The first thing we should say is that when it comes to someone's money, no amount is a small amount.
Consumers hunt around to save and get the best deal on insurance, utilities and bank accounts; the savings you can get on an exchange of currency should be viewed in exactly the same way and the company that overlooks the needs of someone converting what they (the company or the customer) consider a 'small amount' is limiting customer choice, pigeon holing the consumer and deviating from the very reason why challenger companies came in to being in this sector.
We will look at the costs of sending a payment, the ways you can send a payment, the reasons you might send a payment and how you can approach all of the above in pursuit of the best value for money
1. How much should it cost to send and receive your money?
It always costs something to send a payment.
You may have noticed your bank charges anywhere between £3 and £35.
Your bank may offer you a couple of different ways to send a payment too.
You can call them and ask for a CHAPS payments which, provided you request it before 14:00 should arrive at it's destination the same day.
Most 'online' domestic payments can be sent by FPS (Faster payment system). The cost for this is usually covered in the account fee you pay monthly. Faster payments incur no up front cost, but that doesn't mean they are free.
An international transfer can cost more.
This is because international payments cannot be sent using the FPS network. FPS only
exists within the UK domestic banking network. Other countries may have similar domestic settlement formats, but these tend not to extend to international payments.
Currency companies will also charge you for sending a payment. They do this because they rely on the UK banking system to send and receive money.
Therefore, the currency company does incur a cost.
This cost can vary depending on the format in which the currency company sends your payment and also depending on the amount of payments the currency company makes collectively.
If the currency company makes a lot of payments then they can usually get a discount on that cost from their bank.
However, the currency company does not necessarily pass on the saving to you.
So, if currency companies suggest they do not charge you for sending payments, this can mean a couple of different things.
Some companies use the domestic banking networks of the country you're sending the payment to in order to avoid any international payment costs.
This is very clever, but it does rely on that company having a presence in the country you're sending funds to and it invariably means you cannot send one currency to a country that does not deal in that currency as it's domestic tender.
Hence, you would not be able to use these sorts of companies to send euros to the United States.
You can only send those euros to a country whose domestic tender is euros because that is the only way these companies can ensure there is no domestic transfer costs arise.
They basically transmit your euros domestically from their euro located entity; they are not making an international payment at all.
Currency companies like Prime Cap rely on the relationship their bank has globally with banking institutions in the countries we are sending to.
If our bank is big enough then they will likely have a branch, license or presence in the country you are sending to, and we can make use of that network.
This enables us to keep costs to a minimum.
When you are sending to rare and wonderful countries with unusual or restricted currencies the costs climb.
At most we will charge £10 for an international payment, however, wherever possible we will pay for this cost ourselves from the margin we apply to the rate of exchange we offer you.
So, in theory, we are paying for the cost of the transfer for you. You have no upfront costs added to the amount you are exchanging or deducted from the amounts you are sending.
We prefer it this way because it means what you see is what you get and, in the case of smaller payments, where the difference in price can be fractional, we know that the only thing we have to get right is the rate and the additional service.
On smaller payments the cost of an international transmission can make up quite a sizeable chunk of the expenses you incur.
It seems a little ridiculous that you are charged £25 to send £250 to France, for instance.
In fact, it seems absurd that a business is charged to move euros to their own sterling account even though both are in the UK.
Some people would argue 'it does not cost your bank £25 to send the payment, so they shouldn't be charging you that',
Well, the unitary cost of sending a payment is never actually the underlying reason for this sort of charge.
If you buy a car you don't expect the dealer to sell it to you at the cost they paid for it, would you?
That would mean they make no money.
The bank is doing the same.
They are marking up the cost of using their international payment service and, frankly, why shouldn't they?
You do have other options that are less expensive.
The problem is that many people do not feel comfortable using the other options, like Prime Cap, but, this is not your bank's fault. They are charging you what they consider to be a fair price for the service they provide.
If you do not agree then you at least have to concede that they are not prohibiting you from voting with your feet and using other providers.
Unless they are...in which case you should report them.
Let's say you have a monthly payment to make.
Maybe you need to pay your insurance costs on a house abroad. Maybe you have a child studying overseas; or you live abroad and you have expenses in the UK.
One thing we advise is that, if you have the money in the bank and can pay for more than one payment upfront, do so.
The first thing this will achieve is that you will only be charged once for the international payment.
Secondly, the only FX risk you face (by that we mean the only risk you face of the rate being relatively good or relatively bad) is contained/limited to the one transaction you are conducting, rather than being an issue on each of the payments you make.
If you do not have all the cash in the bank to make a collective payment right now, then, you might find it interesting to look at extending the use of today's rate of exchange over a longer period.