After years of dealing with real wedding couples and comparing the typical money transfer methods, we’ve found that TransferWise is the best payment option for most brides and grooms who need to pay wedding vendors in another currency or country. It matches or beats nearly all of the other payment options we have tried in terms of the real exchange rate received by the couple, but it really stands out for easy of use, reliability, and speed of transfer.
Why I Wrote This
We are a popular wedding videography studio based in Dublin, Ireland. A fair share of our couples who book Hitched Films live abroad, and end up getting married in Ireland. We’ve had couples from Australia, Dubai, United Kingdom, Canada & the United States to name just a few of the countries. We love when couples from other countries choose to get married in Ireland, and of course we love when they choose Hitched Films as their wedding videographer. However, one thing that can be problematic for all couples who decide to get married abroad, whether in Ireland or any other country, is how to pay and transfer money to the local wedding vendors, who are usually dealing in a different currency.
Why You Should Care
Most wedding couples in this situation will probably never again change this amount of money into a foreign currency again (unless of course you end up buying that Villa in Italy!). The average wedding in Ireland costs between €20,000 and €30,000. The average wedding in the United States costs between $25,000 and $35,000. And with most of these costs related to the local suppliers, there is a lot of money (and hair!) to be gained or lost by choosing the best way to pay for a wedding abroad.
Our Pick: TransferWise
Peer-to-Peer Exchanges are the new kids on the currency bloc (see what I did there). Online foreign currency exchanges act as markets for individuals and businesses who want to transfer money from one bank account to another in a different country without using the standard International Bank Network. This means you can avoid the banker’s hefty fees and inflated exchange rates. In fact the main reason to use a peer-to-peer exchange, is because you will nearly always get a better rate than at your local bank, meaning more money left in your pocket when paying a bill. And the vendor will still get the money straight into their own local Bank Account, usually without any extra fees attached. Woohoo!
The two big companies offering peer-to-peer exchanges are CurrencyFair and TransferWise. As of time of writing, CurrencyFair claims they are up to up to 90% cheaper than banks and TransferWise up to 8x times survey payment routes. CurrencyFair was around first and it usually provides better exchange rates than TransferWise. Better rates you say? Game over, surely. Well not really….
While CurrencyFair works on the same principals as TransferWise, there are some important differences that I believe favour TransferWise over CurrencyFair for making wedding vendor payments. CurrencyFair is primarily a means of swapping your own money from one currency to another, but not necessarily paying businesses in another currency. Here’s some reasons.
CurrencyFair’s least hassle payment method, “Auto-Transaction”, requires you to lodge money into their account from your own local bank account first. You need to calculate how much you will need based on the exchange rate they show. This can take time, and by the time your payment reaches them, the exchange rate will almost certainly have moved. Auto-Transaction will automatically take those freshly deposited funds, exchange it and pay at whatever the rate is at that point. Obviously this can lead to scenarios where your vendors don’t quite receive their full fees, and they can’t close off your invoices. With TransferWise they give you a guaranteed rate for a time period depending on where you live. This means you can be sure your wedding vendor will get exactly what you intended to send. Less mess = better experience.
While CurrencyFair only accept deposits into them from bank accounts, which take time as mentioned, TransferWise offers Debit and Credit Card options (as well as others), which offer super fast and seamless transfers. I will caveat that you need to be careful with the card options and check for your country for potential additional fees. For Ireland at least, Debit Card use is free of charge. Check out TransferWise’s FAQ for local info on card fees. Even if you end up having to transfer in by Bank Account, the guaranteed rate will make your transaction go a lot smoother than the same process on CurrencyFair
Interface and ease of use from a customer's perspective is also great on TransferWise. It makes a pretty complicated thing easy. And that’s ultimately why I recommend it to our clients and other couples who need to pay wedding vendors in a foreign currency. Organising a wedding can be stressful and if we can reduce a small amount of that for our couples, we will.
Lastly if you are another wedding vendor or supplier reading this, TransferWise has a very useful Request Money feature, which lets you send clients a link to pay an amount in your local currency. This link will automatically pay directly to your bank account, removing the need for the client to deal with your IBAN or bank details. You will need to set up a business profile to activate this. We got our profile active within 24 hours. We have been super impressed by the speed of the transfers, especially compared to CurrencyFair which because they needed a call to complete the activation, ended up taking 4 days, although some of that was because I wasn’t available, but still, more hassle.
Runner-up: Debit/Credit Card
If your wedding vendor accepts debit or credit card, awesome. These can be the easiest and quickest means of paying an overseas vendor. Punch in a couple of numbers and your done. However, there is one main reason we left this option in the runner-up position.
Debit & Credit Card transactions are probably the most expensive way to pay for something in another currency. You are at the mercy of your card issuing bank as to the exchange rate they decide to use when the transaction go through, and you will unlikely be able to check what that is in advance. TransferWise will most likely beat this exchange rate in all cases. Some banks also add fees called Cross Border Handling Fees or something similar, effectively earning off couples twice for the same transaction. And lastly, except for the venue, most wedding vendors will look to add a surcharge to your price to cover the cost of the card processing fees. This is usually 1.5% to 2.5% of the total price. All these fees and charges can stack up very quickly. So while we offer a card payment option to our couples, we think they will usually get a better deal if they use TransferWise instead.
Third Place: International Bank Transfer
The most common until recently, transferring from your local Bank to the vendors local Bank had been the standard way we used to ask our wedding couples from abroad to pay us. Also known as a wire transfer, this system benefits from familiarity of the established bank brands. It can also be relatively easy to make an international transfer if you have the right information and if your bank is well set up for it. But that is typically where the benefits end.
An International Bank Transfer still relies on the local bank’s own inflated exchange rate, which again is typically easily beaten by TransferWise or CurrencyFair. The bank may also have direct fees which they will charge you at the point of sending, but sometimes these fees may be hidden, and may not appear until the money has reached the vendor's account. For example, two of our recent foreign payments arrived less than the full amount the couple had intended to pay. There were hidden ‘sender fees’, which the couples were not aware of. This meant their invoices could not be closed and meant extra hassle for the couple to finalise the payments. Lastly an International Bank Transfer is usually quite slow and can take anywhere between 5-14 working days to be fully cleared, meaning receipts are slower at being issued.
And Finally: Cash
Cash is king. And while you might be able to strike a cash deal with your wedding vendor, you are risking a lot paying in cash. First you will have to withdraw the cash in the foreign currency. For the amounts you need you will have to go to your bank. You will probably need to fill out a form to explain what the amount is for. You may also need to order and wait for it. But the real kicker is that you will be exchanging at the bank's exchange rate, which is usually much worst than the real mid-market rate you see on news channels or Google. You’ll also need to figure a way to get it to the country where your wedding is. By mail is probably not a good idea.
If you dealing with a reputable vendor, there should be little difference between cold hard cash and an electronic transfer. In fact, paying in cash can be somewhat of an inconvenience to your wedding vendor. Cash businesses are more like to be audited, stolen from and have extra bank fees incurred. We still take cash for some weddings, but we are phasing it out in favour of electronic payments. It’s safer and easier to deal with from a business perspective. Lastly, cash leaves barely any paper trail. Should anything go wrong, you will be left with little evidence of payment.
I hope you found this article useful and if you did, I look forward to reading your comments. Remember, all readers and new TransferWise users can get their first transfer (up to £500 or equivalent) free.