First Direct international money transfer: Transfer times, limits, fees, and exchange rate

Gert Svaiko

Have an account with First Direct or are thinking of joining? If you need the option to send money abroad using First Direct, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of how it all works.

In this guide, we’ll run through the process of making an international transfer from the UK with First Direct. We’ll show you how to get started, what details you’ll need from the recipient and roughly how long your payment will take. And of course, we’ll look at the costs involved, including fees and exchange rates.

Don’t forget that a bank isn’t the only option for sending money to another country. A potentially cheaper and easier alternative is Wise, a money services provider, which lets you send money in 40+ currencies for low fees and great exchange rates.


Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Table of contents

How to make an international money transfer with First Direct in the UK?

The best and easiest way to make an international transfer with First Direct is through its mobile banking app. You’ll already have this if you’re a customer, as you can only open First Direct accounts through its app.

With the app, you can send money 24/7, whether in the UK or to destinations all over the world.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Open the First Direct app and sign in to your account
  2. Select ‘Move Money’
  3. Choose ‘Send money outside the UK’
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions, providing the details of your transfer.
  5. Once you’re happy, confirm the payment.

If you prefer, you can also set up an international transfer through online banking or over the phone. The fees are the same for all methods - we’ll look at these in more detail shortly.

As First Direct doesn’t have its own branch network, you won’t be able to visit a branch in person or talk to an advisor face-to-face to process your transfer.

📚 Read more: The best UK banks for sending money abroad

What do you need to transfer money with First Direct?

To send an international payment, you’ll need to provide bank account details for the recipient in another country.

Here’s what you’ll need to make First Direct international payments:¹

  • The full name of the person you’re sending the money to, as written on the account
  • The recipient’s address
  • The address of the bank you’re sending the money to
  • The recipient’s International Bank Account Number (IBAN). You can check the recipient’s IBAN number with our IBAN checker and we’ll tell you if it’s the right format.
  • The relevant SWIFT/BIC code, routing code, or sort code and national bank code.
  • A payment reference (if needed).

In some cases, you’ll be asked to specify the reason for the transfer, if the recipient bank needs this information because of their system or local laws. First direct might also give you a call to confirm the payment if they have any concerns about fraud or suspicious activity on your account.

How long does a money transfer with First Direct take?

If you're transferring cash in EUR to accounts within the EEA, your money should get there the next working day.

Outside of the EEA, it'll typically take 4 or 5 working days for the payment to arrive. It could- be even longer depending on the country you’re sending the money to.¹

It's also important to remember the cut-off time for processing payments. This varies depending on the currency:²

  • Send before 3.30pm for EUR payments
  • Send before 6pm for USD payments
  • Check with First Direct for cut-off times for payments in other currencies.

And is there any way to make a faster transfer for an extra fee? Unfortunately, First Direct doesn’t offer a way to speed up international payments, not even if you’re willing to pay for the luxury. So if you’re looking to speed things up, you may need to shop around for an alternative money transfer service.

First Direct money transfer limits

Now, how much can you transfer at once with First Direct? Like other UK banks, it has maximum limits on how much you can send per day. This varies based on the method of sending.

Here are the transfer limits you need to know about:¹

Sending method for international transfersMaximum transfer limit
Online bankingUp to £50,000 GBP (or foreign currency equivalent) per day
Phone bankingUp to $5 million USD (or foreign currency equivalent) per day

What’s the maximum amount you can transfer?

As long as you don’t go over the daily limit, you can send up to £50,000 at once through your First Direct online banking. The limit is even higher for payments through telephone banking, where you can send up to £5 million.

However, personal limits may apply to your First Direct account, and you’ll be told about these if you try to make a payment which exceeds them. It’s also worth bearing in mind that extremely large payments, especially those made to accounts overseas, may well be flagged up as fraud.

📚 Read more: First Direct switch offer: how much can you get?


What are the fees for sending money abroad with First Direct?

Now we come to the important question - how much will it cost you to send an international transfer with First Direct?

Here are the charges you need to know about:

Transaction typeFirst Direct fee
Payment to HSBC account anywhere in the worldNo fee
Payment in EUR within the EEANo fee
Payment in EUR outside the EEA£5
Payments in all other currencies outside the UK£5

Additional fees may also apply, in the form of intermediary/correspondent bank charges. We’ll look at these in the ‘Additional fees’ section below.

First Direct exchange rate

First Direct doesn’t publish the exact exchange rates it uses for international payments, but they do confirm the rate when you set up your transaction. You can then choose to accept or reject the rate.

If you’re setting up a transfer which will happen in the future, the rate that’ll apply will be that of the transaction date. This unfortunately means that you don’t get to see it before the transfer is processed, but you can check it afterwards.¹

To make sure they profit on the deal, most banks mark up the mid-market exchange rate and keep the difference. First Direct is likely to do the same. This means that the transfer is a little more expensive for you, as less of your money reaches the recipient.

Additional fees for international payments

Alongside the transfer fee, it’s also useful to know about additional fees that may apply to international payments.

When you send money outside of the UK with a bank like First Direct, it will typically use the SWIFT system. This is a network of banks, through which your payment will travel until it reaches the recipient’s bank.

This may mean that a few different banks are involved, and they may charge their own fees. These are known as correspondent or intermediary bank fees. There’s also a chance that the receiving bank will add its own charge.

Depending where you’re sending money to, you can choose who pays these fees. You can pay them yourself, split them with the recipient or the recipient can cover the full costs.¹

How to contact First Direct?

If you have specific questions about your transfer, there are a couple of different ways you can talk to the advisors at First Direct:

  • First Direct app - select ‘Chat now’
  • Online banking - login and select ‘Message us;
  • Call 03 456 100 100.

Wise – A low-cost alternative to bank transfers

Need to send money overseas? A bank can be a slow and expensive option, especially when it comes to the markup on exchange rates. But luckily, there is a faster, easier and money-saving alternative available from the money services provider Wise.

Open a Wise account online and you can send money worldwide in 40+ currencies in just a few clicks. It’s not a bank account but offers many similar features. Fees are low and transparent, and you’ll always know exactly what you’re paying upfront.

Best of all, you’ll always get mid-market exchange rates, which are usually a lot better than banks can offer. This means that more of your money reaches your recipient.

Sign up with Wise today 💰

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

And that’s it - all the essentials you need to know about First Direct money transfers. It’s pretty easy to send money worldwide using the bank’s mobile app, but it’s sensible to check the costs and compare with other providers first. Those fees, correspondent bank charges and exchange rate markups can quickly add up.

Sources used for this article:

  1. First Direct - International Payments
  2. First Direct - Our Account Terms and Conditions and Charges
  3. First Direct - Contact us

Sources checked on 14-Dec-2023.

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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