How to send money abroad | moneyfacts.co.uk

How to send money abroad

You can send money abroad cheaply and often with better exchange rates using a specialist international money transfer service rather than a high street bank. Our guide explains more about how to send money abroad, how to do this safely and how to get the best exchange rates.

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Fast and easy online money transfers from the United Kingdom to over 130 countries

  • Save hundreds compared to the high street banks*
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*Xe research 6th February 2020 based on exchanging £10,000 into €s using Xe compared to NatWest.

Moneyfacts.co.uk has chosen Xe to offer a Business International Money Transfer Service. Any legal or contractual relationship will be with Xe Money Transfer.

Xe Money Transfer is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Services Regulations 2017. Any customer money held by them will be in a safeguarded account, this is protected and cannot be used by Xe to pay off any debts in the event they become insolvent.

Michelle Monck

Michelle Monck

Consumer Finance Expert

At a glance

  • Sending money abroad is offered by several money transfer firms and banks.
  • It’s an easy way to send money to relatives and friends in other countries.
  • International money transfers convert your local currency to that of the recipient destination.

What is the best way to send money abroad?

When sending money abroad, you need to compare the currency exchange rate and any costs to convert or send the money internationally. Currency exchange rates change throughout the day and different money transfer firms and banks have different fees for transferring money to another country. XE Money Transfer offers a currency converter that shows you in real time how much money you can get when exchanging between currencies. You can also view the performance of different currency exchange rates here.


You should also check that the country you need to send money to is available with your bank or international money transfer provider. XE Money Transfer accepts payments to more than 139 currencies to over 220 countries and territories.


In addition to a specialist service, you can also pay for goods abroad and send money internationally using the following methods:

Use a special travel card credit card

If you need to make purchases abroad or have bills to pay in another country (for example for a second property or holiday home), then a travel credit card is a convenient way to do this. Conventional credit cards can add up to 5% on the transaction cost when you use them abroad, however a travel credit card usually has no fees when used in a foreign currency either for a purchase or to withdraw cash from a cash machine. Just make sure to pay off your credit card balance as soon as possible.

Use a HSBC Premier or Advance bank account

HSBC Bank offers free international money transfers to Premier and Advance current account holders that are sending money to either another HSBC account anywhere in the world or for payments in euros to the European Economic Area (EEA). You must use HSBC’s online banking to send the transfers. It is possible to send money to other bank accounts and in other currencies for a £4 fee per transfer. The maximum amount you can send in one online transfer is £50,000.


As with many high street banks, it is worth comparing their conversion rates with a specialist firm, such as XE Money Transfer, before making any final transaction. It is possible that a better exchange rate may outweigh the saving of no transaction fee.

HSBC accounts reviewed

We’ve reviewed the range of HSBC current accounts. Find out more about how they work and the latest offers.

Send money to India for free

State Bank of India (SBI) UK allows you to transfer money to India for free when you send Rupees from your UK SBI UK account using its online banking service. You must also maintain the required minimum balance for the account to qualify for the free transfers.

Use an offshore bank account in dollars or euros

An offshore bank account can be held in sterling, dollars or euros. These accounts allow you to receive and send money of the same foreign currency, thereby reducing any fluctuations due to exchange rates. They can be useful for managing bills and costs abroad but are less useful for sending money to other countries.
The following current accounts are open to UK residents and available in US Dollar and Euro account options.

  • Barclays Bank International Bank Account
  • HSBC Expat Premier Bank Account
  • Lloyds Bank International Premier International Current Account
  • Lloyds Bank International Current Account
  • Santander International Gold Bank Account.

Some of these accounts may also have requirements for minimum incomes and payments into the account. Find out more in our offshore bank account chart.

An online international money transfer service

These firms specialise in sending payments abroad for their clients. They are usually online services and customers usually need to register for an account before they can make a transfer. Customers transfer money to their online account in sterling and can then place their transfer instructions. The international money transfer company then converts this to the relevant currency and sends to the required bank account.
These types of online international money services are convenient, usually with lower fees and best suited to payments of less than £5,000. Some examples include Azimo, Transferwise, Currencies Direct, OFX and Fair FX.

A specialist foreign exchange broker

Those needing to make larger overseas payments, for example for a house purchase or sale abroad, or if they are moving to another country for a while, can use a specialist foreign exchange broker to get a good exchange rate on their transactions abroad. A small percentage improvement in the exchange rate can increase your gains when converting cash in the thousands of pounds.
You will need to set up an account and this will include providing evidence online of your identity. It may take a few days to get this set up.

Open a foreign exchange account today

Xe is a specialist foreign exchange broker and has a 4.7 out of 5 customer score on Trustpilot. 96% of customers rate them as great or excellent.* Xe Group transferred more than $115 billion last year in 139 currencies to over 220 countries and territories. Find out more about XE and how to open an account.
*as of 27 October 2020.

How safe is it to send money abroad?

International money transfer services are not included in the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS); however, your money may have some protection based on the regulatory status of the firm. How your money is protected differs between whether you use a firm that is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or is registered with them for payment or e-money services. Those firms that are authorised must keep your money ring-fenced from their own company funds. This means that if the firm goes bust while still holding your money, you should have a greater likelihood of this being returned to you. If the firm is registered with the FCA then it can choose how it decides to handle your money. The only regulatory requirement these firms have to the regulator is to show they are based in the UK and none of their managers have criminal convictions for financial crimes.


You can check the status of a firm using the FCA’s register You need to enter the firm’s name and then on the search results select the relevant entry. The status of the firm is shown in the section of the same name. Authorised firms will show as authorised, while registered firms may show EMD (electronic money directive) or PSD (payment services directive).


You can also refer to online reviews to check the level of service and satisfaction other users have had with different firms.

Moneyfacts tip

Moneyfacts tip Michelle Monck

Xe, our preferred foreign exchange broker, holds all client monies in a safeguarded account to help minimise the risk to your funds if it collapses.

What information do I need to send money abroad?

There are some specific pieces of information that you will need to know to make sure your payment abroad is sent to the correct bank account. The European Banking Committee for Banking Standards established a system to identify bank accounts and reduce errors when sending money abroad. This includes the International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN) and SWIFT or BIC code. The latest IBAN registry shows over 70 countries now participate in the scheme. However, for those countries such as India, South Africa, New Zealand and the US that do not participate, a national clearing code may be used instead to identify the payee’s account.

For countries accepting IBAN and SWIFT:

  • Name of the payee, their bank name and bank address.
  • The payee’s IBAN – This is in a standardised format composed of up to 34 characters. For example, the IBAN for a bank account held in the UK would be GB29 NWBK 6016 1331 9268 19. GB29 is the country code, NWBK is the bank, in this case NatWest, and the remaining digits refer to the sort-code and account number of the payee.
  • The SWIFT or BIC code – SWIFT codes are used to identify specific banks and financial institutions. They are comprised of eight to 11 characters that identify the bank, the country, the location and branch of the payee. 

For countries outside of IBAN and SWIFT:

  • Name of the payee, their bank name and bank address.
  • National clearing code (NCC) – These are also sometimes called a routing code. As detailed above, not all countries use the IBAN and SWIFT/BIC codes system.
  • The payee’s bank account number

It’s important to remember that you either use the IBAN/SWIFT numbers or the NCC numbers to make a payment.

Five things to consider when choosing an international money transfer service

There are a few elements to consider when choosing an international money transfer provider.

1. Keep your money as safe as possible – check the firm’s status with the FCA so you know what might happen if the firm collapses and is still holding your funds.

2. Exchange rates – find the most competitive rate you can, especially if you are sending a large payment abroad.

3. Fees and charges – check the costs of sending money abroad – some international money transfer services offer free transfers, but check they haven’t loaded this into a worse exchange rate.

4. Speed of transfer – compare this between foreign exchange brokers if time is critical for your payment abroad.

5. Currencies required – make sure the service you sign up to can manage the currencies you need to send payments in.

Why send money abroad?

There are many reasons why as a consumer you may need to transfer money abroad. These can include:

  • Assisting family members in another country when they are travelling, on holiday or in full-time education overseas.
  • Buying a holiday home abroad, including fees and charges.
  • Paying for accommodation overseas if you are travelling abroad.
  • Purchasing goods from overseas vendors – especially luxury or high-value items.
  • Sending money home to family if you are working in the UK.
  • Getting married abroad and paying for the service, reception, accommodation for guests, etc.
  • Pensions if you are retired but currently living outside of the UK.

How long does it take to send money overseas?

It can take between 24 hours to a full five working days to transfer money abroad. This can depend on varies factors, including:

  • The bank or service provider you have chosen to send the money abroad
  • The banking arrangements between different countries
  • Which country you are sending funds to
  • Whether or not the sending bank and receiving bank are both part of the same banking group
  • The popularity of the currency
  • When the transfer is made (for example, late in the day or on a public holiday)
  • The payment method used
  • Special requests (urgent transfers might be faster, but they will likely carry extra charges and possibly a worse exchange rate).

Moneyfacts tip

Moneyfacts tip Michelle Monck

Foreign exchange brokers such as Xe can indicate how long it will take for your recipient to receive their funds as part of getting a quote.

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Fast and easy online money transfers from the United Kingdom to over 130 countries

Read our guide for business that need to send money abroad with information about how to do this cost effectively and conveniently.

How is the exchange rate calculated when sending money abroad?

The exchange rate you are offered will vary between banks, international money transfer providers and foreign exchange brokers. Factors that impact the exchange rate you are offered include:

  • The amount of money you are transferring
  • The country and currency you are sending money from
  • The country and currency you are sending money to
  • The payment method and recipient’s receiving method.

The exchange rates offered can fluctuate due to the economic activity and political situation of countries and their associated currencies. To understand exchange rates better, you should find out the relevant mid-market or interbank rate for the relevant currencies. These rates are often used to transfer money between banks and are often shown on sites such as Reuters. Once you know these rates, you can then appreciate any mark-up being applied by your bank, international money service, or foreign exchange broker.

How much money can I save using a foreign exchange broker rather than my bank?

Xe uses an independent third-party to gather data on fees and exchange rates to compare the value of transferring £10,000 online to Euros using the Xe service, NatWest, Barclays Bank, HSBC and Lloyds Bank. This showed that on 6 February 2020, Xe service users would get the most for their money compared to all these banks. The greatest gain was £307 compared to Lloyds Bank, and the smallest gain was €161 compared to NatWest.
Foreign exchange brokers are often (but not always) a cheaper option than a bank when you want to transfer money abroad. This is because banks often only update their exchange rates once or twice during the day – currency brokers on the other hand use ‘live’ rates, which means you get the best possible deal in real time.
A foreign currency specialist may also have cheaper fees than a bank – however, some banks will provide a free service if you are transferring money to another one of their branches abroad or if you hold a specific account with them. Always check your exchange rate, as a free service may load additional mark-up into the exchange rate.

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How can foreign exchange rate volatility affect my international money transfer?

Exchange rates are never static – they change every day, every hour, even minute to minute, so the amount you get on one day could be completely different from the currency you get on another day. While small variations are hard to predict, there are certain societal events that could affect the strength of your exchange rate.
Elections and other important votes can have a drastic effect. What this means is that you may want to make sure your global money transfers are conducted before such a big event takes place, or you could take the risk and see if the exchange rate might improve afterwards.
However, you may not have to do all the hard work alone. Unlike many banks, currency specialists can offer additional services and tools that can help you manage your money transfers.
Xe, for one, offers:

  • Forward contracts. A 'buy now, pay later' option. This enables you to buy foreign currency based on current market rates, for delivery at a predetermined date, which can be up to one year in the future. Should the exchange rate worsen in the meantime, you will not be affected.
  • Market order. This allows you to specify a 'target rate'. When the market reaches this rate, your currency is bought or sold automatically. You can cancel your order at any time.
  • Personalised rate alerts. This service allows you to set a target rate; Xe will alert you when this rate has been achieved.

How can I avoid foreign transaction fees?

Xe offers competitive exchange rates as well as absolutely no transfer fees – meaning that you can avoid the foreign transfer fees that other providers may charge.
Occasionally, charges and additional fees may be applied by a third-party bank before the funds arrive in the recipient’s account.

Other names for international money transfers

International money transfers can also be called overseas money transfers, currency transfers or even wire transfers. Companies that perform this service can also have other names, including being called currency brokers. This is also a service offered by many high street banks.

Xe FAQs

Is it safe to transfer money through Xe?

Xe takes the security of all overseas transfers and transactions seriously, utilising the world-respected Norton security systems to protect your personal details and funds.
Xe is authorised by the FCA under the Payment Service Regulations 2017 for the provision of payment services. Xe holds all client monies in segregated client account trust accounts – meaning that they are held separately from the company funds to minimise the risk to your funds. For extra security, Xe also holds professional indemnity insurance.

 

How do I send money through Xe?

Whether you're new to foreign exchange and just want cost-effective, simple international payments or you're looking to plan a more complex strategy, Xe can help.

  1. Sign up – Set up your account online or over the phone. It’s quick, free and easy.
  2. Quote – Simply tell Xe how much you're transferring, which currency and who to send it to.
  3. Send – Once you've agreed on a transaction, either online or over the phone, simply send Xe the money and it will do the rest.
  4. Track – Keep up-to-date with the progress of your transaction online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Xe also sends notifications via email and SMS, so you know exactly where your money is.

 

What is the maximum amount of money I can transfer using Xe?

For Xe, the maximum that can be transferred online is $500,000 US Dollars (or the currency equivalent). There is no maximum limit to what you can transfer with Xe using other methods.

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Please note

Moneyfacts.co.uk has chosen Xe to offer an international money transfer service. Any legal or contractual relationship will be with Xe. Xe is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Services Regulations 2017. Any customer money held by the company will be in a safeguarded account. Money in that account is protected and cannot be used by Xe to pay off any debts in the event they become insolvent.

 

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