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.
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What’s the best way to send money to the United Kingdom?
Online money transfer providers typically offer the strongest exchange rates and lowest fees on money transfers to the UK. Some offer transfers straight to UK bank accounts, while others allow the money to be picked up in British pound sterling in person. Banks, PayPal and other options are available but come with high fees, weak rates and longer turnaround times.
Digital money transfer services
Companies like OFX and CurrencyTransfer specialize in foreign currencies, making them some of the most cost-effective transfers. Most offer transfers directly to your recipient’s UK bank account, often in as little as a day or two.
Services like MoneyGram allow you to transfer cash for pickup at a local branch in the UK — often in 15 minutes. While it’s a fast way to send money, you’ll pay for the convenience in weak exchange rates and high fees. Compare MoneyGram to digital services like WorldRemit or XE when possible to save money on your transfer.
British pound sterling is almost certainly carried by your bank, and although your local bank can convert your US dollars into GBP, beware of high fees and wide margins on the exchange rate compared to digital and other options.
Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending $1,000 to the UK
Let’s say you need to send $2,000 to our northern neighbors. Here’s what you might face as far as fees and exchange rates as of March 9, 2020.
Digital money transfer service
$25 + additional correspondent bank fees
1 USD = 0.772 GBP
1 USD = 0.775 GBP
1 USD = 0.729 GBP
Slowest and most expensive
The bank option ends up being both the slowest and gets the smallest amount of money to your recipient. If you go with the digital money transfer service, your recipient ends up with GBP 61 more than the bank offers. If speed is crucial, a cash transfer can typically have your transfer to the UK in as little as 15 minutes for a slightly higher fee.
How to send money to the UK online
Sign up and send money with a digital money transfer specialist in four steps:
Sign up for a free account. Pick a provider and sign up for a free online account using your contact information, proof of ID and your preferred payment method.
Provide transfer details. Submit your recipient’s contact information and pick a delivery method. If you’re transferring to a bank, you’ll need your recipient’s UK bank account details.
Confirm transfer details. Double-check your payment method, expected fees and destination.
Save your receipt. Record your receipt’s confirmation number to track the progress of your transfer to the UK. Some money transfer providers send a text or email when your transfer is complete.
Tips for sending money to the UK
How to get the most out of your money transfer to the UK
Weigh costs and fees against convenience, and learn how to compare money transfer providers that send to the UK to meet your needs:
Exchange rates. The USD-GBP relationship fluctuates often, so using a service that allows you to lock-in exchange prices may help you save money down the line if exchange rates take a turn for the worse in the future.
Transfer fees. Transferring money overseas nearly always requires fees, but they might be hidden in the exchange rate. When sending large amounts, it may be cheaper to pay a flat fee to secure a stronger exchange rate.
Transfer limits. How much you can send varies by company, and different amounts can attract higher or lower fees. Shop around for the best deal on the amount of British pound sterling you’re sending.
Turnaround. Transferring money through a local bank can take a business week or longer. If you need the funds delivered quickly, seek out a digital specialist that offers instant transfers to the United Kingdom.
Maximum limits. When exchange rates are favorable, sending more money can save you money in the future. If you plan to send large amounts of money to the UK, be sure to pick a provider that won’t limit you.
Transfer methods. Whether you want money sent to a UK bank account or picked up as cash at a local agent, narrow down a company that matches your preferred delivery method.
Emergency cash transfer to the UK
When it’s more important to get your money to the UK quickly, look for money transfer companies that support cash pickup in minutes. You can pay with a credit or debit card for fast pickup, but fees are higher than other methods.
How to send money to the UK without a bank account
Cash transfer services can help you if you’re unbanked or marginally banked. If you don’t have a bank account, look for a local company that supports storefronts for cash payments. These services include agent locations in other countries that allow your recipient to pick up cash without a bank account.
The United Kingdom’s exchange rates explained
The exchange rate determines how much one country’s currency is worth in another country’s currency. When a country’s currency is strong, it yields more money when exchanging it in a country with a weaker currency. The UK”s exchange rate often fluctuates when compared to the US dollar, so expect exchange rates today to be different than those you’ll see tomorrow. Factors that influence the exchange rate include interest rates, economic stability and inflation.
Documents needed for sending to and receiving money in the UK
To send money to the UK from the US, you’ll need government-issued ID and other documents, while documents needed to pick up money in the United Kingdom may be different by company.
Documents to send money from the US
To send money from the US to the UK, you’ll need documentation and details that include:
Identification. Most services require a driver’s license, passport or other government-issued ID. Some services allow you to send transfers without ID, but they may require your SSN.
Payment method. Your service may accept credit or debit cards, cash, bank accounts or personal checks.
Recipient information. Submit your recipient’s name as it appears on their ID, along with their phone number, UK bank account and routing number if sending to their bank.
Documents to receive money in the UK
To pick up money in person, documentation can include:
Transfer number. The person sending you money can forward the transfer’s confirmation details — called a PIN, a MTCN, a reference number or a tracking number, depending on the company.
Government-issued ID. A official UK Identification Card or a similar government-issued ID is typically required to pick up cash.
Amount sent. You may need to know how much was sent, usually within 10% of the total.
Sender’s information. Take along your sender’s full name, the sending country and their address, if known.
What to watch out for
Most money transfers between the United States and the United Kingdom shouldn’t have any specific tax obligations attached to them, so long as they are for personal use and kept under $10,000 USD. However, certain laws exist in the UK that may have an effect on your transfer depending on:
The nationality of the receiver.
The residency status of the receiver.
The purpose of the transfer.
The total amount of the transfer.
Use our tax guidelines page on transfers to the UK to learn more about these restrictions and whether you’ll need to file your transfer with the IRS.
Sending money to the UK shouldn’t cost a fortune. Compare transfer companies that specialize in foreign for the strongest rates, lowest fees and flexible delivery. For transfers to other countries, rely on our country specific guides the next time you need to make a transfer.
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Zak Killermann is a writer at Finder who’s been specializing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for four years — covering everything from ICO booms, crypto winters, memecoins and more. He’s mined and minted cryptocurrencies, and remembers the days when DOGE was just for fun. Zak’s focus is in breaking down technical concepts (like yellow papers) for the average folk to digest on their morning commute. Before diving into all things crypto, Zak contributed to Finder’s money transfers vertical.
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