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Online freelance marketplaces like Elance-Upwork (previously Odesk), Freelancer, Fiverr and so on have changed the lives of  freelancers all over the world- especially of hard-working individuals living in  various underdeveloped and developing countries, where finding regular jobs is not easy and available jobs don’t pay well.  Today freelancing has turned into a lucrative income opportunity not just for individuals but also for small and large businesses.  Some countries with high freelancer population include India, United States, UK,  Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and so on.  Popular top-earning  freelance job categories include writing and translation, sales and marketing, management and administration, IT and programming, legal consulting and so on. If you are planning on joining a freelance website, you are probably wondering, “What are my options/methods for receiving payments?”.
Many years back, if you worked remotely for a foreign client, you could only get paid via bank transfers from foreign banks to your local bank, which used to take weeks. Today, with quick & easy services like Paypal, Payoneer, SWIFT and Skrill, you can send/receive money to/from even the least developed parts of the world. So what are the widely available, easy-to-setup and the most convenient payment options for online freelancers, affiliate marketers and sellers? Explained in detail below are some of the most popular and best withdrawal methods for U.S as well as non-US freelancers :


Payoneer for USD withdrawal

Payoneer is the preferred withdrawal option for freelancers or online sellers who want to withdraw their online earnings instantly i.e within hours or within a couple of days. I have been using it for almost three years now. It is also a good option for wire transfers to local banks and a great alternative to PayPal for online transactions. Payoneer is popular in countries like US, Japan, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, Australia and so on. To withdraw via Payoneer, you must first sign up for Payoneer account. The process is pretty straightforward and applying for the card doesn’t cost a penny. All you have to do is sign up  with your personal details like Name, Street Address and Mailing Address (with post box number if available) where your MasterCard will be sent. You can also use shipping services like UPS or FedEx but those will cost extra. Once you receive the card you will have to login your Payoneer account and use the debit card number for activation. Then you can transfer money from Odesk (upwork) , Elance, Freelancer etc. to your Payoneer  account.

Payoneer MasterCard

After you’ve loaded money into your Payoneer account, you’ll be able to withdraw your earnings via bank transfer or from your local ATM by using the Payoneer MasterCard. While withdrawing from an ATM, be careful not to withdraw from a bank with high fee and small withdrawal limit. You will not be charged any fee while using the Payoneer MasterCard for purchasing things online or at your local supermarket.
There are two ways you can sign up for Payoneer-
  • First method (most preferable) is to sign up via a referral link so that you can earn a referral reward after activating your Payoneer account. This referral reward will basically cover most of your first year’s card maintenance fee.  To earn this money, use this link to create your account: Sign up for Payoneer and earn $25 (guaranteed!). Once your account is activated you can add it as a withdrawal method on Elance, Upwork (Odesk), Fiverr, Freelancer, Amazon, Commission Junction, Infolinks etc. Adding Payoneer to any of these websites is very easy. You’ll just have to go to the finance/payment section and simply add Payoneer as a payment method.
  • Second way you can sign up is by logging into Elance,Upwork or Freelancer, and then signing up from within your Elance/Upwork/Freelancer account. You can do this by navigating to Manage >> Financial Accounts >> Scroll down and Add “Payoneer” as a withdrawal method.
Fees: Both of these methods have slightly different fees. For example- signing up directly means you’ll have to pay a yearly fee of $29.95 up front. When you sign up via Elance-Upwork or other freelance websites,  you’ll be charged an activation fee of $5 plus $3 maintenance fee for that month, and then either $3 or $1/month for the following months depending on the number of transactions on that month. The maintenance fee will be waived if your account is empty. Like me, if you prefer paying a flat fee per year instead of paying maintenance fee every month, you should sign up via the first method.

Payoneer activation fees for Elance members

Payoneer activation fees
Payoneer card maintenance fees
Payoneer card maintenance fees
Payoneer card maintenance fees

Other fees include fee for “immediate load” option, which lets you load the withdrawn amount instantly i.e. within the next few hours for a fee of $2.5. If you don’t need your funds immediately, stick to standard load option, which is free but takes three days to load  your funds. Note that  you’ll be charged $2.5 on your Payoneer account for every ATM withdrawal plus your local bank might also charge additional fees- in Nepal, normally banks charge $4 or Rs 400 as ATM processing fee for MasterCards.  ATM withdrawal fee for U.S Payoneer users is only $1.35 and US banks even have higher withdrawal limits. also has similar fees.
Like Odesk Elance is going to fully integrate with Upwork by the end of 2015, after which you won’t get to apply for new jobs or bid on projects on Elance.  This means you’ll soon have to move your Elance account to Upwork. Don’t worry, moving your Elance account to Upwork is very easy, and you can ask your old clients to switch to Upwork and continue working with them.  However, Upwork is a bit expensive than Elance. Payoneer transfer from Upwork costs $2.  To minimize this fee,  schedule your Payoneer transfers monthly or biweekly instead of weekly.


Besides cash withdrawal via MasterCard , Payoneer also lets you add your local bank account for direct deposit.  Some countries where Payoneer local bank transfer (LBT) is available include Australia, Belgium, China, Canada, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands,  Poland, Philippines, Russia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), United Kingdom (UK), Vietnam etc.Update: Bangladesh  and India has also been added to the list of countries supporting Payoneer Local Bank Transfer. Likewise, companies and businesses can use Payoneer Global Bank Transfer (GBT) to send funds globally through wire transfers, local bank transfer and US Automated Clearing House (ACH).
In some countries, Payoneer doesn’t provide MasterCard but allow users to withdraw money from Payoneer account to their local bank accounts.  For example- In India, RBI has prohibited the use of Payoneer Mastercard but Indian freelancers have the option to add their local bank accounts to their Payoneer account, which allows direct deposit of  funds into Indian banks. 


UPDATE (Aug 12, 2015): Great news! Payoneer finally supports receiving payments from individuals or companies directly via credit cards (VISA or MasterCard). This is a great feature that many freelancers have been waiting for. Now freelancers who have direct clients abroad can also use Payoneer to receive payments. To use this feature,  you will simply need to select “request payment” under Receive Payment on the navigation menu. Then you will need to fill a form with the details of the payment. Just type the Payment amount, payment type (example: freelance), description (example: logo design). You can request max $2000 per payment but the client can pay up to $10,000 per day  breaking it into five payments.  On the second part you fill the payer’s details (name, email address, country). Your client will get a payment request email and then make the payment by clicking the “Pay Now” button. Sign up for Payoneer today.


Like any financial account, Payoneer charges certain fees, but it is worth the price considering the fast withdrawal speed and excellent customer support. The Payoneer MasterCard works globally, meaning you can use it on ATMs of any country.  Depending upon MasterCard withdrawal limits, you can withdraw small to large amounts from your local ATMs.  As a beginner freelancer I exclusively used Payoneer before starting to use other methods of receiving payments. I now use Payoneer for small withdrawals up to $450 because that’s the maximum amount I can withdraw at once from my local ATMs.  For larger transfers I use one of the wire transfer methods on the freelancing websites. You can read more about the wire transfer method in the next section.
With the Payoneer Mastercard you can buy hosting plans, apps, and products from Amazon, eBay, NewEgg, Alibaba and so on. Online purchases are totally free. Pheww! As mentioned earlier, Payoneer’s local bank transfer service can be used as a faster alternative to local wire transfers feature on freelance websites. Besides freelancing websites, your Payoneer account can also receive payments from hundreds of well-known US/EU companies like Amazon associates, PayPal, EBay, Infolinks, Lazada and Commission Junction.  It’s also widely used by online sellers in Asia who want to sell to international customers in Europe and America.


Elance-Upwork Logos

Wire transfer is my preferred method of withdrawal for large amounts i.e. $1000+. Most freelance websites allow adding local banks for direct wire transfers. Using this inbuilt transfer method on Elance-Upwork , you’ll be able to withdraw your earnings directly to your local bank account. You’ll first need a local bank account and then you’ll have to add it to your financial accounts on Elance. You can choose one of the two methods of wire transfer- Local Fund Transfer(LFT) and USD Wire Transfer. In LFT, Elance converts the USD in your account into your local currency and then transfers it to your bank account. The LFT is free once every month and you’re charged $5 for subsequent withdrawal. The LFT fees seem small but the low currency conversion rate by Elance can make the overall fee quite large. I prefer Payoneer over LFT for small amounts up to $500.  The USD Wire Transfer from Elance carries a flat $25 fee and money( in USD) is sent to your account, where it will be deposited in your local currency. In Upwork, the USD transfer fee is $30.  The exchange rates offered by local banks are much better than Elance conversion rates. Your local bank may charge additional $4 or $5 as processing fee. The USD Wire Transfer is free if you are withdrawing to a United States bank account.
Many Asian freelancers want Western Union to be added as a withdrawal/payment method on Elance, Upwork (Odesk) and Freelancer. Western Union is said to have lower fee and faster transfer time than the usual Wire Transfer methods.


Skrill uses wire transfer method of transfer. It used to be one of my favorite withdrawal methods because it was simple to sign up and charged the least amount of transaction fees.  After setting up Skrill and adding it to Elance-Upwork, you’ll have to wait for 5 days for it to show up as a withdrawal option. A $1 fee is charged for withdrawing from Upwork to Skrill and sending money from Skrill to your local bank account costs 1% of the amount sent, but the bank transfer fee is capped at a maximum of €10. This is great because you can even send small amounts to bank and incur far less fees compared to other methods like Payoneer or Upwork-Elance USD Wire Transfer.  You can also transfer money from one Skrill account to another using your email just like in Paypal.
For an unverified account, Skrill allows maximum 2972.00 USD of cumulative amount of incoming and outgoing transaction to be processed. Once your balance is over that amount,  you’ll need to verify your bank account, address or debit/credit card in order to increase the withdrawal limit. The verification process is fairly simple and shouldn’t take very long. Yes, Skrill is great but if you are using it for freelance services or selling online, there is a chance that your Skrill account will be converted from “Personal” to “Merchant” account, and then you’ll have to incur certain Skrill Merchant Fee of about 3-4%.  Skrill considers freelancers as merchants who sell services to clients. My Personal Skrill account was changed to  “Skrill Merchant account” within three or four of months of signing up.  Due to this change, I now use Payoneer MasterCard/bank transfer and Elance-Upwork USD Wire Transfer options. Therefore, Skrill is the best alternative to wire transfer- as long as your account is not changed into a Merchant account. However, even if you have a Merchant account,  if you’ve been using the local fund transfer(LFT) on Upwork or Freelancer to withdraw small amounts ($250-$500), Skrill could save you some money because Skrill directly transfers USD as opposed to local currency, meaning you won’t have to pay any hidden currency conversion fee like in LFT. All in all, there is no harm in giving Skrill a try and you may find it more reasonable than the standard Wire transfer methods. Sign up for Skrill.  


Paypal withdrawal method for freelancers
Paypal is probably the most popular account for online money transfers. PayPal to PayPal money transfer happens instantly and you can also add your bank account for withdrawal. However, in cross-border and cross-currency transfer they charge certain fee and their conversion rates are poor compared to Payoneer.  Transfer from Elance-Upwork to PayPal costs $1. In some countries, Paypal features are very restricted. For example, in Nepal, you can sign up for PayPal but you can neither send nor receive payments from other PayPal accounts so your balance always shows up zero. On those type of restricted PayPal accounts what you can at least do is link a debit card like Payoneer Mastercard, which can then be used to make payments or transfer money to another PayPal account.  That way you can simply use your PayPal account and password, and don’t have to enter your MasterCard details each time you purchase stuff online. Note that you are not directly using the PayPal account but simple making the payment using the Payoneer Mastercard linked to your PayPal account.
If you have full access to PayPal services then use it because its one of the most popular options for online purchases as well as for easily sending and receiving money online. Indian freelancers can also use PayPal to receive payments and withdraw to their local banks but due to the recent changes on PayPal’s terms and conditions, online purchases are restricted and export-related payments for goods and services into your PayPal account is restricted to $10,000 per transaction. Based on regulation from the Reserve Bank of India, PayPal withdrawals have a limit of $3000 per transaction and all earnings have to be withdrawn within 7 days.
I hope this post helped you figure out which withdrawal method is best for you and under what circumstances one is better than the other. Do you use one or more of the above withdrawal methods? How has your experience been? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.


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