Finding the best international money transfer for you
If you’re sending money abroad, you’ll likely be using international money transfers. In the following guide, we discuss how international money transfers work and what to look for when searching for the best deal.
What is an international money transfer?
It’s a safe and secure way to transfer money abroad via a bank or a currency broker dealing in global money transfers.
You may want to send money overseas for a variety of reasons, such as;
- Buying a property
- Supporting family or friends
- Paying for services or work
- Educational fees
International transfers also support the receipt of money from abroad or receiving international payments.
How do money transfers work?
An international money transfer is a way to make international payments from your bank account to another bank account in a foreign country.
Most international payments are made using the SWIFT system. SWIFT is a worldwide network that allows banks and financial institutions to send and receive information about financial transactions globally.
You can send money abroad via your bank by using their mobile app or online banking, or you can do it in person at a branch.
If you want to transfer money worldwide via an e-money institution like Wise or a broker like TorFX you’ll need to create an online account and tell them how much you need to transfer.
Once you’ve agreed to the exchange rate and fees, you send your funds to them and they’ll do the rest.
There are three options when you transfer money overseas via a currency broker.
This is the simplest option. Agree on a rate with the broker and make your currency transfer straight away.
Ideal for locking in the best exchange rate. Pick the date for your foreign currency transfer 12 months in advance but lock in the rate from a chosen date.
Good for transferring large amounts of money to a foreign bank account with no time limit on the transfer. Choose your favoured exchange rate and your money will be transferred on the day your target rate is met.
How much does an international money transfer cost?
When you transfer money overseas, you’ll have to pay the exchange rate and sometimes extra fees too.
Banks and other types of money transfer companies may charge a transfer fee which is a flat rate charge or a percentage of the transfer. High street banks will usually charge the highest transfer fees, whereas currency brokers are free or low cost.
Opening an account with a broker is usually free, however, you’ll still pay the exchange rate quoted. The competitiveness of this rate will depend on whether you choose a spot deal, forward contract or limit order.
Generally, high street and online banks are the most expensive way to send money abroad, and currency brokers are usually the cheapest.
How long do international money transfers take?
Once you’ve opened your account and agreed on a deal with your broker the most popular currencies can be sent very quickly. Often within one day and sometimes in minutes.
For less popular currencies, sending and receiving international payments can take up to five days. This is due to anti-money laundering measures and other checks that need to take place to prevent fraud. It may also be due to the banking system and time zone differences.
What details do I need for an international money transfer?
To send money abroad with a currency broker, you’ll need to provide details about yourself and the recipient. It’s a good idea to have this information to hand even if it’s not all required.
- A clear idea about how much you want to send and when
- Your contact details, such as your mobile number and email
- The recipient’s bank details including a SWIFT/BIC code and IBAN
- Proof of your identity, such as a passport or driving license
- Your bank details and method of payment
What are the different ways to transfer money abroad?
There are several ways to send money internationally and each method has its pros and cons. Here are the main channels for making an international money transfer.
- Online currency brokers, like TorFX or Currencies Direct
- E-money institutions, like Wise or OFX
- Online banks, like Monzo or Revolut
- High street banks, like Barclays or Nationwide
- International banks, like Western Union
What is the safest way to transfer money internationally?
Apart from sending cash, most methods of sending money abroad are safe and secure. Banks, currency brokers and e-money institutions are all regulated and have security checks in place to help prevent fraud, money laundering or identity theft.
It’s always a good idea to check the bottom of the page to find out if your money transfer broker or bank is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.
If you need further proof that your money will be safe and securely send abroad, make sure there is a contact number and call and speak to someone first.
What is the cheapest way to transfer money overseas?
Everybody wants the best deal when they’re making a financial transaction and sending or receiving money from abroad is no exception.
It’s tricky to reveal the cheapest method of international money transfer because it depends on a number of factors.
- The amount you’re transferring
- The country you’re sending it to
- How quickly you need to send it
- Whether its a regular or one-off transfer
Generally, currency brokers offer the best deals if you’re planning to send a large amount of foreign currency abroad, whereas a bank may be better for setting up a regular payment overseas.
If you’re sending an amount under £5,000 as a one-off or infrequently – one of the e-money institutions or money transfer providers like Wise is the cheapest.
It makes sense to do your research to see what deal each international money transfer provider can offer you.
The best way to send money abroad
The best way to transfer money overseas isn’t necessarily the cheapest way to send money internationally. Sending money abroad should also be hassle-free, safe and secure.
Here’s our top tips for getting the best international transfers deal:
- Use a comparison website to easily compare fees, transfer speeds, exchange rates and perks.
- Benchmark the best exchange rates so you know what to expect and what to aim for.
- Get quotes from a selection of online brokers and providers and factor in any transfer fees.
- Talk to your bank first if you’re transferring a very large amount or want to set up regular payments.
- Find out how long the transfer will take – banks are usually the slowest and online providers are the quickest.
- Check the provider is regulated by the FCA, provides a telephone number and is well-reviewed.
The bottom line is, the best way to send money internationally should suit your financial circumstances, be cost-effective and provide peace of mind.
International money transfer FAQs
What happens if my money gets lost?
Firstly check the money left your bank account and ask your bank to confirm it reached the transfer provider’s account.
If it did, you’ll need to contact the transfer provider you used. They should be able to trace the payment journey and work out what has happened. If it’s their mistake, they should rectify it.
If a bank or e-money institution loses your money and doesn’t sort out the problem, you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. It will investigate for you and if the bank or provider is in the wrong, you should get your money back.
How is the money received internationally?
International money transfers are paid directly into the recipient’s bank account, just like a bank transfer within the UK.
The international money transfer provider should give you a transaction code or reference number which you can use to track your money transfer online or over the phone.
Are international money transfers safe?
Yes, all international money transfer companies are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or a foreign financial regulator. They will adhere to compliance procedures and protect your identity from theft or fraud.
If you’re making a business transaction, you can protect yourself from fraud, loss or theft by verifying the identity and registration details of the business supplier.
If you’re sending money to an individual, never transfer funds to someone you don’t know. Whether it’s a personal or business international transfer – always double-check you’re using the correct details.
What’s the best bank for international transfers?
It depends on your circumstances and what’s important to you. If you want peace of mind it’s best to stick with your own bank, but if you want a cheaper or faster international money transfer it’s worth finding an online broker.
Is there a limit to how much money you can send abroad?
The international money transfer limit will depend on where you’re sending the money to and from, and the provider’s security limits.
It’s a good idea to read the provider’s terms and conditions so you know if it’s possible to send that sum of money abroad through them, or whether you need to approach a different provider.