Published on
July 25, 2021

International Business Payment 101: The Only Comprehensive Guide You Will Need

5 min read


As the world becomes the marketplace for businesses of all shapes and sizes, there are limitless growth opportunities to choose from. For the uninitiated , hidden obstacles exist which may make the process confusing at first. While you navigate through the local regulatory compliance and cultural nuances of doing business in a new country, the next big challenge is how do you pay and get paid in a new currency.

Do you need a bank account abroad ? What documents does that need? Can a payment provider help you in your home country? If so , who?  What are the options with such providers? Finally, how much will it all cost? In this guide, we cast the light on the B2B payment landscape and lay out everything you need to know for setting up a successful B2B payment processing system.

We’ve compiled this detailed guide to walk you through everything about the B2B payment process and the solutions today.

International Transactions Underpin Modern Commerce.

In this section read about the various business instances which necessitate flow of money across borders.

In a globalised business world, supply chains are scattered across the world. Most businesses have come to rely on overseas vendors, freelancers, and suppliers in addition to domestic independent contractors and traditional employees. It can be confusing, time-consuming, and labor-intensive to pay international vendors, freelancers, and suppliers.

Global sourcing

Global sourcing or sourcing overseas refers to buying materials, products or services from manufacturers or suppliers that are located outside of your home country. Cost-savings are one of the main advantages of global sourcing. Nowadays, it’s easy to find, secure, and do business with international suppliers; the only thing slowing you down is how you go about paying your international suppliers.

One thing that will never change is that businesses of all sizes want a quick, reliable, cost-effective and secure method to make overseas payments. One delayed payment, or a couple of unexpected fees, and your relationship with a supplier can get derailed.

Payroll payments

One of the biggest impacts of the recent pandemic is remote working. New research shows that remote workers can be  significantly more productive than employees working in offices. Other  studies support this; Global Workplace Analytics found that teleworkers were 20-25% more productive than office-based employees. If you hire freelancers , they typically prefer to bill for their time in a global prime currency like USD or Euros.

If you have a remote office in a different country and are seeking to pay staff there from your headquarters, you will need to make payroll in the currency that is local to your employees. This will typically involve an international payment for your business. Refer to this detailed guide on dealing with  payroll for your remote employees in multiple countries.

Intercompany loans and repayments

Intercompany loans are loans made from one business unit of a company to another, usually to shift cash to a business unit that would otherwise experience a cash shortfall or to shift cash into a business unit (usually corporate) where the funds are aggregated for investment purposes.

The business units may be in different foreign locations, thus subjecting the loan transfers and subsequent repayments to exchange rate fluctuations.

Collecting payments for services rendered in foreign markets

Collecting accounts receivable is a vital and often difficult task too. In fact, a research found that 49% of businesses are frustrated by the pain of collecting payments abroad. Distance, time zones, and various legal and cultural differences can derail  your efforts to collect international debts.

Selling on online marketplaces

Online marketplaces have two types of stakeholders, the end customers as well as the sellers. Marketplaces consolidate payments from end customers in various currencies and re route the payment to the original sellers.

In 2020, online marketplace customers, especially those on the payout receiving end, i.e. the sellers, freelancers, tutors, course content creators, still have significant difficulties receiving their payouts on time and without hassle. Cross border specialist companies like Wallex now offer specialised solutions to meet the needs of online sellers on such marketplaces.

Many considerations when making an international payment

In this section learn the various factors that go into deciding which payment route is right for you.  

In choosing the right B2B payment solutions for your business, there are some important factors you should consider. Knowing this will help you navigate the complex B2B payment landscape, make an informed decision.

Transfer Fees & Costs

Based on our survey to our customers, cost-effectiveness is the ultimate priority when choosing a provider for overseas transactions. The first step to minimize your payment cost is to identify its various components.

These are fees that are applied as a service fee by the service provider. A transaction fee or a service fee may be a flat amount or a % of the amount you wish to send.

International bank transfer charge up to 1.5% – sometimes even more. Naturally, the higher the transfer amount, the higher the transfer fees.

Moreover, every international wire transfer passes through one or more intermediate banks (typically 1-3) on the way to the recipient’s bank. When the banks in the sender’s and recipient’s countries do not have a direct financial relationship, and therefore cannot transfer money to each other directly, the intermediary bank(s) helps complete the transaction. In return, they collect a flat fee or “cut” known as the intermediary/beneficiary bank charge which is passed back to either the sender or the beneficiary of the payment.

So ensure that you check with your provider on any charges that a recipient may incur, else you will have a very disgruntled beneficiary on the other side.

  • Markup on exchange rate

We all see the exchange rate on Google, this is usually what is referred to as the mid-market rate or the interbank rate. It is a commonly accepted fact that banks or remittance providers will add a markup or premium to that price. In fact, based on our latest study, 75% of business professionals still think they don’t get the best exchange rate possible when making international payments.

Knowing how to spot a hidden currency markup rate also will help you to save cost and decide which method to use.


Traditional methods such as wire transfers can take around 3-5 business days to process payments depending on the number of intermediaries involved in the process.

However, using a network of fintech payment processors and

banks, Wallex can cut this process to as quick as in a few hours e.g. with Wallex a transfer between Singapore and Indonesia is almost real-time. Banks and other providers take up to 2-3 business days to achieve the same.

  • Data and Security

With the high rate of internet fraud out there, you can never be too careful with securing your payment solutions.

Ensure that the company you choose meets all the necessary security requirements, including being licensed and regulated by the local law & regulations. For instance, if they are offering services in Indonesia, make sure they are regulated by Bank Indonesia and comply with the latest security infrastructures available.

Currencies and Countries Supported

The coverage offered by a service must also cater to the specific needs of a business. Businesses conduct their operations in different regions of the world, meaning they have different coverage needs for making and receiving payments. Having a provider who supports multiple currencies enables consolidation of all your business needs on a single seamless platform.

Service and Support

In today’s world, customer support is more of a right than a luxury. Excellent customer service and support can never be estimated, and it should mean;

  • Getting help through the onboarding process. .
  • Getting customised rates for a high value transaction.
  • Getting support via email, live chat, or call.
  • Troubleshooting your technical questions as soon as they come up.

Not having reliable support helping you resolve your technical issues can cause payment friction, and consequently jeopardise your relationship with your business partners.

Unfortunately the SME segment is most neglected by Banks who only offer personalised services to large corporations who have deep relationships with them.

A B2B specialized payment platform like Wallex on the other hand offers a dedicated account manager to each customer irrespective of their transaction size. So if you are an owner of a business or have limited resources in your finance department, this is a great option to have.

Plethora of Payment Options

In this section understand the most popular payment methods and pros and cons of each.

Choosing the right international payment method can make all the difference in streamlining your international business relationships. It’s crucial that you understand what’s involved with each one.

Business Credit Cards

Pros: Good for managing short term cash flow, earn reward points

Cons: Varying fees, high exchange rate (typically above 2%)

By converting unused corporate credit card limits into cash flows, you can pay employees and freelancers without paying interest for a set number of days. Some cards also offer rewards on every transaction.

Bear in mind that cards are not issued to small and growing businesses and if they are, they come with an annual fee and attract late payment fees for delayed payments.

The most significant disadvantage is being subject to a Foreign Currency Transaction Fee which is typically ~3.25% of the converted local currency amount. Another cost is Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), which usually results in unfavourable exchange rates, and increases your costs.


Pros: User-friendly, well-known, free account setup

Cons: Hefty fees, sending limits

PayPal is a popular option for many businesses worldwide. With PayPal, the transfer occurs between two accounts registered on the platform i.e. both buyer and seller have to have a PayPal account. You will need the recipient's registered email address to send money with PayPal.

However, PayPal might not be the best payment solution for businesses. Recipients are charged 2.9% (as well as $0.30) when receiving money for goods or services.

Wire Transfers

Pros: Safe, reliable

Cons: Slow, expensive, opaque

Banks still dominate the international business payments landscape. Granted, an international wire transfer is one of the most trusted methods to make business payments especially for high value payments. However, it is also slow taking up to 2-5 business days, depending on the sending and receiving countries and banks involved, and transfer amounts. More “exotic” currencies can take even longer.

International bank transfers are also expensive as they typically have a % charge on the principal amount and another flat fee on top of the exchange rate as a transfer fee. After calculating the mid-market rate, the bank adds a “spread” of 0.07%-7% above the mid-market rate. Only large businesses with established relationships get the benefit of customised FX rates , the rest get the published rates, which have a higher spread.

These numbers are constantly fluctuating, which affects how much the exchange will cost you in outgoing payment. Wire transfers can be expensive for receivers as well, since they often have to pay additional fees to accept their money.

Wise (previously Transferwise)

Pros : Fast set up, mobile app , competitive rates

Cons : Fees as a % of value, Better suited for individuals

Wise is gaining popularity for its easy to use interface however the service is limited to individuals in many Asian countries and not suited to business purposes. This means lower transaction limits which may not cut it for high value business payments.

While the company claims to offer transparent rates you have to look out for the transfer fees which are a % value of the amount you wish to send. While this works for low value transactions it can quickly turn into an expensive affair for high value transactions. Always compare the final amount received by the beneficiary to compute the true cost of your transfer and compare alternatives.

Wallex :

Pros : Fast transfers, low cost, transparent processes

Wallex is a B2B specialist payments provider focusing on the  needs of businesses and is able to send wire transfers to people or companies not registered with the service - through both wire and other local transfer channels. In a recent study, the majority of Wallex customers testify to getting faster delivery of funds and better cost savings than their previous payment provider.

In addition to exchange rates that are better than banks, Wallex’s interface also offers many features specifically designed for businesses like the ability to make multiple payments in different currencies at the same time as well as offering multi-level approver matrix, similar to bank mandate, for better corporate governance.

Fintech hacks that can power your payments infrastructure

In this section discover the fintech hacks that companies around the globe are deploying to optimize on costs and improve efficiency of their accounting process.

Businesses in Asia and abroad are now turning to smarter fintech alternatives that can significantly reduce the outgoing costs, improve productivity and efficiency of their payments processes. Here we have summarized a few alternatives that we recommend you consider before you jump into your payments journey.

Global Business Account: Alternative to Traditional Bank Accounts

A global business account is similar to an e-wallet , but for businesses. They allow businesses to hold and use multiple currencies from a single account, enabling businesses to manage their cash flow with much ease. Having a multi-currency business account  allows you to harness the true benefit of working with foreign currencies. The ability to hold a particular currency in the account , convert it or pay it onwards at rates favourable to you ensures that FX works for you, not against you.

With a global business account you can receive an invoice payment from a client in the USA in USD, leave it in the account and wait for a more advantageous time to deploy it to a supplier in China without converting it to your local currency. You can also wait to convert and withdraw as your local currency at a later stage.

This way, you won’t need to worry about short-term currency fluctuations affecting your bottom line. These savings can really add up if you conduct frequent or large business transactions in foreign currencies.

Benefits of a Global Business Account :

  • Money Saver : With transparent fees and charges,  no minimum commitments, better control on FX rates , businesses save thousands of dollars a year in international payment costs.
  • Super Convenient : It is super convenient to manage everything FX in 1 place, all online. Be it receiving fx or making payments or converting between currencies, all can be done seamlessly as it’s on the same platform.
  • More productive : With online onboarding, dedicated account manager and features like batch payments ( uploading multiple transactions at the same time ) you save a lot of time to focus on what is truly important to grow your business.
  • Your funds are safe and in your control : By choosing a licensed partner like Wallex you rest in peace knowing your funds are safe and you are in the driver’s seat getting the most out of your funds and cash flow.

Virtual Accounts

Any business that has tried to sell its services beyond borders would have experienced the hassle of receiving payments from abroad through international bank transfers.

Suppose you’re a Singapore-based manufacturer supplying electronic components to a mobile handset maker in Detroit, Michigan. After you send every shipment, you raise an invoice in USD and they pay you via an international bank transfer – from their bank in Detroit to your bank in Singapore which you receive in SGD. Each time, the transfer takes 3-5 days. Also, the amount you receive does not match your invoice creating a nightmare when reconciling accounts receivables. Which invoice was it and whatever happened to the rest of your money?

Consider this scenario where you are a seller selling goods on foreign marketplaces like Lazada, Shopee or Amazon or selling to customers based abroad on your own website. The marketplace or payment gateway will collect the payments from your customers in different currencies but you still need to receive that and convert that into your local currency in a cost efficient way.

One option is to try and open a foreign bank account in that country. Without a local entity in that country, it may be a very difficult and tedious task to comply with local documentation and regulation.

Another option is to receive the funds in your local bank account. However, this means subjecting yourself to bank controlled exchange rates that are loaded with expensive margins and exorbitant fees.

A Virtual account is a great hack to leverage domestic wire transfers in that foreign currency and get paid as a local - while sitting and operating the account from your home country.

Wallex enables its business clients with virtual accounts in US Dollar, Euro, Pounds, Singapore Dollars, Indonesian Rupiah and 30 other currencies. You can easily connect these ‘local’ bank accounts with your marketplace or gateway or share with your customer for cheaper and more cost efficient payments.

Wallex customers BAce Ventures save up to 2000$ per transaction and up to 2 days in funds delivery by effectively using a USD virtual account to route their transactions.

How you can leverage Fintech for your business

Below is a quick comparison of what it’s like to transact with a typical business bank account versus a Wallex global business account enabled with virtual accounts.

Account TypeRegular Business Bank AccountMulti-Currency Business Bank AccountWallex Account for BusinessWhat You Get                        You receive a single Singapore account number.                        You receive a single Singapore account number supporting selected currencies.                        You get personalized account numbers in multiple countries and currencies. Balances accumulated in these accounts reflect under the Wallex Wallet balance, segregated by currencies.                                                        Currency Conversion                        Any payment in foreign currency (e.g., USD) is automatically converted to local currency (SGD).                        Balances are maintained by segregated currencies in a single account.                        N/A                                                        Minimum Balance Requirement                        Yes                        Yes                        No                                                        Supports Foreign Currencies                        No                        Yes                        Yes                        

Typically support 8 to 13 currencies

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