I live in the UK with a GBP bank account, and recently I need to receive an amount of $115.92 from a contact in the US. We looked at a few options:

  1. International bank wire: instant no go as his US bank charged stupidly high fees for these.
  2. Paypal: according to Paypal fees calc I'd get charged with 3.9% +$0.30 standard rate and 2.5% currency conversion fee above the whole exchange rate so I'd end up with $7.72 charge or $108.20 received. According to xe at the time of writing that equates to £69.20GBP.
  3. Bitcoin. We went with this option, and my contact used his USD to buy bitcoins and sent me 0.2876BTC, which I traded out on localbitcoins.com minutes later at the best sell rate for a payment directly into my bank account of £71.47GBP (i.e. the sell rate was £248.50/BTC).

It seems that I did better than paypal, but the current wholesale exchange rate would suggest I should have ended up with closer to 74.15GBP, so where did I lose out?

Was it just that the bitcoin rate dropped in the interim, so I got unlucky and lost value, or was it the fact that the buy and sell rates have a "spread", so even if I bought bitcoins in GBP now then instantly sold them for GBP I'd lose out (because the buy rate is higher than the sell rate of course...). On localbitcoins.com such an experiment would cost me around £10GBP, so maybe infact I got lucky by only losing £3 from the wholesale rate??

closed as off-topic by Murch Jun 11 '16 at 8:24

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  • 1
    It depends where you are getting your "wholesale exchange rate" from and also whether you place a sell order or fill a buy order. £3 isn't bad for an international - yet instant - payment though I would say. – George Nov 18 '14 at 21:10
  • I'm not sure this is a question suited to this forum. It's more of a discussion point. – T9b Nov 24 '14 at 14:44
  • Cool story, but I'm with @T9b, and not sure this is a question. – Jestin Jun 10 '16 at 14:16

It is efficient , but I would advise read all laws before you do so. As it can get you in trouble legally.


The spread will be the problem if you are exchanging them on each end. This way is still better than paypal. The value probably won't have dropped; check the dates. You would lose out if you bought then sold instantly because of the spread. Hope this helped.

  • But not buying and selling instantly, the spread may just get bigger if you're unlucky and the sell rate drops, so it seems something of a gamble whether it will be better or worse than paypal and by how much so – fpghost Nov 17 '14 at 16:28

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