How to pay an international invoice: The best way to pay international suppliers
Monday, 21 November 2022, 4 minute read
The globalisation of business has opened up a world of opportunities for companies in the UK. Working with international suppliers can give you more freedom of choice, better access to high-quality goods and enable your business to become more competitive.
That said, paying for goods or services from abroad also requires you to wrap your head around how to pay international invoices - without losing money to excessive markups, high exchange rates and cunning hidden fees.
Today, we’ll be exploring all the options that are available to you when you are paying international invoices, and the best way to save time and money when making payments abroad.
How does paying international vendors differ from paying UK-based businesses?
The invoice your international supplier sends should have all the basic components of a UK invoice, including:
The date the invoice is being issued
A unique and sequential invoice identification number (e.g. ‘001’, ‘002’, ‘003’, etc)
The company’s full name, registered address and company registration number
The company’s full company name, registered address and registration number
A brief description of the goods/services delivered
The quantity of the goods supplied/services delivered
The date the company supplied the goods/services
The total amount to pay
The date when payment is due
However, there are some elements of international invoices that are different. The biggest difference between international and domestic invoices is generally the currency, which means you need to look at the current exchange rates and conversion fees.
VAT rates may also differ slightly between countries, so you’ll also need the details of the VAT for the country you’re sending money to.
On top of this, international invoices will include two international reference codes: the company’s Bank Identifier Code (BIC), which is also known as a SWIFT number, and their International Bank Account Number (IBAN). The IBAN is an alphanumeric reference code used to identify an individual bank account, and the BIC or SWIFT number is usually contained within the IBAN. These codes are used as global identifiers for specific banks and financial institutions, and are super important for paying international invoices.
The most common ways to pay international suppliers
Business bank accounts
International payments are often made through business bank accounts. In terms of ease, this is a fairly straightforward option. However, this is also typically the most expensive way to pay international suppliers, as banks can charge extremely high rates and also add hidden markups when they convert your currency. In fact, UK high-street banks can charge you up to £30 in transfer fees for every international payment you make!
You may also hear businesses trading internationally speaking about international wire transfers. A wire transfer is essentially the same thing as a business bank transfer, as it’s defined as the electronic transfer of funds via a network that is administered by banks and transfer service agencies around the world.
Keep in mind that you may still have to pay taxes on business bank and international wire transfers, on top of the skewed currency exchange rates and high payment fees these banks often charge.
In recent years, many businesses have opted to use the online payments system Paypal to pay their international invoices. This is another fairly straightforward way to make international payments to suppliers, and - in fairness - Paypal is transparent about the fact that they do charge fees for using their platform to make or receive international payments, so their markups are not entirely hidden.
However, the platform is still guilty of charging high currency conversion fees (between 2.5-4.5% above the actual exchange rate) and excessively high rates, meaning this is not the best or cheapest way to pay international vendors.
Like PayPal, paying international invoices by credit card or debit card is possible but not the best option as you will also suffer from high fees and rates.
The best way to pay international suppliers
If you are sending funds overseas, the most cost-effective (and simple) way to pay international suppliers is to use an open banking payments solution like Crezco.
Crezco can help
Crezco makes international account-to-account payments easy and secure, letting you make international payments directly to the supplier’s existing local bank account without creating any virtual IBANs or local wallets.
With Crezco’s cross-border payment solution, you can benefit from competitive rates without worrying about any hidden fees. You can make cardless, frictionless payments to 100+ countries, and the platform currently supports over 70 currencies. On top of this, you can be confident that your payment will be made quickly and securely, with minimal effort required on your part.
Crezco will also provide both you and the supplier with complete transparency, as both you and the supplier will get live updates when payments leave your account and arrive in theirs. You’ll also benefit from Crezco’s use of open banking and award-winning proprietary risk tools (Sentinel), which keep your international payments safe and secure.
Read more: Paying wages to overseas employees
Read more: Paying Chinese suppliers
More ways to save money when paying international invoices
Our top tip to save money when paying international suppliers is to request an invoice in both your and your vendor’s currencies. While not every international supplier will be able or willing to do this, it can be a great money-saver when possible, as it allows you to compare the costs of making a payment in each currency, and choose the most affordable option for you.
We would also recommend monitoring the currency exchange market if you know you’re due to pay an international supplier in the near future. Keeping tabs on the actual exchange rate will help you estimate your upcoming business spending, and allow you to make informed decisions when choosing how to send money abroad.
Pay international invoices with confidence
With the above tips in mind, we hope you feel prepared to start paying international invoices quickly, safely and easily. If you’re starting to import goods and trade internationally, you may find the following articles helpful: