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Receiving Money From Abroad

Just as millions of people send money internationally every year, millions of people are also on the other end receiving that money from abroad. You could be receiving an international payment as a freelancer from an overseas client, from a loved one who is working abroad, or for a myriad of other reasons – and the good news is that these days, send and receiving money from abroad is more accessible than ever.

Updated: 03/06/2021
Read time: 10 minutes
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While your bank account may seem like the most convenient way to receive money from overseas, it may not be the cheapest way. In this article, we’re covering everything you may need to know if you are expecting to receive an international money transfer to help you find the best option for your transfer needs.

What is the best way to receive money from abroad?

When it comes to receiving money from abroad, there are many options available. For many people, your bank may be the most obvious and convenient way to receive funds, but using a bank for international transfers is in fact often the most expensive and slowest way of transferring money. Here are the options you’ll want to consider if receiving money from overseas:

International money transfer services

International money transfer companies are known for being one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to send and receive money from abroad, and would be our top recommendation for getting the best deal as a recipient.

Another positive feature many money transfer services offer is to receive your money in a number of different ways. Rather than being limited by bank-to-bank transfers, you can also receive your money via:

  • Online wallets
  • Cash pickups or even cash delivery to your door
  • Bank transfer
  • Mobile airtime top-ups

These methods will vary depending on the provider you choose as not all companies will offer these options as standard, so if you are set on receiving cash, for example, make sure you’ve checked the provider you are looking at can facilitate that.

These services also typically have very low fees and exchange rate margins applied to the person sending you money – meaning more of the transfer arrives with you. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of top 10 money transfer companies, some of which include: XE, WorldRemit, PaySend and many more.

Bank transfer

You can receive money from overseas through a transfer from the sender’s bank account straight into your bank account. The sender will initiate the transfer by visiting their bank’s branch or via online banking, and all you need to do is provide your bank details to the sender, including your full name, bank account number, sort code, and IBAN/SWIFT codes which you can find on your online banking app.

Typically, these transfers are expensive because banks charge hefty exchange rate margins when transferring to different currencies, and also apply fees. This is covered in detail later on in this review.

Money orders/bank drafts

One of the more traditional ways to receive money is via a cheque, and some people still think the old ways are the best. Your sender can request a bank draft from a bank or financial institution abroad and then post the cheque to you. You can then deposit it in your bank account or cash it at your bank. This method of transfer has declined in popularity as the advent of the internet and online payments mean it is a slow process, and often attracts high fees.

Cash pickup/home delivery

Some money transfer providers also offer the option of cash pickup. If your provider offers this, all you need to do is visit the nearest office or cash pickup location of your provider. You will likely be asked for the transaction number and a valid ID to be able to collect cash so make sure you have these to hand. Some providers may also offer home delivery of cash at some extra cost. 

Mobile and electronic wallets

Depending on the country you’re in and the service you’re using, you may be able to receive money from overseas directly into a digital or mobile wallet. This is among the least commonly offered ways of receiving money, but if it sounds like the perfect option for you then there’s likely a provider around that can help. Some of the best money transfer apps can be a great way to manage international transfers.

A variety of receiving options

The good news is that money transfer providers tend to offer a number of different options for receiving funds, so you can pick the fastest or the most cost-effective option for you.

How long does it take to receive an overseas transfer?

An international money transfer can take 1-5 days to be processed, but a lot depends on the method by which the money is being delivered. In some cases, the transfer can be instant (this is most commonly available with cash transfers), while some may take much longer (bank transfers are usually the slowest). The actual transfer time depends on a variety of factors such as the transfer provider, the source and destination country, the currencies involved, the type of transfer and when the transfer was initiated (weekday or holiday). 

On common transfer routes, it is more common to be able to receive money instantly or the same day, however, for more uncommon routes, you may have to wait longer. We’ve put together a guide on finding the fastest way to send money abroad.

Are there costs involved with receiving money from abroad?

Most of the fees of an international money transfer are paid by the sender, however, there may be some costs associated with receiving funds from overseas. These include:

Intermediary fees

Most international money transfers are sent through the SWIFT network. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is a global network of banks for processing international payments. The money transfer initiated by a bank is routed through one or more intermediary banks before it reaches the beneficiary’s account. These intermediary banks charge a fee, which can be paid by the sender in advance or may be deducted from your receiving funds. Depending on the number of intermediary banks involved in the transaction, the intermediary fee could make a huge cut in the amount you receive.

Receiving fees

The transfer fee and most other fees are incurred by the sender. However, your bank may charge a fee for processing and depositing an overseas payment. The amount is deducted from the total amount you receive. Check with your bank before arranging to have a payment sent to you from abroad.

What affects the amount of money I receive?

Let us assume that one of your clients has sent you a payment of $500 from abroad. However, when you check your bank account, you only see a credit amount of $450; where has the $50 gone? Before you start calling your bank or the client, there are few things you must check. These costs and charges might affect the amount of money you receive in the end:

Fees

As we discussed above, you might have to pay some fees to receive money into your account. These fees can affect the total amount that reflects in your bank account. 

Additionally, it is likely that some sort of fee will have been applied to the person sending you money, and this fee will have been subtracted from the amount you receive. Say for instance a provider charged a $2 fee and someone was sending you $100, after that fee had been applied only $98 would be delivered to you.

Exchange rate

The exchange rate margin applied by a provider is the most common reason why there is a difference in the amount that is sent and received. Once the money is sent, you may try to calculate the amount you expect to receive by using the exchange rate you see on Google. However, you should know that this is rarely the rate that your bank or money transfer service will offer. Most banks and financial institutions charge a mark-up on the mid-market rate (the rate you see on Google), and this is called the exchange rate margin.

Especially when receiving larger amounts of money, the exchange rate margin applied on a transfer is much more important to the overall transfer cost than a flat fee. 

Be aware of hidden costs

You will often be told about transfer fees when sending or receiving money from abroad, but the exchange rate margin can be more of a hidden cost.

Make sure you know exactly how much you will receive once the transfer is complete to check you’re not losing out on high exchange rates.

How do I receive money sent from another country?

Receiving money from overseas is very simple, but the actual process may vary depending on the service provider you choose for your money transfer. Depending on the delivery method chosen, the money may simply reach your account or you may have to visit the transfer provider’s office and fill out a form and show your ID to receive funds.

The most important step is to ensure that you provide accurate details to the person or business transferring your money, whether that’s your bank account details (cush as IBAN number) or your address for home delivery. After that, make sure you’re aware of exactly how and when the money is going to be delivered.

Are there limits to how much money I can receive from overseas?

Most banks and financial institutions have a limit on the amount you can send in a single transaction. They may have daily or weekly limits as well. The exact limits vary from provider to provider, with some specialising in small remittance payments and others being focused on larger transfers. If you want to receive very large amounts, you may have to request the amount in smaller parts over the days. 

Your bank may also have limits on the amount that can be automatically converted, or there could be legal complications with being sent large amounts from overseas – particularly from certain countries. The sender and recipient should check the limits and legal situation before initiating any overseas transfer.

What information do you need to provide to receive an international money transfer?

This depends on how you’re getting the money sent to you. If you’re having money delivered to your home, then your address and identity are the key bits of information, whereas if the money is being transferred to a mobile wallet then you’ll need to provide accurate account details to the sender.

To receive a payment directly into your bank account, you’ll need to provide the sender with the following details:

  • Your full name and address
  • Name and address of your bank
  • Your bank account number (or more usually your IBAN)
  • Your routing number
  • Your bank’s SWIFT or BIC code

Can an international transfer be cancelled?

If the sender determines there is a problem with the international money transfer or has made a mistake, they may request to have it cancelled or recalled. However, this will work only if the money has not been deposited with or collected by the recipient. Most banks have a rule that a recall can be requested only within a specific period of time from when the transfer is initiated. Beyond this timeframe and after the money has been deposited, there is no way that the sender can cancel the transfer. The bank may also not refund any fees that the sender may have paid for the international money transfer. 

In short, once it has been initiated it is usually hard or impossible to cancel a transfer. There is a very small window within which the sender may be permitted to recall the payment, so make sure you provide accurate information to the person sending the money.

Do I have to pay tax when receiving money from overseas?

This will really depend on the country in which you live, so be sure to check the law to ensure you’re complying with all guidelines.

In general, the exact answer depends on why you have received the money. If you have received the transfer as income or capital gains, then it is likely you will need to declare it and pay tax on the money received. If the money is just from a friend or family member or is sent as a gift, then it is less likely to be taxable. Always check this before arranging to have money sent to you from abroad, however, as there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Summary 

Receiving an international money transfer has become more convenient than ever before, with short waiting times and a variety of different options from which to choose. You can now select how you want to receive money from a range of options, from bank transfer all the way to having cash delivered to your doorstep. The exact transfer time, method and cost of receiving money from abroad all depend on the money transfer provider chosen by the sender, along with the country and currency in which you will be receiving the funds.

Most of the fees associated with an international money transfer are paid by the sender. However, as a recipient, you may have to pay a receiving fee and intermediary fee. The actual amount you receive in your account will depend on the exchange rate and the fees charged on both ends of the transaction. If the sender and recipient can mutually decide upon using the right money transfer provider, considerable money and time can be saved. You can check out our comparison tool to find out the best service for your money transfer needs and ensure as much money as possible arrives with you.

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Jonathan Merry

Jonathan is the founder and editor of MoneyTransfers.com. Jonathan is highly experienced in the currency transfer market, having previously worked in the FX trading industry, alongside being an avid traveller. Using his knowledge he identified a need for transparency and further education to help people save money on their money transfers, leading to the creation of MoneyTransfers.com

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