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How to Manage International Payments Better as a Business

kokou adzo



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In the fast-paced world of startups and global markets, handling international payments skillfully is crucial. The prospect of reaching a broader audience and establishing worldwide partnerships also brings substantial challenges, including steep transaction costs and fluctuating currency exchange rates. These hurdles can significantly eat into profit margins and introduce financial instability.

In this article, we aim to arm businesses with strategies to overcome these obstacles effectively. By tackling the critical issues of costs and unstable exchange rates directly, we aim to create a roadmap for a smoother and more predictable international payment strategy. A proactive approach will not only protect your financial stability but also allow you to capitalize on new opportunities boldly on the global stage. Being equipped with innovative solutions for managing international business payments can be a game-changer in steering a startup towards sustained growth in the global marketplace.

The Hidden Costs of International Payments

International transactions, a vital part of global business operations, unfortunately come with a basket of hidden charges that can slowly but substantially erode a company’s profit margins. These costs often go unnoticed as they blend with the standard processes of making payments across borders. By dissecting these hidden charges and understanding them clearly, businesses can strategize to minimize their impacts effectively.

Bank Fees: The Silent Profit Eaters

Bank fees are an inevitable part of international payments, levied almost at every step of the transaction process. From service charges to transaction fees, these silent profit eaters can consume a considerable portion of your business profits if not monitored and managed efficiently. Banks often charge for incoming and outgoing international business transfers, and in some cases, even for converting currencies.

Exchange Rate Markup: The Hidden Cost

Exchange rate markups are often the hidden charges that businesses overlook. Financial institutions and currency exchange platforms sometimes set their exchange rates, adding a markup to the prevailing market rate. This markup, albeit hidden, can have a substantial impact on the amount of money received at the other end.

Fixed and Intermediary Fees: Small Charges, Big Impact

Apart from the more apparent bank fees and exchange rate markups, international transactions often involve a series of small fixed and intermediary fees that can accumulate to a sizable amount. These can include charges levied by intermediary banks involved in the transaction process, and fixed fees charged irrespective of the transaction amount. While these charges might seem inconsequential individually, their cumulative effect can be substantial.

Real-World Impact on Businesses

International transactions are not just a complex web of numbers but have concrete implications on the ground, affecting the very fabric of businesses, especially when it comes to profitability and responding to rapid foreign exchange (FX) movements.

How High Costs Affect Profitability

The high costs associated with international payments directly chip away at a business’s profitability. Every charge levied during a cross-border transaction reduces the net revenue that a business can recognize from its international dealings. These high costs can sometimes make businesses hesitant to explore international markets, limiting their growth potential. Moreover, startups and small businesses operating on tight margins can find their profitability severely impacted, sometimes even resulting in losses.

When Rapid FX Movements Impact Businesses

Rapid movements in FX rates can have sudden and dramatic impacts on businesses. Let us consider three real-world scenarios where businesses faced significant repercussions due to fluctuating FX rates:

  • Brexit (2016): When the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, the pound sterling plummeted, affecting businesses trading in or with the UK. Companies who had contracts denominated in pounds found their revenues drastically reduced overnight.
  • US-China Trade War (2018-2019): During the heightened periods of the US-China trade war, the Chinese yuan experienced significant fluctuations. Businesses importing goods from China had to deal with changing costs, forcing them to alter their pricing strategies frequently, impacting their bottom lines adversely.
  • COVID-19 Pandemic (2020): The global pandemic brought unprecedented fluctuations in the currency markets. Businesses around the world faced not only supply chain disruptions but also volatility in FX rates, creating a double whammy of challenges to navigate.

Timing Your Transfers: When to Hit ‘Send’

Engaging in international transactions demands not only a sound understanding of the financial landscape but also a mastery over the timing of your transfers. One of the critical determinants of the success of an international transaction is the currency rate at the time of the transfer. Knowing when to hit ‘send’ can save substantial funds and secure better financial outcomes.

Understanding How Currency Rates Work

Currency rates, often referred to as foreign exchange or FX rates, denote the value of one currency in terms of another. These rates are influenced by a plethora of factors including economic indicators, interest rates, political events, and market sentiment. The foreign exchange market operates 24/5, and the rates see constant fluctuations throughout the trading period.

Why Do Currency Rates Fluctuate?

The fluctuation in currency rates is a complex interplay of several factors, including changes in interest rates, inflation, economic stability, and geopolitical events. For instance, a country experiencing political instability may see its currency value drop. Similarly, announcements of economic policies by governments or central banks can cause instantaneous reactions in the FX market.

How to Time Your Transfers Correctly

Timing your transfers correctly is akin to hitting a moving target; it demands a well-strategized approach backed by comprehensive market analysis. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Market Analysis: Engage in regular market analysis to understand the prevailing trends and to forecast potential future movements. Leveraging financial news, economic calendars, and expert analyses can provide a firm grounding in this.
  • Leveraging Tools: Many financial platforms offer tools like rate alerts, which notify you when the rate hits a predetermined level. Utilizing such tools can help in timing the transfers to your advantage.
  • Hedging: Businesses can also consider hedging strategies to protect themselves from adverse movements in currency rates. Hedging allows you to lock in rates for future transactions, providing a shield against unfavorable market movements.

Solutions for Money Transfer Costs and FX Management

The complexities associated with international transactions necessitate robust solutions for managing both transfer costs and FX risks. Thankfully, advancements in technology and the financial sector mean that multiple methods are more affordable than banks. There is now a variety of services and platforms that can assist businesses in navigating the intricate landscape of international payments.

Currency Brokerages

Currency brokerages specialize in foreign currency transactions, providing businesses with an avenue to potentially secure better exchange rates and lower fees compared to traditional banks. These firms are equipped with experts who can offer guidance on the best times to conduct cheap international money transfers, leveraging market analysis to secure favorable rates. Moreover, many brokerages offer forward contracts that allow businesses to lock in current exchange rates for future transactions, thus mitigating the risk of adverse currency movements.

Other Online Money Transfer Solutions

With the advent of digitalization, a host of cheap online money transfer solutions have emerged, offering convenient, speedy, and cost-effective options for businesses to handle international transactions. Here are some of the services that stand out:

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) Transfer Services: Platforms such as TransferWise (now known as Wise) allow for quick and low-cost international transfers, utilizing a peer-to-peer system that bypasses traditional banking routes, thereby reducing costs.
  • Payment Gateways: Services like PayPal and Stripe offer solutions that facilitate easy cross-border transactions. These platforms offer the convenience of quick transfers but may come with their set of fees.
  • Cryptocurrency Transfers: Though still a very volatile player in the financial landscape, the tech behind cryptocurrencies offer a promising avenue for international transactions. Utilizing blockchain technology, international transfers can be facilitated quickly and securely with relatively low fees.

By embracing these solutions, businesses can formulate strategies that not only reduce costs but also manage FX risks efficiently. It’s about crafting a holistic approach where cost-efficiency meets risk management, paving the way for successful international business engagements.


Navigating the complex landscape of international payments is a critical skill in today’s global market, offering businesses a pathway to success. By shedding light on the obscured costs associated with transactions and gauging the real-world effects of market dynamics, companies can employ informed strategies to mitigate challenges. Utilizing expert services of currency brokerages and modern online transfer solutions are significant steps towards achieving favorable financial outcomes. This article has aimed to arm businesses with insights and tools necessary to manage international payments efficiently, encouraging sustainable growth and resilience in a competitive environment. The mastery of international payment dynamics, therefore, emerges not just as a necessity, but a valuable asset in global business operations.


Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at

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