Payments without borders

When a translator and a translation client are located in different countries, the usual issues that have to be resolved with payments (rate, payment terms, etc.) are joined by an additional question, that of the payment method. From the perspective of a U.S.-based translator, here are a few international payment method options and some of the pros and cons that I’ve found:

  • Check in U.S. dollars. Some larger agencies have either a branch in the U.S. or an account denominated in dollars. No problem here!
  • Wire transfer into the translator’s U.S. account. Pro: Relatively uncomplicated, each party can pay their own fees. Con: Fees for incoming and outgoing fees vary by bank. I have my business account with Washington Mutual and they charge $12 for an incoming foreign wire transfer. Some credit unions don’t charge at all, and I’ve seen fees as high as $50 for incoming foreign transfers.
  • PayPal. Pro: Easy to set up, can bill the client in various currencies, various ways for the client to fund the payment. Con: Fees vary dramatically from zero for a domestic eCheck to up to 5% for foreign credit cards. I learned this the hard way when I ended up paying $150 to receive $3,000 from an overseas client. I had been chasing them for the money for a while and didn’t want to reject the payment, but the size of the fee really turned me off using PayPal for large transactions since you sometimes can’t control how the client funds them.
  • Overseas bank account. Pro: Easier for the client, can allow the translator to hold the money in a country he/she visits, gives the translator more control over how and when the money is transferred into a U.S. account. Con: Can be difficult to set up if you need a business account and are not a citizen of the non-U.S. country. After lengthy negotiations with two international commercial banks, I decided that this option was simply too complex and costly to be worth pursuing for the amount of European clients I have.
  • Depositing foreign currency checks into a U.S. account. Pro: Easy for the client, no fees. Con: Some banks (including the WaMu branch I deal with) absolutely won’t accept foreign currency checks; checks may be sent back to the country of issue for collection before being credited to your account. Some translators I’ve talked to have worked out a relationship with their U.S. banks where they can deposit a foreign currency check and have it credited immediately as long as they have enough money in the account to cover the check.
  • I’m sure that other people out there have other ideas for international payments, feel free to contribute them!

10 Responses to “Payments without borders”
  1. Olli May 12, 2008
  2. Corinne McKay May 13, 2008
  3. Jean-Christophe Helary May 14, 2008
  4. Corinne McKay May 14, 2008
  5. Marianne Reiner May 15, 2008
  6. Jean-Christophe Helary May 22, 2008
  7. Eve May 23, 2008
  8. KENAX November 24, 2008
  9. Anndrew Pelt December 26, 2009

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