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Sending Money Abroad

How to send cash overseas cheaply

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Sally and Dan | Edited by Johanna

Updated Monthly

Currency signs Gifting a Stateside nephew or wiring emergency funds to a travelling daughter needn't require astronomical costs - some banks charge up to £25, so use MoneySaving ways to make sure you don't get ripped off.

This step-by-step guide teaches you how to send money on the cheap. Whether it's one-off or a regular payment, you'll save some serious cash.

What will it cost?

The two key drains on your lump sum will be the fee, and the exchange rate. Don't be seduced by 'fee-free rates' - the exchange rate is often adjusted to make up for the loss. ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **

  • Fee.

    The obvious charge.

    A multitude of fees, charges or commission can apply both to the sender and the recipient. Many providers impose multiples of small additional charges to disguise the real cost of the service.

  • Exchange rate.

    The hidden charge.

    Many companies claim to be 'commission-free' and then dampen the exchange rate so you get less bang for your buck. It's often difficult to get hold of the exact rate and compare it, as some providers don't publish daily rates which change throughout the day.

The best way to compare

A multitude of fees and exchange rates make transferring money seem like a complicated minefield. Quite simply, it boils down to one very simple key question:

After all charges, how many euros/yen/dollars will I get?

It sounds simple but sometimes it's hard to get an answer. Exchange rates change throughout the day, and possibly by the minute. In order to compare providers properly, you'll need to do it all in one go.

Start by benchmarking a decent exchange rate - check the Travel Money Maximiser to help. If you're transferring a large amount, then at worst you should aim to match the cheapest provider there, especially as most providers will have better rates the more you transfer - see below for more info if you've got £5,000 or more to send.

To find the best deal, follow the steps in this guide; each one lists who it's suitable for. Stop at the first method that suits you.

How safe is my cash when I transfer?

If you've got money in a UK savings account, there's a whole protection scheme set up to cover you if the provider goes bust. With foreign exchange money transfer companies it's a different ball game. Please take note:

There's NO compensation scheme if a firm goes bust

This is crucial to understand - if you use an online transfer company (or any transfer company that holds your money) and it goes bust while it has your money, there's no guarantee you'll get it back. The regulation of these companies has become tighter in the past few years, but the risk of losing cash still remains.

  • If it's 'authorised' - your money is kept separate.

    A large firm trading over €3 million (£2.5 million) a month, must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Each day, at the close of business, these firms separate your money from the firm's own accounts (known as ringfencing). This protects your cash, so you should get it back if the firm gets into difficulty.

  • If it's 'registered' - there are no safeguards for your cash.

    Smaller firms can choose to be registered. This means there's no safety process if something goes wrong with the firm, meaning your money isn't protected.

To check how a firm is regulated (whether it's authorised or just registered), search for its name on the FCA register. For more information on your protection, this Sending Money Safely leaflet from the Money Advice Service is useful.

Quick question

What can I do if the firm loses my money in transfer?

Use specialist plastic to cover regular spending

These are designed to be used for purchases, so if you can, the easiest and cheapest way is to spend on specialist credit or debit cards. You can pay for things overseas at the near-perfect exchange rate with minimum fees.

Who's it suitable for?

It's great if you need to spend money in shops or withdraw cash in another country, plus if you've a relative living abroad who you're happy to pay for, you can add them as a cardholder to your account (so you get the bill). Typical examples include:

  • If you or your partner need to spend cash abroad.

  • If you've a friend or relative you trust who's going abroad

  • Paying overseas bills eg, for second homeowners, provided companies you pay accept plastic, or you visit often enough to withdraw from ATMs.

You get near-perfect exchange rates

Most normal cards add a 3% 'load' on the exchange rate so £100 of foreign currency actually costs £103. These specialist cards get you the Visa/Mastercard wholesale rate, so it's about as good as it gets, and is cheaper than buying foreign currency.

Plus unlike most cards, it will cost you little or nothing to withdraw cash from an overseas ATM.

Grab the plastic and use it to spend or withdraw cash as your normally would. As it's a UK account, just pay it off at home.

ALWAYS set up a direct debit to pay it off in full each month to avoid paying interest on any spending. You'll pay a month's interest on credit card cash withdrawals, but this is almost negligible compared to the benefits.

Creation Everyday - Worldwide 0% load & no cash withdrawal fee

No fees to spend worldwide, and low cash withdrawal charges

Creation Everyday Credit Card

The Creation Everyday card has no foreign exchange fee anywhere in the world, so you'll get the best rate possible. Spending is free, and cash withdrawals have no fee (although you will pay interest from when you make them, until they're paid off). Use it abroad yourself, or if you've a son or daughter heading abroad - maybe for a gap year or similar - make them a secondary cardholder. It's cheaper than transferring cash all the time.

  • There's no fee for cash withdrawals, though you'll be charged interest at 12.9% representative APR until you pay it off in full. So it works out at about £1/month for each £100 withdrawn (if you get this APR). You will initially be charged a foreign exchange fee, but it will be refunded back to you automatically – you'll see it on your statement.
  • But there's a trick to minimise this cost. You're only charged interest until you've fully repaid the balance, so if you pay off the withdrawal amount as soon as you can (via internet banking while abroad, or when you get home) you can minimise interest.
  • The rate you'll get is set by Mastercard, which you can check here.
  • Some poorer credit scorers will get 17.9% or 21.9% APR, which will make cash withdrawal interest more expensive.
Stats box
  • Exchange rate fee: Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawal fee: None | Interest on cash withdrawals? Yes, until it's repaid in full
  • Representative APR on spending: 12.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Interest rate on ATM withdrawals: 12.9%
  • Card issuer: Mastercard
Key question

Are there any limits on cash withdrawals? If you're making a lot of ATM withdrawals, be aware that you can only withdraw a total of £300 per day.

Free bank transfers (BOTH need the account)

A number of banks allow you to transfer money to linked banks overseas without a fee though usually it's just an overseas arm of the same banking group. So if both you and the person you want to send money to open accounts, you can move money between them cheaply.

There is one major difference though. One allows you to send money to anyone who holds an account with the same bank overseas, while the other group requires both the UK and the foreign account to be in YOUR name.

Who's it suitable for?

This is best for regular movements of money to people who stay in one country. Typical examples include:

  • Regular cash to family members who live overseas.

  • Payments for services on homes abroad.


Free worldwide transfers to HSBC accounts

HSBC's transfer service is free for Premier and Advance current account holders transferring money to any other HSBC account, as long as you transfer through their online banking system.

If the recipient doesn't have an HSBC account, the transfer will cost £4. Transferring by telephone or in branch is more expensive and costs £9.

It's worth checking HSBC's exchange rates, as they're not always the best. So compare with the specialist international transfer companies below. It may be that, even with a fee, their exchange rate's much better, and effectively cancels out the fee.

Transfer limits depend on how you send the money. The free online option is limited to £50,000, transferring by telephone is £10,000, whereas an unlimited limit applies to transfers via branch. If you need to transfer large amounts of money by branch, paying a £30 fee while transferring £50,000+ is marginal.

Thinking about using HSBC? Click here for more info

Fee-free to your foreign account

A number of banks also have relationships that allow you to send money without a fee at good exchange rates. However, both the UK account, and the one in the country you are sending to, usually need to be in your name.

This means it's more useful if you have a second home abroad, for example, and need to pay bills, but less so for sending cash to friends and family.

  • To India. If you open a State Bank of India UK Instant Access Savings Account and maintain a minimum balance of £500, you can send money to any Indian bank account via its remittance service.

  • USA, Hong Kong, and more. HSBC offers fee-free same day transfers to 28 countries, but you need its Premier bank account (to qualify for this account you need £50k savings or a £100k salary (which must be paid into your HSBC account) and a mortgage, life insurance or protection product with HSBC.

    Lloyds Bank offers a similar Premier International account which operates in euros and US dollars. It requires a minimum £100,000 income, or the same amount to invest. You'll be able to make free international money transfers online, by phone, or by standing order.

  • To Scandinavian & Baltic countries. Danske Bank has branches in Northern Ireland, plus online banking, and if you have one of its accounts, you can transfer to any other account you hold in the Danske group. The Danske Bank Group operates in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Germany, Poland, Luxembourg, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Know any not here? If you know of another bank offering fee-free transfers to a specific country, please let us know.

Online services for one-off small payments, from £1

A number of companies allow you to send money online, either through e-commerce systems or simply by moving your money into someone else's bank account, but the correct system depends on how much money you want to send.

Who's it suitable for?

This is generally suitable for non-urgent transfers of smaller amounts of money. Typical examples include:

  • Payments for goods received, eg, on eBay.

  • Sending a one-off sum of money to a friend/family member overseas, e.g. for Christmas gifts.

It is very important to be aware that no compensation scheme exists if these firms were to go bust - read full details in Am I protected?

There are a number of UK firms designed specifically for international money transfers. You pay them in sterling, usually via internet transfer, which they convert and send to the receiving bank within two to four working days. You'll need to set up an account and have your address verified first, which can take a few days.

For smaller amounts, the options below are worth considering. But if you have a big overseas purchase to make - £5,000 or more - you're better off calling up a forex broker. See below for step-by-step help.


Send to over 190 countries from £1


Online-only transfer service Azimo* allows you to send money to most countries in the world and its low fees make it great for sending smaller amounts. Rates are competitive with other companies in this guide though always check.

Plus, if you apply by 30 June and use promo code: AZ-MSE10, you'll get £10 off your first transaction if sending £100 or more.

How does this work?
  • Fees start from £1 for bank transfers, £12 for SWIFT payments and up to £1 for mobile top-ups. The exact fee will be shown when you make the transfer, but will be capped at £15.
  • You can send to over 190 countries. SWIFT transfers will generally take up to 24 hours, bank transfers within one to three days, but this varies by the country you're sending it to and the way you pay.
  • You're able to transfer from £10. Azimo says there's no upper limit but the maximum you can transfer by credit or debit card is £3,000.
  • Azimo is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. This means any money you send using the service is kept separate from company accounts. See Is my money protected? for more details.

Low fees to transfer with a peer-to-peer currency service


Peer-to-peer currency specialist Transferwise* lets you transfer cash from as little as £1 online - one of the lowest transfer fees we've seen.

It can do this because you never actually transfer any money. Instead, it has reserves of currency in several different countries. So when you pay into the UK pot, your recipient is paid out of the euro, dollar or rupee pot, depending on where they live.

How does this work?
  • You can trade 36 currencies, including US dollars, euros, Indian rupees, New Zealand and Australian dollars.
  • Fees are low, but vary depending on the currency. It's 80p, plus 0.35% for Euros, 0.4% for US dollars and 0.45% for Australian dollars. The exact fee will be shown when you make the transfer.
  • Your money will arrive in the recipient's bank account within one to four days.
  • You're able to transfer anything from £1 to £1 million - though it's best to check that Transferwise have the funds if you're transferring larger amounts.
  • Transferwise is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means any money you send using the service is kept separate from company accounts. See Is my money protected? for more details.

How does 'peer-to-peer' work?

Currencies Direct

Strong exchange rate, and fee-free if you're sending over £100

Currencies Direct*

Online transfer service Currencies Direct* is good if you're sending more than £100 as it's fee free (only via this link), and its rates are some of the best we've seen.

Plus, if you're likely to transfer a lot within the next six months, you'll be able to get a £40 Amazon voucher if you send £5,000+ abroad in that time.

How does this work?
  • Transfers can be made with around 60 currencies, including euros, US dollars, SA rand, and the Indian rupee.
  • Your rate's dependent on how much you send. The more you transfer, the better the rate (you can transfer up to £25,000 online - call them if you want to transfer more).
  • To get the voucher, you must set up an account & send £5k+ abroad within a 6mth period (in any number of transfers). A £90 Amazon voucher is available if you transfer £10,000+, a £125 voucher if you send £30,000 or £150 voucher if you send £50,000+ in that time.
  • Currencies Direct is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, so any money you send is kept separate from the company's accounts. See Is my money protected? for more details.

Strong exchange rate, and fee free


If you're looking for top rates then OFX* lets you transfer online or over the phone. It has offices in several different countries, which not only means that you can call 24 hours a day (if you need support), but also means that for larger currencies it's not actually transferring cash across borders. Instead, it's paying your recipient from its own in-currency account, meaning you get better rates.

How does this work?
  • OFX can transfer a decent range of currencies - 55 can be transacted online, and cash will usually arrive within one or two days.
  • It's fee free and there's no minimum transfer.
  • OFX is authorised by the FCA, the highest level of regulation it can have - see above for what this means.

Decent rates, and fee-free from £500


Usually better known for its top-pick prepaid travel card, FairFX* also has a fee-free money transfer service provided you're transferring more than £500.

How does this work?
  • It's available in 11 main currencies, including euros, dollars, Indian rupees and Japanese yen. Other currencies are available on request.
  • Your cash will arrive in the receiving account in one to three days.
  • The more you send, the better the rate. You'll get an indication of the rate before you begin the transfer.
  • You can transfer up to £250,000 online, but if you're transferring more than £3,000, call FairFX on 020 7778 7500 and quote "MoneySavingExpert" for a preferential rate.
  • FairFX is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, so any money you send is kept separate from the company's accounts. See Is my money protected? for more details.

Sending larger amounts (£5,000+)

When the amount you wish to transfer jumps to the 'serious' level, the only players able to give a good rate are specialised foreign exchange brokers.

There are a lot of companies, and the same lack of protection applies as above - so be very diligent in checking, as the amount you could lose is huge.

Who's it suitable for?

This method only really adds up for sending a few thousand pounds at least. It's possible to use this method for smaller amounts too, but then it's costlier. Typical examples include:

  • Buying/selling property abroad.

  • Making regular payments - this includes overseas mortgages, bills or a pension.

  • If you're moving abroad and want to convert all your cash.

It is very important to be aware that no compensation scheme exists if these firms were to go bust - read full details in Am I protected?

How to do it?

When transferring larger sums, it's important to remember that even small differentials in exchange rates can make an enormous difference.

Think about it - a 1% rate improvement on £100,000 is a £1,000 gain. So finessing the very best rate takes on even more significance.

  1. Benchmark the rate.

    Quickly go to the Travel Money Maximiser to check out the best rates. That finds the top rates for getting cash when going on holiday, so you should be aiming to beat its best rate, after all fees.

  2. Ask your bank for a quote.

    It's rare your bank will actually be the best buy. But it's a very useful second benchmark. Some have special facilities for existing customers, so it could actually come up trumps.

  3. Use a specialist currency broker.

    These companies buy and sell vast sums of foreign currency which allows them to offer excellent exchange rates because, even if they only make a small percentage profit on every pound, that soon adds up when you're dealing in hundreds of millions of pounds. We've listed our top pick brokers below.

Quick questions:

What do they usually offer?

Should I get quotes around the same time?

What if the rate isn't as good as I'd like?

If the rate is good now and I don't think it'll get better, can I lock it in?

Can I negotiate on the rate?

Top brokers

There is no hard and fast rule to which currency broker is best, so get quotes from all of them to find the the best rate for your currency. The regularly quoted big brokers below are the obvious places to start - though of course, they're still no more protected than any of the others.

Currencies Direct

No fees to send over £100, plus up to £150 Amazon vouchers for larger transfers

Currencies Direct*

Also a top pick for smaller amounts, Currencies Direct* has good rates and is fee-free if you've over £100 to transfer. You'll need to open an account with it before you can start making transfers but transfers under £25,000 can be done online. For bigger transfers, you'll need to give it a call.

Plus, if you're likely to transfer a lot within the next six months, you'll be able to get a £40 Amazon voucher if you send £5,000+ abroad in that time.

How does this work?
  • To get the voucher, you must set up an account & send £5k+ abroad within a 6mth period (in any number of transfers). A £90 Amazon voucher is available if you transfer £10,000+, a £125 voucher if you send £30,000 or £150 voucher is you send £50,000+ in that time.
  • To qualify, you need to sign up to Currencies Direct (using the link above) and send and pay for at least £5,000/£10,000/£30,000/£50,000 of foreign currency trades within six months.
  • Transfers can be made with around 60 currencies, including euros, US dollars, SA rand, and the Indian rupee.
  • Currencies Direct is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, so any money you send is kept separate from the company's accounts. See Is my money protected? for more details.
FC Exchange

Fee free over £3,000, plus up to £125 voucher

FC Exchange*

If you're looking for top rates, FC Exchange* allows you to send money in 50 currencies to bank accounts overseas. It also has a 'best exchange rate guarantee' so that if you've received a better quote from another currency firm, it will - under most circumstances - guarantee to beat it.

How does this work?
  • FC Exchange can transfer 50 currencies either online or over the phone, and money will usually arrive the same day, or next day for far east/Australasia.
  • You can choose a £125 voucher for Amazon, B&Q, Debenhams, House of Fraser, M&S or Ticketmaster if you register before 30 June 2018 and send £50,000 or more through FC Exchange within six months of registering. Send between £5,000 and £14,999 and you get a £40 voucher, send between £15,000 and £49,999 and you get a £90 voucher. The deal is only open for new customers.
  • Vouchers aren't cumulative, meaning if you hit the different thresholds in separate transactions, you'll still get a maximum of £125-worth of vouchers
  • To get the 'best exchange rate guarantee' you need to have got quotes from other companies within the last four hours, and it needs to be for the same value, and same service - and also still achievable for the original broker. Any quotes above the interbank rate at the time you contact FC Exchange won't qualify for the best rate guarantee.
  • Fee free for MoneySavingExpert users transferring £3,000 or more (usually £10,000+), but there's a charge of £10 if you're transferring less.
  • FC Exchange won't do transfers of less than £3,000 unless it's part of a series of regular transfers, so check the providers above if that's what you need.
  • FC Exchange is authorised as by the FCA which means it ringfences your cash from its own operating cash. See Is my money protected? for more details.

Low min transfer amount, plus up to £150 cashback


Whether you need to send large amounts or make regular, smaller payments, Moneycorp* has decent rates. Plus if you click through via our link, you can get cashback up to £150 (see the need-to-knows below) - it's also waived all transfer fees for MoneySavingExpert users.

How does this work?
  • Standard payments take 1-2 days to arrive, but you can opt for a priority service to arrive either on the same day, or next day for countries with large time differences (eg, Australia).
  • To qualify for the £150 credit on account, you need to register via the link above and send at least £50,000 through Moneycorp in one or more transactions over a three month period. If you send less, you'll qualify for a lower amount. You'll receive £125 if you transfer £40,000, £100 if you transfer £30,000, £50 if you transfer £15,000 or £25 if you transfer £10,000. If you make multiple transactions and later payments take you over a cashback threshold, you'll receive the difference in cash back (as long as it's within three months). The deal is only open for new customers who apply before 31 May 2018.
  • Moneycorp has a small minimum limit, meaning you can transfer from £50 online. There's a £250 minimum limit for regular payment plan payments, making it good if you're doing small, regular payments overseas.
  • Transfers can be made online or over the phone.
  • Moneycorp is authorised by the FCA, the highest level of regulation it can have – see above for what this means.

WARNING! There's no compensation scheme

Unlike banks, currency exchange businesses are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, so there's always the risk, if something goes wrong, you won't be guaranteed full compensation (full details in 'how safe is my cash?' above).

Cashback sites may pay you for signing up

As an extra boon, members of specialist cashback websites can be paid when they sign up to some financial products. Do check that it’s exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember the cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it’s in your account. 

Full help to take advantage of this and pros & cons in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

Need to transfer instantly? Last resort instant transfers

The methods above will all take a few days for the money to hit the destination, although check first - some may only take a day and you'll be far better off if you can wait. It's much cheaper than the options below.

But, if speed is paramount, a few companies offer instant cash transfers to thousands of locations anywhere in the world. Be warned, they ain't necessarily cheap...

Who's it suitable for?

Those who need to move cash at speed, or where the recipient doesn't have a bank account in that country. Typical examples include:

  • Emergency funds for a friend/family overseas. If a backpacking son or daughter, or a friend who's had all their cards nicked, needs cash.

It is very important to be aware that no compensation scheme exists if these firms were to go bust - read full details in Am I protected?

Do remember it's far better, if possible, to set up the card system above.

How does it work?

You either go into a branch (there are many in newsagents, post offices and banks) or pay the money online. The recipient then picks it up at an agency at the other end once it's done - they don't need to be there that moment. They can either present ID or, if that's a problem, a code can be used to legitimise the transfer.

The word "cheapest" should only be used advisedly here. This isn't a cheap service, and should only be done if necessary. It's extremely expensive, especially for small amounts, though the recipient won't normally need to pay a fee.

The most important thing to do in this case is to check that there's an agent/branch where the recipient can pick up the cash. The two big operators are Moneygram and Western Union.

If you've the luxury of a choice between the two (they tend to have different agents), check both and choose the cheapest for the amount and country you're sending money to. It's not really a case of being able to say which one will be cheaper in terms of fees, but Western Union tends to win on rates - though not always, so it's another thing you should check. We've done some examples to help illustrate the fees you could face...

Fees for sending cash with Western Union & MoneyGram
Amount Country Western Union - pick up Western Union - to account MoneyGram - pick up MoneyGram - to account
£100 China £6.90 £2.90 £4.90 £4.50
£100 Brazil £6.90 n/a £8.99 £8.99
£100 Australia £5.90 £2.90 £8.99 n/a
£500 USA £24.90 £2.90 £10.99 n/a
£500 Argentina £12.90 n/a £36 n/a
£500 Thailand £21.00 £2.90 £19.99 n/a
£1,000 Sweden £85.00 £2.90 £19.99 £24.99
£1,000 Vietnam £24.90 £2.90 £41 £46
£1,000 Pakistan £19.90 £0 £12.50 n/a

Assumes all transactions made online using a credit/debit card. Different fees apply if you go to an agent and pay cash/card, or if you do a bank transfer online. Fees correct as at Dec 2016.

There are also firms which provide transfers from the UK to specific countries, which can often be found in areas where there's a large community of those of that ethnic origin.

Both the big firms here are Financial Conduct Authority-authorised, which is the highest protection a currency broker can have, though it doesn't mean your money is completely secure - read full details in Am I protected?

International transfers Q&A

What information do I need about the person/business I'm sending money to?

Are there different rules depending on the country I'm transferring to?

How will the money be received?

What happens if things go wrong?

How do I know the money will get there?

Can I get cashback on top?

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