If you have ever sent money overseas, you will know that it can be an expensive endeavour and can take a considerable amount of time.
While it can be frustrating to wait over two days for an international payment to go through or to pay transaction fees on small amounts, there are reasons that these charges and wait times exist – according to banks.
Sending money to another bank across borders is not as simple as domestic interbank transfers, as everything from currency conversion to criminal screening must be conducted to ensure the legitimacy of the transaction.
There is also the simple logistics of time zone differences and operating hours to consider, which can extend the wait time.
Most South African banks use the SWIFT international transfer system to send and receive money to and from international banks, and this comes with its own set of limitations and fees.
To find out more about international transfers, MyBroadband spoke to a number of major South African banks.
Absa RBB head of retail pricing Jean van Rooyen told MyBroadband that customers can make international payments through its NovoFX app or Western Union, allowing for quicker and more convenient transfers.
“The global standard for international bank account transfers is 2-5 days and most of our payments are settled within two days,” van Rooyen said.
“The 2-5 day period for international bank account transfers affords cross country, global time zones and financial institutions to effectively manage payment flows, manage and mitigate risk and apply funds.”
Payments made in Absa branches can also be requested for same-day delivery, subject to currency cut-off times.
Van Rooyen said the costs for international transfers depend on the amount being sent.
“Customers using our digital platforms can expect to pay 0.55% of the payment amount with the maximum fee of R750 and a minimum of R150. An addition electronic fee of R100 is levied on the transaction.”
Factors influencing the price of transactions include exchange control and compliance regulation, foreign exchange trades, and arrangements with banks.
These also affect the length of time it takes to process the transaction.
“International transfers are processed during business hours. Public holidays in the destination country could result in delays in processing,” van Rooyen added.
“Similarly, the destination country may be closed for business if they are in a different time zones, but the delay applies more to territories in the east than in the west.”
Standard Bank told MyBroadband that its international fund transfers take at least two business days.
“International transfers take two working days as we are dependent on the receiving bank processing payments timeously,” the bank said.
Standard Bank charges 0.50% of the transaction value with a minimum of R151 and a maximum of R690.
Standard Bank also said that arrangements with banks and the need to make foreign exchange trades adds to this cost.
“The bank needs to maintain foreign currency accounts with agent banks to make payments in foreign currencies. There are also costs of using an international payment switch and trading in foreign currencies.”
“Standard Bank must also comply with both local and international laws.”
FNB charges 0.55% for international payments, with a minimum of R160 and a maximum of R675.
Like overseas transfers through other local banks, these payments take a minimum of two days to reflect.
“A foreign exchange spot transaction is done to exchange one currency for another where delivery of the cash takes place two business days later,” said FNB Foreign Exchange CEO Anthony Grant.
“There are time zone differences of up to 12 hours and this period allows for document, fraud and exchange control vetting processes to be completed,” he added.
Clients can also request a same-day payment, for which FNB will do its best to process the transfer during the same business day.
The cost of the payment is influenced by a number of factors, including regulatory hurdles and foreign exchange fees.
“Foreign bank and correspondent bank fees, document, fraud and exchange control vetting all contribute to the cost of these transfers, with the document vetting processes impacting both cost and time,” Grant said.
Nedbank charges a commission of 0.63% to send money overseas, with a minimum charge of R170.48 and a maximum charge of R874.69.
The time taken to complete these transactions and the cost of conducting them are affected by regulatory practices.
“For international bank accounts, various factors affect the time to process an international transaction,” Nedbank said.
“Some of these factors may include: regulatory requirements, industry practices, and internal risk-based processes.”