Get the best rate for your secure overseas transfer.
While your local bank may be the most obvious way to send money to the UK, you can save on fees and get a more competitive exchange rate with a money transfer company — but make sure it offers a speed and transfer type you’re happy with.
Our pick: OFX International Money Transfers
OFX offers flexible transfer options, 24/7 customer support and no maximum limit. Send a minimum of $1,000 per year.
- $0 transfer fees. Send fee-free transfers to over 195 countries worldwide.
- Transfers in 55 currencies. OFX supports major, minor and exotic currencies.
- Flexible options. Choose from forward contracts to scheduled transfers for convenience and flexibility.
Compare money transfer services to the UK
How do international money transfers work?
International money transfers allow you to send money overseas through a bank or money transfer service. Because the pound is a widely-traded currency, you’ll be able to find plenty of companies that can exchange dollars to pounds, so you’ll need to be sure you compare your rates and the potential fees before choosing which service to use. Once you complete the transaction, your recipient will receive the money in their bank account or in person at a specified pickup location.
Banks versus money transfer companies
Your first thought may be to ask your bank to transfer money to an overseas account, and while many offer this service, it is often much more expensive and yields a worse exchange rate than an international money transfer company. You’ll be able to get a better rate and pay less fees with one of these companies than with your bank, so explore your options in the table above.
Case Study: Craig needs to send money to the UK
Craig’s son Kevin is studying abroad in the UK, and with money starting to get tight, Kevin calls home to ask his dad for $1,000 in extra spending money. Rather than using his bank to complete the transfer, Craig decides to weigh the fees and features of two money transfer companies.
|Money transfer company 1||Money transfer company 2|
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 0.64 GBP||1 USD = 0.62 GBP|
|Transfer method||Bank account deposit||Bank account deposit|
|Transfer speed||1 business day||1 business day|
|Total GBP received||640 GBP||620 GBP|
Craig’s quick comparison shows him that the first transfer company will net him 20 extra pounds. He completes the online application, and by the next day, Kevin has a little extra money in his account.
Tips for sending money to the UK
How to compare transfer companies when transferring money to the UK
By comparing a few elements of your transfer, you can ensure that you get the cheapest deal for your needs.
- Exchange rates. Nearly all providers skew exchange rates for a profit. Compare the rate you’re offered to the mid-market rate — the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves — and look for the smallest margin between them.
- Transfer fees. Find out whether the provider charges a flat fee or a percentage of your transfer. If you’re sending a large amount, ask whether you qualify for a fee-free transfer.
- Payment and delivery options. Some transfer companies allow you to pay with a credit card online, by phone or through an app. Others offer agent locations for cash payments and pickups. Also ask how your recipient can receive your funds: bank account, cash pickup, mobile wallet and more.
- Transfer speeds. If it needs to be there fast, companies like Western Union and MoneyGram allow for quick cash pickups, often in minutes. If you have more time, you’ll get better rates and fees with an independent provider.
- Transfer limits. Your best option might depend on how much you want to send. For large transfers, weigh the best exchange rate — especially since providers encourage large transfers by offering low fees. For smaller amounts, consider the fees you’ll pay on top of the exchange rate.
- Flexible transfer options. Ask whether you can schedule payments ahead of time or protect your transfer against market fluctuations with a limit order or forward contract.
- Customer support. Most companies offer customer service by Internet chat, phone, in person or by email. Make sure help will be available if you need it.
Foreign exchange rates explained
Exchange rates are determined on a daily and hourly basis by the fluctuations in political and economic climate across the globe. A strong currency is one that trades better when exchanged with the currency of another country. In this case, the British pound (GBP) often trades stronger than the US dollar (USD). This means that you will get less pounds per dollar spent.
Options for sending money to the UK from the US
- Bank transfers. Many major US banks can safely wire your funds to countries around the world. Banks rely on existing links between banks and banking systems worldwide. However, a downside is the frustratingly high fees and weaker exchange rates you’ll receive by going through your bank.
- Online money transfer services. These specialists offer more affordable transfers than banks do, allowing you to quickly and easily manage your transactions from home. With competitive exchange rates and some providers offering no fees, you can send funds from your bank account. Many also allow you to pay with a credit or debit card.
- Providers with cash pickup. Trusted providers like Western Union and MoneyGram. offer the key advantage of giving your recipient fast access to the cash you send — sometimes within minutes. You can often pay online or at one of thousands of agent locations worldwide. However, services typically cost more than an online transfer specialist and vary by where you’re transferring your money and how you’re paying for it.
- PayPal transfers. Not just for online purchases, PayPal offers transfers to more than 100 countries and supports multiple currencies. Its exchange rates are often better than those you’ll get from a bank but not quite as strong as rates from money transfer companies. PayPal calculates its transfer fee as a percentage of the amount you’re sending — meaning it’s often better for sending smaller amounts of money.
- International money order. You can get this type of money order from your bank and send it overseas to your recipient, who then cashes it in with their own bank. While more secure than a personal check, it’s a slower option than using an electronic transfer. It also costs a little more — you’ll have to purchase the check, and your recipient may be charged a fee by their own bank cashed.
How to send money to the UK
- Choose a money transfer provider in the chart above.
- Click Go to Site and begin the registration process.
- Start a transfer transaction, giving your recipients information and how much you want to transfer.
- Pay for the transaction.
- Save the tracking number to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Emergency transfers to the UK
It’s possible to complete an emergency cash transfer that gives your recipient access to funds quickly, but this is usually the most expensive option. You will face higher fees and a worse exchange rate, so if your friend or family member can wait a day or two for a regular transfer to be completed, you’ll save money in the long run.
Tips for picking up cash in the UK
Whether picking up funds in London or anywhere else around the UK, take a few simple safety precautions to prevent yourself from becoming a target for thieves.
- Call ahead. Learn the company’s business hours and choose a safe time to pick up your cash. Daylight hours are best.
- Deposit your money immediately. The likelihood of losing your money to theft or simple carelessness grows the longer you have it with you. Go straight to a bank and deposit your cash as soon as possible.
- Bring a friend. Carrying money when alone can be dangerous. Ask a friend to come along.
- Keep your cash hidden. Place your money in your purse or wallet before leaving the office. Carrying cash out in the open could make you a target.
Overseas money transfers are easy, no matter which method you choose. But knowing how to compare your options gives you a leg up in terms of cost, rates and transfer speeds. An informed choice will always be a better choice.