Best international money transfer services
Beat the banks, find the best exchange rates and avoid fees when you send money abroad from the UK.
What is an international money transfer?
An international money transfer is what happens when you send money to someone overseas. You provide funds and your recipient’s details to a bank or an independent transfer provider, which then exchanges the money into your desired currency and sends it to your recipient. You can send money over the phone, in person, through a mobile app or online.
- Credit or debit card
- Bank transfer
- Bank account
- Mobile wallet
- Cash pick-up
- Door delivery
How to transfer money internationally
There are two main ways to send money out of the UK: via a specialist money transfer service or your bank. Both banks and transfer services offer online transfers, with some offering in-branch transfers or the ability to send money over your phone via an app or calling an agent.
We’ll go through the steps each method takes if you were to send online.
A: Through a money transfer specialist
The following steps give a good example of a typical transfer using a money transfer company.
- Register online with the transfer service of your choice.
- Input transaction details, including the amount you want to transfer.
- Get approved by the transfer company. You may need to scan or email a copy of your ID for the first transaction.
- Transfer funds through your bank using the account details from your transfer company.
- Get your money. Your transfer service will deposit your funds in your destination account.
- For you if you want a more competitive exchange rate and lower fees than a bank transfer.
- Not for you if you want the familiarity and convenience of a known bank and don’t have time to be verified.
B: Through your bank
If you choose to use a bank to carry out your transfer, the process is a little different.
- Navigate to the international money transfers section of your account.
- You’ll usually need to know the address of the receiving bank, the account details of the receiving account, the account name and often the receiving bank’s SWIFT code (an international bank identification system).
- It’s a good idea to check with your bank about exchange rates.
- You can use this method to send an international money order online to your home bank account or to a third party.
- For you if you want the convenience of sending money directly from your existing bank account immediately.
- Not for you if you want fewer fees and a better exchange rate.
Tips for saving on your international transfer
While there’s no best way to transfer funds overseas, there are a few things you can do to make it cheaper.
- Know your transfer currency’s mid-market rate. This rate is the midpoint between worldwide supply and demand for that currency. It is the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves. Use it as a baseline to compare against the rates you’re being offered. The company that’s closest is offering you the best rate.
- Send more money per transfer. Many services discount the fees or waive them altogether when you send larger amounts.
- Use forward contracts and limit orders if sending money regularly. A forward contract allows you to lock in a favourable exchange rate for future transfers. This means you’ll avoid unpredictable movements in exchange rates. A limit order allows you to wait until a favourable exchange rate is found and then lock it in for your transfer.
What should you watch out for?
Keep an eye out for the following when you send money overseas:
- Hidden fees. No transfer is truly free. If a service is advertising “fee-free transfers”, there’s probably a larger margin added to the exchange rate. Compare the rate you get quoted against the mid-market rate (which you can find on Google) to see if you’re getting a good deal.
- Fake rates. If you see a great exchange rate advertised on a provider’s website, make sure the rate you see is the rate you will actually receive. Some companies advertise the mid-market exchange rate, which is the rate at which banks purchase foreign exchange, rather than the rate they actually offer their customers.
- Failing to do your research. If you want to save some money, compare several transfer providers before choosing one. Shop around for a company that offers reliable and affordable transfers, instead of just diving in head-first.
- Scams. Scams cost the UK many billions of pounds each year and money-transfer scams are the biggest culprit. With this number increasing each year, it’s important to keep an eye out for the most common scams. In general, it’s best to only send money to someone you know personally.
Frequently asked questions
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