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Home  >   Guides to grow your business >  Global business expansion

What is a multi-currency account? And how does it work?

Pay, collect, and hold funds in multiple currencies with a multi-currency account. Discover the smart way to manage cross-border payments.

Key takeaways:

  • A multi-currency account allows businesses to transact, hold, and manage multiple currencies
  • Hold funds to pay suppliers and repatriate them to your bank account anytime
  • You can get a local account number and sort code for each currency without needing a local address.
  • WorldFirst allows Australian businesses to open free multi-currency accounts

Introduction

Imagine you have a business in Australia with a product supplier in China and customers in Australia, China, and Europe. 

When you receive payments from customers in EUR or CNY into your standard bank account, these funds are first converted into the base currency of your bank account – AUD. The conversion rate offered by banks is usually high, and there are also transaction fees levied.

When you need to pay suppliers in China, you must convert the received funds back from AUD to CNY. The double conversion, high exchange rates, and transaction fees significantly impact your profit margins and business’s bottom line. 

Enter multi-currency accounts.

A multi-currency account helps global businesses manage multiple currencies through a single account. You can pay international suppliers like they are just around the corner and collect payments from global customers in their preferred local currency. You avoid double conversions and get access to competitive exchange rates, all of which lead to improved profit margins and streamlined cross-border payments.

Let’s explore everything you should know about multi-currency accounts.

Table of Contents

What is a multi-currency account?

A multi-currency account allows businesses to transact, hold, and manage multiple currencies. Unlike traditional bank accounts, which only allow you to hold a single currency, a multi-currency account allows you to hold multiple currencies simultaneously. You can get a local account number and sort code for each currency without needing a local address.

The number of currencies your account supports will depend on your service provider. While some multi-currency or foreign currency accounts are offered by leading banks, others are offered by global payment service providers like WorldFirst. 

Take a look at the ultimate guide to the best multi-currency accounts in Australia.

How does a multi-currency account work?

A multi-currency account works similarly to a normal bank account, but you can send, receive, or hold multiple currencies through it.

When you receive payment in a foreign currency, you can either repatriate those funds back to your bank account or hold the funds to make further payments.

For example, let’s say you have an online e-commerce business based in Australia with a supplier and shipping partner in China and customers in the US, Europe, and China. 

Here’s how a multi-currency account can streamline cross-border payments for your business:

  • To pay your suppliers and shipping partners in China, you must convert AUD into CNY. With a multi-currency account, you can keep a sufficient balance in your CNY account when the exchange rates are favourable and then use that to pay suppliers and shipping agents. Your suppliers and shipping partners get paid like they would from a local Chinese bank account. It also takes less time for the payments to get cleared.
  • When you receive customer payments, the funds will go into their respective local currency accounts. You can directly repatriate funds into your bank or hold them to make further payments.

Pros and cons of a multi-currency account

Pros

  • Hold and manage multiple currencies: You can manage several currencies through a single account. It’s also possible to send and receive money directly in these currencies. 
  • Low currency exchange rates: Multi-currency accounts usually offer a lower conversion rate than standard bank accounts. You can also hold the currency in your account and exchange it when the exchange rates are favourable.
  • Send and receive payments like a local: Whether you have suppliers in China or customers in Australia, you can manage transactions like a local without any transfer delays or banking complications. 
  • Risk management: By locking currency exchange rates with future contracts, businesses can hedge against sudden shifts in exchange rates.
  • Extend profit margins: When you don’t have to pay unnecessary conversion costs and transaction fees, it directly leads to cost savings and extended profit margins.

Cons

  • Limited payment providers: There are only a limited number of banks and payment providers that offer multi-currency accounts. 
  • Not all providers support all currencies: While most banks and payment providers offer some major currencies, you may struggle to find one that supports all the currencies you require. For instance, only a handful of providers support the Chinese Yuan (CNY).

What does it cost to setup a multi-currency account?

The fees for a multi-currency account will depend on the service provider you partner with. Before signing up for a new account, the first step should be to check the pricing. Here are the costs that you should look for when setting up a multi-currency account:

  • Account setup fees: There can be fees for creating and setting up a new account.
  • Monthly/ annual fees: These are regular account maintenance fees.
  • Transaction fees: It includes fees for sending and receiving payments. Ideally, you should look for a multi-currency account that allows you to receive payments for free without any extra charges.
  • Conversion fees: These include the usual conversion rate for different currencies. 

Fund holding fees: Some multi-currency account providers may also charge you for holding large sums of money in your account.

How to open a free multi-currency account with WorldFirst?

WorldFirst allows businesses to open free multi-currency accounts. You can open 15+ local currency accounts and collect payments from 100+ marketplaces and payment gateways. The exchange rates are competitive and there are zero costs for receiving payments. Transfers between World Accounts is free and instant.

Here are the steps to open a multi-currency account with WorldFirst: 

1- Sign up for a WorldFirst account 

2- To open local currency accounts, go to the International collections account dashboard → Navigate to Currency accounts

3- Fill out the ‘Request a currency account’ form by selecting the local currency account you require and a currency account name.

4- Most local currency accounts, except EUR and JPY accounts, can be instantly generated, which needs verification.

5- Get your local currency account details and start making international transactions.

Ready to get started? Open a World Account today.

Disclaimer: The information contained is general only and largely our views.  Before acting on the information you should consider whether it is appropriate for you, in light of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Although information has been obtained from and is based upon multiple sources the author believes to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy and it may be incomplete or condensed. All opinions, estimates, mentioned products/services and referenced material constitute the author’s own judgement as of the date of the briefing and are subject to change without notice. WorldFirst shall not be responsible for any losses or damages arising from your reliance of such information.

Open a World Account for free
  • Open 10+ local currency accounts with local account details
  • Direct CNH payments to 1688.com
  • Pay suppliers, partners and staff in 40+ currencies and 130+ destinations
  • Collect secure payments from 100+ marketplaces and payment gateways, including Amazon, AliExpress, Paypal and Shopify
  • Lock in currency conversion rates for up to 24 months
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