5 Things to Consider When Accepting Cross-Border Payments
We live in a global economy where increasingly businesses are expanding internationally to drive growth. When it comes to payments, it’s easy to underestimate the complexity involved in receiving money across borders.
Receiving money internationally is complicated because there isn’t one ubiquitous system in place for routing money across borders. Instead, banks are linked through a correspondent system, which can makes things slow, inefficient and costly. The challenge is to remove that friction and present your international customers with the same seamless experience they’ve come to expect in their domestic payments.
If your business is global or has experienced challenges, you should consider these 5 tips:
1. Understanding customer preferences
When you send out an invoice, you want it to be as friendly to your customer’s accounting systems as possible. That means understanding customer preferences. What language do they want their invoice in? What currency do they prefer to be billed in?
In China and Malaysia, where local currency is heavily regulated, most customers are happy to receive an invoice in U.S. dollars. Elsewhere, payees often want to bill in their own currency, whether that’s euros, pounds, yen, pesos or one of the other 180 currency types circulating around the world.
If you do bill in U.S. dollars, that means your customer has to pay in U.S. dollars which can be a complicated task in many countries or regions. Consider giving them the choice of paying you in their own native currency which often minimizes the need for them to deal with complex bank wire information or expensive foreign exchange rates or fees.
2. Giving your customer a choice
Customers like seeing what their options are. That means presenting them with the most convenient and least expensive ways to pay based on where in the world they live.
Credit cards are often the fastest way to pay, but they can also be more expensive. Outside of the U.S., the familiar Visa and Mastercard are dominant players in card payments. But in China, most businesses and consumers prefer Unionpay which is the heavily dominated credit card within the market.
As an alternative to credits cards, PayPal is widely accepted. Digital wallets are also a convenient and secure way to pay. But it is important to know which e-wallets are popular where. Boleto Bancário is used Brazil, for instance, while Alipay and WeChat are the preferred choices in China.
For larger payments, banks wires often make the most sense. But they also tend to be more complicated. You want to provide the proper banking details and codes. It is also common for bank wires to have confusing foreign exchange and bank transfer fees, sometimes causing the intended payment amount to be less when it arrives to the biller.
3. Working through the legalities
Each country has its own set of laws, regulations and reporting requirements that govern cross-border payments. As a result, the more countries you accept payments from, the more complex the legal requirements become.
Some countries, such as China and India, have tight controls on the amount of money leaving their border. But the purpose of those funds is just as important as the amount being sent and your customer may need to submit special regulatory or bank forms to be allowed to make the payment.
Privacy and data security regulations also vary in different parts of the world. In the U.S., the payment card industry data security standard (PCI DSS) protect cardholder data. If you don’t know how to capture, manage and store that data, you could be putting your payers at risk. Similarly, in Europe, you have to be aware of a new payment service directive (PSD2) that impacts merchants as well.
4. Managing cash flow
Unpredictability is disruptive for small businesses. An international bank wire can take several days to reach its final destination and rarely will your finance team even know an invoice has been paid until it reaches your bank account.
If the correct identifiers are missing or the billable amount does not match the amount that enters your bank account, your finance team may have to manually reconcile payments.
A proper invoicing and payment system can ensure the right fees and identifiers get included on your payment. It can also lock in an exchange rate and track payments, so you know when your money is on its way. And that can mean a lot more predictability for small businesses.
5. Exceeding expectations
Even though international cross-border payments are more complicated, businesses and consumers still expect the same seamless experience they get with their domestic purchases. Those businesses that better understand the complexities of cross-border commerce and work to deliver great payment experiences will be set up to prosper in this increasingly global world.