PayPal and Western Union are among the most well-known ways to receive money from overseas, but they may not be the cheapest way. If you want to ensure you receive the maximum amount of money possible, using an online dedicated money transfer provider could be the answer.
This guide will outline how to receive money from overseas, what your options are, how much it costs and how long it takes. Plus, you can compare a range of international money transfer providers directly within this guide.
Different ways to receive money
There are many different ways to receive money from overseas. The following are some popular options:
International money transfer provider
Let’s explore these in more detail, including how to receive money with each of these options and the pros and cons of each.
With services such as Western Union and MoneyGram, the person sending you money (the sender) can arrange for you to collect it in cash at a store front, agent or third-party outlet such as 7-Eleven. You don’t need to set up a special account with the provider to receive money.
To receive money via cash pick-up, follow these steps:
When the sender has completed the transfer on their end, ask for the payment reference number.
Find the closest store, agent or third-party merchant for the company you’re using (eg, MoneyGram or Western Union). The company you use will have a map on their website with all their merchant locations.
Present the payment reference number and your government-issued ID, such as your birth certificate, driver's licence or passport.
You’ll be required to complete a form detailing the transfer details to receive the money. This is a requirement for all cash transfers into Australia in order to conform to anti money laundering regulations.
Leave with your cash in hand.
The pros and cons of using a cash pick-up service:
Receive the money in cash rather than electronically
Providers like Western Union and MoneyGram have hundreds of thousands of locations worldwide
It’s super fast – you can collect your cash within just 10 minutes
It’s very expensive, so your sender may not want to use this service.
You need to visit a physical store to collect your money, which could be an issue if you live outside of a major city.
You often can’t send more than $10,000 with a cash pick-up service
Receiving money via PayPal
PayPal is a convenient way to receive money since it’s widely used around the world and is a trusted brand. Anyone with a PayPal account can send money to your account, whether it’s a personal transfer or coming from a business account. However, you will need an account in order to receive the money, so if you don’t already have a PayPal account, you’ll need to get this sorted before you start.
If you want to receive money to your PayPal account but the sender does not yet have an account, they can pay using a credit or debit card. However this will incur a fee.
To receive money via PayPal, follow these steps:
If you don’t have an existing PayPal account, you’ll need to create one.
Once your account is set up, give your confirmed email address to the sender. This is all they need to send you money.
You’ll get an email confirmation when the money has been received into your PayPal account.
The pros and cons of receiving money via PayPal
Widely used around the world
Safe and secure
Poor currency exchange rates
Expensive transfer fees for amounts above $200
Both the sender and receiver are charged a transfer fee
Receiving money via an online money transfer provider
Dedicated online money transfer providers such as TransferWise, OFX and WorldFirst enable people to send and receive money from all over the world. This is likely the cheapest way to send and receive money since online money transfer providers offer low or no transfer fees, and some offer the real interbank exchange rate with no margins applied. However, the sender will need to sign up for an account in order to transfer money to you.
To receive money via an online money transfer service, follow these steps:
Once the sender has successfully set up an account with their chosen money transfer provider, they’ll book in the transfer on their end.
You will need to provide the sender with the details for the bank account that you’d like to money to be sent to. This may include the SWIFT code or the Bank Identification Code (BIC) for your bank as well as your bank account number.
Transfers generally take between one to two business days to arrive into your account. The sender can track the progress of the transfer on their end.
The pros and cons of receiving money via an online money transfer provider
Better exchange rates than the banks
Often charge low or no transfer fees
Can cater to a large range of transfer types, including recurring transfers
Transfers generally take one to two days
Receive the money into your existing bank account
Not as fast as cash pick-up services
Often require the sender to set up an account with the provider
Compare online money transfer providers below
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.
Receiving money via a bank-to-bank transfer
Perhaps the easiest way to receive money from overseas is simply to have it sent from someone’s bank account to yours. While this may save you time by not having to look into different options, it will almost certainly end up costing you more and take longer.
To receive money via a bank-to-bank transfer, follow these steps:
The sender will initiate the transfer from their own bank account.
You will need to supply the sender with your full name, the name on your bank account, your residential address and your account numbers.
You will also need to provide your bank’s name and its SWIFT code or BIC. If you’re not sure what these are, you can request these from your bank.
You should receive the money within one to three business days.
The pros and cons of receiving money via a bank-to-bank transfer
Easy to organise as your account is already set up
Safe and secure
Often works out cheaper than using PayPal for transfers above $1000
Poor exchange rates
High transfer fees for both the sender and receiver
Not as fast as using a dedicated money transfer service or cash pick-up
How much does it cost to receive money from overseas?
Fees to send US$2000
Fees to receive in AUD
Cash pick up: MoneyGram
Transfer fee: $32
None - the fee is paid by the sender when initiating the transfer
Online money transfer provider: TorFX
Transfer fee: $0
None - the fee is paid by the sender when initiating the transfer
Bank to bank transfer: CommBank
Transfer fee (via internet banking): $12
Transfer fee (via a bank branch): $30
Up to $11 per transfer (this will vary depending on the sender's bank)
How to receive the maximum amount of money possible
The amount of money you receive is determined by two factors: the currency exchange rate and the transaction fee. The currency exchange rates offered by service providers can vary. Small differences in the rate can have a big impact on the amount you receive at the end of the transaction.
For example, let’s say the sender is transferring US$1000 to your Australian bank account. If the exchange rate is US$1 = AUD$1.33, you’ll receive AUD$1330.30 (assuming there are no transfer fees). However, if the exchange rate is only US$1 = AUD$1.22, you’ll only receive AUD$1220.20 (again assuming there are no transfer fees).
Therefore to make sure you receive as much as you possibly can, your sender will need to shop around and opt for a transfer method that offers competitive exchange rates. The current market conditions will also affect the exchange rate, so if the transfer isn’t urgent, it’s a good idea to wait until the exchange rate is favourable before making the transfer.
How long does it take to receive an international transfer?
This depends on which method you select to receive your money. If you choose to do a cash transfer, you can collect the money in as little as 10 minutes. An online money transfer provider will generally take one to two days to process the payment, while a bank-to-bank transfer will take slightly longer at one to three business days.
What if I need to receive regular payments from overseas?
Most online money transfer providers offer the option of setting up regular, recurring payments. This means that if you need to receive money regularly, for example rental payments from your tenant based overseas, the sender doesn’t need to facilitate a new payment each time.
There’s no one way that is “best”. The best option will largely depend on several factors, including how quickly you need the money and if you need it in cash.
You want to:
Receive money now, regardless of the cost
A cash pick-up option, like MoneyGram or Western Union, offers payments within just 10 minutes.
Receive the maximum amount possible, and you don’t mind waiting
An online money transfer service will offer the most competitive exchange rates, ensuring you receive more.
Receive regular payments
An online money transfer provider can set up regular, recurring payments. Your bank may also be able to set up regular payments.
Receive funds into an existing account
A bank-to-bank transfer can be done with your existing account. If you opt for an online money transfer service, you won’t need to set up an account, but the sender will.
Receive a large sum of money
Banks can facilitate very large transfers, but the exchange rate may be poor.
Why haven’t I received my money?
The following are some of the reasons why you may not have received your money yet:
It’s a weekend. Most banks will not facilitate international transfers on weekends.
The payment bounced. If the sender accidentally entered your account details incorrectly, the payment will have bounced back into their account.
It hasn’t been sent yet. This may sound obvious, but the payment may not have been sent in the first place. If it’s a business payment, many companies will only initiate payments once a month.
The requested exchange rate has not been hit yet. If the sender is using an international money transfer service, they may have used a forward contract order. This means that their payment will be processed when their ideal exchange rate has been hit.
It’s important to compare your options when receiving money from overseas. While most of the transfer fees will be paid by the person sending the money, the exchange rate used will directly impact how much money you receive into your bank account or pocket.
Unless you need the money urgently and are able to do a cash pick-up, an international money transfer service will offer the lowest fees and the best exchange rates in most cases.
Alison Banney is the banking and investments editor at Finder. She has written about finance for over six years with her work featured on sites including Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine and Dynamic Business. She has previously worked at Westpac, and has written for several other major banks including BCU, Greater Bank and Gateway Credit Union. Alison has a Bachelor of Communications from Newcastle University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She has ASIC RG146 compliance certificates for financial advice, securities and managed investments and superannuation.
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