Globalisation has brought the world to our fingertips. With the click of a button, we now have access to international goods and services.
However, many cross-border payment services are unable to support consumer demand. This can make international payments feel daunting and uncomfortable.
This guide will explain how international payments work and how your business can make cost-effective payments worldwide with 3S Money.
What is an international payment?
An international business payment is the transfer of money between accounts in different countries.
Also known as a cross-border payment, they cover trade, retail, and individual transactions. In nearly all cases, payments are made in different currencies, requiring a foreign exchange.
International business payments are vital to the strength of the global economy. Without them, international trade and global ecommerce wouldn’t be possible.
What are the different types of international payments?
International business payments can be made in different ways. Most payments are made using bank transfer or card payment and involve exchanging currencies. Alternative payment methods such as crypto, mobile and e-wallets are also growing in popularity.
International payments usually fall into two categories: wholesale and retail.
Wholesale payments occur between banks and financial institutions. They’re used to support consumer and business activities. This type of payment also covers borrowing, lending, and foreign exchange.
Governments and corporations use wholesale payments for imports, exports, and market trading.
Retail payments are transactions made between businesses and consumers. They include everything from ecommerce to employee salary payments.
In simple terms, anything considered an ‘everyday’ transaction would fall under retail payments.
How do international payments work?
All international business payments pass through payment networks. These are decentralised systems that connect banks, e-money institutions, and customers. When a payment is requested, the funds are debited from one account and credited to another.
If two banks aren't connected, a correspondent bank will step in to help process any payments. This practice is commonplace for challenger banks, closed currency economies and e-money institutions.
3S Money works with correspondent banks to keep client funds safe. These partnerships allow us to access global payment networks and process cross-border payments in seconds.
International payment glossary
Jargon is banking's best friend, and international payments are no exception. Understanding this unique payment language will help businesses pay with confidence. These are the top five terms to remember:
What is SWIFT?
A SWIFT code is a standard Bank Identifier Code (BIC). Each bank has a unique code, which identifies that bank's name, location, and branch. SWIFT is the most used global payment network.
Business Identifier Code (BIC)
A BIC is a code used to identify an individual bank or institution. Using the same method as SWIFT, a BIC ensures that money arrives in the correct account.
What is SEPA?
SEPA stands for Single Euro Payments Area.
SEPA is the primary payment network for the Euro. European Economic Area (EEA) countries use SEPA to make cross-border payments. The UK is still part of SEPA, despite no longer being part of the EEA.
What is a routing number?
A routing number is a nine-digit code that identifies individual banks. A feature of US banking, both a routing number and an account number are required to transfer funds.
What is an IBAN?
IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number.
An IBAN is a bank account’s unique reference number. It includes a two-letter country code, two numerals, and alphanumeric characters. Payees need both an IBAN and SWIFT code to process an international payment.
Want to know more? Head to our dedicated help centre.
How do you make an international business payment?
The process of making an international payment may differ between countries. In most cases, any transfer will require these three details:
The account name of the recipient.
An account IBAN.
A BIC or SWIFT code.
Making an international payment can be as easy as making a local payment. However, it’s essential to check every detail to avoid rejection.
Do I need a business bank account to make an international payment?
Opening a business account is the easiest way to make international payments. They provide access to global payment networks and foreign exchange. Yet, with so many options available, choosing the right account is important.
With an ever-increasing demand for global products, cross-border payments are essential for growth. However, businesses continue to be underserved by traditional banks.
Making international payments can feel like a chore when it doesn't need to be. With a 3S Money business account, businesses can make high-value international payments in seconds.
What to look for when choosing a business account
Choosing the right service provider is never an easy decision.
An excellent international payment service will prioritise security, speed, and service. Fintech businesses and challenger banks have created a fairer, more transparent payments landscape.
At 3S Money, we take things to the next level. We offer advanced business account solutions that go beyond traditional banking.
Local EU IBANS, UK sort codes and US account details
With 3S Money, businesses enjoy the benefits of a local bank account without the hassle. This means faster payments, reduced fees, and instant access to domestic markets.
Send and receive high-value payments in 190+ countries
Wherever a business operates, 3S Money makes international payments possible. With the broadest global coverage of any provider, we bring global markets to our clients.
5x cheaper FX rates than traditional banks
We can send, receive, and exchange payments in 65+ currencies. Businesses can easily accept customer and supplier payments in local currencies without expensive fees.
Human client support
Each 3S Money account comes with a dedicated Client Manager. This means no more call queues, chatbots or automated replies. We provide tailored payment support and local expertise across five international offices.
How long does an international payment take to process?
When using a traditional bank, payments within Europe may take one to two business days. Outside Europe, it can take between five to seven business days. Delays to international payments can happen unexpectedly.
The most common causes are:
Country and payment networks: local infrastructure may be outdated or reliant on third-party services.
Weekends and public holidays: regional trading hours and bank closures will delay processing times.
Recipient bank: some banks may use old accounting systems that take longer to update.
At 3S Money, we provide business current accounts with faster international payments. We use a network of verified partners and corresponding banks to remove barriers.
How much does it cost to make an international payment?
The cost of an international business payment will depend on the payment provider.
Some charge a one-off account fee. Others may charge a fee per transaction or mark up on foreign currency exchange.
Traditional providers often charge a fixed rate to transfer money abroad. As well as a fixed transfer fee, banks will add a foreign transfer fee, typically around 5%.
At 3S Money, we keep our fees substantially lower than other providers. We have fair and transparent pricing that reflects the needs of our clients. Check our full fee and pricing list for more details.
Are international payments safe?
Yes, international business payments are completely safe.
Sending money abroad was once considered the wild west of financial services. Fortunately, things have changed for the better. Businesses can now enjoy fast, secure, and competitive transfer services.
Using SWIFT, a transfer made through a recognised bank or e-money institution is the safest form of international payment.
3S Money is an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means we have a regulatory obligation to handle payments promptly and legally. Furthermore, it ensures we supply the best possible service for our clients.
Foreign exchange and international payments
Foreign exchange (FX) is a vital part of international payments. Any payment between countries with different currencies will need FX.
Where there's FX, there will be fees. Fees will vary based on a currency's market value and the provider's service charge.
Service providers are aware of the difficulty businesses have accessing competitive FX. Instead of offering support, they tend to make the problem worse.
Using a reliable FX provider gives businesses peace of mind when they need it most.
A 3S Money multi-currency business account is a perfect solution if you make international business payments. Our clients can send and receive high-value payments in 65+ currencies, to 190+ countries, with 5x cheaper FX fees.