Money transfer experiment – Chapter 2: UKForex


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

Introduction

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.

Setup

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) –

  1. UKForex specializes in larger amounts (so the minimum transaction is above 1,500 EUR)
  2. 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)

Experiment

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:

 MyBank  PayPal  UKForex
 FX  0.7107  0.7145  0.7224
 Total (USD)  2,110.62  2,097.97  2076.41
Second, a transfer of 3,500 EUR:
 MyBank  PayPal  UKForex
 FX  0.7107  0.7145  0.7236
 Total (USD) 4,924.79  4,895.26  4836.26
Lastly, a transfer of 25,000 EUR:
 MyBank  PayPal  UKForex
 FX  0.7147  0.7271
 Total (USD) 34,981.65  34,383.17
Notes and reminders:
  1. 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.
  2. There is a flat 40 USD fee charged by my USA bank for an international wire, regardless of the amount of the transaction.
  3. 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.
Conclusions
A pity that there is a 20 USD wire fee in my case to get the money to UKForex, because on the FX rate they are consistently the winners (at least per today FX rates). Based on the test above, Paypal and UKForex are equivalent up to 1,500 EUR transferred. Above that, UKForex is the clear winner. As to my USA Bank: it comes last in all cases.
Some thoughts after chapter 2
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Next steps
Try a mobile payment scheme. Stay tuned for chapter 3.

8 thoughts on “Money transfer experiment – Chapter 2: UKForex

  1. Hello, I am considering transfering my savings in Euros to my US bank account via UKForex. But I want to make sure they are really legit. As far as I can tell, after my first contact with them, I would transfer my Euros (from French Bank) to their SEPA account at Barclays UK where they will be exchanged for dollars. The market rate at the time of my call was: 1.285 USD for 1 Euro, and UKForex would charge me 1.281!usd for 1 Euro. This seems like an impossibly GOOD rate. My bank in France is incapable of indicating what rate they will offer with regard to actual market rate (simply saying it will be close!). Can you advice whether this is a smart move. Or am I risking all of my life’s savings disappearing into some account at Barclay’s UK never to be seen again?

    • Hello- I have successfully used UKForex at 5 occasions, in the way I describe. I did have in each case a better rate, and no flaws or problems.
      I would suggest you try them out one or two times with a smaller amount, so you can build some confidence, in the same way as I did.
      Kosta

  2. Hi Kosta, my best regards! I remember we shared some thoughts about this a few years ago, so here’s my experience with a payment service provider. After kicking myself yet again when I compared the exchange rate and fees applied by my local bank vs. the spot rates shown on oanda.com, I decided to try WorldFirst.com, a similar outfit than the one you used.

    First, the signup process with World First was easy, they accepted scanned copies of IDs and proof of address and enabled my account within a few days. I even got a phone call from World First relationship manager to see if I had any questions. So far so good. The web application they provided was straightforward and I set up my USD bank account as beneficiary. I entered a trade and the rate was given real-time and I was able to compare to spot rates, again with Oanda. The spread looks like an L-curve, I would guess about 2.3% for around 1000 to less than 1% for amounts greater than 10K. There were no other fees than the spread. Doesn’t feel cheap, but I suppose they have overheads to cover and profits to make. Certainly better than the 3% than my local bank was charging me for on a 10K transfer.

    Once I accepted a rate/amount, I got an email confirmation/contract and instructions to pay into to their Barclays/EUR account. I funded my payment from my local bank account, and got a confirmation from World First that the funds were received, and then again when the payment was initiated into USD. Within 24hours the payment was posted to my USD account. The payment process took less than 3 days, the information and instructions were clear, the rates were good and the process was transparent. Afterwards I got an email from my World First relationship manager to see if everything went ok. The service quality was far above what I’ve experienced with my local retail bank. I will definitely use World First again based on my first trial.

    For smaller amounts of ±500, you’ve proven that Paypal works, but I don’t really trust their practices – too many horror stories about them. Looking forward to your next experiment with mobile payments.

    Anyway, best of luck with the new book!

    • Thanks Travis for reporting a new experience in the never-ending quest! Well noted, will include WorldFirst.com in my comparisons next time.
      I’m learning a lot in my new job about mobile based accounts and transfers – first experiments soon.
      All the best.

  3. I tried your both experiments: Paypal 2 Paypal and the UKForex. Hereby my experience and suggestion for a 3rd chapter of this interesting blog!
    I am currently living in US for work while my payroll is still in my home country (Belgium), thus I monthly transfer part of my salary in EUR to USD.

    Paypal 2 Paypal:
    + you can follow up on exchange rates and do the currency conversion exactly when it’s most beneficial for you
    + Paypal is very user friendly
    + Having a Paypal account in US and BE with both currencies comes in handy for online payments
    – Very long lead times! I tried this method to pay my rent. Transfer time (3 days) from BE bank account to BE Paypal + transfer BE Paypal to US Paypal (no wait time but I’ve had a delay because I acted only few days after funds being available) + transfer from US Paypal to US bank account (3 days) + transfer from US bank account to recipient (2 days). No need to say that I was charged a late fee of 5%.
    – Charges were lower than bank charges for international wire, but still most expensive of the 3.

    UKForex:
    + cheaper than Paypal2Paypal
    + you only need to setup 1 transfer instead of doing multiple steps as for the Paypal2Paypal
    – As I currently live in US for limited time (6 months) I don’t have a SSN number. However they did transfer my account to USForex as I live in US. My account was blocked because I could not activate it with a valid SSN number. Support was slow and every time I called them it took ages for them to recover my account and find out what the status was.

    TransferWise:
    + most innovative concept for money transfer ever! Please check out their promo video and be impressed!
    + cheapest transfer ever! Only 0.5% charge on the mid-market rate
    + easy to use
    + If you use your creditcard (I used my BE Visa) for the money transfer, your foreign currency is available on your foreign account within 2 days! For exchange from bank account to bank account it took me 4 days.
    – The exchange rate for your transfer is not fixed as it will use the mid-market rate when your funds are available. However you can setup the transfer so that you only accept a rate drop of e.g. 0.5%.
    By now I use TransferWise for all my money transfers and I’ve recommended it to some of my colleagues already whom are also very pleased.

    + If you want to setup a TransferWise account, be so kind to subscribe via my referral link https://transferwise.com/u/82f18c (and get your first money transfer up to 4500 USD for free).

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