Transferring money to Canada is straightforward once you understand how it works and the costs involved.
The big banks no longer have customers over a barrel. There are alternative ways to send money to Canada that are cheaper, easier and often faster.
How to transfer money to Canada (in 4 simple steps)
Sending money to Canada from the UK is not as complicated as you might think.
The process can be explained in four simple steps.
Step 1 – Identity check
Before you can send money to Canada from the UK, your identification needs to be verified.
Because of global money laundering rules, it is a legal requirement to check a new customer’s identity.
If you have a UK address, it’s typically quick and easy to verify someone as most people can be checked using basic information.
If you don’t have a UK address, then you may need to provide a copy of your passport and a recent bill. A photocopy or photo from your phone can be emailed over as proof.
Quick tip: Even if you’re not ready to transfer money today, it is worth completing this step well in advance so that you are ready if a great exchange rate comes up.
Step 2 – Lock in a GBP to CAD exchange rate
The next step is to lock in an exchange rate for Pounds Sterling to Canadian Dollars.
Sometimes the exchange rate will be shown as GBP/CAD (all currencies have 3-letter abbreviations).
You will be asked what currency you wish to buy (CAD) and the amount of Pounds (GBP) you wish to sell.
Following that, you will receive a live quote for the GBP/CAD exchange rate from your bank or money transfer specialist.
No transaction will occur without your authority.
If you do give your authority to proceed, your bank or money transfer specialist will secure that exchange rate for you in the market.
You will then be emailed through a transaction confirmation showing the amount of Canadian Dollars you have bought and the corresponding amount of Pounds you have sold.
Step 3 – Send in your Pounds to pay for your transfer
Before any money is exchanged and sent on its way to Canada, you need to pay for your money transfer.
Your transaction confirmation will show the bank details of where to send your Pounds. This should be a local UK account – so it is no different to doing a regular bank transfer.
Some customers prefer to send in their Pounds to pay for their transfer before they lock in an exchange rate as it speeds up the process.
Step 4 – Your Pounds are converted to Canadian Dollars
Once your bank or money transfer specialist has received your Pounds, they will exchange them into Canadian Dollars and send them to the Canadian bank account you have requested.
How long does it take to send money to Canada from the UK?
As a guideline, it takes 2-3 working days for your Pounds to arrive in Canada.
In practice, the time taken varies because of the receiving bank in Canada.
The Canadian bank will have its own internal checks on any money coming from abroad, which can slow down some payments.
Basically, some Canadian banks are quicker than others at clearing money.
The time taken can also be delayed by one working day if your funds are sent in the afternoon, not the morning.
The daily cut-off time is normally 2pm or 3pm – meaning if your Pounds are received after that time, it will be counted as the next working day.
Quick tip: If you are under a tight deadline, it may be best to fund your account prior to the currency conversion, so the transfer process is quicker end-to-end.
Compared: Banks & Money Transfer Specialists
High fees, bad exchange rates, minimal help
Small payments, convenience
Money transfer specialist
Need to register
Larger amounts (over £5,000)
Banks – convenient but high charges
Using your bank may be an obvious way to transfer money to Canada.
In fact, until the past decade or so, it was the only way.
But there are often two big drawbacks of using a bank: cost and hassle.
The cost of an international money transfer consists of two parts: transfer fees and the exchange rate.
Transfer fees are typically a flat fee charged by a bank for every international transfer.
The transfer fees vary depending on the bank and can be charged by both the sending bank in the UK and the receiving bank in Canada.
- Barclays charge £25 (standard) or £40 (priority) if you use a branch but nothing if you do it yourself online (how generous!). They also charge the recipient £6.
- Lloyds charge £9.50 (online or branch) and the recipient is also charged £12.
- Natwest charge £15 if under £5,000 or 0.3% (max £40) if over £5,000.
As you can see, it varies from bank to bank.
The more important cost for an international money transfer is the exchange rate.
Our research found that the exchange rates offered by all the major UK banks were uncompetitive and sometimes downright terrible.
The exchange rate margin at HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays and Natwest, ranged between 3.0% and 5.4% (depending on the amount transferred).
While the exact cost you end up paying will depend on the size of your money transfer to Canada, there is a good chance you an do a lot better elsewhere.
If you only intend to transfer a small amount (under £5,000), you may prefer the convenience and familiarity of using your bank.
However, if you are planning to send a larger amount, the extra cost can be significant.
If you are comfortable using your bank’s online system, you can usually transfer money to a Canadian bank account without the need to visit a branch.
The issue is whether you are comfortable putting in all the numbers and data yourself.
Quick tip: You will need to have the full SWIFT code (Canada doesn’t use the IBAN system) of the beneficiary bank account.
Canadian SWIFT codes normally contain 11 characters for specific branches.
Money transfer specialists – best for larger amounts
A money transfer specialist is normally the best way to transfer money to Canada if the amount is large.
The reason is you’re likely to get a better exchange rate from a money transfer specialist than any of the big banks.
Broadly speaking, money transfer specialists can offer customers better exchange rates because they have far lower overheads than the big banks.
Quick tip: One thing to consider is whether the money transfer specialist charges any transfer fees. Some do, some don’t.
Transfer fees can add up if you make regular payments or plan to transfer your money in several tranches.
Some UK banks charge you up to 5% to send your money to Canada.
On a transfer of say £120,000, you could pay out £6,000 in fees and charges.
Your total cost will depend on the bank and the amount you send, but it never does any harm to shop around.
How safe is a money transfer specialist?
Not all money transfer specialists have the same level of regulatory status.
In fact, some companies aren't regulated at all.
The key thing to look out for is whether a company is Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Quick tip: A money transfer specialist that is Authorised and Regulated by the FCA is required to segregate client funds – meaning they will keep your money separate from any company money in a safeguarded account designated for client money only.
To find out if a money transfer company is Authorised and Regulated, just enter the company’s name in the FCA register.
Why you can’t trust exchange rates you see online
Most people hop online these days to look up the latest exchange rates.
There are many websites offering free live rates – including XE, DailyFX, FX Street and Oanda, to name just a few.
But something a lot of people don’t know is the rates you see online are not actually available to customers.
Quick tip: The rates you see online are not ‘real rates’ that customers can receive when they transfer money to Canada.
That’s because what you are seeing are ‘interbank exchange rates’.
Interbank exchange rates are basically like a wholesale rate between the giant clearing houses – major banks and large financial institutions – who settle billions in foreign currency trades every single day.
To cut a long story short, individual customers and even large businesses cannot buy or sell at interbank rates.
If you look closely at these free websites that annoying but vital fact will be buried in a disclaimer with words to the effect of “these rates are not available to consumers and are for informational purposes only”.
Even a lot of the leading comparison sites have a similar disclaimer about rates being indicative or subject to change etc.
If you want a real exchange rate, I would suggest you get a real quote.
Is there a limit on how much money I can transfer to Canada?
The answer is NO – there are no limits.
Due to the close political and trading relationship between the two countries, there are no foreign exchange restrictions on transferring money from the UK to Canada.
You are not required to declare anything either.
Quick tip: the big UK banks impose their own daily limits on the amount of money you can send online to overseas destinations.
Barclays and HSBC have a daily online limit of £50,000, whereas for Natwest and Lloyds, the limit at £100,000.
If you are looking at transferring a large amount to Canada, it may take several days longer if you use your bank and cost you additional fees due to multiple transfers.
How to get the best GBP to CAD exchange rate
Exchange rates never sit still for long.
Heavily traded currency pairs like GBP/CAD move every few seconds.
It can be nerve-racking watching rates move around as even small changes can make a big difference to the amount of Canadian Dollars you will receive for your Pounds.
A money transfer specialist can work with you to get you the best exchange rate available and help manage your currency risk.
One of the advantages of using a money transfer specialist is that you can speak to someone that is experienced in dealing with exchange rates and international transfers.
A currency specialist can monitor the currency markets for you, and if the GBP to CAD exchange rate moves in your favour, you can be alerted to the opportunity.
Even a 1% move in the exchange rate on a £100,000 transfer is a difference of £1,000 to you.
Quick tip: Getting some guidance on exchange rates could help optimise the timing of your transfer and reduce your costs.
Please note t hough that a bank or online-only money transfer provider won’t offer you any guidance or assistance when it comes to exchange rates.
Staff at bank branches are primarily trained in mortgages and savings products. They will have very limited knowledge about exchange rates.
Online-only operators, such as PayPal, TransferWise and Revolut, are designed to be "do-it-yourself" systems. It is your responsibility to enter all the information, decide on the timing and check all the details are correct.
While they are popular for smaller transfers (under £5,000), a lot of people prefer to receive some personal guidance for larger amounts.
For large money transfers, many customers want the peace of mind of having someone that can offer them assistance, expertise and a helping hand.
If you need to transfer money to Canada from the UK, you can use a bank or money transfer specialist.
For larger amounts, it normally works out a lot cheaper to use a money transfer specialist than a bank.
Key Currency is an independent money transfer specialist.
We actively help our customers optimise exchange rates, minimise risk and reduce costs.
As a company, we are open and transparent. The names and faces of all our people on our website.
We have gained a 5-star "excellent" rating based on hundreds of customer reviews.
Key Currency is an FCA regulated Authorised Payment Institution (No. 753989), and as such, all money transfers are conducted through safeguarded client accounts.
If you need to transfer money to Canada, we can help save you time and money. Simply request a free quote below.