These transactions are often expensive, time-consuming and complicated – as many of you who live abroad are only too aware. Currency conversions and bank fees eat up an average of seven percent of the funds transferred between nations, although sometimes the chunk claimed by the financial institutions can be much, much higher.
This is such a widespread problem that one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to reduce these remittance fees to under three percent of transaction costs by 2030.
To help achieve this goal, the Swedish Consumer Agency introduced the free state-financed service Money from Sweden. The online service allows you to quickly and easily compare fees on sending 1,000, 3,000 or 5,000 kronor to 42 different countries. It is certified by the World Bank and was set up on a commission from the Swedish government, which in turn was asked to take action by the UN.
When the service was launched in 2014, members of Sweden’s international community were paying an average of 19 percent on 1,000 kronor transfers when sending money to family members back home or to a bank account they still own in a previous country of residence.
But the Swedish Consumer Agency says the cost of sending money abroad has since fallen by up to seven percent on transfers for this amount – ensuring more money reaches the intended recipients. The cost of sending larger amounts has also dropped significantly.
Ankit Mathur, a software engineer who has lived in Stockholm since 2017, said the transparency of transaction costs is very important when he sends money to family members in India. Like many within Sweden’s international community, he was unaware that Money from Sweden’s free comparison tool exists. The service’s state backing makes it appealing and trustworthy, he said.
“The fact that it is sponsored by the government and other agencies is definitely very important for me because then I know that the comparisons are unbiased and unlikely to be influenced by the products being compared,” he said. Photo: Ankit Mathur in Stockholm
Another member of Sweden’s Indian community, Bandana Shrestha, said she used to transfer money to both India and the US and would typically use the remittance options provided by her own bank.
“I haven't checked Money from Sweden and hadn't realized this option was available,” she said. “However, for future purposes, I would definitely check it out.”
Money from Sweden does not facilitate the transfers directly. Instead, it provides a quick and easy-to-understand overview of the various options provided by banks, agents and other financial institutions.
You simply select the country you want to send funds to and you quickly get an overview of the cheapest services for your intended transaction. If time is more important than cost, you can also sort the results by which institution will transfer the funds fastest.
While the cost of sending money abroad from Sweden has been falling, transfers using traditional banks still cost an average of 21 percent, whereas the average cost with other services is nine percent. Knowing all one’s options, therefore, can really pay off.
But researching the sending and receiving fees across the whole market can be time-consuming. The Money from Sweden service provides a quick overview of the different choices, breaking down the fees, the operator exchange rate and the available pick-up methods.
The most common destination countries users search for are Thailand, Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Somalia. Western countries like the US and Germany are also among the ten most-searched destination countries. The comparison tool is available in English, Swedish and Arabic and there is also information available in another dozen languages.
With around one in every seven people around the world sending or receiving international transfers, the scope of the UN’s mission to bring down costs is huge. No single organisation can change a global issue like this alone. But greater consumer choice is vital – especially where it's enabled by allowing people to make quick, impartial and transparent cost comparisons.