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Cut the cost of sending money abroad

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Barry Dowling

Barry Dowling

Barry Dowling

Although fewer people left Ireland last year than in either 2012 or 2013, many of us still have loved ones abroad.

Whether it's a 'dig out' or a gift, a lot of us will be sending money to them this year. Make sure you're getting the best deal when you do so.

Most people stick to the bank when sending money overseas but it can be costly. With international bank transfers, you could be hit with excessive charges by both the sending and receiving bank. If you regularly send money abroad, you could save anywhere from 2pc to 4pc on the foreign exchange rate by not going directly through a bank.

Same-day money transfers to Britain can cost as much as €32.50 using a bank - and transfer fees aren't even the main consideration. Banks have access to what is known as the interbank market - that is, the top-level foreign exchange market where banks exchange different currencies. Consumers do not have direct access to the rates offered here and so banks add an additional percentage to this rate to make their margin. It wouldn't be uncommon for banks to apply exchange rate margins of up to 4pc.

When it comes to international money transfers, all too often individuals and companies don't get the opportunity to really see how much they are being overcharged as there isn't an obvious alternative to price against.

It's not just individual clients that need to be on the lookout. Recently, we spoke with an Australian client company transferring over €2m every year - it was losing over 3pc of this on rates and fees. A business like this would re-use stamps to save money but failed to realise it was losing up to €61,444 a year on international payments, simply because they were so busy.

Here are some steps which could save you a few bob when transferring money overseas.

One: Get some information on exchange rates if possible. For the lay person, this isn't an easy area to understand but rates will play a key role in what the overseas transaction is going to cost you. In addition, rates fluctuate continuously. If you are in a position where you need to transfer money regularly, it can be useful to hire an expert who can monitor these movements for you to ensure you get the best rate. You may also be able to lock in the exchange rate so that you know in advance what your future payments will cost.

Two: Always look for transparency on fees and charges. This is not always easy, as it is common throughout the financial services sector for fees to be added on an almost stealth-like manner.

Three: With any financial transaction, it's imperative to trust the financial provider you are using - whether it be a bank or a payment institution. Ensure that the provider is regulated and know what protections you have to fall back on.

Four: Know your time-frame - particularly if there is any urgency with your request. Let your provider know the date that you need the money transferred by - to ensure it can deliver.

Five: If sending large amounts of money, ensure you are getting a better deal on the exchange than an individual transferring a small sum of money.

Barry Dowling is the managing director of www.TransferMate.com

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