The global remittance market, which reached about $613 billion in 2017 (7 percent rise from 2016) and is expected to reach up to $8590 million in 2025, is still dominated by mainstreams such as PayPal, MoneyGram, Payoneer, Western Union, Skrill and Swift banks and credit cards.
But there are many cryptocurrency/blockchain startups also operating in these markets, and these are embracing blockchain as a way of solving the various challenges in order to improve international remittance services. For starters, there are many challenges in global remittance markets and which can be improved by the use of cryptocurrencies. One is the high cost.
The cost of sending $200 was 7.1 percent in the first quarter of 2018, more than double the 3 percent target set as a sustainable development target according to a World Bank report this year. The bank said that among high priority issues in this growing market were introducing more efficient technology and improving market competition.
And the distribution of global remittance amounts between different countries can tell where the markets are concentrated, with India leading at 69, China 64, Philippines 33, Mexico 31, and Nigeria 22, and Egypt and Pakistan 20 in billions of US Dollars. The bulk of the money goes to low and middle-income countries and the remittance amounts account for 35 percent of GDP of some states. The largest amount is sent by migrant workers back home.
In 2017, the amount sent by migrant workers to low and middle-income countries grew more than the global tally, rising 8.5 percent to $466bn compared to $429bn in 2016.
Regionally speaking, Middle East and North Africa saw the second-biggest gain in remittances and the money sent back home increased 9.3 percent to $53bn in 2017; with the largest amount of $20bn coming from Egyptians where the steep devaluation of dollar against local currency caused many people living abroad to send more money into their country. Many had held back from sending money back home before this devaluation because the central bank of Egypt was using its foreign reserves to keep the pound’s value artificially high.
World Bank said that sub-Saharan Africa, which has some of the poorest nations in the world, has some of the world’s highest remittance cost with the average cost of sending money international being 9 percent. The report added that the biggest barrier to lowering these costs is the exclusive partnerships formed between the national post office system and money transfer operators. Obviously, meaning the partnerships create a network of intermediaries which increases costs. The main primary reason blockchain delivers faster and lesser costs on global remittance transactions is because it eliminates middlemen and processes.
However, understandably, most of the high cost of transferring money is featured as bank and fraud prevention fees although the exchange rates and fees to do currency exchange on both ends are still high. Of course, the blockchain remittance process eliminates all these fees without compromises on security because it has anti-fraud feature and cryptography plus the transparency with which transactions are done.
Plus blockchain aims at delivering near-instantaneous transactions so that there won't be three to five or seven days to wait before a transaction goes through. So ideally, business and individuals relying on global remittances in their production and purchase processes can accomplish them in lesser time. Save the obvious challenges of using blockchain, the technology also offers greater control over their money and expenses because it is possible to see how much any particular transaction costs. Blockchain adds more privacy and anonymity for transactions.
Here are some of the cryptocurrency remittance platforms you might want to use to remit money internationally at a fraction of the average cost and quickly:
Most of them allow you to deposit cash, which is converted to cryptocurrencies on the blockchain for faster and low-cost sending, (or to deposit cryptocurrency directly) and then the remittance will let the recipient withdraw cash in their local currencies. Some have in-built exchanges, others allow trading of digital currencies and others work as mobile apps. Thus they eliminate the need for the recipient to convert the crypto themselves, saving time, among other benefits.
Abra uses blockchain peer-to-peer technology to facilitate remittance where a client deposits cash and then it is converted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and then the money is remitted such that the recipient receives money in their local currency. The money goes directly to the recipient and no middlemen involved. With it, users can store money in their mobile wallets after depositing through debit cards or through an Abra teller. You do not require a bank account to sign up for the service and you can transfer money to another person in different countries (such as Morocco, Gambia, Malawi) using a mobile device after signing up for -- sending and receiving is also free of charge.
You can also use the service to purchase bitcoin directly. Besides that, the app allows users to buy, sell and hold 25 cryptocurrencies and 50 fiat currencies and these can be exchanged across any currency with no deposit or exchange transaction fees, at any time with no limitations.
Align Commerce is a Payment Service Provider on the blockchain, and which allows users to deposit cash which is turned into crypto and then send payments so recipients receive them in local currency. It is currently serving more than 60,000 businesses in 95+ countries and it helps clients to reduce transaction costs compared to most banks and money transfer services. It also saves clients time and provides tracking where notifications are offered to the recipients through email and SMS notifications.
The startup also runs an international to local currency exchange, which is free while the international to USD is $20 transaction fee for business to business payments. Companies can also do inter-company transfers and clients can connect to accounting software such as Quickbooks, Xero, Netsuite. Developers and other firms can also use international payment API based on blockchain.
It is just for business transactions only and not for personal transactions. Businesses can also add and manage multiple users such as assign them roles to help them manage user access.
Nairobi-headquartered BitPesa lets entrepreneurs in Africa to make cross-border FX payments and anyone around Africa can use the platform to send and receive international payments using Bitcoin (and the recipients receives money in local currency) in order to lower transaction costs and reduce reliance on slow and expensive bank legacy systems.
The money can also be sent and received from local popular mobile money services and also transmitted to businesses bank accounts within a day. Some businesses already using this platform include multinational corporations.
As a company, it operates in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC, Senegal, UK and Nigeria and funded by among other investors, US-based Draper VC. Founded in 2013 by Elizabeth Rossiello, a former investment banker with experience in Kenya’s microfinance sector, BitPesa also features an exchange where you can change African currencies with other international currencies.
Using the blockchain-based peer-to-peer payment platform, users who are businesses and payment platforms get to enjoy remittance fee reduction by as much as 75% and cut down on transaction window from 2 weeks to 2 hours.
The platform is also lowering the cost of B2B payments and opening new opportunities for African businesses because businesses can send payments to employees, vendors, distributors and also receive payments from customers.
International payments are done in 1-3 days.
BitSpark is based in Hong Kong and runs a blockchain-based end-to-end international money transfer platform. It also operates in Nigeria, which is one of the world's largest remittance market with $21 billion in remittances received each year. The company will be making remittances cheaper by 14.4 percent compared to what the competitor's are offering and hence more cost-effective alternative to MoneyGram and Western Union for Nigerians.
It also operates in Indonesia, Vietnam, Ghana, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Philippines serving some of the best remittance markets in the world.
It also serves Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) in addition to individuals.
With it, you basically convert cash to cryptocurrencies or exchange crypto to crypto easily and send to and receive money in local currency from other peers in other countries using a mobile app and they enjoy over 100,000 payout locations. The company is also launching an exchange (basically a decentralized exchange or dex) on which people will be able to trade over 1,600 digital assets. The exchange is built on the BitShares blockchain and it will host the company's incoming volume of stable coins pegged to 180+ international currencies through its web and mobile apps.
A cryptocurrency deposit costs only 0.0007 BTC and a withdrawal costs 0.0005 BTC while bank deposits and withdrawal costs 1% of deposited amount for USD, EUR, HKD, AUD and GBP. Exchanging one currency to another costs 1.5% of origin currency amount and money transfer varies depending on the country where the money is to be transferred to (Indonesia 0.5%; Vietnam 0.55%; Nigeria 200 NGN; and Ghana 10 GHS).
Remitano is a peer-to-peer bitcoin marketplace where people can trade Bitcoin easily and securely. Users from anywhere around the world can send and receive Bitcoin from peers all over the world and they can then exchange the received Bitcoin on the peer-to-peer exchange itself.
Trading is facilitated through an escrow process to protect your Bitcoin trade and this escrow is locked or held on Remitano's escrow service until the seller will confirm the payment.
The services are supported in United States, Australia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and expanding.
Bit2Me is a Spanish-based service that runs more than 10,000 ATMs and it allows users to turn Bitcoin into cash at these ATMs in addition to the fact that customers can also buy and sell cryptocurrencies using credit cards.
It works on Android, iOS and Chrome extension. Bit2Me also supports Dash. The application or platform connects to over 10,000 traditional bank ATM allowing people to change Bitcoins for Euros instantly in ATMs of Bankinter, Abanca, Cajamar, Caja Laboral, Banco Popular, ING Direct, EVO Bank and Bankia. This service does not require you to be a customer of any bank or have a credit card because the money can be obtained by entering in the ATM two PIN codes that Bit2Me and HalCash gives you.
Coins.ph was founded in 2014 and the Philippines-based bitcoin exchange has wallet app that lets users to buy and sell Bitcoins but works also as a mobile remittance service allowing users to convert the Bitcoins to Philippines pesos. You can convert the Bitcoin with a variety of banks and payment processors with a note indicating how much each charges.
Besides, you can get some processors delivering cash door-to-door to your recipients at various pickup locations and you can send money from overseas an existing balance. It is possible to initiate remittance in-app and deposit cash in any bitcoin ATM around the world by scanning a QR code for the ATM and then the pesos are delivered automatically to the preferred destination by the next day.
Rebit is a Philippines service run by Satoshi Citadel Industries, which is a holding company for Bitcoin-related ventures. The platform lets users from anywhere around the world to send money to recipients in Philippines by depositing Bitcoins and then it will deliver Philippine pesos to the recipient and this is done quickly at a much lower fees compared to banks, Western Union, MoneyGram, or other remittance providers.
Some of the pick-up points include pawnshops (Cebuana Lhuillier, M. Lhuillier, Palawan Express and LBC) or direct pickup at Rebit HQ in Makati.
They convert and send to recipients within same day for transactions initiated within 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Philippine time otherwise transaction is completed the next morning. Prepaid Load is almost instantly.
GeoPay is a South African startup that offers blockchain-based peer-to-peer remittance services. It hopes to serve people who want to send money back home instantly and cheaply through an Apple and Android app. It also relies on a network of agents to help others to make instant payment to merchants. You can also add your debit card too using the app and then use it to make payments.
If you do not want to use the app, you can make transactions via SMS or USSD-technology.
They also have GeoTeller services where you can withdraw or deposit cash into or from their accounts.
CoinPip is based out of Singapore and lets anyone enjoy the good of blockchain to send money quickly to China, Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia & India and 40 other countries because the user is able to log in and simply enter recipient's email ID, currency and amount, all sending at a flat fee of 2% only.
It guarantees payments within 48 hours and it helps accomplish payments in more than 40 countries. Companies can also make mass wire payments in a one-time setup.
It is a great way of starting to receive Bitcoin payments at your store.
Moneytis provides remittances through regulated companies such as the FCA or the FinCEN and they also verify their fees and delivery times. They also have an algorithm that will monitor all the exchange rates in real-time and sends you an alert when something significant happens. This means users can track their favorite exchange rates. Hence users can, in addition to getting quick payments and lowering transaction fees and avoiding hidden charges, users get best rates for their amount.
Users can send large amounts of money (via credit or debit card, or local bank transfer) on the platform that has 40,000 users already. Recipients get the money (within between 12 hours and 5 working days depending on method selected and processing times of the local banks) in variety of methods including bank accounts, mobile accounts, and cash points.
Zipzap users can send money to anyone using a smartphone app or web app, immediately at the least time. Senders pay between $1.95 to $4.95 per remittance in Canada and £1.95 per remittance in U.K. and recipients pay nothing. Senders can initiate payments on the app but pay fees through their bank account via Interac e-Transfer. They can pay with Visa and MasterCard debit cards or credit cards although a 3% Card Fee may be added to your transfer.
It allows users to send up to $999.99 per day and a maximum of $3,000 per month in Canada (£999.99/day and £3,000/mo in the U.K. Transactions complete in a day for remittances to places such as India, China and for Philippines, it is possible to choose to deposit money directly at any bank (such as BDO, PNB, BPI and Metrobank) r have the recipient pick the cash at a pick-up location (in Cebuana Lhuillier and M Lhuillier) or have it delivered via door-to-door service in Manila area.
Volabit facilitates remittances via Bitcoin and recipients in Phillipines receive pesos.