Check out our comparison of PayPal vs. bank transfers in the UK, including fees, transfer times, limits, exchange rates and more.
Need to send money to friends and family abroad, or pay a business for goods or services? Whether you’re sending a birthday gift or covering the rent for your holiday home, you’ll need to know how to make an international bank transfer.
Making an international payment is often quick and simple these days, especially via online banking. But you’ll still need to make sure you have the right bank details for your recipient. This is what we’ll focus on here in this guide, showing you how to make a payment overseas from your UK bank account.
But remember - banks aren’t the only option when it comes to sending money overseas. You can also send money with Wise for low fees and the mid-market exchange rate. It’s safe, reliable and super easy to set up online, plus you can swerve those high bank fees.
You have several options for sending money abroad. The right one for you all depends on your circumstances, bank and where you’re sending to. Some of the possibilities are:
- Sending cash - This sounds very simple, especially if you simply use the mail, but it’s also insecure. If your money goes missing, you may have little comeback. Using Western Union or a similar service provider can be safer, and may accept cash over the counter. Again though, that can pose risks with security and scams. If you choose this option, make sure you’re using an official provider.
- Bank transfer - Sending money to someone else’s bank account directly from yours is a secure option. It’s straightforward in some cases, especially now online banking is the norm. However, it can be tricky if your bank doesn’t support the foreign currency you want to use. It’s also useful to know that banks often send the money to the recipient as an international SWIFT transfer, which means that there can be up to 3 intermediary banks involved and they can each charge you a fee, and many receiving banks charge a fee as well.
- Using a specialist provider - This option gives you added flexibility, especially if you use a provider like Wise which supports a lot of currencies. You pay the money into the provider’s account, then they exchange your money to the correct currency of the recipient and pay the sum directly into the recipient’s bank account.
- International Money Order - One of the oldest options, this way of paying may allow you to hand over cash at a Post Office or pay online, depending on the company you use. A major drawback is that there can be a hefty fee involved when the recipient wants to cash the order.
What details to give for a bank transfer will depend on the country you’re sending to, and the currency.
To give you an idea of what you’ll need, take a look at the table below. If you’re unsure, you should always check with your bank. They’ll be able to let you know the requirements for the country you’re sending to.
|Country you’re sending to||Local currency||Details you’ll need|
|US¹||US dollars (USD)|
|Australia²||Australian dollars (AUD)|
|Spain (and other eurozone countries)³||Euro (EUR)|
|Poland⁴||Polish zloty (PLN)|
|India⁵||Indian rupee (INR)|
Want to send money across the pond? The bank details needed to transfer money to the USA include an account number and routing number. The latter is also known as an ABA routing number or routing transit number (RTN), and it’s a 9-digit number assigned to each financial institution in the United States.⁶
You’re likely to need these details along with the recipient details, and perhaps the bank’s SWIFT/BIC code too. International bank account numbers (IBANs) aren’t used in the US.
You’ll often be given the option to add a reference when sending a bank transfer. This is a message to the recipient, so that they can easily identify the purpose of the transaction.
For example, you could enter an invoice or receipt number if paying a business. Or write “birthday gift” when sending money to a friend or family member.
You should always be careful when disclosing bank or other financial details, especially to someone you don’t know. You shouldn’t ever give out your PIN or the three-digit security code for your card, or any online banking passwords.
However, it’s generally considered to be safe to share your bank account details.⁷ This is because your account number and sort code can’t be used to access your account or your money. And ultimately, you’ll need to give out your bank details if you want to receive a payment.
It all depends where you’re sending to and how many banks are involved in the transaction. But generally speaking, international bank transfers should clear within 2-5 days.⁸
The cost of an international transfer depends on your bank, the currency and amount, and where your recipient is in the world.
You can usually expect to pay a bank fee - check with your bank to see how much this will be. There may also be intermediary and receiving bank charges on top of that.
But that’s not all. There’s also currency conversion to think about. Banks tend to use exchange rates that include a margin or mark-up on the mid-market exchange rate. This is essentially a kind of hidden cost, and could end up making your transfer more expensive.
But, if you send money with Wise instead of a bank, you don’t have to worry about high fees or poor exchange rates. You’ll only pay a small transparent fee per transfer, and you’ll always get the mid-market exchange rate - no strings attached.
And that’s it - everything you need to know about sending an international bank transfer.
We’ve mainly looked at the details you’ll need from your recipient, but other info on fees, exchange rates and transfer times should also prove helpful. You should now be all set to make your first international payment.
- Telegraph - Send money to USA from UK
- Key Currency - Transfer money from UK to Australia
- Telegraph - How to transfer money to Spain from the UK
- WorldRemit - Poland bank transfer
- Telegraph - Send money to India from the UK
- WorldFirst - Routing numbers
- Sumup - What is a sort code?
- Inpay - How long do international bank transfers take?
Sources last checked on date: 18-Dec-2022
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
Ria Money Transfer®1 and Instarem®2 offer easy digital international money transfer services from the UK. Ria Money Transfer specialises in personal...
Ria Money Transfer®1 and WorldRemit®2 are both trusted and established international money transfer services which allow you to send payments abroad from the...
Looking to send money overseas from the UK? Perhaps you have family in other countries, have bills to pay on a holiday home or want to send an international...
If you’re sending money to a different country, you’ll need to know when it’ll arrive. This is why many transfer services offer tracking, so you can check in...
Need to send money over to Pakistan? The act of sending money overseas is nowadays a widespread phenomenon. Whether it’s expats supporting their families back...