Banks aren’t the only option for cross-border payments, and SWIFT isn’t the only fish in the sea — at least, not any more. Instead, there are numerous fintech and alternative providers on the international payments scene. But which are the best online payment service providers — and are some solutions speedier than others?
What are online payment service providers?
In a nutshell, online payment service providers are non-bank alternatives for cross-border payments. Until fairly recently, bank-initiated Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) transfers were the most common way companies sent or received funds from international partners overseas. While reliable, SWIFT transfers aren’t cheap — and they’re not always fast, either.
SWIFT has 11,000 members, all of whom are financial institutions. Simply put, the SWIFT system is a giant messaging service, which banks use to communicate with each other. When bank reps initiate transactions, transfer details — account numbers and amounts, for instance — are sent between banks via SWIFT.
Online payment service providers generally don’t use the SWIFT system to send payments. Instead, they use their own networks, or peer-to-peer systems, which "swap" incoming and outgoing transfers to achieve more favourable exchange rates. fintechs have a financial advantage over banks because of these innovative transfer methods: after all, reduced overheads and better exchange rates mean lower fees for you.
Avoiding online payment service provider pitfalls
Are online service providers all the same, then? Not so much. Some international payments businesses are faster or more secure than others, for instance. Let’s examine a few of the most common online payment provider pitfalls:
- Lax security: when online payment providers aren’t PCI compliant and don’t regularly monitor backend security, they leave sensitive customer information vulnerable to theft.
- Low reliability: some international payment providers are unreliable, or advertise services that are no longer available.
- Unacceptable downtime: when payment platforms have higher-than-average downtime, transactions can be hard to complete and hard to track.
- Poor support: international transfers are high-stakes transactions, and poor support can be anxiety provoking.
- High fees: some well-known fintechs apply shockingly high transaction fees — so businesses pay through the nose for convenience.
What do the best online payment service providers have in common?
It can be hard to choose between online payment service providers. Many of them claim to be "the best" or "the most secure" — but which ones actually are? Below, we’ll explore some of the most important features that leading international payment companies have in common:
- Robust security features: the best online payment service providers are fully PCI DSS compliant and Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) compliant. Companies like WorldFirst encourage users to create strong passwords, and never ask for login information via text or telephone.
- Easy account management: modern business happens in the office and on the go. Some world-class payment providers have intuitive smartphone apps, so customers can initiate transactions and check incoming transfers while away from their desks.
- Personalised service: look for an international payment solution with personalised service as standard. If you send business-related funds on a large scale, ask your potential payment partner if they’ll provide a personal account rep.
- Competitive exchange rates: the more competitive your provider’s exchange rates, the better, and always ask if you can lock in exchange rates for months, rather than days.
- Accounting software integration: unless you enjoy poring through transaction records, go for a payment company with an accounting software API.
- Speedy payments: faster payments mean healthier global business connections. Ensure that your chosen fintech has the infrastructure to support quick payments to any country in the world — including mainland China.
- Good customer service: good customer service is an essential part of any international payment partnership. If customer service reps are hard to reach, or if they can’t answer your questions, consider another provider.
Easy online payments with WorldFirst
With the right international payment partner at your side, financial transactions can flow smoothly, too. With more than a decade of experience in cross-border business payments, WorldFirst is the clear choice for international currency transfers. With a WorldFirst account, you can transfer funds at speed, send mass payments, manage risk and save money.
Find out more about WorldFirst products and services online or call 0207 801 1065 today.
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