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What role will cryptocurrencies play in international money transfers in the future?


In this era of global economies, where cross-cultural exchanges and international transactions are increasingly common, the demand for efficient and accessible cross-border money transfers has reached new heights of importance. Whilst traditional remittance providers have long dominated the market, the rise of cryptocurrencies has introduced a disruptive force that is challenging the status quo. As cryptocurrencies gain momentum, the question arises: Will crypto remittances shape the future of global money transfers?

The dominance of traditional remittance services

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This evolving payments landscape has opened up new opportunities and prompted us to rethink the traditional models of remittance services in the face of technological advances and changing consumer preferences.

Source: Unsplash

Source: Unsplash

For several decades, traditional remittance services, such as Western Union, have been the go-to option for sending and receiving money across borders. According to the Migration Data Portal, global remittances reached a staggering $682 billion in 2022, with the top five countries being India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Egypt, demonstrating the global scale of these transactions. These countries have consistently been the top recipients of remittances since 2008, underscoring the importance of cross-border money transfers in supporting economies and livelihoods around the world.

These services have established a widespread network of physical branches and partnerships that facilitate the transfer of funds to various regions worldwide. However, despite their widespread use, traditional remittance methods suffer from several setbacks that limit their efficiency and accessibility, hindering the full potential of remittance flows.

Setbacks of traditional remittances

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The drawbacks of traditional remittance services become increasingly apparent when examining the time-consuming processes involved. For example, according to Western Union, a direct deposit to a bank can take between 2 to 5 business days, depending on the country. This delay in transaction processing poses challenges for individuals who need funds urgently or have to meet immediate financial obligations.

In addition to the time it takes for transactions to be processed, the fees involved can significantly impact the overall cost of remittances. In many cases, the sender is responsible for paying the fees associated with the transfer, so the recipient receives the full amount without any deductions. However, there are scenarios where the recipient may be required to pay a fee or a portion of the fees. For example, if the recipient chooses to receive the money in cash at a Western Union agent location, a fee may apply.

These setbacks to traditional remittance services are particularly burdensome for individuals in underprivileged countries who rely heavily on remittances from their family members abroad. For many of these recipients, the funds they receive through remittances are essential for their basic needs, education, healthcare, and overall well-being. Any delays or deductions in the remittance amount can have a significant impact on their livelihoods.

Moreover, the high fees associated with traditional remittance transfers exacerbate the financial challenges faced by these underprivileged recipients. The fees eat into the total amount sent, reducing the actual funds available to them. This creates a situation where the intended financial support is diminished, limiting their ability to improve their living conditions or invest in their future.

The potential of crypto remittances

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Unlike traditional remittance services, cryptocurrencies offer a compelling alternative that overcomes many of the limitations of traditional methods.

First, cryptocurrencies are available worldwide because they operate on the internet and can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, regardless of geographic location. This accessibility empowers individuals in underprivileged countries to receive remittances seamlessly, without the need for complex documentation or access to traditional banking services.

Source: Unsplash

Source: Unsplash

Another significant advantage of crypto remittances is the speed of transactions. While traditional methods can take several days for funds to reach recipients, crypto transfers are typically faster, even during times of high network congestion. This is because cryptocurrencies bypass intermediaries and rely on blockchain technology for instant transaction processing, ensuring that funds reach those in need quickly.

Moreover, the fees associated with traditional remittances pose a significant financial burden, particularly for underprivileged recipients. Traditional remittance services often charge fees averaging around 6.4%, reducing the actual amount received by the recipient. In contrast, crypto remittances involve lower transaction fees imposed by blockchains, which are generally more cost-effective than traditional services. The affordability of crypto remittances enables recipients to maximize the financial support they receive, enhancing their ability to improve their living conditions and invest in their future.

Cryptocurrencies also offer greater financial inclusion by eliminating the need for a bank account. Many people in underprivileged countries face barriers to accessing traditional banking services, but with crypto, they can hold and transfer digital assets using self-custodial wallets. This enables them to participate in the global financial system without requiring extensive financial certifications or meeting minimum requirements.

Additionally, the inherent volatility of cryptocurrencies is mitigated by the ability to quickly convert them into stable fiat currencies or stablecoins. This minimizes the impact of price fluctuations and ensures that recipients can secure the value of their remittances. Furthermore, crypto remittances provide access to decentralized finance (DeFi) services through self-custodial wallets, allowing individuals to access alternative banking services such as trading, staking, and lending. This opens up new financial opportunities for the unbanked and underbanked, empowering them to leverage their digital assets for economic growth and development.

Challenges along the way

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There are undoubtedly challenges to the widespread adoption of crypto remittances. These include a lack of mainstream acceptance and awareness among businesses and governments, unclear regulatory frameworks, the technical knowledge required to navigate crypto wallets and blockchain technology, limited access to reliable on-ramps and off-ramps, the volatility of cryptocurrency prices, and security concerns regarding hacks and fraud. Addressing these barriers is crucial for facilitating the broader adoption of crypto remittances and unlocking their potential for efficient cross-border transactions.

Revolutionizing cross-border remittances

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As the hurdles and challenges surrounding crypto remittances are addressed, such as regulatory clarity, improved accessibility, and enhanced security measures, the appeal of cryptocurrencies as a means of cross-border money transfer will continue to grow. The transformative potential of crypto remittances lies in their ability to offer faster transactions, lower fees, financial inclusion, and reduced volatility. As more people experience these benefits firsthand, the shift towards cryptocurrencies as a preferred remittance option is expected to accelerate, ultimately shaping the future of global money transfers.

Kirthana Devaser is an economist turned financial writer and speaker in the Web3 space. She’s a strong believer in using technology for good and believes that Web3 will drive meaningful change and build a better tomorrow for all. Currently, Kirthana serves as the content and copy manager at XGo, where she oversees and champions all things content and brand identity across the company.

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