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For Sellers in the USA
Sending/Receiving Money to/from a Foreign Country

© 2000-2001 by Tessa Hebert, all right reserved.

 General Information:   USA Banks    Policy Suggestion for Sellers   
Postal Money Orders Money-Order Services Bank Checks
 Traveler's Checks  Cash  Bank Wire Transfer  Western Union and Other Wire Transfer Companies
 Credit Card Payments  Payment Services  Escrow Services  Postage Stamps
 European Payment to USA  England Payment to USA  Trading with Canadians  Payment to an Australian Seller

General Information:  You may need to help your foreign buyers with advice about how to obtain a bank check or money order drawn on a bank in your country and in your country’s currency.  This article sets out the various ways a buyer can pay a USA seller and also includes some information that will be helpful to outside-USA sellers.

USA Banks:  In the United States of America, banks that accept foreign checks generally charge bank fees plus the currency-exchange house's fees to process checks and money orders drawn on foreign banks.  Those fees can often be very expensive.  Check with your bank to see if it will accept deposits of foreign checks or money orders and what its fees are for processing them.

Policy Suggestion for Sellers:  I suggest that you set a policy requiring that checks and money orders be drawn on banks in your country and payable in your country’s currency.  A policy statement for the USA would be something like this:  "Payment must be drawn on a USA bank and be made in USA dollars."

Postal Money Orders:  Usually, the cheapest way to send money to a foreign country is to purchase a postal money order from your post office, in the currency of the seller's country.  Postal money orders can be easily cashed at the seller's post office if they are payable in the seller's currency.

Money-Order Services:  Money orders can be purchased from services online, where the buyer pays with a credit card, and the service mails a money order to the seller.  Such services can be expensive, depending on the amount of the transaction, but are worth considering because of the convenience, especially for foreign buyers who need to send payment in USA dollars.  To see my article that compares services that sell money orders online, click here:

Bank Checks:  International banks with locations in the USA provide their checks issued on a USA bank in USA dollars (or the country and currency of choice).  These checks can be very expensive for the buyer, however.

Traveler's Checks:  Traveler’s checks issued by a USA credit card company or USA bank in USA dollars can also be readily cashed or deposited at any USA bank.

Cash:  Sending cash in the mail is very risky.  Some outside-the-country buyers request permission to send cash, because it saves them the cost of obtaining a  check or money order drawn on a bank in your country and payable in your country’s currency.  While they can readily exchange their money for USA dollars in their country, it seems that it is quite expensive for them to buy a check or money order payable on a bank in the USA and drawn in USA dollars.  I do not recommend that you agree to a buyer’s request to send cash, although some buyers will send cash even if you do not agree to accept cash.  The best way to answer a buyer’s request to send cash is to state that you will not be responsible if the cash is lost or stolen while in transit to you.

Bank Wire Transfer:  Payment can be accepted by bank wire transfer, from the buyer's bank to the seller's bank.  This is a fast method of getting paid.  The buyer pays his bank, his bank wires the money to your bank, and it is deposited in your bank account.  However, your bank may charge you to accept the wire transfer for you, so call your bank to find out if there is a fee and how much it is before you agree to a wire transfer.

One word of caution:  Be aware that anyone who has your bank account number might also have the ability to draft your account, so be very careful about who you give out that information to, be especially careful if the person does not reside in your own country.

I suggest that you refuse to accept wire-transfer payments, especially from foreign countries, where you may have a difficult time recovering your money or filing charges against someone who illegally drafts your bank account.
Western Union and Other Wire Transfer Companies: Companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram can wire money almost anywhere in the world.  Sellers would be required to make a trip to the company’s location to pick up the money, however, and this may not be a convenient method of accepting payment for you.  Buyers need to be aware that scammers and con artists often require payment only by Western Union because they can quickly pick up the money and be long gone before the buyer realizes he has been scammed.  Sending money by wire transfer is exactly like sending cash, there is no way to get the money back if the buyer has been scammed.

Credit Card Payments:

Sellers:  You may decide to obtain credit-card acceptance services, or a merchant account.  This requires approval by either your bank or another company that provides these services.  The requirements are strict and the fees can be considerable.  I suggest that you only obtain credit-card services if you have a large enough volume of sales to justify this expense.  The use of credit cards for accepting payment does eliminate the problem of knowing what the current exchange rate is, because the credit card company charges at the rate of exchange for the date of the payment.

Buyers:  Know your seller!  Do not give your credit card information unless you are sure that the seller is legitimately in business and has a merchant account to accept credit-card payments.  The safest way to pay is through a secure site.  Do not send your credit card information in an e-mail (although sending half of the information in one e-mail and then the other half in another e-mail form a different Internet Service Provider e-mail address might be safe).

Payment Services:  There are payment services online that can be used to accept credit-card payments, electronic transfers, and e-check payments (transfer payments from a bank checking account).  Some of them accommodate only USA residents, however.  Sellers:  Read the User Agreement carefully to see the requirements and about how much protection, if any, is provided in event of charge-back or stolen-credit-card use.
To see my comparison article which compares some of the payment services, please click this link:
Escrow Services:  There are escrow services on the internet that act as the middleman in the exchange of payment and the purchased item between the buyer and the seller.  Their fees for this service can be expensive.  Use of an escrow service can also delay the seller’s receipt of payment until the buyer notifies the escrow service that the item has been satisfactorily received and then further delay can occur before the escrow service issues the seller a check.  This does allow a buyer to buy on approval or to change his mind about buying the item after it is received.  The use of an escrow service does provide the buyer the security and safety he may not have without such a service.  Also, the buyer can pay the escrow service with a credit card, and the escrow service then pays the seller with a check.  This can resolve the buyer’s problem of having to obtain a check or money order drawn on a bank in the seller’s country.  So, sellers who cannot accept credit-card payments may decide that this is a convenience worth paying for.  The escrow fee can be shared between the buyer and seller, or paid by one or the other.  For buyers, use of an escrow service is recommended on any large purchase from a seller who is not well-known to you.

Postage Stamps:  If the seller is willing to accept USA postage stamps as payment, the buyer can go to the USPS' site and order stamps online.  It does not appear that the buyer can have the stamps shipped directly to the seller, because the order form does not have an option for that.  However, it does appear that worldwide users can order stamps directly from the USPS and pay by credit card.  The seller could tell the buyer what type of stamps are preferred, such as first-class postage or Priority Mail stamps.  The buyer can purchase the stamps, have them shipped to the buyer, and then mail them to the USA seller. Be sure to check with the seller first, because USA postage stamps are NOT currency, and not many sellers will accept them as payment.  Click here to go to the USPS Stamps Online site:

European Payment to USA:

Euro-Giro:  We were told about Euro-Giro by a buyer who lived in Spain.  He went to his post office and paid his money and the Euro-Giro fee.  He said Euro-Giro is available throughout Europe.  His post office sent the money to the USA postmaster, who then mailed us a USA postal money order.  It took about 3 weeks for us to receive payment.  So, Euro-Giro is not a fast payment method, but it was easy and inexpensive for the buyer.

England Payment to USA:

England:  Residents of England can purchase a MoneyGram from over 1,500 main and branch post offices in the United Kingdom.  MoneyGram is a wire transfer, which the seller can receive the same day.  The seller must go to a MoneyGram location to pick up the money, and the buyer must provide the reference number of the wire transfer.  The exchange rate of the currency may change from day to day, and the rate is only guaranteed for the date the money is sent.  Picking up the money may be inconvenient for the seller, but this is a fast way to receive payment.

Buyers:  Check with the seller to see if there is a convenient MoneyGram location near the seller and if the seller will agree to pick up the payment, before sending money by MoneyGram.

Trading with Canadians:

Some USA banks located near the Canadian border readily accept Canadian checks written in Canadian dollars, but buyers ought be careful to ask the seller first before sending a Canadian bank check.

Also, some Canadian banks readily accept USA checks written in USA dollars, but the USA bank of the buyer may charge a fee for writing such a check.  Be sure to check with your bank first.

Dave Brodbeck, Ph.D., has a very helpful article about trading with Canadians at this location:

Canadian Customs:  The online site for Canadian Customs, where you can find a lot of helpful information, is at this location:

For information about customs taxes, GST, and importing items into Canada, click here to see article titled Duty Free and Tax Exempt Importations by Mail:

If a customs tax, duty or GST is due, you will also have to pay the Canada post office a handling fee.  For information about that, click here to see article titled Dutiable and Taxable Personal Importations by Mail:

Payment to an Australian Seller:

A credit-card payment can be made to an Australian seller by using an Australian payment service.

Paymate:  The seller must be registered with Paymate, but the buyer does not have to be registered.  Seller registration requires residence in Australia and an Australian bank account.
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This article © 2000-2002 by Tessa Hebert
Revised 05-22-02
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