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If you want to convert over £10,000 from one currency to another you need a currency broker.
Currency brokers offer exchange rates that are much better than banks and because they specialise in foreign exchange the process is much more user friendly. Most established currency brokers do not charge a commission or any fee for paying the money to an international beneficiary.
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0% commission – Exposing the myth!
The majority of currency brokers now advertise their services as 0% commission, but what does this really mean? Not a lot is the truth. Currency brokers make their money on the difference between the price they buy their currency and then sell it on to you. In the past, currency exchanges have been making money on both the buy/sell spread, but also adding commission on top. Now, though with Currency comparison sites such as ours there is greater competition in the industry so adding commission on top of the spread was the first extra cost to go.
However, you may not be charged commission, but currency broker prices are generally based on a percentage away from the mid market price. So if you are a small customer you can expect to be charged about 1% from the mid market by your currency broker. So if you convert £10,000 they will charge you £100 – from this they will have to deduct all their costs before they make a profit.
Peer 2 Peer currency exchange versus traditional conversions
New Peer 2 Peer Foreign Exchange companies claim to swap your currency with a local in another country rather than deal in the market with banks. Companies like Transferwise rely heavily on this “we don’t use the evil banks” image to get new customers. But costs are still pretty high. They charge a flat 0.5% of the conversion value so still make 1% on the buy and sell before costs. However, the liquidity of this market is still pretty think so most of the time they are just using bank lines to do the conversion but with discounted rates to win new business.
How do banks get away with tourists rates?
Tourist rates are around 3% – 5% from the mid market depending on what bank you use and you’ll also have to pay transfer fees on top. At the airport rates can be even bigger. The rates may seem large, but at the end of the day there is significant risk and administration in converting lots of small amounts of money so the large fees go towards covering these costs as well as the bricks and mortar locations that currency exchanges have to pay for.
How do Currency Cards work?
To avoid these high charges, one option is to go for a pre-paid currency card. Most currency brokers offer a branded version. It’s like having a foreign bank account, and you can convert small money and add them to the base currency when you want. The reality is that it will save you a small amount over the year compared to converting money at the airport. But, the administration of yet another card may not be for you.
The importance of personal service
If you are converting over £100k, you’re better off talking direct to a foreign exchange specialist who can give much better rates than 0.5% and also provide advice on when to buy and sell or currency forwards – which will make more of a difference than how good your exchange rates are.
No one can predict where the currency markets are going to go, but the dealers at currency brokers have a better chance than most of providing good advice on how to protect yourself against adverse rate movements.
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