I foolishly used "get paid in local currency" when requesting a payment in Euros.
Upworks markup on the exchange rate was about 1.9% on the interbank spot rate.
There is no justification for this markup whatsover. Firstly, Upwork has accounts in Euros and GBP, and therefore has access to those currencies without needing any currency exchange.
Secondly, if Upwork really needed to trade currency, which I'm sure they do internally, they would get it at the interbank rate.
Thirdly, if Upwork really needed to obtain currency through a retail bank, for the USD to EUR exchange it would get charged somewhere between 0.1% and 0.3% (which is what Deutche Bank charges). Anything above 0.3% is not justifiable and just disadvantaging the the freelancer by shovelling money into Upwork's pockets.
I have disputed this transaction. I have also never seen the "Terms of Service" which are supposedly part of my contract. https://www.upwork.com/legal has a bunch of conditions and I haven't found anything that defines the currency exchange process.
Digging around Google and this forum a bit, I found that a prior "User Agreement" apparenty had this clause:
"If Freelancer elects disbursement in foreign currency, EEC will add Upwork's conversion fee of 1.5% to the spot rate quoted by its foreign exchange vendor and credit that amount to Upwork."
So the service of paying the freelancer in a foreign currency cost 1.5% on top of what the bank charged - Nice!!
That clause has now disappearted from https://www.upwork.com/legal#useragreement where section 6.9 US DOLLARS AND FOREIGN CURRENCY CONVERSION is now a whole lot more unclear. It also refers to clients and not freelancers, so it doesn't appear to apply to payouts for freelancers.
Note the many complaints about this subject:
(Currency Exchange Rate Highly Unacceptable!!)
(Unfair conversion rates by upwork)
(Upwork currency conversion rate is way too low)
(Upwork STEALING 30% of my money in bank transfer )
(A dollar less on exchange rates)
Please note that when freelancers take the first step in initiating a withdrawal via the Direct to Local Bank withdrawal method, Upwork provides information about the most recent exchange rate used by the bank and not the actual rate that will be used at the time of the transfer, since the rate fluctuates several times throughout the day and withdrawal requests are processed once a day. Please refer to Vladimir's response below and information other moderators have shared in this discussion for more details, and note that we'll continue to strive to provide the latest information to our users within the limits of the international financial and bank processes that we don't have any control over.
There are a few things to note here:
The previous User Agreement effective until May 2018 didn't have any hint related to banking fees and currency conversation rates.
The new User Agreement effective from May 2018 (https://www.upwork.com/legal#useragreement) links to "Fees and Schedules" (https://support.upwork.com/hc/en-us/sections/206357807-Fees-Schedule).
(Unrelated: The User Agreement was changed without notifying users. To the best of my knowledge I never received a notification.)
The "Fees and Schedules" page still doesn't clearly specify the markup Upwork charges. When using a schedules payment, no prior exchange rate is ever shown.
Personally I don't believe "we'll continue to strive to provide the latest information to our users within the limits of the international financial and bank processes that we don't have any control over". Upwork is a globally operating agency which should receive prime service from its bank(s). Therefore any markup over about 1% is not justified.
In the case of the major currencies like Euro or GBP, Upwork in fact holds multi-currency-accounts and has access to those currencies without any conversion fees. Of course, at some stage Upwork may have to still do a currency conversion, but then again, only a minimal markup above the market spot rate is justified.
"Within the limits of the international financial and bank processes" is much too vague. Any bank will clearly define its markup, so it wouldn't be any problem for Upwork to make these transactions 100% transparent. It should also not be a problem to send the freelancer an e-mail which would show the exact exchange rate applied with an option to cancel the transaction within - say - two hours.
I don't know if the problem is only for Pakistan but Google shows me the exchange rate 129PKR/1USD whereas upon choosing my payment method as my local bank in Pakistan the exchange rate that upwork is showing is 112.5390 PKR/USD (As of Jul 29, 2018 06:00 +0500). It is a Huge difference I don't know why even after cutting all the fees and stuff it should not be this much.
Hey team! So I have been following this topic for a while and here's how to get the BEST exchange rate when getting money out of UpWork:
Want to know how you can get your money at the exact exchange rate as Google? Here's how:
Step 1: Sign Up on Transferwise
I'll cut to the chase - Just like Payoneer, there is a new (and much better ) payment service called Transferwise, Sign up on it - **Edited for Community Guidelines**
Step 2: USD Account
Set up an account with them and within seconds you will be able to set up a "borderless" USD account (based in America)
Step 3: Add Payment Option to Upwork
Add the USD account details to UpWork (takes some time to verify using micropayments)
Step 4: Withdraw
You will now be able to withdraw USD with 0 charges from UpWork to Transferwise.
Step 5: Transferwise to Local Banks
Transferwise will help transfer you the money into your account at the same rate as Google/XE with a small service fee (which is up to 8x cheaper than Bank Transfers)
I did the setup and now I'm Loving it!
**Edited for Community Guidelines**