International Money Transfers: A Complete Guide to Sending Money Abroad

An international money transfer refers to the process of sending money from one country to another. This can be done for various reasons, including personal remittances, business transactions, or investment purposes.

Historically, international money transfers were dominated by banks and were often slow and laden with fees. However, with technological advancements and the rise of digital platforms, the landscape has transformed dramatically. Today, there are numerous methods to transfer money internationally, from traditional bank wires to digital payment platforms and even blockchain-based solutions. This evolution has made the process faster, more affordable, and accessible to millions around the world.

Table of Contents

What is an international money transfer?

An international money transfer, commonly also referred to as an international bank transfer, is the act of sending money from one country to another. This transaction can be facilitated through various mediums, each with its own set of procedures, fees, and timeframes.

The fundamental process involves converting funds from one currency to another. This conversion is influenced by the prevailing exchange rates, which can fluctuate based on economic factors, geopolitical events, and market demand.

Different options for international transfers:

  • Traditional Banks: These are long-standing financial institutions that offer international transfer services. While they are reliable, they might not always offer the best exchange rates and often come with higher fees.
  • Currency Brokers: These are experts in the realm of foreign exchange. They specialize in large volume transactions and can offer competitive rates, especially for substantial amounts.
  • Digital Platforms: The digital age has ushered in a plethora of online services and apps dedicated to facilitating quick and efficient international transfers. These platforms often provide more competitive rates and lower fees than traditional banks.

Regulatory Oversight:

International money transfers aren’t just about sending money from point A to B. They’re closely monitored by regulatory bodies to prevent illicit activities like money laundering or fraud. This means that there’s a level of assurance that transfers are conducted within the bounds of the law, ensuring safety for both the sender and the recipient.

Read more about international money transfer regulations.

The Evolution of Transfers:

The landscape of international money transfers has witnessed a significant transformation over the years. Gone are the days of lengthy bank procedures and waiting periods. Today, with the integration of technology and finance, transfers can be instantaneous, bridging financial gaps across continents in mere moments.

How do international bank transfers work?

An international bank transfer, often termed as a wire transfer, is a method of electronically moving funds from one bank account to another across international borders.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is a vast network that banks use to securely communicate transfer instructions. Each bank has a unique SWIFT code, ensuring that the money ends up in the right place.

Steps Involved:

  1. Initiation: The sender provides their bank with the recipient’s personal and banking details, including the SWIFT/BIC code, account number, and bank address.
  2. Transaction Processing: The sending bank sends a message via the SWIFT network to the receiving bank, requesting the transfer of funds.
  3. Conversion: If the two bank accounts are in different currencies, the money will be converted. This conversion is based on the current exchange rate, which can either be set by the bank or an external financial market rate.
  4. Fees: Both sending and receiving banks might charge fees. These can be flat fees or a percentage of the transfer amount. Some banks also charge an intermediary bank fee if another bank is involved in the transfer process.
  5. Completion: Once the receiving bank gets the SWIFT message and confirms the transaction details, it credits the recipient’s account with the transferred amount.

Transfer Duration: The duration can vary based on the countries involved, the banks’ operational hours, and the chosen transfer method. Typically, international bank transfers can take anywhere from 1-5 business days.

Safety Protocols: Banks employ rigorous security measures to ensure the safety of international transfers. Encryption, two-factor authentication, and transaction monitoring are standard practices to prevent fraud and unauthorized access.

Potential Delays: While most transfers are smooth, there can be occasional hiccups. Reasons for delays can include discrepancies in provided details, bank holidays, or additional security checks for large amounts.

International money transfer process

Securing the best exchange rate, cost and fees for your money transfer

Navigating the world of international money transfers can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding the financial aspects. Ensuring you get the best deal involves more than just looking at the exchange rate. Here’s a guide to help you secure the best terms for your transfer:

1. Understanding Exchange Rates: The value of one currency compared to another.

Tips for Securing the Best Rate:

  • Before making a transfer, familiarise yourself with the mid-market rate for your currency pair. It’s the fairest rate and serves as a benchmark.
  • Monitor exchange rate trends and consider transferring money when the rate is in your favour.
  • Use online tools or apps that offer real-time exchange rate alerts.
  • Be wary of providers offering “zero commission” but giving a less favourable exchange rate.

2. Recognising Hidden Costs: Costs that aren’t immediately obvious or included in the advertised exchange rate.

Costs that aren’t immediately obvious or included in the advertised exchange rate.

Tips to Avoid Hidden Costs:

  • Read the terms and conditions.
  • Ask the provider about all potential fees, including receiving bank fees.
  • Consider the impact of intermediary bank fees if your transfer involves multiple banks.

3. Evaluating Transfer Fees: Charges applied by the service provider for facilitating the money transfer.

Tips to Minimise Transfer Fees:

  • Compare different providers and their fee structures.
  • Look for fee-free thresholds; some providers waive fees for transfers above a certain amount.
  • Consider membership or loyalty programs that offer reduced fees.

4. Cost-Effective Transfer Methods: Different ways to send money internationally, each with its cost structure.

Tips to Choose the Most Cost-Effective Method:

  • For smaller amounts, digital platforms or apps might offer better value.
  • For larger amounts, traditional banks or specialised currency brokers might be more cost-effective.
  • Always factor in speed; if you need a rapid transfer, you might have to pay a premium.

5. Negotiating Rates: Discussing terms with service providers to get a better deal.

Tips for Successful Negotiation:

  • If you’re transferring a significant amount, ask if the rate is negotiable.
  • Build a relationship with your provider; loyal customers often get better terms.
  • Group your transfers or use the same provider for multiple transactions to leverage better rates.

International money transfer services vs. banks

When it comes to sending money abroad, individuals and businesses often find themselves choosing between traditional banks and specialist international money transfer services. Both options come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision:

1. Exchange Rates:

  • Banks: Banks typically offer exchange rates that have a higher margin added to the interbank rate. This means that the rate you get might not be the most competitive.
  • Transfer Services: These services often provide rates closer to the interbank rate, ensuring customers get a more favourable exchange rate.

2. Fees:

  • Banks: Traditional banks usually have a set fee for international transfers, which can be relatively high, especially for smaller amounts.
  • Transfer Services: Many transfer services have a transparent fee structure, with some even offering fee-free transfers up to a certain amount.

3. Transfer Speed:

  • Banks: International transfers via banks can take several days, especially if intermediary banks are involved.
  • Transfer Services: Many specialist services offer faster transfer times, with some even providing instant or same-day transfers to certain countries.

4. Convenience:

  • Banks: If you already have an account with a bank, initiating a transfer might seem convenient. However, the process can be cumbersome with paperwork and in-person visits.
  • Transfer Services: Most transfer services operate online, allowing users to send money from the comfort of their homes. They often have user-friendly interfaces and mobile apps for on-the-go transfers.

5. Coverage:

  • Banks: Not all banks will have a vast network for international transfers, limiting the countries and currencies you can send to.
  • Transfer Services: These services often boast a broader reach, enabling transfers to a wide range of countries and in various currencies.

6. Customer Service:

  • Banks: While banks offer customer service, it might not be specialised in the domain of international transfers.
  • Transfer Services: Many top transfer services have dedicated customer support teams that specialise in cross-border transactions, ensuring queries are handled efficiently.

7. Security:

  • Banks: Banks are regulated entities with robust security measures in place to protect customer funds.
  • Transfer Services: Reputable money transfer services are also regulated and employ high-grade encryption to ensure the safety of user data and funds.

8. Flexibility:

  • Banks: Banks might offer limited options in terms of transfer scheduling, recurring transfers, or forward contracts.
  • Transfer Services: Many services provide features like rate alerts, forward contracts, and options to schedule recurring transfers.

While banks are a traditional choice for international money transfers, specialist transfer services have emerged as a competitive alternative, offering better rates, lower fees, and more convenience. However, the best choice often depends on individual needs, the amount being transferred, and personal preferences. Always compare both options before making a decision.

Further reading – learn more about the advantages of specialised foreign exchange brokers compared to banks.

What are the different types of international money transfers?

There are several different types of international currency transfers, they are:

Bank Wire Transfers

Traditional method where funds are electronically transferred from one bank to another.

  • Pros: Secure, established, and can handle large amounts.
  • Cons: Often slower and can come with higher fees.

Online Transfer Services

Digital platforms that specialise in moving money across borders.

  • Pros: Faster than traditional banks, often with more competitive exchange rates.
  • Cons: Limits on transfer amounts, especially for unverified accounts.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Platforms

Digital platforms allowing individuals to send money to each other directly.

  • Pros: Quick, user-friendly, and often with mobile apps.
  • Cons: Fees can be high, especially when converting currencies.

Learn more about peer-to-peer money transfers.

Mobile Wallets

Digital tools that store payment information on mobile devices.

  • Pros: Convenient for small transactions and in places where mobile payments are prevalent.
  • Cons: Not universally accepted, potential security concerns.

Cryptocurrency Transfers

Decentralised digital or virtual currencies used for direct, peer-to-peer transactions.

  • Pros: Potentially low fees, no need for intermediaries, and can be incredibly fast.
  • Cons: Volatile exchange rates, not universally accepted, regulatory concerns.

Prepaid Cards

Physical or digital cards preloaded with money, usable wherever regular debit or credit cards are accepted.

  • Pros: Good for budgeting, no need for a bank account.
  • Cons: Can come with usage fees, not suitable for large amounts.

Currency Brokers

Specialists in currency conversion and international transfers, currency brokers often used for large amounts.

  • Pros: Competitive exchange rates, expert advice, tailored solutions.
  • Cons: More suited for businesses or large, infrequent transactions.

Remittance Services

Companies specialising in fast, international money transfers, often in cash.

  • Pros: Quick, widespread service points, especially in areas with limited banking infrastructure.
  • Cons: Higher fees, especially for instant transfers.

What are the common reasons for sending money abroad?

In our increasingly interconnected world, the reasons for sending money across borders are as diverse as they are numerous. Whether driven by personal needs or business demands, international money transfers have become an integral part of many people’s lives. Here’s a closer look at the most common reasons:

1. Personal Transfers:

  • Family Support: Many individuals work in one country and send money back home to support their families. This can include funds for daily living expenses, healthcare, or education.
  • Education: International students often need to transfer money to pay for tuition, accommodation, and other expenses in their country of study.
  • Travel: Tourists and travellers may transfer money to pay for accommodation, tours, or other travel-related expenses in advance.
  • Purchases: Buying property, vehicles, or other goods in a foreign country often requires international transfers.
  • Gifts and Donations: Sending money as a gift for weddings, birthdays, or other occasions, or donating to international charities.

2. Business Transfers:

  • Trade Payments: Businesses involved in import and export need to make payments to suppliers or receive payments from customers abroad.
  • Salaries: Companies with employees or contractors in different countries may need to transfer salaries internationally.
  • Investments: Both individuals and businesses might transfer money to invest in properties, stocks, or businesses in another country.
  • Operational Expenses: Companies with offices or operations in multiple countries might need to cover operational costs, including rent, utilities, and services.

3. Special Circumstances:

  • Emigration or Immigration: Individuals moving to a new country might transfer their savings or assets.
  • Retirement: Retirees moving to another country or those who have chosen to retire abroad might need regular transfers to cover their expenses.
  • Inheritance: Transferring inherited money or assets to beneficiaries living in a different country.

Further reading – learn more about the common reasons for sending money abroad.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the commonly asked questions that we often asked.

How long does an international money transfer take?  

The duration for an international money transfer can vary based on several factors, including the method of transfer, the countries involved, the financial institutions in question, and the type of service chosen. Typically:

Bank Transfers: These can take anywhere from 1-5 business days. Some banks offer expedited services for an additional fee.

Online Money Transfer Services: Platforms like Wise (formerly TransferWise), Revolut, and others might offer transfers that can be completed within a few minutes to a couple of days.

Cash Pickup Services: Providers like Western Union or MoneyGram can often facilitate transfers that are available for pickup within minutes, though this can vary based on the location and amount.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Platforms: Transfer times can range from a few minutes to a few days, depending on the platform and the funding source.

Further reading – learn more about how long international bank transfers take.

How do I make an international money transfer?

Making an international money transfer is a straightforward process, but the steps can vary depending on the method you choose. Here’s a general guide:

Choose a Transfer Method: Decide whether you want to use a bank, an online money transfer service, a P2P platform, or a cash pickup service.

Register or Open an Account: If using an online service or a bank, you’ll typically need to create an account or register. This often involves providing personal details and verifying your identity.

Provide Transfer Details:

Recipient’s Information: Include their full name as it appears on their ID, their address, and, if transferring to a bank, their account number and bank’s SWIFT/BIC or IBAN code.

Amount and Currency: Specify how much you want to send and in which currency.

Choose a Payment Method: Depending on the service, you can fund your transfer using a bank account, debit card, credit card, or even cash.

Review and Confirm: Before finalising the transfer, review all details to ensure accuracy. Some services will show you the exchange rate and any fees upfront.

Initiate the Transfer: Once you’re ready, confirm the transfer. You’ll often receive a confirmation receipt or number, which you can use to track the transfer’s progress.

Track the Transfer: Many services offer tracking capabilities, allowing you to see when the recipient receives the funds.

Stay Informed: Some services will notify you via email or SMS once the transfer is complete.
Remember, fees, exchange rates, and transfer times can vary widely between providers, so it’s a good idea to compare options and read reviews before making a decision.

What information do I need for an international bank transfer?

When making an international bank transfer, you’ll need to provide specific details to ensure the funds reach the intended recipient without any hitches. Here’s a list of the essential information required:

CategoryInformation Required
Your Details
Full NameAs it appears on your bank account.
Account NumberYour bank account number from which the funds will be debited.
AddressYour address as registered with the bank.
Recipient’s Details
Full NameThe recipient’s name as it appears on their bank account.
Account Number or IBANInternational Bank Account Number (IBAN) is commonly used in Europe and some other countries.
Recipient’s AddressTheir full address, including any necessary postal or ZIP codes.
Recipient’s Bank Details
Bank NameThe name of the recipient’s bank.
Bank AddressThe address of the recipient’s bank branch.
SWIFT/BIC CodeA unique identification code for a particular bank. It’s used for international transfers.
Transfer Details
AmountThe amount of money you wish to send.
CurrencyThe currency in which you want the recipient to receive the funds.
Reason for TransferSome banks or countries may require a reason for the transfer, such as “family support” or “invoice payment.”
Additional Information
Reference or Invoice NumberEspecially important for business transactions.
Routing NumberRequired for transfers to countries like the USA.
Fees and ChargesBe aware of any fees associated with the transfer. Some banks deduct fees from the amount being sent, while others charge the sender separately.

Before initiating the transfer, it’s a good idea to double-check all details, especially the recipient’s bank information, to avoid any delays or issues.

Further reading – read more about the details required for an international money transfer.

How to track an international bank transfer?

Tracking an international bank transfer ensures you know the status of your funds and when the recipient will receive them. Here’s how you can track your transfer:

  1. Reference or Transaction Number: When you initiate an international transfer, the bank or service provider usually provides a unique reference or transaction number. Keep this number safe.
  2. Online Banking: Log into your online banking platform and navigate to the ‘past transactions’ or ‘transfer history’ section. Here, you can view the status of your transfer using the reference number.
  3. Mobile Banking Apps: Many banks and financial institutions have mobile apps that allow you to track the status of your transfers on-the-go.
  4. Contact Customer Service: If you’re unable to track the transfer online, call your bank’s customer service. Provide them with the reference number, and they can update you on the transfer’s status.
  5. Email Notifications: Some banks and transfer services send email notifications updating you on the progress of your transfer, from initiation to completion.
  6. SWIFT Tracking: For SWIFT transfers, you can request a trace, which will show the banks it has passed through and where it’s currently located. This is typically done by the sending bank.
  7. Recipient Confirmation: Once the transfer is complete, the recipient can confirm receipt of the funds. This is the most straightforward confirmation that the transfer was successful.
  8. Check for Delays: If there’s a delay, it could be due to additional security checks, discrepancies in recipient details, or intermediary bank processes. Contact your bank if the transfer takes longer than expected.
  9. Use Dedicated Transfer Services: Platforms like Wise (formerly TransferWise) or Revolut often provide real-time tracking features, similar to parcel tracking, giving you a clear view of where your money is in the transfer process.

Always ensure you keep all details and reference numbers related to your transfer. It will make tracking and resolving any issues much more straightforward.

How much does an international money transfer cost?

The cost of an international money transfer can vary widely based on several factors:

Sending Bank or Institution: Traditional banks often have higher fees compared to online transfer services or FinTech companies.

Receiving Bank or Institution: Some banks charge a fee to receive international transfers.

Transfer Amount: Some services offer tiered pricing based on the amount being sent.

Payment Method: Funding the transfer with a credit card might incur additional fees compared to a direct bank transfer.

Urgency: Expedited or “urgent” transfers usually come with higher fees.

Exchange Rate Margin: Apart from the direct fees, financial institutions often mark up the exchange rate, which can affect the amount the recipient gets. It’s essential to be aware of the mid-market rate and compare it to the rate you’re being offered.

Intermediary Banks: If there’s no direct relationship between the sending and receiving banks, intermediary banks might be involved, and they can deduct fees.

Additional Services: Features like forward contracts, limit orders, or regular payment plans might come with extra costs.

On average, international transfer fees can range from £5 to £50, but in some cases, especially with traditional banks, it can be even higher. Additionally, the exchange rate margin can sometimes cost more than the direct fees, especially on large transfer amounts. It’s always a good idea to compare different providers, check for hidden fees, and ensure you’re getting a competitive exchange rate.

Further reading – learn more about international bank transfer fees.

How to transfer money internationally without fees?

Transferring money internationally without incurring fees is a common desire for many individuals and businesses. While it’s challenging to avoid all fees due to operational costs and exchange rate margins, there are ways to minimize or even eliminate direct transfer fees:

Use Fee-Free Transfer Services: Some online platforms and FinTech companies offer promotional “no-fee” transfers for new customers or up to a certain amount. Examples include Wise (formerly TransferWise), Revolut, and certain offers from PayPal.

Bank Partnerships: Some major banks have partnerships with foreign banks, allowing customers to send money to the partner bank without fees. It’s worth checking if your bank has such arrangements.

Open a Multi-Currency Account: Some banks and online platforms offer multi-currency accounts that allow you to hold, pay, and receive in multiple currencies, often reducing or eliminating the need for conversion fees.

Avoid Credit Card Funding: While convenient, funding international transfers with a credit card often incurs cash advance fees. Using a direct bank transfer or debit card can help avoid these fees.

Negotiate with Your Bank: If you’re making large or regular transfers, your bank might be willing to waive or reduce fees. It’s worth discussing your needs with a bank representative.

Check for Hidden Fees: While a service might advertise “no fees,” they might recuperate costs through a marked-up exchange rate. Always compare the offered rate to the mid-market rate to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Platforms: Some P2P platforms allow users to match with others looking to exchange currencies, often reducing the need for traditional currency conversion and associated fees.

Utilize Digital Wallets: Platforms like Google Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay sometimes offer international transfers with reduced fees.

Special Promotions: Keep an eye out for promotional offers from transfer services, which might include fee waivers for a limited period or up to a certain transfer amount.

Further reading – read more about free international money transfers.

Are international money transfers safe?

Yes, international money transfers are generally safe, especially when conducted through reputable banks or established money transfer services. Here’s what makes them secure:

  1. Regulatory Oversight: In many countries, financial institutions that handle international transfers are regulated by governmental bodies. For instance, in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) oversees and sets standards for such institutions.
  2. Advanced Encryption: Banks and money transfer services use advanced encryption protocols to protect data transmissions, ensuring that your personal and financial details remain confidential.
  3. Fraud Detection Systems: Modern financial systems employ sophisticated algorithms to detect suspicious activities. If any unusual activity is detected, the system may flag or halt the transaction for review.
  4. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Many institutions offer 2FA, which requires a second form of verification (like a text message or an app notification) in addition to your password. This adds an extra layer of security.
  5. Secure Websites: When using online platforms, always ensure the website starts with ‘https://’ and has a padlock symbol in the address bar, indicating a secure connection.
  6. Reputation: Established money transfer services, like Wise (formerly TransferWise), Western Union, and MoneyGram, have built their reputations on reliable and secure services.
  7. Customer Service: Reputable services offer robust customer support to address any concerns or issues, providing an added layer of assurance.

However, while the systems are secure, it’s essential to be aware of potential scams or fraudulent schemes. Always:

  • Verify the identity of recipients.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited requests for money transfers.
  • Use strong, unique passwords for online accounts.
  • Regularly monitor your accounts for any unauthorized transactions.

Further reading – learn more about international money transfer regulations.

What is the process to receive an international money transfer?

Receiving an international money transfer is a straightforward process, but it involves several steps to ensure the funds reach the intended recipient securely:

  1. Provide Necessary Details: To receive funds, you’ll need to provide the sender with specific details, including:
    • Your full name as it appears on your bank account.
    • Your bank account number.
    • The bank’s name and address.
    • The bank’s SWIFT/BIC code or IBAN (International Bank Account Number) for European transfers.
  2. Sender Initiates the Transfer: Once the sender has your details, they will initiate the transfer through their bank or a money transfer service. They’ll need to provide their own account details, specify the amount, and pay any associated fees.
  3. Intermediary Banks: Depending on the countries and banks involved, the funds might pass through intermediary banks before reaching the destination bank. Each intermediary might deduct a fee, which can affect the final amount you receive.
  4. Arrival of Funds: Once the transfer is processed, the funds will be deposited into your bank account. The time this takes can vary, ranging from a few hours to several days, depending on the method used and the banks involved.
  5. Notification: Some banks or services notify the recipient when an international transfer has been deposited into their account. This could be via an SMS, email, or a notification in the bank’s online portal.
  6. Currency Conversion: If the sender transferred money in a different currency, the receiving bank might automatically convert it to the local currency, often at their own exchange rate. Be aware that there might be fees or margins applied to this conversion.
  7. Accessing the Funds: Once the funds are in your account, you can access them as you would any other deposit. You can withdraw cash, make payments, or transfer the money to another account.
  8. Keep Records: Always keep a record of the transaction details, including the amount, sender’s details, date, and any transaction reference number. This can be helpful for tracking purposes or in case of any discrepancies.

Remember, while receiving international money transfers is generally secure, always ensure you’re dealing with known and trusted individuals or entities to avoid potential scams or fraud.

What is the limit for an international money transfer?

The limit for an international money transfer varies based on several factors:

  1. Sending Institution: Different banks and money transfer services have their own set limits. For instance, some banks might allow transfers of up to £100,000 per transaction, while others might have a lower or higher limit.
  2. Purpose of Transfer: For business transactions or property purchases, higher limits might be permitted compared to personal transfers.
  3. Receiving Country’s Regulations: Some countries have restrictions on the amount of money that can be received from abroad due to currency control measures or anti-money laundering regulations.
  4. Sender’s Account Type: Personal accounts might have different limits compared to business accounts. For instance, business accounts might have higher limits due to the nature of business transactions.
  5. Method of Transfer: Online transfers might have different limits compared to in-branch transactions. For example, online platforms might have daily or monthly caps, while in-branch transactions might allow for larger amounts.
  6. Regulatory Requirements: To combat money laundering and terrorist financing, many countries have regulations in place that require banks to report large transactions. In many places, this threshold is set at $10,000 or its equivalent, but it’s not necessarily a limit. However, transactions exceeding this amount might be subject to additional scrutiny.
  7. Frequency of Transfers: Some services might have daily, monthly, or yearly limits. For instance, you might be able to send up to £5,000 daily, but there might be a monthly cap of £50,000.

It’s essential to check with your bank or money transfer service to understand the specific limits applicable to your situation. If you need to transfer an amount that exceeds the set limit, you might be able to do so by making multiple transfers or by seeking special approval from the institution.

Further reading – learn more about international money transfer limits.

What is the best international money transfer service?  

The best international money transfer service can vary based on individual needs, preferences, and specific transaction requirements. However, one highly recommended service is Currencies Direct. They offer competitive exchange rates, low fees, and a user-friendly platform. With a strong reputation built over years and a commitment to transparency and customer service, Currencies Direct is a top choice for many individuals and businesses looking to make international money transfers efficiently and securely. Whether you’re transferring money for personal reasons, business transactions, or property purchases abroad, Currencies Direct provides a reliable and cost-effective solution.

How much do UK banks charge for international money transfers?

  • Metro Bank:
    • Incoming international: £0
    • Outgoing international: £15-£25
  • NatWest:
    • Incoming international: Up to £7.50
    • Outgoing international: Up to £15
  • RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland):
    • Incoming international: Up to £7.50
    • Outgoing international: Up to £15
  • Santander:
    • Incoming international: £0
    • Outgoing international: Up to £25
  • General Information:
    • On average, international bank transfers can cost customers between £20 – 40 in fees. Not all of these charges are transparent.
    • High-street banks typically have high currency transfer charges of up to £30 per transaction.
    • Some banks might take as much as 3-4% of the total transfer amount as a fee.
    • The UK banks generally charge around 2-5% of the transfer amount. Money transfer specialists can cost up to 60%-70% less than traditional banks.

It’s essential to note that these fees can vary based on the type of account, the relationship with the bank, and other factors. Always check with the specific bank for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Whare are the alternatives to international money transfers?

While international money transfers remain a popular choice, several alternatives have emerged, catering to diverse needs and scenarios. Here’s a look at some of these alternatives:

  • International Cheques: A cheque issued in one country but cashable in another.
  • Prepaid Travel Cards: Cards preloaded with a foreign currency, allowing you to spend as if you have a local bank account.
  • Digital or Cryptocurrency: Decentralised digital currencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum.
  • Barter System: An ancient system of exchange where goods and services are directly exchanged for other goods and services.
  • Gift Cards and Vouchers: Pre-purchased cards or digital vouchers redeemable for goods or services.
  • Mobile Airtime Transfers: Sending prepaid mobile airtime credit across borders.
  • In-kind Transfers: Sending goods or commodities instead of money.

What are the risks of international money transfers?

International money transfers, while essential and convenient, come with certain risks. Here are some of the primary concerns associated with sending money abroad:

  1. Fraud and Scams: There are numerous scams where individuals are tricked into sending money abroad. Common scams include lottery scams, inheritance scams, and romance scams.
  2. Data Breaches: If the platform or service you’re using to transfer money isn’t secure, your personal and financial data could be at risk of being accessed by unauthorized parties.
  3. Misrouting: If incorrect details are provided, money could be sent to the wrong account. Retrieving funds sent in error can be challenging and sometimes impossible.
  4. Fluctuating Exchange Rates: Exchange rates can fluctuate rapidly. If you’re transferring a significant amount, even a small change in the exchange rate can result in a considerable difference in the amount the recipient gets.
  5. Hidden Fees: Some services might have hidden fees or charge more than what’s initially apparent. This can make transfers more expensive than anticipated.
  6. Regulatory Issues: Different countries have different regulations concerning incoming and outgoing funds. There might be limits on how much you can send or receive, and there might be tax implications or mandatory reporting requirements.
  7. Service Delays: Sometimes, transfers can take longer than expected due to various reasons, including bank holidays, verification processes, or technical issues.
  8. Lack of Recourse: If you use a non-reputable service and encounter problems, you might have limited recourse in retrieving your funds or addressing any issues.
  9. Country-Specific Restrictions: Some countries have strict controls on money flowing in and out, which can complicate or even prevent certain transfers.
  10. Impact on Beneficiary: In some cases, large unexpected transfers can have unintended consequences for recipients, including affecting their tax situation or even their personal safety in areas where sudden wealth might attract negative attention.

To mitigate these risks, it’s crucial to use reputable money transfer services, double-check all details, be aware of the current exchange rate, and always be cautious of offers or requests that seem too good to be true.

Are international money transfers taxed?

In the UK, international money transfers are generally not taxed. However, there are specific scenarios where taxation might come into play:

  1. Overseas Income: If the money being transferred is regarded as overseas income, then UK residents will likely have to pay tax on it. Non-residents’ overseas income is not taxable; they only pay tax on their income in the UK. Those who reside in the UK usually pay tax on all their income, whether it’s from the UK or abroad.
  2. Gifts and Inheritances: Transfers of savings and inheritances from deceased individuals who were not UK domiciled are not liable to tax. Additionally, cash gifts from non-UK residents are also typically not taxed.
  3. Large Amounts: While there are no legal limits on the amount of money you can transfer to the UK, if you’re bringing in £10,000 or more, there might be specific reporting requirements.
  4. Interest Abroad: UK taxpayers must notify HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about their interests abroad, which can be subject to taxation.

It’s essential to consult with a tax professional or the HMRC to understand the specific tax implications based on individual circumstances.

Can you complete an international bank transfer online?

Yes, you can complete an international bank transfer online. Most major UK banks, including Barclays, HSBC, NatWest, and Lloyds Bank, offer online services that allow customers to send money abroad. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Barclays: Customers can log in to their Online Banking, click on the ‘Move money’ tab, and then select ‘International payment’ to send money abroad.
  • HSBC: HSBC offers 24/7 online services to send money outside the UK. Customers can make international transfers online, using the app, or even over the phone.
  • NatWest: NatWest customers can make international payments using their mobile app or online banking.
  • Lloyds Bank: Lloyds Bank provides an online platform called Currency Internet Banking for international money transfers.
  • Western Union: Apart from traditional methods, Western Union also offers online services where you can send money to a specific location for cash pick-up, directly to a bank account, or to a mobile phone.

Further reading – learn more about online money transfer services.

What is the cheapest way to send money internationally?

When it comes to sending money internationally, using a specialist money transfer service is often the most cost-effective method. These services typically offer better exchange rates and lower fees compared to traditional banks. Here are some of the recommended options:

  1. Wise (formerly TransferWise): Known for its transparent fee structure and real exchange rate. It’s one of the most popular platforms for international transfers.
  2. Remitly: Offers various delivery options, including bank deposit, mobile credit, and cash pickup. They have competitive rates, especially for cash transfers.
  3. Xe: A trusted name in the currency exchange realm, Xe provides competitive rates and a straightforward transfer process.
  4. OFX: Offers favourable exchange rates, especially for large transfers. They have a tiered fee structure based on the amount being transferred.
  5. TorFX: Known for its excellent customer service and competitive rates. They also offer guidance on forex market movements.
  6. Revolut and TransferGo: These are digital banking platforms that also offer international money transfer services at competitive rates.

It’s essential to compare the fees, exchange rates, and transfer times of different providers to find the best fit for your needs. Additionally, always check for any hidden costs and ensure the service you choose is regulated and trustworthy.

Remember, while bank transfers might seem like a convenient option, they often come with higher fees and less favourable exchange rates. Specialist money transfer providers, on the other hand, operate with lower overheads and can pass on the savings to customers.

Further reading – learn more about the cheapest international money transfer options.

What is the mid-market rate?

The mid-market rate, often referred to as the interbank rate or spot rate, is the midpoint between the buying and selling prices of two currencies on the global currency markets. In simpler terms, it’s the rate at which banks and financial institutions buy and sell currencies to each other. It’s considered the “real” exchange rate, free from any markup.

Why Consumers Can’t Access It:

  1. Operational Costs: Banks and money transfer services have operational costs, including staff salaries, infrastructure, technology, and more. They add a markup to the mid-market rate to cover these costs.
  2. Profit Margins: Financial institutions are in the business to make a profit. The difference between the rate they get and the rate they offer to consumers is one of the ways they make money.
  3. Protection Against Volatility: The foreign exchange market is highly volatile, with rates fluctuating throughout the day. Financial institutions add a margin to protect themselves against unfavorable movements in exchange rates between the time a customer initiates a transaction and when it’s completed.
  4. Lack of Transparency: Many consumers are unaware of the mid-market rate or don’t have the tools to compare it against the rate they’re being offered. This lack of transparency allows banks and transfer services to add a markup without the consumer realizing they’re not getting the “best” rate.
  5. Service Fees: Some institutions might offer “zero fees” or “free transfers” but compensate by offering a less favorable exchange rate than the mid-market rate. It’s a way of hiding the cost of the service.
  6. Limited Competition: In some regions or for some currency pairs, there might be limited competition, allowing dominant banks or services to set rates that are far from the mid-market rate.

While consumers typically can’t access the mid-market rate, they can come close by using online money transfer services that charge lower margins than traditional banks. It’s always a good practice to compare rates and fees before making an international money transfer.

What are the difference between SWIFT and SEPA Transfers?

In the realm of international bank transfers, two terms frequently emerge: SWIFT and SEPA. Both play pivotal roles in ensuring funds traverse borders securely and efficiently. But what sets them apart?

SWIFT Transfers:

SWIFT, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a global messaging network used by banks and financial institutions to securely exchange information about financial transactions.

Established in 1973, SWIFT links more than 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries, making it a dominant force in global finance.

SWIFT transfers are renowned for their global reach and security. However, they can be slower and often come with higher fees, especially when multiple intermediary banks are involved.

SEPA Transfers:

SEPA, or the Single Euro Payments Area, is a payment integration initiative of the European Union. It simplifies bank transfers made in euros, ensuring they are equivalent to domestic transfers within individual member countries.

Launched in 2008, SEPA aims to make cross-border euro transfers within this area as easy as a domestic transfer.

SEPA transfers are limited to the euro currency and are typically faster and cheaper than SWIFT transfers when dealing within the SEPA zone. They’re ideal for euro transactions within the EU.

Distinguishing the Two:

While both SWIFT and SEPA facilitate international transfers, they cater to different needs. SWIFT is global, accommodating a vast array of currencies and countries. In contrast, SEPA is euro-centric, focusing on simplifying euro transactions within the EU. When deciding between the two, consider the destination, currency, urgency, and associated fees.

What is an international money order?

An international money order is a payment order for a pre-specified amount of money, which can be used to send money to individuals or businesses in foreign countries. It functions similarly to a regular money order but is specifically designed for international transactions. Purchasers pay for the money order with cash, debit card, or traveler’s checks. Once purchased, the money order can be sent to the recipient, who can then cash or deposit it in their local bank or post office. International money orders are considered a secure method of payment, especially when sending money across borders, as they can be tracked and do not carry personal bank account details. They are often used by individuals who do not have access to electronic money transfer services or prefer a more traditional method of sending funds internationally.