Your business is growing – hooray! But what does that actually mean, and what do you need to consider when making international transfers? In this article, you'll learn what international transfers are, how much they cost, how long they take, and other important details you should be aware of.

The Essentials at a Glance

  • SEPA transfers: Within the EU, SEPA transfers are used. They are generally fast and cost less than international transfers. For example, transfers from Germany to Finland are processed just as smoothly as domestic transfers within Germany. Here is a list of SEPA countries.
  • IBAN: For SEPA transfers, you need an IBAN. This consists of 20 characters and is used instead of the traditional account number.
  • SWIFT transfers (international transfers): SWIFT transfers are used for sending money outside the SEPA area, for example from Germany to the United States.
  • BIC: International transfers require the BIC, also known as the SWIFT code. This consists of 11 to 12 characters.


Everything You Need to Know About International Money Transfers

Here we'll walk you through the steps you need to take when making an international transfer.

Difference Between SEPA and SWIFT

Before making an international transfer, you should first decide if you actually need one. So, ask yourself: Is this a SEPA transfer or not? As a rule of thumb, if it's within the EU, it's probably SEPA. However, there are some exceptions like Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco, Norway, Switzerland, and Vatican City.

This step is crucial because international transfers are generally more expensive – to avoid unnecessary costs, it’s wise to double-check. With Holvi, for example, you can choose between a regular "Bank Transfer" and an "International Transfer."

What You Need for International Transfers

If foreign currencies are involved or the recipient is in a third country, an international transfer is required. For a smooth process, you'll need the following information from the recipient:

  • Full name of the recipient
  • Recipient's address, if applicable
  • IBAN or account number of the recipient
  • International bank code (BIC) of the recipient's bank

Additionally, you must specify the currency in which the transfer should be made.

It's important to carefully check these details to ensure the transfer goes smoothly. Incorrect or incomplete information could lead to delays or issues with the transfer.

International Transfer Costs – How Much Are the Fees?

You have everything you need, so now you’re probably wondering: How much will this cost?

The costs for international transfers can vary significantly depending on the provider and exchange rate. An unfavorable exchange rate can increase the fees, as can additional charges from banks or payment service providers.

When transferring money abroad in a foreign currency, the following costs may apply:

  • Exchange rate: Keep an eye on the exchange rate, as it constantly fluctuates and can vary from bank to bank.
  • SWIFT fees: The fees for this service are passed on to customers by the banks.
  • Currency Conversion Fees: Many banks charge for converting money during international transfers.

If you transfer money directly in euros, you can avoid the foreign currency fees charged by your bank, but be aware that the recipient’s bank may still charge fees.

It’s important to be aware of all possible costs before making an international transfer to avoid any unexpected fees.

Who Pays the Fees for an International Transfer?

So, who actually pays the fees for an international transfer? There are different options:

  • OUR (Our Customer Charged): The sender pays the fees. For example, if you transfer money to the USA, you pay the fees.
  • BEN (Beneficiary pays costs): The recipient pays the fees. For example, if you transfer money to the USA, the person in the USA pays the fees.
  • SHARE (shared costs): The fees are split between the sender and the recipient. This means both the sender and the recipient share the fees.

Before making an international transfer, it’s important to clarify who will cover the fees to avoid any misunderstandings. Each option has its own pros and cons, so it’s wise to choose the option that suits you best.

How Long Does an International Transfer Take?

The time it takes for an international transfer to be completed can vary, but generally, it takes a few days for the money to reach the recipient.

Sending a transfer can be quick and easy, especially if you use an online business account.

Take a Moment: Retrieving an International Transfer

Before you finalize an international transfer, double-check the details: If there are mistakes, the bank may not be able to retrieve the money.

If you have entered a valid IBAN and BIC, the bank does not additionally verify if the recipient and account holder match. If the money is sent to the wrong account abroad, you need to contact the recipient yourself and request a refund. Only if the international transfer cannot be assigned to any account will the money be refunded.

Additional Note – Reporting International Transfers

Under certain conditions, international transfers must be reported, especially if they exceed a certain amount or come from suspicious sources. The exact reporting procedures vary by country and legislation.

According to Section 11 of the Foreign Trade and Payments Act (AWG) in conjunction with Sections 67 ff. of the Foreign Trade and Payments Regulation (AWV), international transfers in euros and foreign currencies exceeding €12,500 or the equivalent in other currencies are subject to AWV reporting requirements. Both incoming payments from abroad and outgoing transfers abroad that exceed this threshold must be reported.

The report must be submitted to the Deutsche Bundesbank by the seventh calendar day of the following month after receipt. This reporting requirement applies to individuals, businesses, banks, and public institutions in Germany.

The report is submitted electronically via the Deutsche Bundesbank’s website. Businesses need a special reporting number, while individuals can report their payments through a free hotline.