The ultimate guide to paying overseas suppliers

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Paying suppliers in foreign currencies can be expensive and confusing.

Choosing the right international payment method can make all the difference in avoiding expensive transaction fees and poor FX rates, as well as improving company cash flow, so it’s crucial that you understand what’s involved with each method.

With the breakout of the fintech industry in Australia and many new providers offering innovative, cost-effective payment solutions, there has never been a better time to re-evaluate your payment flow.

Let’s take a look at the most popular methods for paying overseas suppliers.

International Bank Transfer

One simple way to pay your international suppliers is through direct bank transfer. All you need is the recipient’s bank account details and BIC/SWIFT code, plus a bank account structure that allows you to make payments via the SWIFT network to get started.

International bank transfers, however, require a great deal of trust as there’s very little protection for merchants or suppliers and little to no recourse from your bank if your transaction goes wrong.

SWIFT payments and international bank transfers are also typically slow, taking up to five business days or longer to be received.

These delays can often have a negative effect on business cash flow, as money in transit is neither earning interest or being used to settle accounts.

International bank transfers also face high transaction fees, ranging from $6 up to $30 or more per transaction. This is usually on top of the fees which are ‘baked in’ to the FX rates normally provided by Australian banks, which can be about 4-5% off the interbank FX rate (the rate you’ll find on Google).

Although at times it may be convenient to pay overseas suppliers via international bank transfer, it may not always be the best option. If you’re after a cheap, secure and reliable way to send money internationally, there are better methods to make sure your money is sent fast and in full.

Peer-to-peer currency transfers

Peer-to-peer currency transfer providers are becoming increasingly popular as personal payment platforms, but how do they stack up when making business payments?

A peer-to-peer transfer provider matches together buyers and sellers of international currencies while charging a small margin to cover costs.

If a match is found right away, this payment method is normally pretty quick, and generally charges fewer fees than Aussie banks. Despite the speed, these platforms usually have exchange rates that aren’t as competitive as other methods, meaning the larger volume or more frequent transactions can become increasingly costly.


Airwallex is a cost-effective, fast and secure way to pay overseas suppliers in 20+ currencies and over 130 countries. The system uses a lightning-fast payment system which means you can pay international suppliers practically instantaneously. No waiting around for money to clear, no delays.

You get access to Airwallex’s interbank FX rate with a very small margin on top, between 0.3% and 0.6%. Best of all, the margin is the same regardless of the amount you are paying - so no need to call up to negotiate the best rates.

Airwallex also offers card payment options which come with zero international transaction fees. If you need to make a card payment, you can instantly create a new virtual Visa card to pay a supplier online, using

Airwallex’s interbank FX rates.

All accounts include no sign-up fees and zero monthly transaction fees, so it’s a great payment method for keeping costs down.

PayPal or credit card

Using your business credit card or PayPal account is a relatively simple method that works well when making smaller payments. It can be useful to help manage cash flow by taking advantage of credit card’s interest-free period as you wait for funds from sales to arrive before making payment.

The downside to making payments via credit cards are the double-fees they usually come with; a foreign transaction fee of around 3% depending on the provider, as well as being at the mercy of the card provider’s FX

rates, which are normally 3-4% off the mark. Adding these together, payments can cost anywhere from 3%-8% of the total transaction.

PayPal also includes a good dispute resolution process as well as secure payment technology and fraud protection. On the contrary, PayPal charges both a percentage fee and a flat dollar fee per payment, which grows with the amount of payment that needs to be sent. Weighing up the total costs of these fees is crucial for evaluating the efficiency of the payment method.

Pick the right payment method for your payment flow

As new players enter the payments market, there is now a wealth of cheaper, faster payment providers available to growing businesses. Researching all available options and finding a provider with fast, transparent pricing means you can save time, improve company cash flow and keep costs down by choosing the right payment partner.

Written in partnership with Airwallex

Airwallex was founded in Melbourne, Australia in 2015 with a simple goal - to push the boundaries of global financial services capabilities in an increasingly borderless world. Airwallex has since secured over $200 million USD in external funding, supported by top-tier investors including DST Global, Sequoia Capital China, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital, Gobi Partners, Horizons Ventures and Square Peg Capital. The company’s core strength lies in its proprietary tech-driven infrastructure to enable low-cost, high-speed and transparent international collections and payments (accessible via API), and its SME business account which helps businesses grow both domestically and internationally. Airwallex has been on an expansion journey and has now established ten international offices across Hong Kong, Melbourne, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing, Singapore, London, San Francisco, Tokyo and Bangalore.