Guide to International Business Payments: the Most Common Payment Methods
In today’s interconnected global economy, businesses of all sizes are making international transactions that span borders and currencies. Whether it’s a digital marketing agency in the USA employing specialists from across the globe or a Chinese sleepwear brand importing materials from Peru, businesses are relying on international payments to seamlessly transfer money between countries. These transactions are the backbone of modern global commerce and encompass everything from trade, retail, wages, royalties, and investments.
In this guide, we explore what international business payments are, the most common international business payment methods, and pros and cons of each payment method. We also include some best practices for companies looking to start sending and receiving money internationally.
What are international business payments?
International business payments, also known as cross-border payments, are the transfer of money between businesses in different countries. They can include any kind of trade, retail, or individual financial transactions, such as purchasing goods or services, paying wages or royalties, or making investments.
Almost all international business payments involve more than one currency, which makes them require a foreign exchange to mediate the transfer. For example, a business in Australia might make a payment using AUD, while the recipient of the funds, based in the UK, will need to receive the payment in GBP.
International business payments ensure the seamless transfer and conversion of funds so that companies in an increasingly globalized world are able to do business in foreign financial markets without significant disruption or delay.
The most common international business payment methods
There are numerous ways that a company can send or receive international money transfers. We outline the most common international business payment methods below, including the pros and cons of each.
International wire transfer
An international wire transfer is a type of Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) payment that allows you to send money directly from your business bank account to another business’s account overseas.
To make an international wire transfer, you need to inform your bank of how much money you need to send and to whom. You’ll also need the recipient’s bank SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) or BIC (Bank Identifier Code) number.
Pros of using international wire transfer for business payments:
- In most cases, international wire transfers can be processed on the same day
- Wire transfers a reliable, trusted, and long-established payment method.
Cons of using international wire transfer for business payments:
- Fees can be relatively high compared to other international payment methods
- Some wire transfers can take a long time to process
- In some cases, transfers can be routed incorrectly or even lost.
Because of their higher fees, international wire transfers are a better option for businesses making large, one-time transactions rather than recurring payments.
A payment gateway is a tool that allows businesses to accept a variety of electronic payments, including credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, cryptocurrencies, and more. Businesses can integrate payment gateways into their website or e-commerce platform and these tools will securely authenticate, verify, and process transactions from all over the world.
A good payment gateway will include multi-currency support that can accept payments in various currencies, convert them, and transfer the funds to your business account. ZEN is a payment gateway that accepts payments from 28 currencies, always at the lowest rates possible. You can use our payment gateway to pay in foreign currencies, exchange money, and receive international payments.
Pros of using payment gateways for business payments:
- They can easily be integrated into your website or online store
- They’re secure and often include fraud-detection measures
- They offer a seamless and user-friendly experience
- They accept different payment methods, including credit or debit cards, digital wallets, bank transfer, and more
- The design of payment gateways can often be customized to match your brand identity.
Cons of using payment gateways for business payments:
- Fees are usually charged for each transaction
- Some payment gateways require merchants to be PCI compliant.
Because of their security, ease-of-use, and support for various currencies and payment methods, payment gateways are one of the best ways for businesses to send and receive money internationally. However, they may not be appropriate for uses like paying salaries.
Letters of credit
A letter of credit is a document sent from a bank or financial institution that guarantees you, the seller, will receive a payment on time and for the full amount. Letters of credit can assure both buyers and sellers that an international transaction will take place at a specified amount of time for a specified amount of money.
Pros of using letters of credit for business payments:
- They provide peace of mind to both buyers & sellers, especially for large transactions
- The bank assumes financial responsibility for the buyer.
Cons of using letters of credit for business payments:
- They usually cover only one transaction, so you will need a new letter of credit for each payment
- They can be expensive and time-consuming, requiring lots of paperwork.
Letters of credit can be particularly useful for certain business activities, for example import or export, as they allow companies to make big deals with the peace of mind that payment will be received at some point.
Unlike traditional fiat currencies, like the GBP or USD, cryptocurrencies are virtual currencies based on blockchain technology. They make an interesting option for international business payments as their currencies are universal (for example, Bitcoin or Ethereum). This removes the need for foreign exchange and saves money on currency conversion.
Because of their decentralized nature, cryptocurrencies also don’t require intermediaries like banks to facilitate a money transfer, further reducing transaction fees and speeding up the process of sending and receiving money overseas.
Benefits of using cryptocurrencies for business payments:
- They’re cheaper than traditional payments as they eliminate bank & currency conversion fees
- Payment is instantaneous.
Cons of using cryptocurrency for business payments:
- Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile, meaning their value can change quickly
- Many businesses are unwilling to use cryptocurrency or are unfamiliar with the technology, which is still yet to become mainstream.
While cryptocurrency has its place in certain business activities and industries, it’s recommended to incorporate it as a payment method along with other options. Not all businesses will be open to paying with cryptocurrency and their needs should be met with alternative payment methods.
International money order
An international money order is another reliable way to transfer money to businesses around the world. These can be placed from financial institutions, like banks, as well as post offices.
To make an international money order, you would visit your local post office and request a money order for a specific amount. You’ll then pay that money upfront and provide the cashier with the details of the recipient as well as the destination country and required currency. The money order is then sent to the destination country, where the recipient can visit their local post office to cash it in their local currency.
Pros of using international money orders for business:
- They offer a reliable and safe way to send money overseas
- The recipient doesn’t need a bank account to receive funds
- The money can be tracked for extra security.
Cons of using international money orders for business:
- They can take much longer to process than other payment methods (especially digital ones)
- They’re not easily scalable, so are not feasible when paying several people
- Fees are involved for both the sender and receiver
- Limits can apply as to how much money you can send
- Exchange rates are usually poor
- They’re not globally accepted so may not be used for every country.
While they might have their uses in certain cases, international money orders aren’t a recommended way for a modern business to make international transactions.
Credit cards are a universal payment method that have facilitated international payment transactions for decades. The best way to accept credit card payments from international businesses is through a payment gateway like ZEN, which can provide the infrastructure required to verify, authenticate, and securely transfer funds from a customer’s bank account to your business account.
Pros of using credit cards for business payments:
- They are used all over the world
- Payment is easy and relatively fast
- With the right infrastructure, credit cards are a secure way to transfer money internationally.
Cons of using credit cards for business payments:
- Extra interchange fees may be involved
- Your business may have to adhere to PCI standards around data handling.
As universally accepted methods of payment, credit cards are an appropriate way for businesses of all sizes to make cross-border transactions.
Best practices for accepting international business payments
Ready to start accepting international transactions? Keep the below best practices in mind to ensure your business navigates international business payments with ease.
- Be aware of regulations: Take the time to read about local and international regulations, tax laws, and compliance standards regarding sending and receiving money abroad. Be sure to stay up to date on these regulations to keep your business compliant.
- Multi-currency support: If you’re dealing with businesses all over the world, it’s best to choose a payment method that accepts numerous currencies (such as an international payment gateway). This opens you up to a wider range of markets.
- Choose a reliable provider: When starting to accept international payments, be sure to choose a PCI DSS compliant, reliable, and trusted payment provider like ZEN.
- Invest in security: Security is paramount to both your business and your customers. Invest in strong cybersecurity measures to prevent data breaches or choose a payment gateway with fraud-prevention tools.
- Communicate payment terms: Be sure to clearly express your payment terms, delivery schedules, and non-compliance penalties to your customers, suppliers, and contracts abroad.
- Review and update: Consistently monitor, review, and update your payment processing tools to better serve your customers and keep your business healthy.
Send & receive international business payments with ZEN
Let your international customers pay the way they like and pay your global employees and contractors directly in their local currency – always at the lowest rates available on the market.
ZEN payment gateway allows your business to accept more than 20 payment methods in 28 different currencies, with plugins for the most popular e-commerce platforms and easy integration. Better still, you can manage your company’s funds from the desktop platform or the ZEN.COM mobile app, so you’ll always know how your business is doing.