Small Fish Big Ocean

Helping specialist tour operators and activity providers with travel ecommerce

Best way to make international payments to pay suppliers?

Hi all!  I'm looking at how to make international payments to pay suppliers and it seems the banks are neither particularly helpful nor cost effective for this.  I wonder if anyone can suggest a good, low cost solution for a start-up.  Here are my issues in more detail:

I want to make US Dollar payments online, in one of three ways:

(1) pay USD straight from GBP account at spot rate when payment is due in future

(2) convert GBP to USD (using a USD account) at spot rate today, then pay supplier later in USD from USD account - this reduces risk of exchange rate deteriorating

(3) even better is to agree a forward contract so I secure a USD rate today for a payment to be made in the future

Option (3) is the safest, but HSBC told me that forward contracts are not available to the travel industry because it's greater risk for them. They can do option (1) at £17 per transaction but option (2) incurs a £4-5 per month fee for having a USD account and then £30 per transaction to pay from my USD account (which is only possible in branch!!).

I think Nat West can offer option (3) through "Bankline", which costs £28/month plus £12 per transaction.  A USD account is free with them, but currency transfers must be done over the phone which is annoying.  They seem to be better than HSBC anyway.

If anyone can recommend a better bank, or another institution for the above, I would be delighted to hear about it!

Many thanks,

Pete

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Pete, hi, I tried to view your profile to gather more information but I could not see what type of travel business you are running.

Why don't you just give the USA supplier a corporate credit card and let them charge the travel expense to your account? Another option is to open a corporate checking account in the country you are paying the travel expenses.

I operated a ski tour company in the USA for many years. We did a lot of business in Canada, so we opened a corporate checking account in Canada. We then paid Canadian hotels and ski resorts in Canadian dollars. Later this became a burden and time consuming so we just paid by a corporate American Express.

We accumulated huge amounts of credit card points over a season actually hundreds of thousands of points and this countered the 1% charge American Express charged us for using the corporate card to pay an International expense. As a start up paying by credit card seems your easiest solution. I am not familiar as much with the UK laws so maybe this is not possible. Hopefully this is another view.

Matt Zito is a veteran travel industry entrepreneur, consultant and founder of the world’s first ever, Travel Business Academy, a professional online program that teaches entrepreneurs globally, how to start and run a travel business. To learn more visit the Travel Business Academy or email matt@travelbusinessacademy.com

There isn't a legal issue with using credit cards, but likely to be an exchange rate one.

USD and CAD seem pretty close, even if not pegged anymore.

Between GBP and other currencies, there's been a lot of fluctuation and the % differences in the exchange rate on credit cards and transfers makes a difference. I know someone who was using cards to help with cashflow & getting points/cashback but has gone back to transfers.

Another thing is that hotels sometimes apply their own currency exchange rate. An example, let's say a tour operator has a contract with say someone in Malaysia in USD. You give them card details.

Their credit card facilities are for a ringgit account. They then apply their own currency rate (i.e. more favourable to them) and they sometimes also apply a credit card fee of 2-3%.

So it can end up costing quite a bit more than if you did a transfer in USD through a forex house. That said, cards aside, even for many buyers of Forex , every % of a % counts. And with cards, the supplier would have control on when they took the money, so doesn't help with spots, buy forwards etc.

Hi Pete,

Although we don't deal with the US, we have looked at loads of Options: "International Friendly" banks, currency advanced buying etc. It really depends upon the size of transactions....if your transactions are big (e.g €20k as a single payment to a supplier) then advanced buying of currency can be a great way and most big banks or brokers will offer this service. But if you have small transactions (and lots of them) then you still get hit with transactions fees.

We were in this second area, and our solution was to set-up (and haggle for good terms) a current account in the countries we have suppliers. We keep an eye on the exchange rate and when it is in our favour we transafer funds from our British bank to our foreign account...paying 1 transaction fee, then we have the funds to pay our suppliers (and don't pay any transaction fee for paying them...remember to haggle)...all done electronically. 

Hope this helps.

John.

We have used loads since about 2004. Individual brokers were quite good when we were very small and a small broker saved me from disaster by insisting I brought ahead just before the sterling crash in 2008. However, once up to a certain size I needed more flexibility and it had to be a larger company offering forwards and even options (fantastic if you have cash flow as you can win on the upside and protect on the down). Amex happily adjust their spread once they think you are not checking any more. Superb online system but bear that in mind. They are also not that helpful if you need to hunt something down.   By some distance I would recommend World First. They give us a fixed spread which means I know where I am. Speak to Rick at World First and tell him I sent you! 

For me a fixed spread is crucial and remembering that we sell travel and are not currency dealers - protection is the name of the game. 

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