How to Receive Money from Abroad

Receiving money from overseas can quickly become more complicated than sending it. As the one receiving funds, you’re playing a more passive role in the transfer process. If not handled correctly, you’ll experience delays, or worse, end up with an amount that is much less than you expected. 

Quick-look at the best ways to receive money from abroad in 2024

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What else do I need to know?

Fortunately, with the right knowledge, you can avoid unnecessary delays and fees, and ensure the sender’s funds are converted at a favourable exchange rate. 

This guide covers the various options for receiving international payments, and assesses the cost, safety, and timeliness of each of these methods. By the end, you’ll have a clear idea of the best way to receive money from abroad, based on your personal requirements. 

Website banner for Send highlighting personal payments with a woman jumping and the text "Goodbye, banks. Hello, world."
Currency brokers are an excellent choiceone of your for receiving international payments

How can I receive funds from overseas?

There’s an array of choices, from traditional Australian banks, to the latest pioneering fintechs, and a whole load in between. One thing is for certain, you’re not short on options.

To give you a better idea, providers generally fall into one of five categories. Let’s take a look at these now:

Bank to bank – international wire transfer

For many, turning to their bank seems like the obvious choice to receive funds from overseas. It remains the most popular method, likely due to convenience and an unawareness of the better alternatives. If you’re going with this option, your sender uses their local bank to transfer the funds. You simply provide them with your own bank account details, in an international format. 

This will include: 

  • Destination SWIFT/BIC
  • Beneficiary details (account number, name + address)
  • 6-digit BSB Code

Below is a list of the SWIFT codes for Australia’s five biggest banks : 

BankSWIFT/BIC
ANZANZBAU3M
Commonwealth BankCTBAAU2S
Macquarie BankMACQAU2S
NABNATAAU33
WestpacWPACAU2S

You may need to combine your bank’s SWIFT and BSB code if asked to provide a code like an IBAN. Contact your bank if you’re unsure of any of these details, and once you’ve double checked these are correct, share them with your sender and their bank will take care of the rest. All sounding great so far? Well, here’s the catch. 

Using your bank is one the most expensive methods for receiving international payments.

We break down the various costs involved in our next section.

Currency brokers 

In contrast to banks, currency brokers offer favourable exchange rates along with exceptional service. As international payment specialists, top currency brokers can help you receive your funds for a lower cost, and often faster than traditional banks. 

If you register as the recipient, you’ll provide your sender with the account details of your chosen broker, instead of your regular bank details. If your sender registers, the broker will clearly explain what details they need from the recipient (you), which you can then pass on for the sender to get the transfer locked in. 

One way they do this is by using local settlement accounts, helping you to bypass intermediary fees and avoid unnecessary delays. You can decide between yourself and the sender who will register with your selected currency broker. Either way, it’s a simple process which doesn’t usually take long for you to get approved. 

A huge benefit of working with a currency broker is being assigned a dedicated account manager. 

So whoever decides to register will have access to an fx expert guiding them through every step of the process.

Website banner for OFX featuring a mobile app interface and text promoting "bank-beating rates in the palm of your hand."
Many currency brokers offer great mobile apps alongside award-winning service

Multi-currency accounts

If your incoming transfer is a fairly small sum, then digital providers offer a fantastic and streamlined solution for receiving money from overseas. 

Bear in mind that not all providers are set up to help you receive funds from abroad. Those that do, allow you to open multiple multi-currency accounts, meaning you can send and receive funds in a number of popular currencies. Wise is one such provider that allows you to receive local transfers in 10 countries with no cost. 

For example, say you’re due to receive money internationally in USD. By opening a multi-currency account with someone like ‘Wise’, you can have a USD and an AUD account. You would then receive the USD directly into your USD account, with no currency exchange. So you’re essentially receiving the money locally.

This gives you the flexibility to either transfer the funds immediately into your AUD account, or hold off until the exchange rate swings favourably, so your USD is worth more in AUD.
Website banner for Wise showing a woman using a mobile device, promoting receiving money from abroad with the text "Receive money from abroad. Create a Wise account."
Wise’s multi-currency account lets you receive and hold payments in the sender’s currency

Digital Wallets (including PayPal) 

PayPal makes digital payments extremely easily. They’re also highly trusted and are the world’s largest money transfer company. There’s no doubt PayPal and other digital wallets can be a great solution for domestic transfers.

But what about receiving money from overseas? Well, it’s expensive. Very expensive!

If we take a GBP to AUD transfer as an example, total fees and money lost in the exchange rate add up to around 8% of the transfer total.

Cash pickup

If you need to collect your funds in cash, then choosing a remittance provider like Remitly can prove to be a convenient option. You’ll just need a form of ID and a confirmation number to collect your funds. 

Some providers partner with certain 7-Eleven and Australia Post locations, making it even easier to collect your funds.

But this convenience comes with a cost. 

Providers offering cash pick up will add a high margin to their fx rates, meaning you’ll lose out on a lot of money in the currency exchange. 

Our recommendation is to avoid using cash pickup providers unless there’s a specific reason to do so.

If you do still decide to go down this route, it’s the sender who needs to register with your chosen remittance provider.

Website banner for Remitly featuring a mobile app interface, text "Simple transfers trusted worldwide," and a list of countries served.
Remittance providers are costly but offer a convenient solution if you urgently need cash

How much does it cost?

We’ve touched on the overall cost of various providers at a high level. Now let’s take a look at the various fees and markups in more detail, as cost will likely be the biggest factor in your choice of provider. 

It’s true that it’s often the sender who incurs most of the applicable fees, but not always all of them. Also bear in mind that depending how the transfer is handled, fees incurred by the sender might still affect the total amount you receive.

What fees do I need to pay for receiving international payments?

To know the true cost of receiving money from overseas, you must consider all of the following: 

  • Receiving fees
  • Intermediary fees 
  • Exchange rate markup
Website banner for TorFX promoting excellent exchange rates and fast, free payments with the text "Excellent Exchange Rates" and "Free, Fast Payments."
Leading currency brokers like TorFX don’t charge receiving transfer fees

Receiving fees

Whether or not you pay a receiving fee will come down to which route you choose. 

Currency brokers typically charge zero fees for receiving international payments. As we mentioned earlier, using a multi-currency account is like making a local transfer, so there’s no fee. 

If you’re using your bank, then expect to pay a receiving fee. Assuming you’re with one of Australia’s ‘big four’, you’ll be paying somewhere between $11-$35 AUD.

With PayPal, it depends on where you’re receiving the funds from. If it’s from friends or family, then there’s no fee. If you’re using PayPal as a merchant, then you’ll pay an additional 1% as an international fee on top of the 2.6% merchant fee, which quickly adds up.

Intermediary fees

Intermediary fees are prevalent amongst transfers made through the SWIFT network. These fees are charged by any intermediary banks that the sender’s funds are re-routed through on its journey from the origin bank to your account. They might be small, but there can sometimes be several when funds pass through multiple banks before arriving to you. 

Thankfully, there are some currency brokers that have a solution to help you bypass the SWIFT network. Leading currency brokers, like OFX, have local settlement accounts set up in a number of countries around the globe. So where OFX has local accounts in both the sending and receiving currency, you’re technically not making an ‘international transfer’, despite a currency exchange still taking place. Not only can this help to reduce the transfer time, you’ll also avoid intermediary fees. 

Now let’s turn your attention to the most important cost when it comes to receiving money from abroad…

Exchange rate markup  

When you’re the one receiving an international transfer, a poor exchange rate will see you receiving a lot less than expected. Work with your sender to arrange the transfer via a provider that works for both parties. Here’s what you need to know…   

The exchange rate markup is where the vast majority of providers make a big chunk of their profits. This is also where some providers will exploit you.

Banks are a perfect example, as they consistently offer poor exchange rates that include a very high fx markup. This is the main reason why the traditional bank route for receiving overseas funds is so costly. 

Whether it’s yours or the sender’s bank handling the currency exchange, you can expect a high fx margin, somewhere in the region of 2.5-5%. To give you an idea, as of February 2024, NAB were applying a 4.8% margin for a £10,000 GBPAUD transfer. That’s an equivalent cost of AU$935.

PayPal offers a similarly poor, flat exchange rate markup of 4%.

So, if banks and digital wallets are some of the most expensive ways to receive international transfers, what about the alternatives?

Website banner for Send showing icons of various currencies with the text "Currency transfer has evolved" and "Make your money multilingual."
Leading currency brokers are far cheaper for receiving funds from overseas than your bank

The cheapest way to receive money from abroad

Cost is arguably the most important factor in deciding how to receive money from abroad. This is another area where money transfer companies are far superior to banks and other alternatives. 

How much can you save? Well, that depends. 

As a rough guide, providing you’re exchanging major currencies, expect to pay a fx margin in the region of 0.2-1.5% That’s a huge saving compared to NAB’s markup of just under 5%  


To ensure you find the cheapest way to receive money from abroad, you’ll need to choose between a leading currency broker, or going it alone with a digital multi-currency account. As we touched on earlier, digital providers like ‘Wise’ will likely be the cheapest way for receiving all small transfers, let’s say AU$20,000 or less. For anything larger, there’s a good chance you’ll secure better exchange rates by working with a leading currency broker, like OFX, TorFX or Send Payments

You can always reach out for multiple quotes from your shortlist of providers, to ensure you’re getting the cheapest offer. Just remember, there’s a lot of added value from working with a currency broker, as they offer fantastic service and tools that can potentially help you make even greater savings.   

Pro tip:

Make sure you don’t fall victim to a broker applying a ‘default spread’ to your transfer. 

You’ll still get a bank-beating rate either way, but to ensure you’re maximising your savings, always agree and lock in a rate with your broker ahead of your sender funding the transfer.

How long can it take?

This can vary based on a lot of factors, so it’s difficult to say which route is the fastest. Generally speaking, international transfers take 1-3 business days, but it’s not uncommon for payments made through the SWIFT network to take 3-5 working days. The sender can potentially speed the process up by funding the transfer via debit card, if your chosen provider offers this as a payment method.

Wise has a pretty good track record of getting your funds delivered quickly. Currency brokers are also faster on average than banks, as they can often bypass the SWIFT network and keep your funds from passing through any intermediary banks. 

What’s the safest way to receive money from overseas?

This is one area where most of the providers we’ve discussed are on a fairly even playing field. 

PayPal is a highly trusted digital payments provider. Your transfer is also in safe hands with Australian banks, as the FCS insures Australian bank accounts up to AU$250,000.

As MoneyTransferAustralia only features companies we deem safe, we’d also recommend any of the specialist providers on this site as a safe way to receive money from abroad. Our criteria includes being ASIC authorised, highly regulated, and having a good online reputation from a sizable number of verified reviews. 

safe tofx

How does receiving money from overseas work?

Your involvement as the receiver of funds will differ based on whether you, or the sender, registers with the preferred provider. Either way, at some point you’ll end up having to provide your sender with your own account details, or the account details of your currency broker.

In most cases, these are the details you’ll be asked to supply: 

  • Full name and address, as they appear on your bank account
  • Bank name and address, including BIC/SWIFT code
  • A transfer reference

For a more detailed look at both sending and receiving funds from specific countries, MoneyTransferAustralia has specific guides for some of the most popular country corridors. 

verdict

What is the best way to receive money from abroad?

In absence of a ‘one size fits all’ answer, the most appropriate solution will depend on your own requirements. But we can draw some conclusions that should make your decision a bit easier. 

Banks are rarely a good option, as they are very costly and not usually the fastest. For receiving international payments, we’d also steer clear of digital wallets like PayPal. So this narrows down options down to either currency brokers or a digital multi currency account. 

Providers like ‘Wise’ are a great option for smaller transfers, but you’re on your own, meaning no dedicated support throughout the transfer process. You’ll also miss out on guidance for when it’s a good time to exchange your funds back into an AUD account. 

This is where currency brokers come in. Their guidance can help you to time your transfer so that you’re receiving your funds during a favourable currency swing. They also have a range of fx tools you can leverage to either lock in a favourable rate, or set limits for when you’d like the transfer to initiate, and the funds will be held until then.

So for receiving international transfers >AU$20,000, the smart choice is working with one of our top rated currency brokers.