The best ways to send money abroad from Ireland

Sending euros to the UK and internationally can be expensive. Here’s the cheapest way to transfer money overseas and find the best online exchange rates.

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What is an international money transfer?

It’s a safe and secure way to transfer money abroad via a bank or a money transfer service.

You may want to send money overseas for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Supporting loved ones
  • Gifting family or friends
  • Buying a property
  • Paying for goods and services
  • Work-related expenses

Transferring money to the UK and overseas

Whether you’re sending money to the UK or worldwide, international money transfers (IMT) work the same way.

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.

What ways can you send money abroad?

You can send money worldwide to places like India, USA, or UK in several ways:

  • mobile app
  • online
  • phone
  • in person

Whichever method you choose, once you’ve agreed on the exchange rate and provided your details and funds, the money transfer service or bank does the rest.

What details do you need to send money abroad?

If you’re sending online or via an app you’ll need the recipient’s full name and account details, namely the beneficiary’s:

  • 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.

Some, but not all online services, will ask you to verify your identity when you sign up for an account. If you are sending online or via an app you’ll need the recipient’s full name and account details.

If you’re sending in person via a bank or high street money transfer service you’ll need a valid form of ID such as your passport or driving license and the details of the person you are sending the money to.

How do you send money to someone else’s bank account?

There are various platforms and services available to transfer money abroad from Ireland. These are the main ways to send money abroad:

  • Your bank for example, the Bank of Ireland
  • Money transfer services like Western Union or Moneygram
  • Foreign exchange services like CurrencyFair and XE
  • Multi-currency accounts like Wise, Revolut or Paypal

Wise Multi-Currency Account

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Which is the best way to transfer money internationally?

Each money transfer service has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s a good idea to weigh up which method is right for you.

1. High street bank

Examples include: Bank of Ireland, AIB, and EBS

  • You can use your existing account
  • Do in person, online, app or by phone
  • It’s one of the safest methods
  • Transfers within the EEA & UK are fee-free
  • 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. Foreign currency exchange services

Examples include: CurrencyFair, Remitly, XE and Small World

  • 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. Multi-currency accounts

Examples include: Wise and Revolut

  • Good for small and frequent transfers
  • Uses real exchange rates
  • You can set up rate alerts
  • Good for spending abroad
  • You can’t lock in a rate for the future
  • There may be additional charges & fees
  • Transfer limits may be lower

4. Money transfer services

Examples include: Western Union, MoneyGram

  • Good for small transfers
  • Don’t need a bank account
  • It’s quick and easy
  • Can do cash-pickups
  • It’s not the cheapest
  • There may be additional charges & fees
  • Transfer limits may be lower

Once you’ve decided on the platform, shop around to find the best deal.

If you want to know the quickest way to send money to the UK, the cheapest method to transfer money worldwide, or the most secure way to transfer a large sum from Ireland to another country we’ve summarised your choices.

What is the cheapest way of transferring money?

It depends on how much money you want to send, where it’s going and how quickly you need it to get to its destination.

Typically, for one-off transfers under £5,000, multi-currency accounts like Revolut and Wise, can work out one of the cheapest and safest methods of money transfer. Alternatively, one of the many foreign exchange services like Remitly or CurrencyFair can offer good rates.

For regular transfers to the same person, high street banks are likely to offer the most convenient and cheapest method because some allow you to make fee-free transfers - depending on the destination.

Aside from the money transfer service you choose, several things affect the cost of sending money internationally.

What factors affect the cost of your money transfer?

  • The exchange rate
  • Transfer fees
  • How much money you’re sending
  • Method of transfer, e.g. phone or app
  • Payment method e.g. debit or credit card

What is the exchange rate?

The exchange rate is the amount one currency is worth in relation to another, for example, how much sterling you can get for your euro.

How do exchange rates work?

The exchange rate is one of the leading factors that determine the cost of your money transfer from Ireland. 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.

On a large money transfer, for example, a house purchase, a poor exchange rate could mean paying thousands more than you need to.

What’s the fastest way to send money internationally?

Some money transfers firms and foreign exchange brokers offer almost instant money transfers, but bear in mind the fastest way to send money is usually the most expensive.

There are several transfer services that appear to offer good exchange rates for same-day money transfers, however, fees can be high, so check the costs carefully before you commit.

Sending money abroad in an emergency

If you need to send money for an emergency, the fastest way for your family or friends to get money sent by you is to arrange a cash pick-up. This is when the recipient collects the funds at a local branch of the provider you sent from, e.g. Western Union.

Some banks may also offer ‘express’ international transfers but only to certain countries and fees can be as much as €25 euros per transfer on top of a percentage of the transaction value.

What’s the safest way to send money to the UK and abroad?

When you are sending large sums of money abroad, you want to trust that any money you send abroad will arrive safely.

Foreign exchange brokers will often offer the best rates, but you may not get the same level of protection as you would with a bank if things go wrong. If a money transfer service goes bust whilst it has your money, there is no guarantee you’ll get your funds back.

Banks and larger e-money institutions like Wise are regulated by the FCA in the UK and other regulators around the world. This means they are bound by rules to safeguard your money by holding it in separate bank accounts and covering it with assets of the same value.

What to consider before you send money abroad

If you’re planning to send money to the UK or overseas, it’s worth shopping around to find the best method for your needs. Whether you choose your bank, a currency exchange broker, or a multi-currency account, here are some things to consider first:

  • The exchange rate: Check what the provider is offering in relation to the interbank rate found on Google. You want it to be as close to this as possible.
  • Fees & charges: Some charge a flat fee e.g. €3 per transaction, others may charge a percentage or vary the fee in relation to the transfer or country.
  • Transfer limits: Check whether there’s a maximum or minimum transfer amount and that it fits your needs.
  • 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 methods: Not all services offer a range of methods, like online, phone, app or in person. Costs may change depending on the method you choose.
  • Customer support: Check if there’s support available if things go wrong. Do they have a webchat or helpline you can call to sort out questions or problems?
  • Security & protection: e.g. anti-fraud measures, account security, and financial protection. Check if they are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or similar so your money is safe if the firm goes bust.

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.

International money transfer FAQs

Should I 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 e.g. political

However, this is a gamble as market predictions may be wrong and you could get a better deal by waiting.

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. The mid-market exchange rate is considered the most accurate and ‘fair’ rate for sending money on any given day.

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.

Can I use PayPal to send money internationally?

Yes, PayPal supports international money transfers to over 200 countries and transaction can take two to three days. The downside is the fee structure is complex and costs can quickly add up.

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