Santander international transfer: Fees, exchange rates and transfer time


International bank transfers, also known as international wires, while often relatively easy to arrange, can unfortunately get fairly costly. And what makes things more complicated is that not all of the charges are spelled out upfront.

Which is why it may not be a bad idea to use an alternative like Wise for your international transfer.

Read on to find out more.

A cost example: Sending $1000 from the US to Canada

ProviderUpfront FeeExchange RateTotal Cost
Wise (US$ to C$)US$8.45The real exchange rateUS$8.45
Santander USA (US$ to C$)US$0¹Exchange rate + likely mark-up⁵US$0 + likely rate mark-up⁵ + likely other bank fees
Santander USA (US$ to US$)US$40¹(not applicable)US$40 + likely other bank fees

You may notice that Santander in the US shows 2 different international wire fees.

  • $0 fee if there are 2 currencies involved
  • $40 fee if there’s only 1 currency involved

Confused why would one international transfer cost $0 and the other $40?¹ It’s pretty simple. Because your $0 transfer is rarely $0.

Why? It has to do with the exchange rate.

Banks and major transfer services generally roll a bulk of their profit into poor exchange rates. Santander even explicitly even states this in their fine print.⁵ Which means if you’re sending the same currency that you want the recipient to receive, the bank can’t build a profit into the exchange rate. Which means, in Santander’s case, they then charge a $40 wire fee.

Why so much more? On average, banks often mark up the rate you see on Google by around 4-6%, and pocket the difference. Which means you should be on the lookout. To see if you’re getting a fair deal, compare the exchange rate you’re offered with the rate you see on Google.

On top of often hidden exchange rate mark-ups, up to 4 other banks often deduct their own fees from your international wire. A cost many don’t expect.

And that’s why free transfers may not be so free after all.

1 santander us bank fees

What are the fees for Santander in the United States?

Before diving into the fees, it might surprise you to find that it’s not only Santander that can charge you for your international transfer.

That’s because most traditional banks make international transfers using the SWIFT system. SWIFT is a global network of banks set up to move money across borders. It works by having up to 3 intermediary banks help move your money to the end recipient, much like if you needed to take a series of connecting flights to get to your ultimate destination. Each of these banks can add their fee — often in the range of $10-$50 — to the transaction cost as they handle your international wire.

Santander USA international transfer fees table

Santander USA International WiresFees and costs
Incoming international wire (in USD)In US dollars: $13¹ + likely other bank feesⁱ
Incoming international wire (in a foreign currency)In other currencies: $0¹ + likely exchange rate mark-upⁱⁱ + likely other bank feesⁱ
Outgoing international wire (USD to USD)In US dollars: $40² + likely other bank feesⁱ
Outgoing international wire (USD to foreign currency)In other currencies: $0¹ + likely exchange rate mark-upⁱⁱ + likely other bank feesⁱ
Outgoing international wire (using only a single non-USD currency)“The fee will be assessed on the monthly service fee date and will be included as part of the monthly service charge. It will not be displayed as an individual wire transfer fee.”³
ⁱOther bank feesIf the wire is made by SWIFT, up to 4 additional banks could deduct their own flat fee.
ⁱⁱExchange rate mark-upSantander notes that they may add a mark-up to the exchange rate they offer you.⁵

With Santander, as you may have noticed above, you can send a international transfer in US dollars, or in some cases, you can specify the amount in the currency of the account the cash is going to. This isn’t an option for every destination, though, so you’ll need to check the small print for your specific needs.⁴

Also, because pricing may vary by destination, currency, and account, double check with your local Santander branch before you make a decision.

2 santander bank exchange rates

Santander USA exchange rates

Understanding the exchange rate is important when arranging an international money transfer. Banks often hide additional profit in a poor exchange rate, so customers can’t see the true cost of the transfer easily.

In regards to the exchange rates they offer clients, Santander notes in its Foreign Exchange Disclosure Notice (bold ours):

Unless otherwise disclosed, Santander will generally attempt to provide you with a single "all-in" price which will include any [bid/offer spread]( efinition). For foreign exchange transactions additional amounts may apply, including (without limitation): (a) the costs related to execution including execution venue fees, clearing and settlement fees and other fees paid to third parties involved in the execution of the transaction; and (b) any sales commission or mark-up ("sales margin") determined taking into consideration a variety of factors including, but not limited to credit and capital charges, processing and service & relationship costs.

Confused yet? They get a bit clearer in that same document:

Santander may (in its own discretion) apply mark-up to your order in accordance with our mark-up policy.⁵

To translate into plain English, Santander is stating that they probably make money on the exchange rate they offer you. That means Santander gets one exchange rate, and then offers you another that’s not as good. And keeps the difference. This profit is often referred to as a “spread” or a “mark-up” — Santander calls it both. And, despite the fact that these spreads are often an average of 4-6% of amount you’re sending, they aren’t stated as a fee or a charge when you set up the wire.

And, because Santander doesn’t publish their rates online, you’ll have to call or go into your local branch to find out the rate for your currency pairing.

However, it may surprise you to find out that Santander may not be the one that decides what exchange rate should be used for your international money transfer. The rate might be selected by an intermediary bank processing the transfer, or the recipient’s own bank when the money arrives.

Unfortunately, in these cases, you won’t be able to see the rate used until after the transaction has been processed. Which may hurt. A lot.

3 transferwise as a santander bank alternative

A cheap and transparent alternative: Wise

If the costs of making an international transfer with Santander seem too opaque and tough to calculate, then it’s good to know that you have other options. Instead of a traditional bank, you might find that you’re better off using an international transfer specialist like Wise. Wise uses the fairest exchange rate out there. No mark-ups and no hidden costs to worry about — just small transparent fee for every transaction.

For people who travel a lot, the Wise borderless multi-currency account could make life even easier. You can hold your cash in any one of dozens of different currencies simultaneously, and move your money between currencies easily. You can even accept domestic payments in regions like the EU, the UK, and Australia using your very own free local bank details.

Find out for yourself if you can get a better deal with Wise, today.

4 how to make an international wire

How do you make an international bank transfer with Santander in the US?

There are several ways you can send money internationally with Santander in the US.

Option 1: In person at a Santander branch

Technically, if you want Santander to do your international wire for you, it will have to be done at your local branch.³ You’ll be asked to provide the details of the recipient and might need to show your own ID documents.

Option 2: Online by connecting your Santander account to Wise


  1. Choose the originating currency and amount in the top box and the corresponding recipient currency in the bottom box
  2. To find out how much Wise costs, click on “Show fee breakdown”ⁱ
  3. Click the green button “Get started”
  4. Fill out your personal information for your Wise accountⁱⁱ
  5. Enter your recipient’s informationⁱⁱⁱ
  6. Make sure you’re happy with the cost and exchange rate
  7. On the final step, you’ll have several options to pay for your transferⁱ

ⁱ The cheapest option for you will likely be bank debit (ACH) or paying by debit/credit card. Bank debit can be slightly slower, but has higher limits than if you pay by debit card. Both options will deduct the money directly from your Santander account.

ⁱⁱ Especially on your first transfer, you may be asked to verify your identity with an ID, address proof, the reason for your transfer, or even your SSN just like you would when you open a bank account in person at a regular financial institution.

ⁱⁱⁱ It may be helpful to note that when sending money through Wise you won’t actually need international banking details for your recipient. You’ll need their local banking details — the same information they would give to a friend inside the country for a domestic bank transfer. That likely means you may not need their SWIFT/BIC code, but more like the domestic equivalent.

5 international wire info needed

What do I need in order to make an international money transfer?

When you place your international money transfer you’ll need to give your bank the following details:³

  • Recipient’s name and address (P.O. boxes aren’t accepted)
  • Recipient’s bank details, including the bank name, branch and address, and account number
  • IBAN number for any transfers going to Europe or the UK
  • SWIFT code of the recipient’s bank and bank code if available

6 info to give to sender

What do I need or what should I give to the sender in order to receive an international bank transfer?

If you’re expecting to receive an international transfer you’ll have to give the sender some information to make sure the money goes to the right place. Each bank will have its own requirements based on the specific details of your transaction, but you may need to pass on the following information:⁶

  • Your own bank’s BIC/SWIFT code
  • Your full name and address, as detailed on the account — not a P.O. box
  • Your Santander bank wire routing number
  • You may be asked for an address for Santander Bank
  • The amount and the currency you’d like to receive the payment in
  • You’ll also want to agree with the sender who will cover the charges applied to the transfer

If you’re sending the transfer via Wise and will be receiving it into your Santander account in the US you can give the person your name and email address and then fill in your bank details yourself later. Otherwise, you can also give the following details:

  • Your email (so you receive notification when the money is sent)
  • Your name and personal address
  • Your ACH routing number and account number
  • Whether your account is checking or savings

7 international transfer time

How long does an international bank transfer with Santander take?

The length of time it takes for an international transfer processed through Santander to be received depends a lot on where it’s headed. You can expect most transfers to take several business days, but it’s worth confirming the exact details for your transfer with branch staff when you arrange it.

8 international transfer help

Contact / Help — More questions around your transfer?

If you need a little more help you can call Santander, send them a secure email, or pop into your local branch.

Whether you decide to stick to your regular bank for your international wire transfer, or use an alternative service, you’ll need to check out both the upfront and intermediary fees, and the exchange rates used. That way you can make sure you’re getting the best service for your specific needs — and not paying too much for it.


Source 1 (June 28, 2018)
Source 2 (June 28, 2018)
Source 3 (June 28, 2018)
Source 4 (June 28, 2018)
Source 5 (June 28, 2018)
Source 6 (June 28, 2018)

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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.

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