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Sending money internationally during the coronavirus pandemic

Learn what you need to know about getting money abroad to loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated

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Self-quarantining and social distancing are changing the way we send money across borders. Here's everything you need to know about what impacts the coronavirus might have on getting money to your loved ones.

The impact of the coronavirus on Australia

Although banks have not yet closed, Australia's borders have in order to stem the coronavirus pandemic on our shores. To learn more about how to deal with the changing landscape of banking, how to self-quarantine and more, read our comprehensive guide on the coronavirus in Australia.

How is the coronavirus affecting money transfers?

As Australia reacts to the coronavirus pandemic, the remittance industry is being affected by the following:

  • Closures. Non-essential businesses like bars and theatres are closing in many cities. Although banks and money transfer agent locations may remain open, using online transfer options will help you maintain your self-imposed quarantine.
  • Exchange rate volatility. We haven't seen this kind of volatility in decades. Fluctuating exchange rates could make a difference of several hundred dollars to what arrives in your receiver's pockets, so it's important to pay close attention to the live rate – things could change quickly. To keep on top of the two global currencies you're comparing, check out our guide on current exchange rates.
  • Customer service availability. Many companies will be reducing the availability of their customer service agents, both online and in call centres. OFX, for instance, recently alerted customers that "We are facing unprecedented events globally as countries around the world work to slow the advance of COVID-19. As a result, we're seeing very high volatility in global markets, including in currency markets. During this period of increased market volatility we are experiencing higher than usual call volumes and enquiries to our customer support team and encourage people to use our digital platforms," So if you happen to make a mistake in your online transaction and need to reach someone on the phone to fix it immediately, or need a human voice to help you through the online steps, don't expect the same support you'd normally receive.

Sending $1,000 from Australia to New Zealand during the coronavirus pandemic

Let's say you need to send $1,000 to friends or family members that are stuck quarantined abroad. Here is what you might face in fees and physical contact risks as of 19 March, 2020.

Online money transfer serviceCash transferBank transfer
Physical contactNoYesMaybe
Fee$6$9$6 ($30 if sending at a branch) + additional correspondent bank fees
Exchange rate1 AUD = 1.010 NZD1 AUD = 0.948 NZD1 AUD = 0.9701 NZD
Transfer speedWithin 1 dayMinutes1-3 days
Amount received1,003 NZD948 NZD970 NZD
Verdict
  • Best value - no physical contact
  • Fastest but most expensive - physical contact
  • Slowest and likely to have highest fees - maybe physical contact

The bank option ends up being both the slowest and gets the smallest amount of money to your recipient, but you may be able to send it entirely online. If you go with the digital money transfer service, your recipient ends up with NZD$33 more than the bank offers. If speed is crucial, a cash transfer can typically have your transfer to New Zealand in as little as 15 minutes; just be aware of the need to pick it up in person.

Be sure to look at the margin on the exchange rate as well as the fees to figure out if you're getting a good deal. We've gone into more detail on this in our full guide on sending money internationally.

Online money transfer services

The table below shows a round-up of some of the most popular online services that can help you send money to where it needs to go.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
AUD 2,000 1 day AUD 0.00 0.703 USD
3,513
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 0.703 USD
3,513
SendFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. T&Cs apply.
Fee-free transfers in 30+ currencies to over 200 countries.
Go to site Show details
AUD 2,000 1 day AUD 0.00 0.703 USD
3,513
Better exchange rates for Finder customers.
Send 60+ currencies at competitive rates and no fees. If you find a better eligible quote, WorldFirst will beat it.
Go to site Show details
AUD 250 1 - 2 days AUD 15.00 0.703 USD
3,502
$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 day AUD 26.00 0.705 USD
3,508
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 0 Same day AUD 2.99 0.698 USD
3,486
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Affordable transfers around the world with both express and economy options. Express transfers delievered in as little as 10 minutes for an extra fee.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 Same day AUD 0.00 0.702 USD
3,509
Get fast transfers with no fees and a range of foreign currency tools. Go to site Show details
AUD 200 1 - 2 days AUD 25.00 0.705 USD
3,508
Exclusive: Use code FINDER10 to receive US$10 off your first transaction.
Quick and simple international money transfers with a flat 0.5% transfer fee for most transfers. Zero-margin rates on some currencies.
Go to site Show details
AUD 5 1 - 2 days EUR 3.00 0.698 USD
3,490
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
Get bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
AUD 1 Same day AUD 3.99 0.697 USD
3,482
Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Conditions apply.
An online money transfer service with cash pick-up, bank account to bank account and airtime transfers available.
Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

What if my recipient doesn't have a bank account?

Depending on the provider, you can still make an online transfer to a recipient who doesn't have a bank account.

Emergency cash transfers

If you need to get money abroad now instead of later, there are ways to speed it up. Many online money transfer services offer delivery in as fast as a few minutes. Learn more about the limits and fees for emergency transfers.

Many emergency transfer options require your recipient to pick the money up in person, as delivering to a bank account often takes more time. Double-check how the transfer will be received, especially if you are sending to a country that is recommending self-quarantine or social distancing practices during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a recent report in Reuters, handling banknotes doesn't pose any added risk of contracting the coronavirus. Your recipient shouldn't fear collecting cash so long as they take the usual precautions and wash their hands frequently.

How to send money to someone without a bank account

Unfortunately, options without physical contact are limited when it comes to sending money to someone without a bank account.

If you or your recipient doesn't have a bank account, look for a local company that supports storefronts for cash payments. These services include agent locations in other countries that allow your recipient to pick up cash without a bank account.

Call the agent location before sending your transfer, if possible, to make sure they will be open when your recipient goes to pick up cash.

How do fluctuating exchange rates affect my international transfer?

No one has a crystal ball here, so it's important to keep an eye on exchange rates regularly. That will help you gauge when it's a good time for you to send money abroad. Online transfers can often lock in a rate for you, which, with roller-coaster markets, could potentially help you get more bang for your buck.

To see how the Australian dollar is performing globally, use our A to Z list of AUD exchange rates against other currencies.

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Updated: 28 Oct 2020 17:45:18 UTC

What other ways can I send money around the world?

Aside from traditional money transfers and bank transfers, there are other alternatives you can use to help move money during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • International digital banking. Although it may take some time to set up, creating an international digital bank account can help reduce the costs of moving money to loved ones abroad. Read our short guide on digital banking to get started.
  • E-wallets. Electronic wallets are a great way to manage your funds digitally. Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay are very popular options. By relying entirely on digital services, you won't have to touch cash or interact physically with anyone. Many stores accept e-wallets for payment, making your transaction entirely contactless.
  • Cryptocurrencies. If you and the recipient are both computer savvy, cryptocurrency can be a very fast and cheap way of sending money internationally, in a way that doesn't require either of you to have a bank account or leave your homes. If you're interested, our comprehensive guide over at Crypto Finder can get you started.

Bottom line

Sending money internationally may be more important for you now than ever, especially if you have loved ones quarantined abroad. Although it's become trickier to send money overseas, there are still plenty of online options that can help you get your money where it needs to go.

Pay extra attention to movements in the exchange rate, and compare a number of money transfer services to make sure they meet your needs and can give you the best deal.

Picture: GettyImages

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