Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Guide to Transfering Money Abroad: Part 1

With the deadline for companies to adopt the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) payment format fast approaching and the omnipresence of money transfer providers both online and offline, it is clear that this is a subject that cannot be covered in one blog. As a result this will be one of a two part blog that will explore the best options for transferring money abroad from both consumer and business perspectives.

If you are escaping the UK winter weather on a sunny holiday or simply sending money abroad to friends and family: what are the best options available to you?

The first thing that comes to mind when talking about money transfer is charges, which are generally summarised by the fees or commission you pay to the company performing the conversion and the exchange rates. It is important to bear these in mind as once added they can make transfers very expensive.

The other factors to take into consideration are the different methods of transfers that can be used. Here is a quick summary of the types of methods that are available:

  • Instant cash transfer: useful for short and urgent money requirement (to send to a member of family in need for example). Not necessarily the cheapest but probably one of the quickest ways to transfer money abroad
  • Foreign currency brokers: these companies specialise in currency conversion and there are many of these online or present in tourist areas. Unless you’re in a rush, make sure you compare several before handing over your money as the difference in the amount  received in your chosen currency can be huge depending on the fees previously mentioned
  • Credit card purchases abroad: in some situations these can be cheaper, based on the exchange rate which is often reasonable although many credit card issuers levy one-off charges and an additional percentage for such transactions, resulting in them being more expensive than cash
  • Pre-paid currency cards: these are fast becoming a cheap and secure alternative to travel money as they are denominated in the currency of your destination currency so there are no foreign exchange fees to worry about and often extremely good exchange rates when you are transferring funds onto the card. The following site is useful for comparing prepaid currency cards: http://www.mytravelmoney.co.uk/travel-money-card/prepaid-currency-card

So if the January blues have caught up with you or if you merely want to help a friend in need by sending them money abroad, ensure you do your research and follow our top tops to get the most out of your money:

  1. Compare overseas online money transfer methods (including transfer fees and how quickly the transfer can take place). Please refer to a comparison site like: http://www.money.co.uk/money-transfers.htm
  2. Request a quote from all accessible Foreign Exchange providers to get the best exchange rate possible
  3. Check if there is a minimum spend requirement or any commission that will be charged – often exchanging more gives a better exchange rate
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t do anything you are not comfortable with.  Speaking from personal experience, I have recently declined a debit card money transfer transaction. A particular bureau de change had in print and on their record all my personal details (card number, registered address, security code, expiry date). I felt very uneasy, so I cancelled the transaction. So be vigilant and do not give away more information than you really need to!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Reducing the pain of payment processing

As we are all aware, e-commerce is fast becoming the preferred shopping channel for both consumers and businesses, accounting for 16.9% of the total sales in 2012, according to Index.

With businesses placing more emphasis on this channel, increased revenue and usage will be seen. However this good news, also results in growing costs of running these payment services, which include ever-increasing: transaction charges, gateway fees and merchant account monthly fees.

But fear not! There are steps you can take to help minimise your monthly bill and still have a payment service offering that supports and enhances your business.

Here are our top 5 tips to consider to reduce your payment processing fees:
  1. Switch and save: In January especially, many payment processors will be offering introductory offers to get you to switch to their service. These may include reduced monthly fees, reduced transaction and gateway fees, reduced or waived point of sale monthly fees, creating a very compelling argument to switching provider.
  2. Price can be negotiated: Even though you may think your current payments processor is offering you the best rates, it is always worth challenging them to see if you can negotiate the price you are paying. Even if they can’t reduce your processing fees they may be able to offer you additional services as part of your current package.
  3. Integrated services: When researching alternative providers, an important factor to consider is whether they offer an integrated service. This can be by offering your payment services integrated into one management system or by only having to go through one provider for all your services. If you have an integrated service it will save you valuable time when reconciling your accounts, and will crucially give you more access and control over your cash flow.
  4. Research new solutions: With all the changes in the payment sector, new solutions are constantly being developed and released to support businesses. Some of these new solutions can help in reducing your payment processing bill, including mobile payment solutions that enable you to take payment ‘on the go’ without the cost of a standard bulky card processing machine.
  5. Bundled packages: It can be very useful to carry out a review of the areas you are incurring the most cost on your payment processing, as there may be savings you can make by adapting your package or going onto a bundled pricing package where you pay a single rate for multiple services.
If you are considering switching payment processing processor as part of reducing your monthly bill, have a look at our 10 reasons to switch article and our guide to switching.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Tis the season to be switching

Top of the New Year’s resolution list for many businesses will be to drive down their costs by switching their core services. Electricity supplier, mobile phone contract, stationery provider are all up for grabs. Yet, in this rush for savings, card processing services are often overlooked. It has been notoriously difficult in times gone by to change financial services providers – as Ed Balls put it, individuals are more likely to change their spouse than their bank account!

So is it really that complicated to switch your card processing?  No, it’s not but, frankly, companies offering card processing don’t make it easy! 
We can’t even agree on what we call the services (acquiring, card acceptance, merchant services, credit and debit card processing) let alone how the charges are named (Merchant Service Charge, transaction fee, merchant discount rates!) 
Add to this a diverse range of services being offered and the perceived hassle of switching which can be quite a technical challenge, and it’s no wonder the reaction of most business owners is to glaze over and shy away from looking at switching their payments provider.
That, however, would be a mistake. The good news for businesses is that it’s really not that complicated to save money on your card processing by following a few simple tips. During January 2013, CashFlows will be helping you decipher the jargon associated with accepting credit and debit cards from your website and understand what to look for in a new deal. Top of our list are some key do's and don'ts: 
Do's
·        Check the key prices of any provider to make sure you really are getting a saving, particularly:
o   Set Up Fee
o   Monthly Fee
o   Merchant Service Charge (a percentage for credit card transactions, a flat fee for debit card transactions)
·        If you need support re-integrating a new service, make sure you get a dedicated Relationship Manager, who can guide you through the process
·         Stay on the lookout for promotional offers at this time of year – this can include waived monthly fees or savings guarantees
Dont's
·         Don’t accept being told that it’ll take 3-4 weeks to set up a new account  
·         Don’t assume that the bank that provides your business banking service will offer the best deal on your card processing
·         Don’t pay any kind of set-up fee – why should your business be penalised for switching your card processing?
At this time of year, many businesses will get an unpleasant surprise when they see their December card processing statement and realise how much they are shelling out each month to accept credit and debit cards. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be providing some insider information to help you source the best deal and with a bit of persistence, you can kick-off 2013 with some savvy switching and sensational savings!