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How to Accept International Payments: Secure Payment Methods for Overseas Clients

Small businesses that sell their products or services to international clients need to develop safe and effective methods for accepting payments internationally. The best international payment option for your business will vary depending on the specific country in which your client is based. To accept international payments, companies should research the local banking system of their overseas client and choose a secure international payment method that allows them to get paid quickly and securely.

These topics will walk you through how to accept international payments:

What Is an International Payment?

How to Accept International Payments

What Is an International Payment?

An international payment is a business transaction between a buyer and a seller that crosses national borders and often involves at least two currencies. When money moves across a border into a new country, that money needs to be converted from the original currency to the currency of the new country.

Companies that do business with clients that are based overseas will need to establish a system for accepting international payments. Getting paid by international clients is more complicated than accepting payment within the US. You need to make sure you select payment solutions that are secure and that don’t charge unreasonable transaction fees.

How to Accept International Payments

Small businesses can use a variety of methods to accept payments from clients based overseas. Familiarize yourself with the cross-border payment methods listed below to learn how to accept international payments:

Online Payments

You can accept online payments from international clients through a variety of online service providers, including PayPal, Stripe, Transferwise and Amazon Payments.

Advantages of Online Payments:

  • Ease of use: Most online payment services are simple to navigate and require just your basic banking details to begin processing payments.
  • Quick processing times: Most international online payment services boast quick processing times. Often, the money will land in your account within just a few days.
  • Strong security: With heavy security and encryption used for every international transfer, online payments are one of the most secure methods of accepting payments from overseas.

Disadvantages of Online Payments:

  • Transaction fees: Most online payment services charge transaction fees for the use of their service. While the cost per transaction usually ranges from two to five percent, those fees can add up if you accept international payments regularly.
  • Limited availability: Online payment services aren’t available in all countries, so do your research and make sure your preferred provider offers its services in the country where your client is based.

2. Letter of Credit

A letter of credit is an official document issued by one bank and sent to a second bank that’s based in a foreign country. The letter of credit guarantees a person will make a payment for a certain amount by a certain date. The Export-Import Bank of the United States offers more details about how letters of credit are used for international payments.

Advantages of Letters of Credit:

  • Low risk: Your payment is guaranteed by the client’s bank, so if there’s a problem, the bank is responsible for sending you the money owed.
  • Secure payment: A letter of credit involves a payment transferred between two banking institutions, so it’s a secure form of payment.

Disadvantages of Letters of Credit:

  • Subject to fees: Banks tend to charge high transaction fees for letters of credit.
  • Payment expires: A letter of credit will include a specific timeline for the bank’s payment guarantee, so it’s important that the payment requirements are fulfilled before the letter expires.

3. International Money Order

An international money order is a document that looks similar to a check. Money orders are a prepaid payment option, so your customer will need to pay upfront for a money order using cash or credit card.

Advantages of International Money Orders:

  • Low cost: Money orders are cheap to purchase and you won’t be charged any processing fees.
  • Payment up front: You’re guaranteed that your client has the money to cover the invoice amount, because they pay up front for the money order.

Disadvantages of International Money Orders:

  • Long processing times: Money orders can take several days to arrive at their destination and it can then take up to ten days for your bank to process the money order.
  • Used for scams: Because money orders are easy to buy and difficult to trace, they’re often used in scams. If you accept money orders, just be sure to watch for red flags that could point to a scam. It’s best to only accept money orders from clients you know and trust.

4. International Wire Transfer

International wire transfers are a common overseas payment method. A wire transfer is an electronic exchange of money between two bank accounts, using a network like SWIFT.

Advantages of Wire Transfers:

  • Fast processing time: When a client sends you money through a wire transfer, the funds will usually be made available in your bank account almost immediately.
  • Highly secure: Because the transactions are made directly between two banking institutions, wire transfers are a secure payment method for international transfers.

Disadvantages of Wire Transfers:

  • Expensive: Banks charge high fees, sometimes as much as sixty dollars per transaction, for international wire transfers.
  • Not easily traceable: Wire transfers aren’t easy to trace, so it can be difficult to settle any payment disputes that might arise between you and a client.

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