FX and international payments: 7 solutions for SMEs in the German-speaking area

Fx and international payments for SMEs
  • Currency exchange
  • International payments

Foreign exchange transactions (fx) and global payments are a relevant topic for SMEs: SMEs in the D-A-CH area are showing strength in the export-business with an export share significantly above the 10% EU-average and a growing number of companies import goods and services from abroad.

There is a variety of ways to manage these fx transactions – but the fees are often hidden and non-transparent. For this reason, we compared 7 solutions for SME owners to handle their foreign currencies.

Providers for foreign exchange transactions in SMEs are:

  • amnis
  • iBanFirst
  • Paysend
  • Ebury
  • Revolut
  • Wise
  • Traditional banks

Businesses should consider the following 10 criteria to choose the right partner for their fx handling:

  1. What are the fees per transaction? Many services are not transparent about this and fees can vary widely with each trade, depending on the traded volume. This makes it impossible to properly calculate and plan.
  2. Which currency pairs are supported on the platform? A wide spectrum of tradeable currencies is crucial for your new international business.
  3. Is it possible to also issue payments? Some of the providers limit their service to the money exchange, which requires additional transactions between the provider and the bank, and often times also an additional account in each currency at additional cost. These back and forth transactions between the house bank and the fx provider are costing additional value days.
  4. Is it possible to submit multiple payments via pain.001 payment file? This point is often overlooked, but will save your accounting team a lot of time and headaches.
  5. How can the payment information be exported from the tool? Camt.053 is the European standard for any communication between payment institutes and accounting tools. Supporting camt-files will make the booking of these transactions a lot easier and can in some systems even be automated.
  6. How does the solution integrate with your existing system landscape? Modern software should communicate with other tools without the need of uploading and downloading files manually.
  7. Which customer segment is the provider focussing on, and is your business part of this target group? This is a good indicator to find the right solution for your needs.
  8. Does the provider offer a solution for peer-payments? This will allow you to create your own payment-network and move money around the globe instantly at zero cost, without the bounderies of the existing banking system.
  9. Is the provider also offering IBAN-accounts to receive payments? IBAN accounts look like local IBANs in the respective country and will provide you with even more possibilities to receive payments in foreign currency in the most convenient way possible.
  10. Which additional services does the provider offer? Can the provider support your business on implementing hedging strategies, currency swaps and forward trades?

Herebelow you will find a comprehensive overview of currency providers for small and medium-sized businesses in the German-speaking area:

  amnis iBanFirst Paysend Ebury Revolut Wise Traditional banks
Transparency about fees and markup Fix, transparent prices (0.2 – 0.4%) Prices not shown on website 1.4 – 2.8% Prices not shown on website Non-transparent depending on chosen plan Non-transparent depending on chosen plan Expensive, often non-transparent
Supported currencies > 150 > 30 > 27 > 130 > 50 > 150 Depends on bank
Availability/Trading times 24/7 24/5 24/5 24/5 24/7 24/7 Business times
International payments Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
File Upload/Export Yes/Yes (in Q4 2021) No/No No/No Yes/No No/No No/No Yes/Depends on bank
Third-party systems Yes Yes Yes Yes (Focus: UK) Yes (Focus: UK) Yes (Focus: UK) Partly supported
Focus SMEs Large corporates Private clients + SMEs SMEs Private clients + SMEs Private clients + Freelancer Private clients + Businesses
Peer-network (free international payments) Yes No No Yes (24/5 only) Yes No No
Multiple users Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Depends on bank
Own IBAN’s for incoming payments Yes Yes Yes Yes No
(only UK)
(only UK)
(charges apply)
Additional services Yes Yes Planned Yes Planned No Depends on bank

1. amnis – the digital end-to-end solution for international business payments

amnis provides companies with the simplest, fastest and most cost-effective platform for international payments. To meet this high ambition, foreign exchange transactions are consistently thought of from the company’s point of view and the solution starts where companies effectively come into contact with third currencies: when they are paying invoices in foreign currencies and receiving customer payments.

Unlike most other providers, the margin on the exchange rate is fixed per customer – regardless of whether 500 EUR are exchanged on one day and 500,000 on the next.

amnis can provide you with all tradable currencies worldwide, the exchange rates can be fixed any number of days in advance and your bank account can be debited at the value date, fully automated. With amnis, it is possible to trade currencies even over the weekend – 24/7.

Talk to your amnis’ expert today and find out how you can accelerate your global business payments!

2. iBanFirst – for larger companies with a high number of payments

iBanFirst has been positioning itself as a partner for bigger companies, especially for corporates with high fx volumes. However, foreign exchange margins can be untransparent and vary from customer to customer.

A clever feature, the so called “Payment Tracker”, as well as deposit solutions are part of the offering of iBanFirst. Clients have the possibility to trade forward contracts, but when booking fx forwards transparency, especially on forward points, is missing. Furthermore, clients are highly dependent on their account manager in order to execute fx forward transactions. Unfortunately, prices and margins are only available upon request, in contrast to iBanFirst’s transparency-claim. Also, clients are not able to execute bulk payments via upload and bookkeeping system integration is very limited.

3. Paysend – an easy solution, focused on private customers

Paysend has specialized in sending money in an easy way for private clients. It is possible to send money through credit card, debit card as well as with a valid phone number. Paysend also provides its own app. Corporate customers are provided with multi-IBAN accounts as well as an API or B2C Online Payment Processing Solutions for various payment methods.

For each transaction a rather high fee of 1.4% (domestic) or 2.8% (international) applies. Also for incoming online payments 1.4% will be charged.

4. Ebury – What borders?

Ebury has entities in over 24 countries and can therefore be counted as one of the big international players. Like for many other providers in the currency world, Ebury is headquartered in the UK. The company provides IBANs, hedging solutions and international payments. Despite Ebury’s claims of being a foreign exchange pioneer, no price transparency can be found.

Ebury is focused on companies with middle to high fx exposure.

5. Revolut – the British challenger bank

With more than 350,000 customers, Revolut is by far the most popular smartphone bank in Europe. Private individuals appreciate the free debit card and favorable exchange rates.

With Revolut Business, the startup, which operates under a Lithuanian e-money license, also offers a service explicitly targeted towards small companies: The business account is multi-currency capable and, depending on the premium plan chosen, there is a limited allowance within which foreign currencies can be exchanged at the interbank rate.

However, with an allowance of only 10,000 to 50,000 CHF per month at the preferred rate (depending on the selected price plan), the offer is clearly aimed at small companies that only have occasional payments in foreign currencies. Above that, a surcharge of 0.4% applies – which very quickly puts the best offer of Revolut Business on par with the most expensive one at amnis.

As a business you also need to be aware that Revolut currently only provides British IBAN’s.

6. Wise – high on the list for freelancers

Wise, formerly Transferwise, has its roots also in the UK and grew with expats looking for a cheap way to send money back to home. In the German-speaking area, Wise is present through partnerships with Neo-Banks as well as Fin Techs.

The main focus of Wise lies on the transfer of foreign currency payments. Thanks to its uncomplicated processes, the solution enjoys a growing popularity among freelancers. With over 150 currencies, Wise covers the widest range of tradable currencies besides amnis.

The exchange rate markups with Wise depend on the volume, but are relatively high for a neo-bank and even in the best case never lower than 0.4%.

7. Traditional banks – manual and intransparent

Last but not least, SMEs can of course also conduct their foreign currency transactions via the good old house bank. What should be avoided at any cost is issuing foreign currency payments via the local bank account – the applied exchange rates are exorbitant and a margin surcharge of 2% or more is not uncommon.

The processes at most banks are still quite manual and inflexible, the fees often intransparent. It is also not unusual for foreign exchange transactions at banks to still be conducted over the phone. Unfortunately, very few banks offer digital solutions for foreign exchange trading for small and medium-sized businesses, and if they do, they usually require a high minimum annual turnover.


Level up your fx affairs with amnis!

Since 2015, amnis facilitates the global payments and fx transactions of businesses: amnis is the simplest, most affordable and fastest global payment solution for SMEs in the market.

Try it out yourself and open a free demo account, or book a meeting with one of our experts.

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Michael Wüst
Michael Wüst is the CEO and Co-Founder of amnis. He regurarly writes news articles and publishs best pratices guides about Foreign Exchange, Hedging, International Payments, Treasury Management and more. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the latest industry news and insights.
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