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Don't Fall into the Amazon Seller 'Money Exchange' Death Trap

Source: Pixabay

I'd like to share a personal story with you if I may. I've been an Amazon seller for years. Most of my customers are based overseas and that's where my bread and butter is – foreign markets. To be honest, I assume that Amazon was the perfect go-to solution for most every component of my online e-commerce operations. I listed my products with them and promoted them accordingly. When buyers were interested in making a purchase, I simply use the Amazon currency converter for sellers to determine my fees.

Now, if you're based in the UK and reselling to the European Union, currency conversion is necessary. The same is true for any other country in the world. There are all sorts of fees to consider with an online business, including things like storage costs for FBA, value-added tax, and things like currency conversion rates. It's really important to understand how much you're being charged vis-a-vis currency conversion rates. I'll digress for a moment with PayPal as an example. PayPal is extraordinarily expensive for sellers – much more expensive than online money transfer services like TransferWise, Skrill, and CurrenciesDirect for example.

You really want to get a good grip on the exchange rate that you're being charged – those little percentages add up to big amounts at the end of the month when you're determining your profits. You will notice them even more if you operate your business on low margins. Unfortunately, this is a fact of life for many e-commerce operators given the intense competition and the glut of sellers in the market. Everybody wants to have an online business nowadays; whether it's selling goods or services – people see the benefits of 'passive' income streams through e-commerce activity. The reality is decidedly different, and I'm going to break it down in terms of the extraordinary costs that are brought to bear on your business if you use Amazon's services.

So, what costs am I talking about here? Ideally, you would want to have a mid-market foreign exchange rate – nothing too high to contend with. If the prevailing GBP/USD rate is 1.30, you certainly don't want to be quoted a rate of 1.26 if your business is based in the UK. That $0.04 difference means that you are getting less USD for every GBP-priced product or service that you are selling online. If we're talking about high-volume, or expensive products and services, that differential can make or break you. All cost considerations need to be borne in mind when evaluating things like base fees on international transactions, hidden fees and international transactions, commissions, and the exchange rate that is actually charged by Amazon. I started digging around, after realising that mind of my profits were far less than I had hoped.

How to reduce your fees when selling on Amazon?

Granted you can't get away from fees entirely, but you can certainly cut down on them to prevent the total erosion of profitability in your e-commerce operations. Other money transfer services like WorldFirst, Azimo, Payoneer and PingPong have rates between 1% – 2% on average, and this got me thinking – how competitive are Amazon's rates? My research led me in many different directions. Fellow Amazon sellers advised me that the best way to avoid exchange rate fees was simply to open bank accounts in the markets that you were doing business with to avoid all the shenanigans associated with exchange-rate fees. That's not always an option with a business that sells in multiple countries. The currency converter at Amazon typically levies charges of 3% – 4% of the total amount of the sale. Unfortunately, banks also want a cut of the money and that could be as much as 2%. It's important to verify the effective exchange rate before the transaction is completed.

The recurring theme in this whole saga is to try and establish a bank account in the country where you are selling your products and services. If this is possible, then you can use your own foreign exchange provider to reduce that figure of 5% – 6% of total charges down to just 2%. To get There, you must pick a different online money transfer service where the total fees and commissions will be between 1% – 2%. There's no getting away from international money transfer services taking account of the funds that are being transferred. However, you can certainly reduce the amount that you are haemorrhaging every month to an affordable figure by shopping around.

Amazon's currency converter for sellers utilises the prevailing exchange rate on the day your transfer to your bank account is made. If you think that the published rates at Bloomberg, CNN, BBC, or Al Jazeera is the rate that you're getting – forget about – that is the interbank rate. However, Amazon's rate is different. You can click on view exchange rates from the payment summary section when you are making transfers to your account. Even if you have a GBP-denominated account in a foreign country, Amazon usually transfers funds in the currency of the receiving countries bank a.k.a. the local currency.

Managing Amazon transfers effectively

So how does Amazon transfer payments to your bank account? Well, Amazon uses ACH (Automated Clearing House) and/or electronic funds transfers to send money into your bank account. It can take up to 5 business days for this process to complete. Amazon Payments Inc is responsible for transactions payments when buyers agreed to make payment before goods have been shipped or before services have been completed. Amazon Services LLC is responsible for payment processing when buyers agreed to make payment after goods have been shipped, or after services have been rendered. So, in closing, I'm going to provide you with two powerful tools you can use to save money as a seller on Amazon:

  • As a seller, you can streamline your operations by using different payments providers to facilitate more efficient business operations. There are many options in this regard, including World First, Global Reach, and Currencies Direct
  • If you're selling between the UK and Europe, you will need to take that into consideration. Rather than withdrawing your earnings, converting back to EUR and then sending a wire transfer for VAT (expect fees of up to 5%) use a reputable money transfer service which has free services like back payments to EU authorities. I'm not going promote one or another – simply do some research and pick the one that is best for you. If you use the services of international money transfer companies which have local bank accounts in the markets that you are selling in, an international currency allocation, you have an account based in an overseas territory that allows to receive local currency. With this method, you can sell to customers anywhere in the world and get paid in local currency in your receiving account. Then your money can stay in that account while you monitor the exchange rates and you can transfer the funds back to your main account when exchange rates are favourable. Simply add your local bank account information to your Amazon account and Amazon will transfer payment to your local account in that currency.

Hopefully, this sheds a little light on the topic and you will be able to use this information to cut down on the expenses and boost your bottom line accordingly.

It will help you to live a happier, purpose-driven life.

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The dire warnings against mingling money with friendship date back to Shakespeare, when Polonius, the chief counselor to King Claudius in Hamlet, says, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for a loan often loses both itself and friend." They didn't have electricity or equal rights during the 1500's, but they were still enlightened enough to understand a thing or two about money: it often brings out the worst in people; a loan to the wrong friend could cost both the cash and the relationship.

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Starting your own company from scratch is difficult, regardless of your gender, sex, race or age. Theoretically, gender shouldn't matter when it comes to fundraising and getting your company off the ground, but female entrepreneurs unfortunately do experience different challenges than their male counterparts. I've seen just how skewed the funding process can be against women first-hand in my experience as the founder and CEO of Beautiac, a subscription-based makeup brush company I started in 2018.

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