You've transformed your cash into a transfer to a friend, a family member or a business across town or around the world. But how can you know exactly where your funds have gone once they're out of your hands?
If your money transfer hasn't made it to the receiver, this guide will go through what steps you need to take and how you can monitor the progress of your payments for peace of mind.
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What information will the money transfer service give me?
For first-timers, transferring money out of the country can be intimidating. However, your money is protected even after it leaves Australian shores. Before an international transfer, the service should tell you:
The exact exchange rate you will pay.
Fees and taxes collected from you.
Fees charged by agents overseas and others involved in the process.
The amount your recipient is expected to receive (excluding foreign taxes and any pickup fees).
You should also be provided details on:
Your right to cancel the transfer. Unless the transfer has been picked up or deposited, you have 30 minutes (and sometimes more) to cancel at no charge.
The bank or company's process to investigate and fix any errors. It generally has 90 days to resolve any problems.
Will I receive a confirmation number?
Depending on the service you choose to transfer your money overseas — whether a bank or independent money transfer specialist — your transaction should come with a confirmation number or a record of your transaction.
Confirmation numbers come by many different names: tracking numbers, transaction IDs, payment notifications and more. In general, look for a highlighted number in your receipt that refers to your specific transaction. Or if you're on the phone or in a store, ask the representative you're speaking with how you can track your transfer once you hang up or walk out.
How can I track my transfer?
With most companies, you can track your transfer using the confirmation number that came with your receipt. You should be able to view the steps of your progress from beginning to end. A few transfer services also offer the option of text or email notification at each stage of your transaction.
Online, in-store or by phone, you'll typically receive a confirmation number or receipt by email immediately after your transaction is approved. Most banks and services allow you to use this information to track your transfer online or by calling a representative.
Many online money transfer providers allow you to type your confirmation number into their site for up-to-the-minute tracking, though you might be able to log in to your online account to view the progress of your funds in real time. Still others allow you to opt in to text updates that keep you in the loop of your transfer's status the whole time.
Sample tracking page for online provider.
What if I don’t have a tracking number?
If you didn't receive a tracking number soon after initiating your money transfer, call your provider to find out how you'll be notified if your transaction is successful.
Another option is to login to your online account to see if you have the option of reviewing your transfer's status without the need for a call. Once you're logged in, look for a 'tracking' tab or button, or visit your provider's FAQ for guidance.
Can I track a transfer using a SWIFT code?
Yes. If your transfer isn't delivered within the window you were promised, you can request a trace on your transaction using the bank’s SWIFT code. A SWIFT code is an ID that banks use when sending wire transfers. With this number, your bank can see whether the deposit is on hold or in progress.
How can "on hold" be an option? One drawback of SWIFT transfers is that banks can hold on to your money until they're able to get an exchange rate that better favours their bottom line. If your money needs to reach your recipient by a specific deadline, be sure to specify that exact date or time to avoid any bank delay.
Tips for picking up cash
Knowing your money is secure during a transfer is important. But if your transfer will be picked up at a store, it’s just as vital that you're safe when retrieving your cash.
No matter where you are in the world, exercise caution with our safety tips:
Call ahead. Learn the company’s business hours and choose a safe time to pick up your cash. Daylight hours are best.
Avoid high-crime areas. If you have the option of choosing a pickup location, find one in a neighbourhood you know.
Bring along a friend. Carrying money alone can make you more vulnerable to theft.
Keep your cash hidden. To avoid being a target, put your money in a wallet or purse before leaving the office.
Deposit your money immediately. The likelihood of losing your money to theft or simple carelessness grows the longer you have it with you. Go straight to a bank to deposit your cash.
How do I cancel a money transfer?
Nearly all banks and money transfer providers offer some way of cancelling your transaction after you've set it in motion — especially if your money hasn't yet been delivered. Some providers will have the option of cancelling online, but others may need you to contact them directly over phone.
Search your provider's website for information on cancelling or stopping a money transfer, specifically in the FAQ section. There may be a cancellation fee involved.
Bank-to-bank international money transfers
It can take from at least 72 hours to up to 5 business days for an international money transfer to clear in the recipient's bank account. Sometimes the transfer must be sent to an intermediary bank first before it can reach the recipient's bank account.
You can track the status of your international money transfer through your online banking facility.
If it’s been longer than a week, you need to send a secure message to your financial institution disputing the international money transfer. You can do this via online banking.
This will start the dispute resolution process. You may be required to pay a fee for tracking or amending an international money transfer. For example, Commonwealth Bank charges a $25 fee for each investigation or amendment.
You will also have to pay a fee if you request that your bank return an incorrect international payment. However, this depends on the receiving bank getting permission to return the funds, so there are no guarantees.
Can I get a refund for a money transfer?
If you're able to cancel your money transfer, you should see a refund for the total you paid for it. In the rare case, a provider may deduct a cancellation fee from your refund — which might be another factor to weigh when choosing the company you ultimately go with.
If your transfer is not yet picked up or deposited into your recipient's account, you may be able to log in to your account to cancel the transfer yourself. Otherwise, call, visit or live chat with your provider to discuss its refund process and how much you can expect to get back.
Can I change my recipient's information if I entered it incorrectly?
Unfortunately, you'll find that changing your recipient's name or address is trickier after you've initiated a transfer. But if you haven't entered your recipient's details correctly, they may not be able to receive their funds at all.
If you've found an error with your recipient's information, call, visit or live chat with your provider immediately. Keep any confirmation number or receipt handy to help in pulling up your transfer.
Your provider should be able to correct or modify your recipient's details for you, even if it means adding a few more days to your delivery window as the system updates.
If you've discovered the error outside business hours, try logging in to your account — you may be able to make the changes yourself if your transfer isn't yet complete.
Common reasons why money transfers aren't received
If the recipient's name has been entered incorrectly, the receiving bank may return the money to your bank account or to the international money transfer company, depending on which service you used.
If you’ve entered the wrong recipient details, such as an incorrect account number, your transfer can be delayed, and the money may be returned or lost.
You’ll need to contact your bank or the international money transfer company as soon as possible to amend the mistake. An international money transfer amendment fee may be charged and if the money has already been sent to the receiving bank, there’s a chance the funds cannot be returned to you.
Steps to take if your money hasn't been delivered
Track the status. Use the tracking number to check the status of the transfer. It may have been delayed or there may have been an issue with the transfer.
Find out your service's process. Read the FAQ section of your money transfer service for specific advice. Some prefer you to call immediately, while others want you to lodge a form.
Report the missing transfer to your provider. The sooner you do this, the better. Most major banks are part of the ePayments Code, which requires them to make a reasonable attempt to get your money back if you can prove it was a mistake.
Lodge a dispute. If your bank doesn't help you fix the mistaken payment, you have the right to lodge a dispute with the financial ombudsman.
Closing the deal
An international money transfer is a safe way to get money to loved ones and businesses worldwide quickly and easily. And with most providers, you can track your cash every step of the way to its ultimate destination.
The Internet's opened up a world of options beyond your local bank or corner financial stores — options that typically come with stronger exchange rates, low or no fees and flexible tools that help you lock in deals on regular transfers.
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.
Frequently asked questions
You may be able to cancel a wire transfer by immediately calling the bank or money transfer service. Most international money transfers take long enough that they can be halted and reversed.
The quickest money transfers will arrive instantly, depending on the specific service you use and where you’re sending the money to. Western Union can have funds to your recipient almost instantly. MoneyGram, on the other hand, can send funds to China that are available in as little as an hour, but funds are available the next business day when sent to France.
Other services like OFX can take longer than cash services like MoneyGram and Western Union. Sending money from Australia using OFX takes a day, whereas from Thailand it can take four days.
Every brand wants points for originality — and money transfer providers are no exception. An MTCN is what Western Union calls its transfer confirmation number. It stands for Money Transfer Control Number, a unique reference number assigned to your specific transfer.
If you've ordered a cash pickup, your recipient will need to submit the MTCN before Western Union will release your funds.
Adrienne Fuller leads the publishing team over at finder.com. She has one goal: to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. When she's not helping folks save money, she's hiking with her two Catahoulas around her home in San Diego.
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