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Repatriating funds: 6 questions UK & Irish expats need to ask when transferring money from abroad

11 Jun 2020
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UK and Irish professionals have always been considered highly employable in the international job market. Given that both countries are amongst the most qualified in the world when it comes to higher education, it is hardly surprising that many UK and Irish expats have risen to c-suite level positions at some of the world’s leading companies overseas.

The highest concentration of Irish and UK nationals is, unsurprisingly, in the English-speaking countries of the world, namely the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

For a variety of reasons however, many decide that the move back home to start a new life can be a better option when the time is right.

Returning Home

Making the decision to return home is a difficult one regardless of whether you have lived abroad for several years or you are nearing the end of a short-term assignment overseas.

Improving economic conditions at home entice many to return to more lucrative positions. Others return to care for a family member, retire or just simply decide that for whatever reason, the time is right to return.

In 2020, as the global Coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the world,  many expats, especially those on shorter term contracts returned home as their host countries went into lockdown. The draw of security at home in familiar surrounds as opposed to uncertainty in a foreign land made returning home a safer option for many.

If you are returning to Ireland or the UK, you need to consider all the practicalities involved in order to make a smooth transition from abroad. This includes planning the journey itself, finding somewhere to live, education and schooling for children, citizenship and passports for spouses born abroad and of course organizing your finances.

Repatriating Funds

Most expats will have foreign exchange needs when it comes to moving funds back home. This would include transferring salary, pensions and other savings to a bank account in your home country, transfers for property purchases, rent deposits and much more.

Most expats will avail of money transfer services offered by their high street bank when it comes to transferring money home, unaware that thousands could be lost on poor FX rates and high fees.

In order to ensure that you get the best service and most importantly, keep more of your hard-earned money when repatriating funds, we have listed the top 6 questions you should ask:

  1. Am i getting the best rate?
  2. Are there additional fees to consider?
  3. Is the transfer company reputable?
  4. Do i have easy access to an FX dealing team?
  5. What about customer support when i need it?
  6. Can i make my transfers online?
 

1. Am I getting the best FX rate?

When repatriating your salary and other funds from overseas, you need to do your homework to make sure you get the best FX rate and keep more of your earnings.

The interbank rate is the international standard rate used by the big banks to trade amongst themselves.  Members of the public don’t get access to the interbank rate which is why banks usually apply an extra 3 – 6 per cent ‘spread’ on top of the 0% exchange rate they get to use.

Traditionally, expats may have used banks to transfer funds home not realising the options for better rates that exist with other payment providers.  A favourable exchange rate on a large sum could save you a lot of money. Currency specialists give more favourable rates than banks so it ‘pays to shop around’.

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2. Are there additional fees to consider?

As well as the exchange rate, fees and charges are also a very important cost factor when repatriating funds from overseas.

High-street banks generally have high currency transfer charges, charging up to £40 per transaction and using a currency transfer specialist could help you make significant savings.

The fee will depend upon the bank that you’re using, as well as how much money you’re sending. You also incur an extra fee to expedite your transfer so make sure you receive the proper advice if the funds you are sending are not time sensitive.

great exchange rate

3. Is the transfer company reputable?

Currency specialists are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to banks when making overseas payments.

Before engaging in a foreign currency transaction with any payments company or bank, it is essential to determine whether a firm is authorised by the proper regulatory body to carry out international money transfers.

If using a UK company to repatriate funds to Britain, check the register to see if the money transfer specialist is authorized or registered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Authorised firms usually afford higher protection as they must safeguard client’s money by keeping it separate from company funds.  Other indicators of trust might be ISO 27001 certification which is the international standard, recognised globally for managing risks to the security of information held by an organisation.

In Ireland, all reputable money transfer providers should be regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

A strong balance sheet and a long trading history are also good indicators that the company is reliable.

Popular currency exchange houses and payment service providers are not immune to controversy and financial irregularity.

In recent weeks, Finablr whose brands also include UAE Exchange, Travelex and Xpress Money, among others said it was in danger of collapsing after it discovered $100 million of undisclosed financing and was not confident of its financial health.

reputable company

4. Do I have easy access to an FX dealing team?

Repatriation of funds usually involves the transfer of large sums of money and so it is imperative that you have a team of payment specialists that are accessible when you need them.

Having access to a dedicated FX dealer means that you can receive an FX payment solution tailored to your specific needs. An FX dealer will advise on the market conditions for the buying or selling of currencies and the combination of low fees and the best available exchange rate should mean the biggest possible sum gets through to your destination account back home.

customer support

5. What about customer support when I need it?

When you need to get your funds back home quickly, securely and cost effectively, phone carousels typically used by high street banks lead to frustration and anxiety levels as high as the fees they charge for the transfer.

Any reputable payment service provider will have a dedicated customer support team that you can contact without any issues.

Customer support will guide you through all costs related to your transfer, the best time to initiate the payment and offer reports on the status of transactions made.

Keeping you informed is a vital component of the entire international money transfer process. An efficient customer support team should be available by email and phone and assist with the initial account setup.

online transfer

6. Can I make my transfers online?

In times of COVID-19 uncertainty, many are turning to online services for shopping, keeping in touch with friends and family and to carry out financial transactions like overseas money transfers.

With so many bricks and mortar establishments shut and some financial institutions on restricted hours, you will need to be sure that you can buy your currency and make the transfer online.

Forget about long queues at banks, especially in times when social distancing has become the norm. Most international money transfer companies now offer an online platform for customers.

 You will need photo ID, proof of address details and further possible documentation for compliance purposes but once you are set up with an online account, global transfers can be made from the comfort of your own home.

 Destination bank account details are also stored for subsequent international money transfers and payment history can be viewed at the touch of a button. Ask about security and find out if the company uses 2-factor authentication for online payments.

 This basically means that different channels of authentication should be used to access the online platform. This is typically a username/password for primary authentication, and the use of a smartphone or device for secondary authentication.

 

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