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What are cross-border payments and how do I make them?

Cross-border payments are transactions where the payee and the transaction recipient are based in separate countries. For global eCommerce businesses, cross-border payments are an integral part of their day to day operations. They need to be able to transfer funds across different territories in the most secure and efficient way possible. Often, cross-border payments are more expensive and can take longer to process than domestic payments due to the increased number of parties involved. Typically, international payments take two to five working days to clear, depending on the number of intermediary banks the funds need to pass through.

How do you send a cross-border payment?

Cross-border payments can be made in several different ways. Bank transfers, credit card payments and Alternative Payment Methods (APMs) are the most prevalent ways of transferring funds across borders. The most suitable method for your business will depend on where you are based and where you are wishing to make payments.

To make an international bank transfer you will need the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and (Bank Identifier Code) BIC of the recipient, along with their personal details. Merchants are also able to make B2B and B2C SWIFT payments.

Credit cards are a simple way for consumers to make online payments across borders. All they need to do is enter their card details, but there are often increased transaction and FX fees.  

APMs are a great way of engaging with local markets and will be discussed in greater depth below.

Optimising for cross-border payments

It is important for international merchants to consider what payment methods and approaches are most popular in their target markets. Payment service provider, emerchantpay, shared their top three tips for optimising cross-border payments:

  • Adopt the language
  • Consider working with a regional partner
  • Offer preferred local payment methods.

These three tactics will help merchants gain a greater understanding of their target markets and cater to local demands. Consumers want to be spoken to in their own language and pay in methods that they are familiar with. By fulfilling these requests, you are widening your reach and appealing to new audiences.

The future of cross-border payments

One of the most exciting new developments in the world of cross-border payments is the prospect of making real-time international payments a reality. SWIFT gpi, Visa Direct and Mastercard Send are dedicated to providing fast and secure global payments but need to become more widely adopted before their true potential becomes clear.

EU cross-border payments are also set to change in the not too distant future. On the 15th December 2019, all Member States, regardless of currency, will be charged cheaper intra-euro rates when making payments within the EU. This will help the EU move towards their goal of creating a digital single market.


Cross-border payments have a promising future, with real-time international transfers well within reach. With global eCommerce headed in an upwards trajectory, now is the time for eCommerce businesses to optimise processes around the sending and receiving of international payments.



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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

The Payments Business

Share opinion and experience on how the payments landscape is changing and learn about the challenges and opportunities facing payments stakeholders in the future.

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