Money transfer fees: What banks charge and low-cost ways of sending money internationally

Zorica Lončar

Need to send money to a friend or family member in another country? Perhaps you’re booking an international trip or have expenses to cover for an overseas holiday home. Whichever is the case, you’ll need to find the best and cheapest way to send money internationally.

In this guide, we’ll be putting global money transfer fees under the microscope. We’ll look at what they are, what different banks charge in transfer fees and low-cost alternatives which could save you some money.

This includes Wise, which only ever charges low, transparent transfer fees. You’ll see exactly what you’ll pay upfront, and there are never any hidden costs. Best of all, you’ll get mid-market exchange rates.

What are money transfer fees?

Most providers of international money transfer services charge an upfront fee, although not absolutely all of them do. This fee may be a fixed charge, or it may be a percentage of the total amount you’re sending.

Just a word of warning about providers that promise ‘zero transfer fees’. They may not charge you an upfront transfer fee, but there may be extra costs hidden elsewhere.

For example, the provider may add a margin or mark-up to the mid-market exchange rate. This is how they make their profit. But it means that less of your money arrives at its destination, so the transfer ends up costing you more overall.

Money transfer fees - UK banks compared

So, how much will it cost you in fees to send money abroad using your bank? Below is our at-a glance roundup of the latest UK bank fees for money transfers. If your bank isn’t on the list, it’s likely because it doesn’t permit international transfers.

We’ll look at each provider in more detail next.

Bank/provider and accountInternational transfer fees
HSBC - Advance Account£0 to £5
Royal Bank of Scotland - Reward Account£0 to £30
The Co-operative Bank - Current Account£0 to £35
Nationwide Building Society - FlexDirect Account£0 to £20
Lloyds Bank - Classic Account£0 to £9.50
NatWest - Reward Account£0 to £30
Halifax - Current Account£0 to £9.50
TSB - Spend & Save Account£0 to £20
Starling Bank - Current Account£5.50 + 0.4% (for SWIFT payments)
First Direct - 1st Account£0 to £5
Santander - Edge Account£0

HSBC Advance Account¹

With HSBC’s standard current account Advance, you can send money outside the UK for the following fees:

  • £12 for transfers to Europe, or for payments in euros to a European country
  • £20 for transfers outside of Europe, or for payments in all other currencies.

There’s also a charge of up to £60 for receiving international transfers into your UK bank account held with HSBC.

Royal Bank of Scotland - Reward Account¹

If you have a Reward Account with RBS, you can send money internationally with no charge if you use mobile or digital banking. If you need your payment to arrive urgently, it’ll cost £15.

Use phone or in-branch banking services to send your transfer, and you’ll pay up to £30 depending on the currency.

There’s also a charge of up to £7 to receive international payments into your RBS account, if the payment is over £100. Receiving euro payments is free regardless of the amount.

The Co-operative Bank - Current Account¹

The Co-op Bank charges the following fees for international transfers for current account holders:

  • Up to £35 for payments to Europe, although it’s free to send euros to an EU member state via SEPA
  • 0.25% (min. £8, max. £35) for transfers outside of Europe.

The bank also charges up to £6 to receive international transfers into your UK account, depending on the amount and currency. However, it’s free to receive less than £100, or over £100 if the currency is euro or Swedish krona.

Nationwide Building Society - FlexDirect Account¹

FlexDirect Account holders at Nationwide will pay a fee of £20 for all international transfers, with one exception. This is for payments sent in euros to an EU member state.

There’s no fee charged by Nationwide to receive international payments into your UK account.

Lloyds Bank - Classic Account¹

The Lloyds Bank Classic Account charges £9.50 for international payments, except for payments sent in euros which are fee-free.

There’s a fee of between £2 and £7 to receive overseas payments into your Lloyds current account, depending on the amount and currency.

NatWest - Reward Account¹

If you have a Reward Account with NatWest, the international transfer fees are exactly the same as at sister bank RBS. This means that most standard global transfers are fee-free, with a £15 charge if you need your payment to arrive urgently.

There’s a fee of up to £30 to make a transfer via phone or in-branch banking services.

There’s also a charge of up to £7 to receive international payments into your NatWest account, if the payment is over £100. Receiving euro payments is free regardless of the amount.

Halifax - Current Account¹

With the Halifax Current Account, there’s a fee of £9.50 for all global transfers. The only exception is payments sent in euros, which are fee-free.

The fee to receive international payments into your UK account is between £2 and £7 depending on the currency and amount.

TSB - Spend & Save Account¹

To send an international transfer as a TSB Spend & Save Account holder, you’ll be charged up to £20. Here’s how the fees break down:

  • No fee for euro payments to an EEA country
  • Up to £20 for payments sent to Europe (not in euros)
  • £10 fee for payments under £5,000 sent via online banking outside of Europe
  • £17.50 fee for payments over £5,000 sent via online banking outside of Europe
  • £20 fee for payments sent in branch or over the phone.

TSB charges between £2 and £7 to receive international payments, depending on the amount.

Starling Bank - Current Account²

Starling Bank charges a flat rate delivery fee of £5.50 for all overseas transfers made via SWIFT, plus an additional 0.4% transfer fee. You can also choose to send money through one of Starling’s local delivery partners. The 0.4% transfer fee is the same, but the delivery fee tends to be much lower.

There’s no charge to receive international payments into your account, but only in Sterling.

First Direct - 1st Account¹

First Direct charges up to £5 to send payments to a destination in Europe, and £5 for any other international transfers.

There’s a fee of between £2 and £7 to receive international payments into your 1st Account, depending on the amount and the origin of the payment.

Santander - Edge Account¹

Santander is quite unique among UK banks in that it doesn’t charge any fees for international payments. You can also receive them for free into your UK-based Santander Edge Account.

Is there a way to send money transfers for free?

Some providers do offer ‘fee-free’ or ‘commission-free’ transfers. But as we’ve pointed out above, it’s important to check that there aren’t any other charges which could make your transfer more costly. For example, you might get a poorer exchange rate than with a provider that charges a small fee. This could end up costing you more than paying the small upfront fee.

This is why it’s important to factor in both the fee and the exchange rate, and to be a little wary of so-called ‘free’ transfer services.

There’s also the matter of correspondent or receiving bank fees. These aren’t charged by your bank when it sends the transfer, but by any other banks involved in the transfer along the way - including the recipient’s bank. This is often the case when money is sent internationally using the SWIFT network of banks.

A quick cost comparison

To demonstrate how much the exchange rate can affect the overall cost of your transfer, let’s do a quick hypothetical example. Let’s say you want to send £500 to a friend in Germany (a GBP to EUR transfer).

Here’s how much it’ll cost with a handful of the banks and providers in our table above. For this example, we’ll use the exchange rate offered by each provider at the time of writing. Keep a close eye on it, as it makes all the difference to the total cost.

ProviderTransfer feeExchange rateTotal fees
Wise³£4.431.16463 - mid-market rate, no hidden fees£4.43
Starling Bank³£2.301.15764 -  includes £2.98 in hidden fees£5.28
NatWest³£01.11519 - includes £21.23 in hidden fees£21.23
Nationwide³£201.14000 - includes £10.15 in hidden fees£30.15

Looking for an alternative to a bank? Get low-fee global transfers with Wise

If you’re concerned about the fees and poor exchange rates offered by banks for sending international transfers, it’s good to know there are alternatives out there.

Open a Wise account online and you can send money worldwide in 40+ currencies, all for low fees and the mid-market exchange rate. This rate has no markup or margin added, and there are no hidden fees. With Wise, fees are fully transparent and available upfront - so you know exactly what you’ll pay before you hit ‘send’.

Wise isn’t a bank account but it offers many similar features. It’s a powerful multi-currency account, which lets you hold, send and convert between 40+ currencies all in one place. This is far better than what most banks offer, which is often just a foreign currency account limited to one currency at a time.

You can also receive money for free in 9 major currencies, and spend like a local in 150+ countries with your own Wise debit card.

Sending international payments with Wise is transparent, secure and reliable, and it could save you some money.

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 - our helpful roundup of what UK banks charge in money transfer fees, so that you can compare options.

Just remember to look out for those hidden charges, whether it’s a mark-up on the exchange rate or a fee charged by the receiving bank in another country.

And of course, take a look at Wise for a convenient, secure way to send money worldwide for less.

Sources used for this article:

  1. Money Helper - Compare bank account fees and charges
  2. Starling Bank - Send Money Abroad
  3. Wise - Send Money

Sources checked on 14-Jan-2024.

*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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