International student payments 101: Currencies and payment options

By making the international payments process easy for your students, you’re having an immediate and positive impact on their student experience. Two considerations they’ll encounter early on in the payment process are (1) which currency do they want to make their payment in and (2) how they want to make it. To remove any payment friction, it’s important to not only offer a variety of options but to also know which may work best for your students’ unique needs.

Why currency options matter

When your students have the ability to select their preferred currency, the international payment process becomes much faster, easier, and more transparent. Students don’t have to take the time navigating exchange rates. Instead, Flywire does it for them, showing the students the full amount owed up front and securing competitive exchanges on their behalf.

Your institution benefits, too. Because students know the exact amount to send, your staff no longer has to deal with short payments. Invoicing is also easier because the amount is converted for you to your preferred currency.

Flywire offers more than 140 currencies and is working hard to add more currencies as quickly as possible. Even if a student’s preferred currency isn’t available, they can make the payment in your institution’s preferred currency. The student’s bank will convert their funds before we receive the payment. This means they can still benefit from Flywire’s advantages, such as payment tracking.

Payment options

Allowing your student to select a payment option that they prefer and are comfortable with is important, and because there’s no one-size-fits-all option, your institution should provide as many **safe** options as possible. Be sure to balance the risk to your business against the convenience it provides to your international students. We’ll review some of the options available and assess any risks that may come with them.

Payment options supported and recommended by Flywire

  1. Credit and debit cards
    The credit or debit card option is generally the fastest method. Paying via card enables the payer’s institution to receive instant notification that the transaction has been completed from the payer’s end.
  2. Alternative payment methods / E-wallets
    Depending on the market, alternative payment methods may be available to your students. Some payers may prefer these methods due to convenience, familiarity, and speed. Payments are made either online or through a familiar method of transfer in market, and while some of these methods may have limits on the amount sent per transaction, the limits are often high enough that your payer’s educational payments will not be affected. Some of the alternative or e-wallet options we offer include Boleto, PayPal, and Alipay.
  3. Bank transfer
    Flywire's ability to access wholesale exchange rates means that Flywire can offer lower exchange rates for bank transfers than for other payment methods. The Flywire bank transfer option generally consists of payers making a payment request via the payment portal and presenting the system-generated banking instructions to their home bank. With the given banking instruction, payers can choose to make the local bank transfer electronically via internet bank transfer, or in person. From there, the bank sends the payment to Flywire, and once we receive it, an additional 2–3 days should be expected for delivery to their institution.

    Additionally, in many markets, Flywire even supports an e-bank transfer method to help streamline the transfer of funds from your account. E-banking can be convenient for payers since the payment can made online, usually any time, day or night.

    Flywire also offers a Best Price Guarantee on local currency bank transfers. If the payer provides proof that their local bank will offer a better rate, we will match it. In addition, we’ll also give them a gift card. We are constantly gathering market insight to benchmark ourselves against the market, and being informed of local best rates by our payers is valuable and welcomed.

Payment options not recommended by Flywire

  1. International wire transfers
    While an international wire transfer or Telegraphic Transfer (TT) is one of the more conventional ways to receive international payments, it can be risky. By displaying sensitive information on your website or invoice, you are increasing the risk of your bank account getting hacked.

    In order to send a wire transfer, the payer will be charged a fee, which may be sizeable and discourage them from making the payment. Institutions would likely receive short amounts due to agent bank charges. Moreover, if any of the account details were entered incorrectly and the money is wired somewhere other than your bank, the wire transfer may be tricky to trace. Reconciliation might also be an issue as wire information might be truncated, lost, or not provided in the first place.
  2. International money orders
    For a money order, a customer goes to a bank, shows an ID, and gets a money order either in their local currency or in your currency, which they then mail to you. The entire payment process can take several days, and there’s a risk of it getting lost in the mail. Counterfeiting of international money orders is also a significant issue, exposing the institution to fraud risks. Flywire does not offer international money orders as a payment option.

Encourage your students to compare options

Your international students have plenty of options to choose from, but finding the right one requires research. Encourage your students check if their preferred currency is being offered by a payment provider and to take the time to review and compare their options before selecting one.

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