What do you need to do a money transfer?
You’ll need the recipient’s full name and account details including their:
- International Bank Account Number (IBAN): This is made up of up to 34 alphanumeric characters e.g. the country code and bank account number.
- Bank Identifier Code (BIC) or SWIFT code: This is 8 or 11 characters long and identifies their bank’s address.
What is an exchange rate?
It’s the amount one currency is worth in relation to another, for example, how much sterling you can get for your euro.
If the euro (EUR) to pound sterling (GBP) exchange rate is 0.85, it costs £0.85 for 1 euro, so €50 would get you £42.47.
The exchange rate is one of the main things that determines how much it costs to transfer money to the UK.
On a large money transfer, for example a house purchase, a poor exchange rate could mean paying thousands more than you need to.
What else affects the cost?
Other factors that affect the cost to transfer funds include:
- Who does the transfer e.g. bank or money transfer company
- The payment method e.g. bank account, debit or credit card
- How much you’re transferring
- Any fees they add on
What are your options?
When you’re ready to send money to the UK you can do it via:
- Your bank, as an international payment
- A currency exchange service
- A currency transfer app
Each has pros and cons and you’ll still have to shop around to find the right service for your needs.
1. Your bank
- You can use your existing account
- You can send some transfers online
- Can take up to four working days
- The exchange rate is usually very poor
- There may be a daily limit e.g. €20,000
2. Currency exchange service
- You can do a same day transfer
- Exchange rates are very competitive
- Some let you lock in a rate in advance
- Most offer full customer support
- You have to set up an account
- They usually charge a transaction fee
3. Online currency transfer app
- Good for small and frequent transfers
- Some don’t set a minimum transfer
- You can set up rate alerts
- You can’t lock in a rate for the future
- There’s often no customer support
- Transfer limits are often lower
How to choose a currency exchange service or app
If you decide to use a currency exchange service or app, here are some things to check out first:
- Exchange rate: Check what they’re offering in relation to the interbank rate found on Google. You want it to be as close to this as possible.
- Their fees: Some charge a flat fee e.g. €3 per transaction, others vary the fee in relation to the transfer amount.
- Transfer limits: Check that the service can cover your money transfer.
- Payment options: The transfer amount may be restricted if you pay by credit or debit card, and some services don’t accept all payment methods. Credit and debit card fees may also apply.
- Transfer options: For example, if you want to process your transfers online or by phone, check this is possible. An app may also make it easier to keep track of transfers on the go.
- Customer support: Check they have support available when you’ll need to access it.
- How secure they are: e.g. identity verification, account security and site security. Some are also regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority which gives you added protection.
If a transfer service doesn’t charge any fees, they may have hidden them within the exchange rate. Always compare the actual amount you’re getting for your euro to work out which deal is best.
Avoid transferring funds from a credit card as it’s usually charged as a cash advance, which is expensive.
Should you lock in an exchange rate?
This is where you pay a small fee to guarantee a rate for a future transfer, up to a year in advance.
Known as a forward contract, it can help you to plan your finances as you’ll know the total cost in advance, and it can’t change.
You may choose to do this if you’re planning a high value purchase in the future and the rate is either:
- Good at the moment
- Expected to get worse due to external factors
For example, Brexit is threatening the stability of the pound, so you may want to lock in a rate.
However, this is a gamble as market predictions may be wrong and you could get a better deal by waiting.
How to make it cheaper
With Wise, formally TransferWise, you won’t be given a poor exchange rate to convert one currency into another as it crosses the border.
Instead, you can pay the amount you want to transfer into one of their Irish accounts and they’ll use a UK account to transfer funds directly to your UK recipient’s account.
This allows them to offer you the interbank rate and you only pay a small transparent fee that varies depending on the transfer amount and speed.
Wise Multi-Currency Account
Register for free and receive money for free with a borderless Wise multi-currency account.
Looking to go abroad?
If you haven’t sorted out your travel money yet, our guide on how to spend abroad looks at whether it’s best to use cash or cards, and helps you get a better deal on currency.
Money transfer FAQs
Are there any charges to receive money from abroad?
The recipient’s bank may apply a charge to receive funds from abroad - meaning that the overall amount transferred will be reduced.
How quickly can I send money to the UK?
It depends how you do it and what time of the day it is. It can take up to four working days to send money from your bank, while some transfer companies offer same day transfers.
To get funds the same day, you’ll need to beat the cut off time for that day and you usually have to pay extra.
What is the interbank rate?
It’s the rate that banks use for trading foreign currencies with each other, and the mid point between the currency buy and sell open market rates.
A bank won’t offer you the same rate as the interbank rate, you’ll always get a much worse deal.
The interbank rate changes all the time but you can check the current euro to pound sterling rate.
Why do different money transfer companies use different exchange rates?
Some companies add their fees into the exchange rate and others separate their fees. It’s rare to be offered the same rate you see on Google (the interbank rate) but some companies offer rates that are fairly close to it.
You should compare the amount of pounds you’ll get for your euro after any charges, to work out which is the cheapest service.
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