show details
AUD 250 1 - 2 days AUD 0.00 0.701 USD
7,013
$0 transfer fees for Finder customers.
No-maximum limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies. No transfer fee over AUD$10,000.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 1 - 2 days AUD 45.00 0.704 USD
7,010
Make online transfers at the mid-market rate with transparent fees in 45+ currencies. Go to site Show details
AUD 250 1 day AUD 0.00 0.701 USD
7,011
Sign up through Finder and get a $50 Myer gift card when you send $10,000 or more. T&Cs apply.
SendFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Fee-free transfers in 30+ currencies to over 200 countries.
Go to site Show details
AUD 200 1 day AUD 0.00 0.7 USD
7,005
Low minimum transfer amount of just AU$200, with no set-up fees or transfer fees. Go to site Show details
AUD 5 1 - 2 days EUR 3.00 0.698 USD
6,976
Special offer: Pay zero fees on your first 5 transfers.
Get bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 Within an hour AUD 3.99 0.696 USD
6,954
An online money transfer service with cash pickup, bank account to bank account and airtime transfers available. Go to site Show details
AUD 3,000 1 day AUD 0.00 0.699 USD
6,992
Global Reach will match any competitor's exchange rates. Conditions apply.
No transfer fee when transferring more than £10,000 or equivalent. Send money in over 130 currencies. No maximum transfer amount.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 1 day AUD 0.00 0.697 USD
6,971
With global payments provider XE, enjoy fast and secure transfers and a range of foreign currency tools and calculators while benefiting from $0 transfer fees. Go to site Show details
AUD 200 1 - 2 days AUD 50.00 0.704 USD
7,002
Exclusive: Finder customers receive $15 off their first transaction. T&Cs apply.
Quick and simple international money transfers with zero-margin exchange rates. There's a flat 0.5% transfer fee for most transfers. Earn loyalty points on sign up, referral and every transaction.
Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers


The "Rate" and "Amount Received" displayed are indicative rates that have been supplied by each brand or gathered by Finder.

Exchange rates are volatile and change often. As a result, the exchange rate listed on Finder may vary to the actual exchange rate quoted for the brand. Please confirm the actual exchange rate and mention "Finder" before you commit to a brand.

Updated July 22nd, 2019
Name Product Monthly fee Standard Brokerage Fee Margin trading - Online IPOs / Floats International
$0
$8.00 or 0.1%
Yes
No
Yes
Low brokerage fees on Australian and international shares.
$0
$6.99 or 0.1%
Yes
No
Yes
Access over 19,000 Australian and global shares.
$0
$15 for first 10 trades
Yes
Yes
No
Enjoy tiered brokerage fees, Bell Potter research and eligible market-to-limit orders placed onto the ASX in under a second. For a limited time, get a custom deal based on your trading preferences when you switch to Bell Direct.
$0
$11 for first 10 trades
Yes
No
Yes
Trade shares, warrants, options, EFTs, managed funds, bonds and IPOs with CMC Markets today.
$0
$9.50
No
No
No
Trade ASX-listed shares for a flat fee of $9.50, regardless of the trade size. New customers receive free access to Community Insights with SelfWealth Premium for the first 90 days. Follow other investors and benchmark your portfolio performance.

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Trading in financial instruments carries various risks, and you can lose more than your capital. This article may contain general advice. You should always seek professional advice when deciding if a product is right for you.

What are forward contracts?

Forward contracts are an international money transfer tool that allow you to reduce your exchange rate risk. When you place a forward contract you can lock in the current exchange rate for an overseas money transfer that will take place at a later date.

Securing a rate in advance allows you to plan ahead and safeguard your finances against any potential future drops in the value of the Australian Dollar. If you expect the value of the currency you are planning on sending to fall, you can consider placing a forward contract and ensure that you get better value for money on your transfer.

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How do forward contracts work?

Forward contracts let you enjoy the benefits of a good exchange rate today on a transaction that will take place up to 12 months into the future. To calculate the rate for your forward contract, a money transfer provider will adjust the spot rate (the current market exchange rate) for what are known as ‘forward points’, which factor in the difference in interest rates between your sending and receiving countries and the length of time until your transfer will actually be completed. A standard formula is used across the industry when calculating forward point.

You will usually be required to pay a deposit to secure your exchange rate but will then be able to enjoy protection against any exchange rate fluctuations that may occur until your transfer is placed.

brian-case-study

For example, Brian knows that he will need to send a transfer of AUD $5,000 to the United States in two months’ time to pay off an outstanding debt to his brother. The current exchange rate is 1 AUD = 0.70 USD, but financial experts and economists are predicting the value of the Aussie Dollar to drop further in the coming weeks.

Brian doesn’t have all the funds needed to transfer the full amount now, so he places a forward contract with an online money transfer provider and locks in the current exchange rate. He pays a 10% deposit of $500 and, two months later, pays the remaining $4,500 and his transfer is sent. Brian’s brother receives USD $3,500 two days later.

Had Brian not placed a forward contract and simply transferred the money using the best exchange rate he could find, he would have had to settle for an exchange rate of 1 AUD = 0.67 USD. This means his brother would only have received $3,350 - $150 less than he received thanks to Brian’s forward thinking.

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What types of forward contracts are there?

Although this article only deals with forward contracts in terms of international money transfers, forward contracts can also be used as a trading tool across a range of other financial assets. These include shares, contracts for difference, commodities and more.


How do I compare forward contracts?

  • Exchange rates. Although forward points are calculated using an industry standard formula, the spot exchange rate on offer will differ from one company to the next. See which transfer companies regularly offer exchange rates that compare favourably to the competition.
  • Fees. Will you need to pay an extra fee to lock in a forward contract? If so, how much? And will you need to pay this on top of the standard transfer fee that a company already charges?
  • Transfer options. Consider the options available for placing a forward contract, such as online, over the phone, or by using a mobile app.
  • Customer support. If you ever have a question about a transaction, will you be able to get the help you need from your transfer provider?
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What are the pros and cons of forward contracts?

Pros

  • Protect yourself. Forward contracts allow you to protect your finances against the impact of fluctuating exchange rates.
  • Buy now, pay later. You don’t have to pay for the full cost of your transfer until it is actually placed, which could be up to 12 months into the future.
  • Choose a rate that suits you. Forward contracts give you the power and freedom to secure an exchange rate that suits your financial needs.

Cons

  • The exchange rate could improve. Predicting the future value of a currency can be difficult, so there is a risk that the exchange rate will rise in the interim and cost you money.
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What are some of the risks?

The main issue to be wary of with forward contracts is that the exchange rate could rise after you lock in a forward contract and you could end up losing out. A huge range of factors can affect the value of one currency relative to another, and sometimes it’s not possible to predict exactly which way the value of a currency will go.

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