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Demystifying international payment methods: a guide for businesses

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Last editedJul 20232 min read

While 95% of the world’s customers live outside U.S. borders, less than 1% of the country’s small businesses are selling to them. This makes overseas trade an untapped market for many businesses, who might be put off by the red tape or simply not know where to start. If you’re looking for a way to expand your company’s reach, one of the first hurdles to overcome is figuring out how to take international payments. International payment methods don’t need to be complicated – and you have plenty of options.

What are international payment methods?

An international payment method describes any platform used for taking cross-border payments. Customer preferences and fees vary by region, which means you’ll usually need to combine multiple international payment methods. These fall into a few main categories:

  • International payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal and Braintree let you accept international card payments, integrating directly into your website.

  • Online banking apps like Wise hold funds in multiple currencies, making automatic conversions at local rates.

  • International wire transfers let you send and receive funds, which move through the global SWIFT network from one bank account to another.

International payment methods list

Here’s a more comprehensive international payment methods list to consider.

1. Debit and credit cards

Global networks like Visa and Mastercard offer one of the most convenient ways to pay, particularly online. These names are trusted by customers who might otherwise be hesitant to pay a company based overseas. You will need a payment gateway to process card transactions, some of which are more costly than others.

2. Bank payments using SWIFT

Short for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, SWIFT transmits payment instructions from one account to another. Your customer needs only to submit their bank details, including a bank identifier code, to route funds securely through a network of correspondent banks. It’s trusted and secure, though it comes at a higher cost if each correspondent bank charges its own fee.

3. Digital wallets

Today’s best international payment methods use technology to make payment more convenient and secure. Digital wallets are a prime example, letting customers store their payment methods of choice on their smartphone or other device. Services like Apple Pay, PayPal, Amazon Pay and Google Pay are fast, secure, and accepted widely worldwide.

4. Cryptocurrency

Another tech-driven form of payment is cryptocurrency, based on decentralized blockchain technology for security. This facilitates faster settlement without hefty transaction fees. However, the value of cryptocurrencies fluctuates widely, making it a riskier form of payment for businesses.

How to choose safe international payment methods

Security is one of the prime concerns for international customers and businesses alike. If you’re a B2B business, for example, you’ll probably want to ask for payment in advance before sending bulk shipments to overseas customers. B2C businesses will need to make sure they’re following all protocols to protect customer financial data. When choosing an international payment gateway, make sure it’s PCI DSS compliant. Cloud-based systems should also use tools like encryption and tokenization.

Which global payment methods are best for your business?

There’s no single method that will be right for everyone. A good place to start is with international payment gateways that offer a selection of payment methods at checkout. For example, PayPal lets customers choose between payment by credit or debit card, bank transfer, or their own PayPal account balance.

GoCardless is an excellent option for start-ups and established businesses alike. This global banking solution lets you collect one-off and recurring international payments directly from customer accounts. There’s no need to open your own foreign bank account, and payments are taken at the real exchange rate to save money on currency conversions. And with built-in payments intelligence, you can reduce fraud and payment failure at the same time for greater peace of mind.

We can help

GoCardless is a global payments solution that helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of financial admin your team needs to deal with. Find out how GoCardless can help you with one-off or recurring payments.

Over 85,000 businesses use GoCardless to get paid on time. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help
Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

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