Apps allow quick transfer of hard-earned cash to overseas families for Christmas

Apps allow quick transfer of hard-earned cash to overseas families for Christmas

Apps allow quick transfer of hard-earned cash to overseas families for Christmas

Updated 25 December 2016, 9:15 AEDT

This Christmas, migrant workers in Australia have more options than ever to send money back to families overseas — just ask Abraham Samoei.

Key points:

  • Technology is making international money transfers cheaper and quicker
  • Using apps, there are several options to send money overseas
  • The services are particularly beneficial in countries where infrastructure is poor

Mr Samoei, 27, moved from Kenya to Australia four years ago and regularly sends money home to help his parents and large family to make ends meet in the city of Nakuru.

Historically, transferring money overseas could be expensive and time consuming, however Australia's big four banks' hold on the market is being challenged.

Several apps allowing the fast transfer of money have been made available in Australia in the past 18 months due to regulatory changes in the financial sector.

Apps like WorldRemit and Ria have been developed by finance technology companies to trump traditional bank transfers by being cheaper and quicker.

Western Union — a traditional brand in the international money transfer market — even has an option.

Mr Samoei said the apps meant he could send money to his parents on his phone in real time, rather than waiting for days and paying extra for the money to clear via a more traditional international bank transfer.

"[During] the festive season the family comes together and celebrates and the money I send them home buys them presents," he said.

George Kotsakis from the Australian-Filipino Community organisation, Migrante Australia, said many families could not survive without the money sent home by family members abroad.

"It is the lifeline of the struggling Filipino families back home and it is the support that is much needed, due to unemployment and the cost of living," he said.

"The Filipinos need to go overseas and work to support their families," he said.

The apps work because the companies behind them hold money in countries around the world, negating the need for consumers to send their own hard-earned cash overseas.

Consumers choose to have the money delivered to their family either through cash pick-up, bank deposit, mobile money or a group chat account on social media.

Michael Liu, the regional director for Asia-Pacific for the financial technology company WorldRemit, said traditional infrastructure could be lacking in in developing countries.

"Technology has enabled the industry to move online, which means that people can now send from a tablet, a desktop or a mobile phone and the money can be received instantly," he said.

Mr Liu said technology had been important to many families disconnected by migration.

"There's a real power to be able to talk to your family instantly using an instant messaging system and then send money instantly," he said.

Money sent home is mainstay of some economies

Chairwoman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Digital Finance Advisory Committee, Professor Deborah Ralston, has recently been appointed to the Reserve Bank of Australia's Payments System Board.

She said the money sent home — known as remittances — was a mainstream part of those countries' economies.

"The question of remittances is incredibly important — some countries receive more money every year than in their total foreign investments," she said.

"So they are incredibly important in social terms, as well as in economic terms to those countries with a fairly low per capita income."

According to World Bank figures, the top three remittance-receiving countries are India ($US72 billion from around the world), China ($US64 billion US from around the world) and the Philippines ($US30 billion from around the world).

Competition should see cost of transfers come down

The World Bank said the costliest transfers or remittances worldwide were those from Australia to Vanuatu, which cost about 20 per cent of the total money sent.

Professor Ralston said a growing number of applications from various financial technology companies would eventually see prices come down.

"We will just a see a natural competition coming into that area which has not been there before," she said.

"It might see downward pressure on fees in the traditional banks or they might exit the retail remittance side of things and stick to the wholesale foreign exchange."