If you’ve been hiring staff around the world, have you encountered the problem of how to actually pay them?
Many companies use our software Time Doctor to track time for people working from home on countries like the Philippines, India, Russia or Ukraine. These companies also are looking for an easy way to pay these contractors that are working from home.
This article is written for the situation where you have someone working from home in a foreign country and you need to pay them. If you are sending money to a friend or relative some of this advice will still apply, but the focus of the review is for paying people working from home all around the world.
Update – new method that is lower cost than most of the transfer methods mentioned in the article:
Wise, formerly TransferWise – This company doesn’t charge any hidden currency conversion fees, and instead they charge a fixed fee of 0.5% in the UK or Europe or 1% from the US.
Which method should you choose?
Western Union has a very wide reach and often considered to be a high cost option, but they are not necessarily high cost in comparison with PayPal. They have a fairly straight-forward online transfer process, and the fees are not too exorbitant when sending from the US. Western Union is a great option if your recipient does not have a bank account, but it’s not a convenient option for the recipient to need to collect the money in cash for each transfer made.
PayPal works reasonably well for countries such as the Philippines, but it’s not a great option for Russia or Ukraine for example. The fees for PayPal are much lower if the transaction is considered a transfer to a friend or family member. PayPal is a fairly low cost option when money is transferred within the US, but the costs go up significantly for international transactions. PayPal also have a less expensive mass payments option for businesses that are paying several people at the same time.
As the platform divides different types of payments into categories as well as offering various options to make transactions it is important to understand how PayPal works before you get started.
Payoneer is a good option for transferring money if you can get a relationship with them. They have the ability to send out a debit card which allows the user to withdraw money from an ATM machine wherever they are located. Payoneer is only available through selected partners.
For example Upwork (formerly oDesk), Freelancer.com and Elance all have a relationship with Payoneer to send and receive payments. Payoneer has minimal fees for partners, there are some fees for the recipient for withdrawal from ATMs and for each load onto their card. If you have a large number of employees you might be able to get a business relationship with them.
Xoom is a lower cost method of sending money to over 30 different countries however they have banned commercial payments from businesses to workers so this is not an option.
Payments.ph is a low cost option for sending money from a US bank account to the Philippines. Costs only $4.99 per transfer (plus currency conversion).
OrbitRemit is a low cost option for sending money from the UK. Costs £5 for transfers up to £200 and £7 for transfers over this amount.
RemitHome is an option for sending money from the US to the Philippines and costs $10 per transfer (plus currency conversion).
Skrill, formerly “Moneybookers”, does not currently offer an option to upload funds from US bank accounts which means it is not an option for transfers from the US. But it is a reasonable alternative for withdrawals from various countries in Western Europe.
Always an option, but it costs money both for the person sending the money and for the person receiving the money. It only starts to become cost effective for larger transfers.
Local bank accounts
If you pay a lot of people in one country then a low cost method is if you have a bank account in that country you can organize a local transfer to all of the recipients. So you can do one wire transfer in and then multiple local transfers to the recipients. This obviously assumes that you are able to get a local bank account and that you have multiple people in the country.
Currency conversion – the hidden fee!
Most of these transfer options make some of their money from currency conversion. This is often a hidden fee so it can be hard to find out exactly how much is charged. The currency conversion fee varies usually from 1% to 3%.
If you are unsure of the fee you can calculate it yourself by finding out the currency rate that you are getting for the transfer and comparing it with the interbank rate. You can find the interbank rate here.
So for example, let’s say you would like to convert using Orbitremit from Pounds to Philippine pesos.
The rate on the Orbitremit website is 66.000 and the interbank rate is 66.6941. The difference is approximately 1% meaning that they are charging you a 1% currency conversion fee.
Comparison table of the costs of transferring money
Calculating the exact transfer fees is quite complex as there are several fees involved in any transaction.
For example if you send money to the Philippines from the US using a wire transfer, you will have fees for the wire itself, but you will also need to consider the currency conversion fees.
We calculated the fees based on the minimum payable if you take the most cost effective withdrawal option. We chose the Philippines, India and Ukraine as three of the most popular countries to hire work-from-home offshore contractors (you can hire very talented developers in Ukraine for example).
Fees to send $250 from the US to the Philippines
Fees to send $250 from Australia to the Philippines
Fees to send £160 from the UK to the Philippines
Fees to send $250 from the USA to India
Fees to send $1000 from the US to Ukraine
No easy way to withdraw the money
No easy way to withdraw the money
Notes regarding this fee comparison table
It is very hard to directly compare fees because there are multiple fees charged for different situations.
Paypal – normally costs 3.9% plus 30 cents and 2.5% currency conversion to the Philippines and India. With the Mass payments option the 3.9% is reduced to 2% but the currency conversion stays the same.
Western Union – when we researched this table they had a promotion for payments from the US, so the costs were actually much lower. The cost for US to the Philippines was only $5, for the US to India was only $2.5 (free transfer and the fees were for currency conversion only). The currency conversion in Ukraine is estimated (it’s actually possible to withdraw US dollars in Ukraine and then convert it at a cost of roughly 1% in any case)
Wire transfers – the cost varies significantly for each bank. This table assumes a low fee of $15 to send and $15 to receive. It can be higher than this. We also added a minimum 1% currency conversion fee from the receiving bank for US dollars and 3% for other currencies. Actually currency conversion fees are usually higher than 1%, but in the Philippines and Ukraine because the US dollar is commonly used in the local economy, banks in these countries have reasonable currency conversion fees.
Rob Rawson is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve work productivity and help keep track of what your team is working on, even when working remotely.