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What you need to know about an international money transfer

If you need to transfer sums of money overseas, there are many reasons to consider an international money transfer. We chatted with Alon Rajic, managing director of Finofin Ltd, to learn more about the process. Finofin Ltd is the parent company of the website, It provides reviews of 30 international money transfer companies across the world. Information on the site allows people looking to make a transfer to compare services offered, rates and customer feedback. Here’s Alon’s advice.

There are a number of reasons you may need an international money transfer
There are a number of reasons you may need an international money transfer

Why would a Hong Kong expat need to use an international money transfer service?

An expat living in Hong Kong might want to go back “home” at some stage, so he or she might want savings to be made in their own bank in their own currency. Or, instead of moving money periodically, they might want to move all their Hong Kong savings to another currency if they were to leave. Alternatively, they might want to buy property (or a car) in Hong Kong, so they will need to move money from his home bank account and exchange it to Hong Kong dollars.

These are just some of the reasons you might want to use an international money transfer service. Others include:

  • Payments for property abroad
  • Payments for any other big-ticket item you buy abroad
  • Transfer of pension (regular automated transfers)
  • Transfer of mortgage (regular automated transfers)
  • Sending of money to a relative
  • Donations of money to a charity
  • Receipt of cheques from abroad
  • Repatriation of funds from abroad (whether they’re your funds, inheritance or other)

How does it work?

Start by signing up with an international money transfer company. Have a look at the options on to find a company which suits your needs. Speak to a dealer and find out about the fees and see if it matches your requirements.

Once you have made a decision on the company, you will either get a call or an email, depending on the company and the amount you plan to transfer, inviting you to complete your sign-up online. You can then book a transfer of funds through the company’s online system or via telephone.

A currency dealer will likely be assigned to you to assist you through the transfer process and update you either through telephone or email. You will also be able to check the online system yourself.


What are some of the key things I need to be aware of?

There is no blanket minimum transaction – it varies from company to company. The minimum is usually only relevant to the first deposit. You may find the initial transfer needs to be a larger sum of money and subsequent transfers can be smaller. The length of transfer is usually similar to that of a bank.

When it comes to fees, you will find that good companies do not charge transfer fees. The only fees you should pay will be exchange rate mark-ups. These are the difference between the official interbank rate and rate you will get. The exchange rate mark-up fee that you will incur will depend on several things. These include how much money you transfer, currency, negotiation and the origin and destination of your funds.

Mark-ups usually range from 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent. The other thing cost you may incur is if the receiving bank charges fees, but global companies with global bank accounts can avoid them. They will debit one branch and credit another branch, and then transfer the money from a local bank account.

You may find companies offer priority transfer for a fee, but be aware there could still be delays on the receiving end.

In terms of the length of commitment, you will find most large companies offer a Forward Contract, which allows you to fix today’s rate for a period. Private clients will likely need to pay 10 percent of the amount upfront for security reasons and book a Forward for up to 12 months. Business clients can use companies that pass on the 10 percent upfront deposit (based on credit checks) and book longer Forwards for up to 24 months.

Choose a company which is regulated as an Authorised Payment Provider by the Financial Conduct Authority (or E-Money provider). Make sure it is authorised and not just registered with the FCA. Authorisation means it must adhere to strict rules or else its license will be revoked. Companies also undergo annual inspections.

The money you send goes to a segregated sub-account. The money transfer service provider cannot use it for any other purpose. You will get your money back directly from the bank it was stored in, if the firm goes bust before the transfer begins.

Here are some other things to look out for:

  • Be aware of how much money your recipient will get.
  • Know your rights. The rate must be fixed at the rate you booked your deal.
  • If you’re moving a large amount, don’t settle for the initial price; try to haggle.
  • Beware of honeymoon rates. Companies tend to give great rates on the first transfer and then widen margins over time, so check how much you’re paying for each transfer!
  • Don’t fall into the “fees and cost” trap. It’s better to pay more and use a credible provider.
international money transfer: Make the most of your savings
Make the most of your savings

What are the advantages for Hong Kong expats of using this service compared to just transferring money via a bank account transfer?

Hong Kong banks are expensive and the rate you will receive on your transfers is still 1-2 percent worse than the interbank rate. That means you could be paying as much as HK$2,000 on a HK$100,000 transfer. You may also have more elaborate needs than a bank may offer when it comes to your international money transfer.

People in Hong Kong are busy. You can phone or email your dealer directly. Your dealer can give advice on issues, such as the best way to avoid recipient fees in a certain country. They can also advise on the best time to move funds based on economic forecasts to maximise the value of your Hong Kong dollars. You will also have access to dozens of different currencies for your transfers.

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