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Transferring Large Sums of Money Between Bank Accounts

Learn about the many ways that you can transfer large sums of money between bank accounts with Savvy.

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, updated on September 11th, 2023       

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How to transfer large sums of money between bank accounts

Gone are the days when large sums of money were transferred between banks using briefcases of cash and security vans; nowadays, almost all large transactions are online.  Before you transfer a large sum of money between bank accounts either within or outside Australia, there are a few things you need to be aware of.  Explore the issue of transferring large sums of money with Savvy and compare your options to help you find one with the lowest fees and best features for your personal needs.

What is defined as a large sum of money in Australia?

A large sum of money is defined as over $10,000 in Australia.  Below this sum, there are no restrictions on transferring money between bank accounts in Australia or taking physical currency out of the country.

However, any cash transfers over $10,000 come under the regulation of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), which is the Australian Government’s agency responsible for protecting the country from serious and organised financial crime.  This agency works to prevent money laundering from the proceeds of serious crime such as drug trafficking, terrorism, tax evasion and corruption.

All financial institutions in Australia are obliged to report these transfers to AUSTRAC within 10 business days. This includes all banks, building societies, credit unions, money transfer companies and digital currency exchange providers.

What are my options for transferring money between my own accounts?

The only restriction on transferring large sums of money between your own bank accounts within Australia is the daily transaction limit you may have set up when opening your bank account.  This daily transaction limit is frequently set at $1,000 per day by default.  This sets a cap on the total amount of money leaving your bank account per day so any hacking theft attempts are limited in the damage they can do in a 24-hour period.

If you have a daily transaction limit and wish to make a large purchase over your limit threshold, you can usually change your limit online, by phone or in person at a branch of your bank.  However, be aware that sometimes the changes you’ve requested may not take effect immediately, so give yourself at least 24 hours to make transaction limit changes before making your large purchase or transfer.

If you do increase your transaction limit to a higher level for a special reason, such as to pay for a new car or your house deposit, remember to reduce your limit down again once you’ve completed the transaction.

What are my options for transferring large sums of money overseas safely?

You may be living in Australia on a temporary visa, and want to send money home, or conducting business with companies overseas and wish to pay for goods or services. Whatever your reasons for wanting to transfer money overseas, you have several options:

1. Using a money transfer service

This is usually the cheapest way of sending money overseas quickly and safely.  There are three ways to pay for the sum you wish to transfer – either online using your credit card, or in person at a participating agency (or post office), using either cash or EFTPOS.

You’ll have to set up an account with your chosen money transfer service and provide the bank details of whoever you wish to transfer money to.  You’ll be notified before the transfer is made of the transaction fee to be charged and the exchange rate you’ll receive.  Transferring internationally can be instantaneous or can take up to one or two days depending on which service and method you use.

Of course, you can pick and choose the time you send a large sum of money overseas to take into account changes in the international exchange rate.  Make sure you compare overseas money transfer providers and their fees with Savvy to ensure you get the best deal possible.

2. Using a post office and Western Union to send money overseas

Australia Post has teamed up with money transfer service Western Union to allow Australians to send money overseas from any post office.  To do this, simply visit a post office, pick up a money transfer form and provide the details of who you wish to send the money to.

Be aware you’ll need to show ID before making the money transfer: you'll need either your Australian driver’s licence, your passport or a proof of age card to show you’re over 18.  You can pay for the transfer using your credit or debit card, or by cash.

You can also choose to permit the recipient of the money to collect it in person in many participating countries, with the money becoming available for collection minutes after the cash transfer is complete.

3. Bank to bank transfers

A direct bank transfer through your existing bank is another way to safely send money overseas.  To do this, you’ll need your recipient’s name and bank details such as their BIC (or SWIFT code) and/or IBAN.

  • What is a BIC or SWIFT code?

A Bank Identifier Code (BIC), also known as a Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) code, is an eight to 11-character standard format code used to identify financial institutions worldwide.  They use both letters and numbers to accurately describe the digital location of a financial institution.

The first four digits (usually letters) represent the bank code, the next two are the country code, the next two are the location code and the final three are the branch code.  If you’re given an eight-digit BIC, you’ll still need to provide the bank branch name, whereas an 11-digit code already contains this information in the last three digits.

  • What is an IBAN?

An International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is a new bank account identification system that is gradually being introduced worldwide. Originally developed as a standardised bank account identification system within the European Union, IBANs are now being used by more than 75 countries around the world.  They can be up to 34 digits in total.  As of April 2022, Australia hasn’t yet adopted the IBAN numbering system.

Just as a BIC or SWIFT code identifies a particular bank, an IBAN identifies an individual bank account belonging to one specific person.  IBANs won’t replace Bank State Branch (BSB) and account numbers for many years, though; they’re currently used in addition to these if you wish to send or receive payments from overseas.

More of your questions about transferring large sums of money

How can I protect myself when sending large sums of money overseas?

Only send large sums of money overseas to someone you know personally, or whose identity you’ve verified and are sure about.  Even if you’ve dealt with a particular overseas company previously, always independently verify the bank account details you are sending money to – in order to prevent what's known as ‘cuckoo smurfing’ – which involves criminals laundering the proceeds of crime using legitimate bank transactions. 

Criminals exploit innocent individuals by hijacking their legitimate bank transactions and substituting ‘dirty’ money to gain a legitimate transaction receipt.  To prevent cuckoo smurfing, be suspicious of anyone asking you to make payments overseas in multiple small amounts, and don’t respond to emails or texts purporting to be from AUSTRAC saying you have a received a large sum of money and asking you to click on a link.  Also be suspicious of a company or individual wishing to collect your payment in cash at an overseas destination before providing goods or services.  

What’s the difference between a transfer limit and a transaction limit when I’m transferring a large sum?

A transfer limit is the amount a bank or financial institute (or the government) places on a single transaction.  For example, the Australian government has a $10,000 limit on all cash transactions, so whether you’re receiving money or sending money overseas, any transactions over $10,000 have to be reported to AUSTRAC.

A transaction limit is the limit you choose to put on daily transactions on your bank accounts to limit your exposure to financial fraud.  This limit includes all money out of your account in a single 24-hour period.

Which fees are usually charged for international transfers?

The fees charged by banks for transferring internationally are usually per transaction and vary widely from $4 up to $35.  If you regularly need to make overseas payments, it may be a good idea to set up an international bank account which offers free international money transfers.  Some banks offer a set number of international bank transfers free per month as a sweetener to encourage new clients to open an account.  These bank fees for international transfers are in addition to and separate from the exchange rate you’ll receive for converting your money into another currency.

How long does it take to transfer large sums of money between banks?

International money transfers (through a transfer service such as Western Union) are almost instantaneous.  International bank to bank transfers, where you use your own bank to transfer money to another person’s named bank account overseas, can take up to 48 hours to show up in your online banking.  International bank drafts, which are like an international cheque that you can mail to a recipient overseas, can take weeks to process and clear the banking system, which is why they’re infrequently used nowadays.

How do I compare fees if I want to transfer a large sum of money overseas?

Savvy can not only make it easy for you to compare the fees you’ll encounter if you’re comparing bank accounts, but also those for money transfers.  We can show you which company may be best for your needs by presenting you with clear and easy-to-understand comparison information so you can see which international transfer company may offer you the best deal.

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