International payments in złoty

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I'm from The Netherlands. What is the most cost-effective way to pay a large amount in Polish złoty (PLN)?

Last updated: Dec. 2021.

Reference exchange rate

There is such a thing as a 'basic' or 'actual' exchange rate. It's probably not the same as the ECB reference rate, but I do like to call it reference rate. It is what you see e.g., on Google. In december 2021, this is about 4,61. PLN is slowly getting weaker in view of the euro, but not to such a degree that the exchange rate changes from month-to-month at only one or two decimals.

For some kinds of transactions (like using an ATM abroad), Rabobank refers to this 'basic' exchange rate plus a koersopslag - exchange rate markup en sometimes a fixed cost. For other kinds of transactions (like making a payment to a Polish złoty account), this is not used.

SEPA payment

A SEPA payment means here, that I pay in euros and that the receiving bank will do the conversion (muntsoortconversion). Poland is a SEPA country.

Try to avoid SEPA payments for any serious amount: It's rather costly and you have no control over the exchange rate that is being used. It's only useful for small amounts, as Wereldbetalingen have a larger fixed cost (€ 11 at this moment of writing for PLN).

Example R. - 2021.12.10

The receiving party send me this - Very helpful!

I payed from my Dutch Rabobank account to a Polish Alior Bank account:

  • The receiving bank determins the exchange rate (you can't actually see that here, but trust me)
  • Alior exchange rate: 4,402800. This is 4,56% worse (koersopslag - exchange rate markup) than the official exchange rate of 4,61. On a transfer amount of € 40,000, this is a difference of € 1,800
  • No offset (or fixed cost) seemed to have been applied. Maybe such a cost would show up in the monthly costs of the bank, but I have the impression that it doesn't play much of a role
  • You can check that there is no additional costs here: € 87,18*4,4028 = 383,84 zł.

Example E. - 2021.12.10

  • I payed € 3,778 from my Rabobank account
  • E. received 16,690.45 zł
  • I don't know what bank the receiving party uses. The mutation in my banking app didn't contain any usefull additional information.
  • Appearantly, the exchange rate was 4,4178. That's 3% better than at the previous transaction and 4,2% worse (koersopslag - exchange rate markup) than the official exchange rate

Rabobank Wereldbetaling

For larger transfers to a Polish bank account, so-called Rabobank Wereldbetalingen (World payments) are much better: It seems to use the actual reference exchange rate plus a fixed markup of just € 11 (business account) or € 8 (private account).

However, this isn't perfect:

  • The actual exchange rate is not known upfront. In the example below, this caused a discrepancy of € 240 on a transfer of 156,000 zł
  • I can't mitigate exchange rate risks, as I am bound to the moment that I have to make this large payment. This would not be the case if I had a Polish bank account: I could transfer euros to złotys more gradually over time
  • I am not sure if I can make such a large bank transfer at once from euros to złotys, without getting into trouble or complications.

Example: Testpayment 2021.12.27

Let's see if this really is as good as it seems:

Paying 100 PLN to a Polish bank account (1)
Paying 100 PLN to a Polish bank account (2)
Paying 100 PLN to a Polish bank account (3)
Paying 100 PLN to a Polish bank account (4)


  • This transaction uses SHA/Shared costs. One of the screenshots says that 'sharing the costs takes € 8'. I think that's formulated in a confusing way: The costs for me are just € 8
  • Exchange rate: 100/21,79 = 4,59
I'm surprised about the exchange rate begin less than 4.6: When I tried this half an hour earlier (on my business bank account), the costs were € 11 and the exchange rate was 4,62. Here is how that would be for a larger amount

PIN-terminals & ATMs

On their site, Rabobank claims that they determine the exchange rate for various kinds of transactions. I'm not so sure about the extend of this statement, but it does seem to be true concerning PIN-terminal payments and taking cash from an ATM.

Sometimes, these machines offer me to do the exchange for me, rather than by my own bank. I feel this is a scam, as they offer a really bad exchange rate (like 2.2 PLN for a euro - That's about 50% worse than the official rate)

Example: Bookstore 2021.12.16

Paying in a shop with my debit card

What this says:

  • Official exchange rate: 4,612162
  • Original amount: 102,39 zł
  • Payed amount: € 22,47
  • Koersopslag - exchange rate markup: 1,20%
  • Effective exchange rate: 4,556816056
  • Effective converted amount: 102,39 zł
  • Cost koersopslag - exchange rate markup: 1,23 zł
  • Cost koersopslag - exchange rate markup: € 0,27.

So this is all quite intuitive and as expected. Also, note that the exchange rate is much better, compaired to the exchange rate that I get from Polish banks when doing a bank transfer to a Polish account.