Sending money abroad from the UK is not complicated once you understand the process.
I'll explain how to transfer money abroad step-by-step, how long it takes, the options you have, and the best way to avoid high charges.
How to transfer money abroad (in 4 simple steps)
Step 1 - Register as a client
All new clients need a basic ID check.
This is a legal requirement due to financial regulations.
It only needs to be done once.
For most people, the ID check can be quickly done using your name, address and passport number.
Step 2 - Lock-in an exchange rate
After you've registered, you can get your transfer underway.
Whenever you're ready, your bank or money transfer company will quote you a current exchange rate.
Nothing will happen without your consent.
If you are happy to go ahead, your rate will be locked-in, and you will be emailed a confirmation with all the details of your transfer.
Step 3 - Pay for your transfer
Before any money is converted and transferred abroad, you need to pay for your transfer.
Your bank or money transfer company will provide you with the bank account details of where to send your money.
Banks require your money upfront. Money transfer companies normally give you 1-2 working days to send your money in.
Step 4 - Your money is converted and sent out
Once your money is received, your bank or money transfer company to convert your funds into the currency needed and transfer it to the bank account you've requested.
In practice, the whole process is usually quick and easy.
How long does it take to send money abroad?
The time taken depends on the destination country.
As a general rule, allow 3-5 working days to transfer money abroad.
Within Europe, transfers are faster and typically take 1-2 working days. Outside the European Union, it can take 3-5 working days.
It depends on the efficiency of the receiving bank.
The fact is some countries have more efficient banks than others at clearing funds into your account.
Information you will need to send money abroad:
You will need to have the details of the recipient bank account (where to send the money):
- Account name
- Bank name
- Bank Swift/BIC code
- Bank account number
You can get all this information by looking at a bank statement, logging into your account online or asking in a branch.
A money transfer specialist can assist you and help double-check the details before you transfer your money abroad.
What are your options?
To send money abroad, you can use either a bank or a money transfer company.
If you are on this page, you probably already suspect there may be cheaper options than your bank.
I've found the problem a lot of people have is trying to choose the right money transfer company.
There are a lot of them out there.
But I can tell you from an insider's perspective; they differ quite a bit.
The majority specialise in smaller, regular payments to family members living overseas.
Others, such as Key Currency, are more focused on larger transfers for property abroad, emigration, overseas inheritance or import/export payments.
The right option comes down to what you're looking to do.
Compared: Banks vs Money Transfer Companies
Convenient and familiar
High fees & not the best exchange rates
Small one-off payments
Money Transfer Company
No fees, competitive exchange rates, personal service
Need to register before you can use
Large or regular amounts
What do the UK banks charge?
It wasn't that long ago that the big banks had the foreign exchange market to themselves.
A lot of customers still aren't aware there are alternatives available.
I suspect the banks know that and charge accordingly.
Our research found that the 'big four' UK banks typically charge 3% to 5% when you transfer money abroad.
The cost varies depending on the amount you are sending.
The fees are the same no matter what amount you send, but the best exchange rates are normally reserved for amounts over £100,000.
As money transfer companies have far lower overheads, they can normally beat the banks in terms of cost.
Maybe if you're sending a small amount, the cost of using a bank won't bother you.
But if you're sending anything more than £5,000 or need to make regular transfers, I would suggest you compare the cost to an alternative provider.
Watch out for annoying transfer fees
Most of the big banks charge a flat fee every time you transfer money abroad.
The transfer fee varies from bank to bank but is in the region of £10-£25 per transfer.
These fees are in addition to the money made from the exchange rate.
Some money transfer companies also charge transfer fees.
Others, such as ourselves, are happy to waive them altogether.
Daily limits can be a royal pain
Another thing to note is that the big banks have daily limits if you transfer money abroad online.
Here are the daily limits of the UK's Big Four:
- Natwest: £25,000
- HSBC: £50,000
- Barclays: £50,000
- Lloyds: £30,000
The daily limits can be a nuisance for large international money transfers.
If you use your bank, you may need to make several transfers, which would end up costing you more in transfer fees (not to mention the extra time and hassle).
My experience with one of the big four banks
If you've already used a bank to transfer money abroad, you will know it can be a frustrating experience.
In the past, I've used my bank (Lloyds if you want to know).
I found the staff weren't very clued up.
I ended up filling out the forms myself, and once I handed over all the information, that was the last human contact I had with them.
What's more, they have no interest in helping you achieve a favourable exchange rate.
Banks are focused on mortgages and savings accounts. International money transfers are simply not a priority.
In contrast, a money transfer company is focused solely on sending money abroad.
It leads to a more efficient and trouble-free experience.
Some money transfer companies, such as ourselves, will even keep you informed at each stage of your transfer.
And you can speak to someone if you have any concerns or questions
Are all money transfer companies the same?
The simple answer is no.
The differences may not be apparent by looking at the logo or website, but the cost and service provided can vary considerably.
One important difference is that many money transfer companies are really just online platforms or apps.
The more popular names are PayPal, Transferwise, CurrencyFair and Revolut.
Once you get given a login, the customer has to enter all the details and information themselves and decide on when to transfer their money.
They suit some customers, but not others.
I've found a lot of people would rather get some human assistance as long as the cost is competitive.
Here are three benefits of our service:
1. Someone will check the details of your payment are correct
One area where money transfers can go wrong is with the beneficiary details.
We double-check these because we don't want our customers' money to go astray.
If you are left to your own devices on an online platform, there is a far higher chance of making a mistake.
It can take a long time to recall misdirected funds, so it's best to get it right at the outset.
2. You can get guidance on timing and exchange rates
Currency markets can be volatile.
Even small moves in the exchange rate can make a big financial difference to you.
A tiny 1% move against you in the exchange rate on a £70,000 transfer, could cost an extra £700.
Swings of that size happen all the time.
Some money transfer specialists, such as ourselves, will monitor the currency markets on your behalf and work with you to achieve a favourable rate.
3. You will know where your money is at every stage
I wouldn't be comfortable sending my life savings through an online system or app.
Maybe if the sum was small, I might do it online.
However, for a large amount, I would want to know where my money is at all times.
For larger amounts, you may find the best way to transfer money abroad is with a specialist that offers personal guidance and support.
Is it safe to use a money transfer company?
I would suggest the first thing you check if a money transfer company is Authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The reason this matters is that Authorised companies must adhere to strict safety rules covering client funds.
An Authorised money transfer company must keep all customer money in a safeguarded bank account. This is an important protection as a safeguarded account must be completely separate from any company funds.
To see whether a firm is Authorised, you can search for its name on the FCA register.
Another way to check out a money transfer company is to read their customer reviews.
You can normally tell straight away if reviews are fake or real.
The main websites that aggregate customer reviews, such as Trustpilot, verify them before they are published (by checking the IP address).
Customer feedback is normally a great indicator of satisfaction.
I also think it's useful to see how much information is provided by a company on its own website.
It's very easy to knock up a fancy-sounding "mission statement" full of meaningless financial jargon and stock images. That doesn't fill me with confidence.
I like a company with nothing to hide.
It's a lot more reassuring when a company has the confidence to show the names and faces of its Directors and staff of their website.
Reputable companies will be more transparent in the information they provide to their customers.
Quick Summary: Transfer Money Abroad
- You can use a bank or money transfer company.
- It takes 1-2 working days to send money within Europe, and 3-5 workings days to other countries.
- There are two costs to look out for: transfer fees and exchange rates.
- Banks can be a lot more expensive than money transfer companies.
- Some money transfer companies offer personal assistance; others are online-only platforms.
Key Currency is a leading money transfer specialist.
We serve customers throughout the UK, EU, the Middle East and Australasia and can transfer money in 39 different currencies.
Our exchange rates are highly competitive, and we don't charge any fees.
We don't push you onto a trading platform and make you do everything yourself.
All our customers have an account manager who will help you from start to finish, as well as help you with the timing of your transfer.
We appreciate trust and transparency go hand-in-hand.
The names, faces and backgrounds of all our people on our website.
You can read more about us here.
Key Currency is Authorised by the FCA (No.753989). All transfers are conducted through safeguarded client accounts.
We have gained a 5-star "Excellent" customer rating on Trustpilot - which is the highest possible rating.
If you need to transfer money abroad and would like a free quote, click on the button below.