Sending money internationally should be easy, right? In these days of cheap flights, multinational companies and instant messaging, you’d have thought that sending money to someone abroad would be as simple as a couple of clicks.
The good news is that it can be, but it all depends on which provider you use. Unfortunately, if you use a bank for an international payment, it can sometimes be a slow, complicated and expensive process.
Of course, some banks are better than others. In this handy guide, we’ll give you the lowdown on which are the best UK banks for sending money abroad. We’ll look at two key areas - cost and how long it takes. So, let’s get started.
The first thing you’ll need to know about when choosing a transfer provider is cost. Using a hypothetical example of sending £1,000 to the US (where it’ll be converted into USD), we’ve compared fees for different providers.
This includes Wise, an international transfer specialist that often beats banks when it comes to fees and exchange rates. As you’ll see, it’s almost always the cheapest option.
As well as the transfer fee, take a close look at the exchange rate in the table below. Compared to the mid-market rate you’d see on Google or XE.com, banks set their own exchange rates. This usually means they add a mark-up or margin, so you get a worse rate and the bank pockets the difference.
The last thing to look at is correspondent fees. When banks send money overseas, they typically use the SWIFT network of banks. This means your money may not go directly to the recipient bank, but pass through many ‘correspondent’ banks along the way. And each of these banks may charge their own fee.
|Provider||Fee||Exchange rate||Correspondent bank fees||Total cost|
|Wise¹||£3.84||The real exchange rate||None||£3.84|
|Barclays||£0 (online)£25 (branch or phone)²||Exchange rate + markup³||Varies||£0-£25 + exchange rate markup + correspondent fees|
|Co-operative Bank⁴||0.25% (min. £13 to max. £35)||Exchange rate + 4% markup||Varies||£13-£35 + 4% exchange rate markup + correspondent fees|
|First Direct||£0 (online) £4 (phone)⁵||Exchange rate + markup⁶||Varies||£0-£4 + exchange rate markup + correspondent fees|
|Halifax⁷||£9.50||Exchange rate + 3.55% markup||£12||£9.50 + 3.55% exchange rate markup + £12|
|HSBC UK||£4 (online) to £17 (postal)⁸||Exchange rate + markup⁹||Varies||£4-£17 + exchange rate markup + correspondent fees|
|Lloyds¹⁰||£9.50||Exchange rate + 3.55% markup||£12||£9.50 + 3.55% exchange rate markup + £12|
|Metro Bank¹¹||£25||Exchange rate + markup||Varies||£25 + exchange rate markup + correspondent bank fees|
|Nationwide¹²||£20||Exchange rate + markup||Varies||£20 + exchange rate mark-up + correspondent bank fees|
|RBS||£0 (standard) to £15 (urgent)¹³||Exchange rate + markup¹⁴||Varies||£0-£15 + exchange rate markup + correspondent bank fees|
|Santander UK||£25¹⁵||Exchange rate + markup¹⁶||Varies||£25 + exchange rate markup + correspondent bank fees|
|TSB¹⁷||£10 (online) to £20 (branch or phone)||Exchange rate + markup||£6||£10-£20 + exchange rate markup + £6|
As well as cost, you’ll want to know which UK banks are quickest at getting your money where it needs to go. Here’s a quick look at average timescales for sending international payments, using the example of sending 1,000 GBP to USD from above.
|Provider||Time to send 1,000 GBP to USD|
|Wise||Within 2 working days¹|
|Co-operative Bank||1-4 working days⁴|
|First Direct||Up to 4 working days⁵|
|Halifax||Up to 4 working days⁷|
|HSBC UK||Up to 4 working days⁸|
|Lloyds||Up to 4 working days¹⁰|
|Metro Bank||2-5 working days¹⁹|
|Nationwide||At least 4 working days¹²|
|RBS||1-2 working days (urgent)¹³2-4 working days (standard)|
|Santander UK||Next working day¹⁵|
|TSB||4 working days²⁰|
Send money internationally with Wise and you don’t need to worry about exchange rate mark-ups and correspondent fees. You’ll only pay one small, transparent fee, and you’ll always get the real exchange rate. It could also be much quicker, as Wise doesn’t send payments through the SWIFT network like banks do.
Wise is FCA regulated and uses the latest security and anti-fraud measures to keep your money safe. So, you can make international transfers quickly, cheaply and securely too.
After reading this, you’ll have a handy at-a-glance guide to the best UK banks for international transfers. This means you can easily compare the cheapest and the quickest, along with alternatives such as Wise, which could prove the best solution.
Sources used for this article:
- Wise - fees
- Barclays - international banking tariff guide
- Wise - international transfer with Barclays
- Co-operative Bank - international payments and exchange rates
- First Direct - international payments outside the UK
- First Direct - account terms and conditions
- Halifax - international payments
- HSBC - international money transfer
- Wise - international transfer HSBC
- Lloyds Bank - international payments
- Metro Bank - personal accounts
- Nationwide - transfer limits and timescale
- RBS - send money abroad
- RBS - card currency calculator
- Santander - international payments
- Santander - current and savings accounts
- TSB - banking charges brochure
- Barclays - popular countries
- Metro Bank - international payments on mobile
- TSB - international payments
Sources checked on 20-Oct-2021.
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 TransferWise 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.
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