International transfer for SME companies

To conduct an international transfer, a company can use two types of international transfers: the SEPA transfer if the international transfer is made between two countries belonging to the European Union or EFTA (including Switzerland), and the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) transfer for international transfers from other countries.

When should I conduct an international transfer?

An international transfer can be conducted by a company in the following situations:
  • The company is buying goods and/or services from another country. To pay its foreign supplier, the company conducts an international transfer, either SWIFT or SEPA depending on the country.
  • The company establishes itself abroad and must, in order to build up the capital of the subsidiary or local entity, make an international transfer to a notary, lawyer or bank.
  • The company is already established abroad, and the parent company must make an international transfer to cover the operating expenses of its subsidiary or to repatriate funds from its subsidiary to the parent company or another subsidiary.

SWIFT transfers vs. SEPA transfers

Between a SEPA transfer and a SWIFT transfer, the fees can be very different, as can the execution and delivery times.

  • The cost of an international transfer conducted according to SEPA standards does not exceed that of a local transfer, i.e. in the vast majority of cases, it will be free of charge.
  • By contrast, a SWIFT transfer is more expensive because it's less standardised and therefore requires more manual processing.

In terms of time, the SEPA credit transfer is completed in one business day, whereas SWIFT can take several days for the same reasons that it costs more. If you need the transfer to send funds quickly, try to use the SEPA transfer whenever possible.


The fees charged by a bank to a company wishing to make a transfer depend on the type of transfer (SEPA or SWIFT) as well as the specific terms that the company has with its bank.

When a company sends a SEPA transfer, the cost generally depends on the method of communication chosen (a company who places its order via the Internet will generally pay less than when placing it in person or via telephone). Most of the time, a flat fee is charged.

When a company receives a SEPA transfer, there are theoretically no fees or very low fees.

SWIFT transfers have a unique characteristic: The sender of the transfer must decide how the fees will be covered. The fees can be:

  • fully covered by the sender,
  • fully covered by the recipient,
  • or shared.

When they are fully covered by the sender, this means that the company will cover its bank's fees for sending the transfer as well as the recipient's bank's fees.

In practice, it's the recipient's bank who charges the sender's bank for the fees, which will then be debited by the sender's bank from their account.

When they're fully covered by the recipient, the company issuing the international transfer won't be charged any fees, including from its own bank, which will invoice the recipient's bank.

When they're shared, the fees for issuing the international transfer are covered by the sender (whose bank directly debits them from their account), and the receipt fees are covered by the recipient's bank.

Sharing fees

It's advisable that the customer and the supplier decide between themselves how the fees will be covered as part of the business relationship. When nothing is specified, the "shared fees" option should be chosen.

When sending, the fees for a SWIFT transfer depend on the amount transferred, with a minimum and a maximum collected.

And finally, with a SWIFT or SEPA transfer, the bank may incur additional costs if, for example, the IBAN is incomplete or invalid, as well as any miscellaneous costs depending on the situation and the bank's general terms and conditions.

How can b-sharpe help? As Swiss experts on international transfer and currency exchange transactions, b-Sharpe can advise you on how to optimise your international transfers. Proper management of international transfers as well as smart currency hedging and some of the most attractive exchange rates in the industry: b-Sharpe can save you a significant amount of money! Contact us to see for yourself!