The best UK banks for sending money abroad

Zorica Lončar

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.

Best UK banks for international transfer fees and exchange rates

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, 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.

ProviderFeeExchange rateCorrespondent bank feesTotal cost
Wise¹£3.84The real exchange rateNone£3.84
Barclays£0 (online)£25 (branch or phone)²Exchange rate + markup³Varies£0-£25 + exchange rate markup + correspondent fees
Co-operative Bank0.25% (min. £13 to max. £35)Exchange rate + 4% markupVaries£13-£35 + 4% exchange rate markup + correspondent fees
First Direct£0 (online) £4 (phone)⁵Exchange rate + markup⁶Varies£0-£4 + exchange rate markup + correspondent fees
Halifax£9.50Exchange rate + 3.55% markup£12£9.50 + 3.55% exchange rate markup + £12
HSBC UK£4 (online) to £17 (postal)⁸Exchange rate + markup⁹Varies£4-£17 + exchange rate markup + correspondent fees
Lloyds¹⁰£9.50Exchange rate + 3.55% markup£12£9.50 + 3.55% exchange rate markup + £12
Metro Bank¹¹£25Exchange rate + markupVaries£25 + exchange rate markup + correspondent bank fees
Nationwide¹²£20Exchange rate + markupVaries£20 + exchange rate mark-up + correspondent bank fees
RBS£0 (standard) to £15 (urgent)¹³Exchange rate + markup¹⁴Varies£0-£15 + exchange rate markup + correspondent bank fees
Santander UK£25¹⁵Exchange rate + markup¹⁶Varies£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

How long does an international transfer take with UK banks?

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.

ProviderTime to send 1,000 GBP to USD
WiseWithin 2 working days¹
BarclaysSame day¹⁸
Co-operative Bank1-4 working days⁴
First DirectUp to 4 working days⁵
HalifaxUp to 4 working days⁷
HSBC UKUp to 4 working days⁸
LloydsUp to 4 working days¹⁰
Metro Bank2-5 working days¹⁹
NationwideAt least 4 working days¹²
RBS1-2 working days (urgent)¹³2-4 working days (standard)
Santander UKNext working day¹⁵
TSB4 working days²⁰

Wise: A simple and transparent alternative

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 strictly 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.

Join Wise today

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:

  1. Wise - fees
  2. Barclays - international banking tariff guide
  3. Wise - international transfer with Barclays
  4. Co-operative Bank - international payments and exchange rates
  5. First Direct - international payments outside the UK
  6. First Direct - account terms and conditions
  7. Halifax- international payments
  8. HSBC - international money transfer
  9. Wise - international transfer HSBC
  10. Lloyds Bank - international payments
  11. Metro Bank - personal accounts
  12. Nationwide - transfer limits and timescale
  13. RBS - send money abroad
  14. RBS - card currency calculator
  15. Santander - international payments
  16. Santander - current and savings accounts
  17. TSB - banking charges brochure
  18. Barclays - popular countries
  19. Metro Bank - international payments on mobile
  20. TSB - international payments

Sources checked on 20-Oct-2021.

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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