Previously on “Money Transfer Experiment”
I have a bank account in the USA. Recently I wired some money to an account in a bank here in Belgium. The sending bank (which shall remain un-named for the rest of this story) charged me $40 for this. It’s a flat fee, not dependent on the wired amount. I know what SWIFT charges for a message (a tiny fraction of this amount), so you can understand I find this amount … outrageous. BTW, the whole process takes 3-4 business days and there’s no information at all as to its status and progress. Also, the FX rate that was used was far from the best.
There must be a better way. So the experiment is: use alternative payment options to reduce the transfer fees, and find the best FX rate.
Chapter 1 was about my experience with Paypal – see here. In summary, Paypal’s fees are lower than my banks for international transfers for amounts lower than $5,000. Paypal’s FX rate is marginally better than my bank’s, but far from best.
Chapter 2 – UKForex
Shortly after I published chapter 1, Tom Rundle (@tumbletom) of OzForex commented on my blog and suggested I try UKForex, who according to their web site (www.ukforex.co.uk) specializes in providing best foreign rate exchanges for businesses and expat people in the need of transferring money to or from overseas. As far as I understand, they are a branch of OzForex who, as the name implies, started the business in Australia.
Anyway, Tom suggested this for chapter 2 of the story, so here we go.
I registered with UKForex yesterday. It was clear right away that while UKForex is very much online,quickly I could read that they pride themselves on very strong customer support. After registration, I received a mail telling me the next step is to call one of their support numbers because “we need to speak with you to discuss your needs and to meet various regulatory requirements”. It was evening for me, so I figured I’d give them a call the day after.
About 5 minutes later, I received a call on my mobile (which I did provide when I registered). The number was from the USA, and presto I was talking to an UKForex representative! Impressive reaction time.
Someone called Calvin Kuk thus talked to me and asked me to explain what was my business. After I explained my setup, he asked me how I was doing this now, so I mentioned the wire transfers with outrageous fees from my bank, plus chapter 1 of my experiment with Paypal.
Kudos to Calvin because he actually listened, which is rare these days. He immediately mentioned two points, for which I was really grateful as I did not have to find this by myself later on (especially because their site is one of these older ones with lots of links and information, kind of difficult to grasp and understand. All is there, but I’d suggest to them a good cleanup and simplification, so that people get straight to the point) -
- UKForex specializes in larger amounts (so the minimum transaction is above 1,500 EUR)
- In the USA, UKForex banks with Bank of America (not the same as mine), so moving money from my bank to UKForex implies a domestic wire fee from my bank (reminder from chapter 1: this is a flat 20 USD per wire)
Armed with this knowledge, I started comparing FX rates at 18:30 CET today Wed 28 Sep 2011. Here are the results.
First, a transfer of 1,500 EUR:
- Paypal fees are 0.5% as long as the transaction is under a certain threshold. I have notice today that the threshold is different than yesterday! Today, anything above 1,000 EUR gets a much higher fee. So beware…. In any case, I have assumed that for the 3,500 EUR scenario, I would issue several Paypal transactions, each sufficiently small to get the 0.5% fee. That makes Paypal impractical for the 25,000 EUR scenario.
- There is a flat 40 USD fee charged by my USA bank for an international wire, regardless of the amount of the transaction.
- Bear in mind I haven’t yet executed a full transaction with UKForex. So there may be other fees hidden in addition to the 20 USD flat fee my bank will charge for wiring the money to UKForex. I will report back when I do a full end-to-end transaction.
- I found UKForex’s marketing excellent. First, Tom Rundle somehow spotted my tweet and blog (he is now following me :-) ), then the super responsive reaction after I subscribed.
- Given that UKForex is coming out best, I’m now going to send them the required information for a full setup (photo id, proof of residence, etc). Definitely becoming their client.
- I was wondering about whether I would actually entrust 25,000 EUR to UKFunds. It’s a very good question: I would order a wire with my bank with no problems, but I do not know UKTrust. I guess it’s a question of doing some smaller transactions first and building up a relationship.