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Easy currency exchange for expats
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Easy currency exchange for expats

The Local · 8 Jul 2015, 14:00

Published: 08 Jul 2015 14:00 GMT+02:00

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Losing money when sending cash back home is a common problem for expats who face large fees and hidden charges from banks even when central banks aren’t wreaking havoc on currency markets.

With a vision of revolutionizing the way people send money internationally, CurrencyFair is an online marketplace where secure transactions are made faster and far cheaper.  

We asked James Kielty, marketing spokesman at CurrencyFair, about his tips for moving to Switzerland.

Hi, James. What is CurrencyFair exactly?

Our service is international currency exchange, but a lot quicker – and cheaper – than traditional banks and FX brokers.

So what makes it so unique?

We use a peer-to-peer model to circumvent the banking system’s high fees and rate margins. We match senders of currency with those looking to send in the opposite direction, anonymously and securely on our platform. Exchanges at the prevailing rate are instant and seamless.

We also offer customers the facility to set their own desired rate of exchange and wait for another customer or set of customers to match it. Either way our rates are pretty much unbeatable.

The Expat Project: How to move to Switzerland

What problems can expats run into when transferring money back home, or receiving money from family?

Cost and speed are the two biggest factors expats should consider when sending money abroad. With a traditional bank transfer, you’ll never be offered a rate close to the interbank, despite their claims, so you’ll be paying for a very wide margin. On top of this, there’s often a standard flat fee for the privilege of making the transfer and sometimes receiving the transfer as well, so the amount received at the other end of the transfer can be a lot lower than you expect.

By using CurrencyFair, you avoid both the hidden exchange rate margins and the high fees at either end. We charge a flat fee per transaction (€3) and can offer rates close to the interbank (and sometimes even better than the interbank if you’re willing to wait for a match in our marketplace). 

How does CurrencyFair make moving and living in Switzerland easier?

Our service saves people who need to send currency abroad a lot of money – up to 90 percent of the total costs potentially involved with each transfer.

While this is only one aspect of a move abroad, the money people save can go a long way to make the overall transition a little easier. It can pay for better services, help get items shipped abroad quicker, and even surprise you by leaving you with a little more remaining funds than you’d budgeted for.

If you’re buying a property abroad, then the savings we can offer on that payment versus a bank can be huge, possibly covering the costs of furnishing.

From a non-banking perspective, our blog has numerous resources and guides to make the whole event as painless as possible, such as our Moving Abroad - 100 Helpful Resources, Guides and Websites post.

Alright, sounds cool – but now it’s time for the elevator pitch under pressure. Pretend you’re at the airport sitting next to someone moving to Switzerland. How would you explain to them why they should use your service?

I’d ask them how they plan to get their money from their old home bank account out to their new local CHF account, and if they’re aware of the charges banks impose on each transfer. After all, it’s not just the up-front sending fee – the excessive exchange margin is where the banks make most of their money.

CurrencyFair will always be cheaper than using their bank, so it’s a question of education more than simply promoting our own service. Which is still great, obviously!

Of course. But we’re moving on. What general advice would you give to someone moving to Switzerland?

Take a coat! Oh, and take a look at the Food Lover’s Guide To Switzerland.

What else can they do to ensure they have a smooth transition?

Plan ahead – as far ahead as possible, and this will alleviate the impact of any shocks or curveballs that may come your way. Ensure you’ve researched residency visas and all relevant paperwork, and leave no stone unturned.

When you get there, it can feel daunting – so check out local support and social groups for expats. There are bound to be hundreds of people just like you, so don’t be shy.

What is the most difficult financial adjustment to living in Switzerland?

According to the 2015 Expatistan cost of living index, Switzerland is right up there. In fact, Zurich and Geneva are top two, with London in third. That would imply that everything related to finance might be a bit of a shock!

Budgeting for food, drink, entertainment etc needs to reflect the costs in Switzerland itself, not your home country. The study finds the average cost of a lunch in the financial sector of Zurich to be as high as €23, with deodorant and a tube of toothpaste costing over €5!

Sounds extreme! Does the cost of living vary? Is it worth it?

It’s unlikely you’re moving from anywhere more expensive than Switzerland, so expect almost everything to cost more. That said, Switzerland is popular for good reasons. The quality of life and standard of living is worth the expense!

This article was produced by The Local in partnership with CurrencyFair

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