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. You should also check that the country you need to send money to is available with your bank or international money transfer provider.
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.
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 before making any final transaction. It is possible that a better exchange rate may outweigh the saving of no transaction fee.
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.
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The list of international money transfer providers on this page is a selection of services available and gives you an idea of the kind of options available. You can find out more about the individual products by visiting any of the providers listed. All information is subject to change without notice. Please check all terms before making any decisions. This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts.co.uk will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts.co.uk recommends you obtain independent financial advice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s important to remember that you either use the IBAN/SWIFT numbers or the NCC numbers to make a payment.
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.
There are many reasons why as a consumer you may need to transfer money abroad. These can include:
It can take between 24 hours to a full five working days to transfer money abroad. This can depend on varies factors, including:
Read our guide for businesses that need to send money abroad with information about how to do this cost effectively and conveniently.
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 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.
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.
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.
Some firms offer 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.
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.
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