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An international money transfer is when you send money overseas. Although the exact process for sending an international transfer varies depending on which company you choose to handle your transaction, you will generally send either cash or a bank account transfer to a transfer company. This will then send the money to your recipient abroad.
An international money transfer is also commonly referred to as an international remittance.
There are two main expenses to consider when sending money overseas, the first of which is the exchange rate you receive for converting your Pounds Sterling into another currency. The second factor to take into account is the fee that will almost always apply to your transfer, while in some cases your beneficiary might have to pay a fee when accessing the funds you send.
Although UK banks can easily send international money transfers, because banks focus on a broad range of financial products and services they usually offer lower exchange rates and higher fees than you can find elsewhere.
When you send money overseas you will need to send money in the form of cash or a bank account transfer to an intermediary. That intermediary could be your bank, an online money transfer provider such as TorFX or CurrencyFair, or a money transfer company with a cash pickup option such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
The bank or transfer company you choose will then convert your British Pounds into the currency of your transfer destination, for example, Australian Dollars if you’re sending funds to Australia, and then charge a transfer fee. Your funds will then be sent to your overseas recipient either as a bank account transfer or made available for cash collection from a transfer company branch.
Suresh immigrated to the UK from India as a young boy more than 15 years ago, but he still maintains a close relationship with his grandparents in Mumbai. Whenever circumstances require it, Suresh sends his grandparents a one-off transfer of funds to help them meet unexpected expenses that may arise.
When his grandfather must pay a sizable insurance excess following a car accident, Suresh promises to transfer him £1,000. Because his grandfather needs the funds urgently, Suresh decides to send a cash pickup transfer from his nearest MoneyGram agent.
The details of his transaction are as follows:
|Exchange rate:||1 GBP = 100.565913 INR|
|Total cost of transaction:||£1015.99|
|Amount Suresh’s grandfather receives:||100,565.91 INR|
The funds are available for Suresh’s grandfather to collect within 10 minutes from his closest MoneyGram location in Mumbai.
You can choose from the following transfer options when you need to send money overseas:
- Bank wire transfer
Many people opt to send an international wire transfer through their bank – after all, if you already have an account established with a financial institution this can be a convenient option. You can send this sort of transfer online, by visiting a branch or over the phone, and you’ll need to supply your recipient’s bank account details. The downside of using this transfer method is that you will usually be charged a high transfer fee (up to £25) and also receive underwhelming exchange rates.
- Banker’s draft
This is an old-fashioned transfer method that is gradually falling by the wayside in the UK. It involves obtaining an international guaranteed cheque from your bank and then using the postal service to send it overseas to your recipient. You will most likely have to go into your bank to get your cheque and provide details of who you’re sending the funds to and where they live. You’ll have to pay a fee to obtain the cheque and will then have to send it by post and wait for it to arrive to your recipient.
- Money transfer service
If you choose to use a specialist money transfer service you can use either a wire transfer service or an online service. There are two transfer options available:
- Cash-to-cash transfers
Companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram allow you to send a cash transfer through your nearest branch. The funds you send can then be collected in cash by your recipient at their nearest Western Union or MoneyGram agent in their country.
- Bank account transfers
This option involves you sending funds from your bank account to the transfer provider’s bank account, and the company then transferring the money to your recipient’s bank account. Western Union and MoneyGram offer this service, while newer online providers such as CurrencyFair, Currency Solutions, TorFX and Azimo do as well.Back to top
Companies that offer cash transfers usually allow an instant transfer option, which usually means your recipient can access the funds you send within around 10 minutes. Companies like Western Union, MoneyGram and Xpress Money offer this service.
However, be aware that instant transfers usually cost more to send than regular transfers, thanks to higher fees and lower exchange rates.Back to top
The currencies available for you to send overseas can vary substantially depending on the company you choose to manage your transaction. Some services may only offer transfers in a selection of up to a dozen major currencies, while others will allow you to send transfers in up to 50 or even more currencies.
Commonly traded currencies include:
- US Dollar
- Singapore Dollar
- Canadian Dollar
- Australian Dollar
- Swiss Franc
- Mexican Peso
- Philippine Peso
- Indian Rupee
- Japanese Yen
- Chinese Yuan
- Hong Kong Dollar
- United Arab Emirates Dirham
- Send larger amounts. There are many providers that waive their fees if you send more than a certain amount, for example £5,000. You might also find that some companies offer better exchange rates for larger transactions.
- Take advantage of flexible transfer options. Some transfer providers will offer forward contracts, which allow you to secure the current exchange rate for a transaction that will be completed in the future. Another option is a limit order, which allows you to place a transfer request that will only be executed when your specified market conditions are met – for example, the exchange rate reaching a certain level.
- Shop around. There are so many providers to choose from in this competitive market sector that it makes excellent financial sense to shop around to find value for money. Compare the exchange rates, fees and features of several transfer providers so that you can find one that offers safe and affordable transfers.
Consider the following features when choosing a money transfer provider:
- Exchange rates. How do each company’s exchange rates compare to those of its competitors? Look for a company that regularly outperforms the rest.
- Fees. Don’t forget that you will most likely have to pay a transfer fee whenever you send money overseas. How much is this fee and is there any way to avoid it, for example by transferring a large amount?
- Transfer methods. Can you lodge transfers online or by visiting a branch? Are there other options available, such as phone transfers or using a dedicated mobile app?
- Transfer options. Can you save money by placing forward contracts or limit orders? Can you save time by scheduling recurring payments in advance?
- Receiving options. Will you recipient be able to pick up cash from an agent location or will the funds be deposited into their bank account?
- Transfer time. How long will it take for the funds you send to reach their destination?
- Customer service. Does the company have a good reputation for providing prompt and professional customer service? How and when is customer support offered?
There are a few traps to be wary of whenever you send money overseas, including:
- Hidden fees. Always make sure to review the details of a transaction before you send funds anywhere. Familiarise yourself with all the fees that apply to your transfer and the exchange rate so you know exactly how much it will cost before you hand over any cash.
- Wrong rates. Many people are sucked in by advertised exchange rates that sound too good to be true. Some companies will promote mid-market rates on their websites, which are the exchange rates that banks get access to – not the rates these companies make available to their customers. Whenever you’re calculating the cost of a transaction, ensure that you do so based on the exchange rate you will receive.
- Not shopping around. Taking just a few minutes to compare the features and costs of a few transfer companies can save you a lot of money, so don’t simply go with the first company you come across. Weigh up your options and make an informed choice.
- Sending cash yourself. Posting cash overseas is never recommended. If your mail goes missing or the cash you send is damaged, it won’t be replaced – leaving you significantly out of pocket.
How long will it take for my money to arrive?
This will vary depending on the transfer provider you choose, your transfer method and where you are sending the funds. Processing times range from a few minutes to several working days.
How can I track the progress of my transfer?
After paying for your transfer you will receive a transaction reference number which you can use to check on the status of your transfer. Many companies allow you to track your transfer online.
Why can’t I send funds to a particular country?
This could be because there are sanctions imposed on a particular country, for example North Korea, or because your transfer provider simply does not have its network set up in the country which you wish to send a transfer to.
How much will I have to pay to send an international money transfer?
The transfer fee you will have to pay varies depending on:
- the amount you send
- where you send the funds
- the currency you send
- your transfer method
- the transfer provider you choose
Can I send an international money transfer through my bank?
Yes you can, but unless you’re sending funds overseas to an account with the same bank, for example Citibank, it will most likely cost you more than if you use an online money transfer company. Banks usually charge higher fees and offer lower exchange rates than these companies.