The United States of America, the Land of Opportunity, the US of A... however you refer to it, America is the world’s biggest economy with a GDP of $23.3 trillion.
It’s the world’s largest consumer market, the world’s largest importer and the second-largest exporter. One hundred twenty-one of the world’s 500 largest companies are headquartered in the US. It’s also home to the highest number of billionaires worldwide.
Conclusion: the US is massive in size and giant in opportunity. No wonder, then, that many business owners and entrepreneurs are keen to crack this market.
Suppose you’re looking to expand your brand internationally. In that case, it pays to be familiar with the financial ecosystem in your target country – from the basics like currency and economic characteristics to consumer payment behaviours, different ways to send and collect payments, and foreign exchange (FX) costs.
We’ll cover that in this guide, offering you essential information to make the best decisions for your business. After all, knowledge is power.
Global transfers to and from the US
Transferring money to and from the US is relatively straightforward, but it can be expensive – especially for businesses making regular transactions.
The Ease of Doing Business Index ranks the US number 6 worldwide for business-friendly regulations. However, establishing financial infrastructure in the US can be challenging for international companies based elsewhere. Opening a business bank account often requires residency documents, a barrier that can make efficient and cost-effective financial operations a real headache.
Fortunately, alternative banking providers are innovating to help international businesses of all sizes access global markets more easily. For example, with a 3S Money International Business Account, you get US account details issued in your company name and a US routing number, enabling seamless cross-border payments – but without the hassle and hoop-jumping of opening a US bank account.
The $ symbol and the ISO currency code USD indicate the US dollar. It’s the most-used currency globally, with many countries stating it as an unofficial second currency. It’s also the most traded currency in foreign exchange transactions.
The ubiquity and stability of the US dollar mean that global prices of essential commodities like oil are typically priced in USD.
Consumer payment culture in the US
How US consumers spend their dollars has transformed in the last decade. In 2012, the first Diary of Consumer Payment Choice reported that nearly half (47.1%) of all payments were made in cash. Fast forward to 2022, and that dropped to just 20%, with nearly 9 out of 10 consumers saying they’d made at least one payment online in the last month.
Without a doubt, accelerated by the pandemic, ecommerce is booming, with consumers upping their online spending. In 2021, Amazon’s share of the total ecommerce market was over 50%, and many merchants are choosing this mega online marketplace to build their US presence.
Debit cards account for 60% of online payments in the US, with mobile and digital wallets, particularly those linked to consumer mobile devices, growing rapidly in popularity.
The US has perfected single-day shopping events with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day presenting enormous opportunities for online and brick-and-mortar businesses.
Many consumers still favour cash, and according to a recent survey, 70% of people would be worried if they couldn’t access it.
What are the different ways to send money to and from the US?
If you want to transfer money to and from the US, you can do it in many ways. They include:
- International money transfer specialists
- Bank-to-bank international transfers
- Online multi-currency accounts
- Cash pick-up
- Digital or mobile wallets
Which one works best for you will depend on your business needs and operations, so we’ll look at the pros and cons of each.
International money transfer specialists
You're spoilt for choice regarding companies that specialise in international money transfers. Moneycorp and Western Union are well-known examples.
With this method of transfer, you’ll be able to choose how the money is received: bank transfer, mobile wallet, or cash pick-up from a physical location, for example. This flexibility and range of options can make it a helpful tool.
However, the fees can be significant. If you want a faster transfer, you’ll pay a premium for it. Plus, these services often add a markup on the currency exchange rate. That means the sender must pay significantly more, or the recipient receives less. Either way, the provider pockets a healthy profit.
Bank-to-bank international transfers
Another option is to use your bank to transfer the funds. This is a popular choice for many businesses and individuals as it’s often the most accessible and convenient. But it can also be expensive:
Banks usually charge a fee to arrange and process money transfers.
Some banks may also charge a percentage of the total amount you’re transferring (as much as 3-4%).
Banks may use their own foreign exchange (FX) rates which could cost you 5-7% more.
International transfers often involve chains of different banks (called “correspondent banks”), all of which will charge a fee, pushing the total cost.
Online multi-currency accounts
An alternative to traditional bank transfer is an online multi-currency account. These digital platforms allow you to send and receive payments in multiple currencies, usually with far more competitive FX rates and lower fees.
Multi-currency accounts, like the 3S Money International Business Account, are popular with businesses operating in multiple markets worldwide. They offer a streamlined global payments system: easy cross-border payments, a single view of all transactions, and FX rates up to five times cheaper than traditional banks.
Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) tend to offer online multi-currency accounts. EMIs provide many of the same financial products and services as traditional banks, but they operate differently. For one thing, they don’t have branches you can walk into. 3S Money, for instance, is an EMI.
Here are three reasons why EMIs are so attractive to growing international businesses:
EMIs offer lower fees and more competitive FX rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
All your business transactions are visible in one easy-to-use platform accessible anywhere in the world.
Your business can grow quicker with greater access to multiple markets and currencies.
Some transfer providers offer the option to pick up physical cash at one of their locations near your recipient.
This service is often an option provided by international transfer specialists, so the same pros and cons apply. It’s straightforward, and the cash can often be available in minutes, depending on the opening hours of the physical location.
However, there’s usually a price to pay for convenience and the same risk of losing out to significant markups on currency conversion. And again, this solution is reasonable for occasional transfers but problematic and costly for regular payments.
Digital or mobile wallets
Another option for sending and receiving cross-border payments from the US is a digital or mobile wallet.
PayPal was one of the first digital wallets and is still the world’s most widely used. While a popular tool for personal transactions, business transactions can be expensive. There are no set-up fees, but the standard charge is 5.4% + $0.30 per transaction. There are also hefty currency conversion charges.
There are many other digital and mobile wallets out there, and which one works best for your business will depend on factors including your location and specific needs.
What’s the best way to send money to and from the US?
If you’re a business sending and receiving regular international payments to and from the US, one-off transfer services, such as those offered by traditional banks and international transfer specialists, will probably be an expensive option.
Most international businesses will complete multiple transactions daily, whether paying suppliers, employees, freelancers, or taxes in different countries or collecting consumer payments.
If you use transfer specialists or traditional banks for these regular transactions, their high fees, commission-based charges, and FX markups will add up and eat away at your bottom line.
For businesses that want hassle-free access to global markets, an online multi-currency account is a better solution where you can send and receive payments in 65+ currencies and 190+ countries, including the US.
How do I send money to the US? Step-by-step
With a 3S Money International Business Account, you can send money in 65+ currencies to 190+ countries, including the US. Here’s how:
1. Open a 3S Money International Business Account
Once approved, get US account details and routing number in your business name.
2. Enter the transfer details
Add the recipient’s name and account details, then choose the currency and country.
3. Send your money
Make the transfer from your online account and receive an alert when it’s complete.
How do I receive money from the US? Step-by-step
A 3S Money International Business Account makes receiving international payments in 65+ currencies from 190+ countries, including the US, easy. Here’s how:
1. Open a 3S Money International Business Account
Benefit from one easy-to-use platform for all your international payments.
2. Give customers your account details
Get a US routing number in your business name to easily collect USD payments.
3. Receive your money
See the payment arrive in your online account.
How long do transfers to and from the US take?
It depends on where the transfer is being sent from, where it’s going, the systems used, and when you send it.
Most traditional bank transfers take up to five working days.
SWIFT transfers take one to five working days.
Transfers between 3S Money accounts are instant.
It could take longer if you send your transfer on the weekend or public holiday.
Some receiving banks take longer to process incoming payments than others, so delays can occur for this reason.
How much money can I send or receive from the US?
In principle, there’s no limit to how much you can transfer. However, some providers cap the amount you can send in a single transaction. So, you may have to do multiple transfers if you want to transfer a large amount.
3S Money doesn’t impose transaction limits. Once you’ve been approved for an International Business Account, you can transfer high-value payments with ease to 190+ countries around the world.
Transferring large amounts
If your provider does impose a cap, watch out for multiple transfer fees. If you send payments regularly in this way, to pay supplier invoices or employee wages, for example, the costs could mount up.
When transferring large amounts, consider the following:
Some providers cap the amount you can send in a single transfer, so you may have to do several.
There may be a limit on the number of transfers you can make in any 30-day period.
Larger amounts can take longer to process.
Your provider may enquire about large transfers. This is considered best practice and an essential part of how institutions regulated by the FCA (like 3S Money) meet their obligations. Learn more about who 3S Money is regulated by.
How much does it cost to transfer money to the US?
We mentioned earlier how international transfers via traditional banks could be a costly way to send money. Let’s look in more detail at the fees you might pay:
1. Outgoing transfer fee:
You’ll most likely be charged a flat fee for sending an international transfer. This could be as much as £20-£40.3S Money charges just $1 (or your local equivalent) per transfer, regardless of how much you send. More about 3S Money pricing.
2. Incoming transfer fee:
Most UK banks charge around £7.50 for receiving payments from international bank accounts. 3S Money charges £0.00.
3. Initiation fee:
Some banks might charge you a fee if you request the transfer over the phone or in person rather than online. Expect this to be around £20. 3S Money doesn’t charge initiation fees.
Banks might also charge a fee based on a percentage of your transfer amount. For UK banks, this is currently around 3-4%. 3S Money charges just $1 per transfer (or your local equivalent) regardless of how much you send.
5. Exchange rate markup:
The exchange rate you can find on Google or see on the news is called the “mid-market” rate. Transfer providers apply their own exchange rates to international transfers, which means you’ll pay more – and they keep the difference. 3S Money offers FX rates up to 5x lower than traditional banks.
We’ve covered a lot in this article, so here are some tips and main takeaways to consider:
The US is the world’s largest consumer market and a key market for many ambitious international businesses.
An online multi-currency account can be an effective solution for businesses looking to scale and easily access new markets.
With a 3S Money International Business Account, you get US account details in your company name.
Watch out for currency exchange markups, which can eat into the money you’re sending.
When choosing a provider for global payments, ensure an independent body regulates them. 3S Money is FCA-regulated and uses safeguarding to protect 100% of your funds. Other schemes, such as the FSCS, only cover up to £80,000 – so you have greater peace of mind with 3S Money.
Manage your money to help your business grow
Ready to get a US routing number for your business and start making and receiving payments?
3S Money’s International Business Account offers global payment solutions for businesses looking to operate in multiple countries – all from one easy-to-use account.