Need to transfer money out of the UK? Whether you’re running a business, sending money to relatives in far-flung countries, or making a one-off payment, if you’re sending cash abroad, this guide will help you find the cheapest, quickest and easiest options—all without the sting of rip-off fees.
Choosing how best to transfer money out of the UK depends largely on three main factors. To help choose the right provider, you’ll be thinking about where the money needs to go, how much you’re sending, and how fast you need it to arrive.
Sending money from the UK: Fees and what they mean
Any way you transfer money out of the UK will incur fees, but some rates are much lower than others. It’s important to note that charges or commission can be incurred by both the sender and recipient. Be wary of companies offering ‘fee-free’ transfers. They’ll often adjust the exchange rates instead to make money.
Exchange rates change constantly too, even by the minute. And not all providers give exact info. So bear that in mind when making comparisons. Getting the best value ultimately comes down to how many pounds, Euros, dollars etc. you’ll be left with after all the charges. So the real figure you really need to pay attention to is the total amount the recipient will receive.
What are the risks when I transfer money out of the UK?
Of course, you want to make sure your transfer is secure, as well as cheap and fast. So how do you decide who to trust? There are some fine-print details to assess the risks involved. Banks have protection in place in the event they go bust, but money transfer companies operate differently. If you want to really do your homework, you can research how long the provider has been in business, what size company it is and what its annual turnover is.
If you don’t have time for financial detective work, the two main types of company operation you want to be aware of are:
Authorised: This means that the provider is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They’ll keep your money separate from their own accounts, which means it should be protected if the firm gets into financial difficulty.
Registered: This usually applies to smaller companies. It means that your money isn’t necessarily protected if the company goes bust. However, for small, one-off transfers, it might be a calculated risk worth taking.
You can check whether a provider is authorised or registered on the FCA register.
Regular bank transfers: The pros and cons
Sending money abroad via your bank isn’t usually the fastest method. It takes 1-3 days if you pay for an express service, but a standard transfer can be up to 4-6 business days. Transfer time also depends where the destination account is held.
For example, payments in Euros or US dollars can sometimes be done on the same day if they’re transferred before the bank’s cut-off time.
- It’s very secure. Banks have strict anti-fraud measures and financial regulations in place, so offer the best level of protection
- Easily done via your existing online banking. You’ll need your IBAN—International Bank Account Number and BIC—Bank Identifier Code. You can usually find these at the top of your main account page
- No fees if you’re moving to and from certain accounts with HSBC. Most high street banks don’t offer fee-free transfers unless you’ve got serious coin in the bank. For example, Lloyds requires at least £100k. However, NatWest offers a fee-waiver on standard transfers under £10k
- Not super fast (unless you pay the urgent fee)
- Fees of up to £25
TransferWise: Easy, economical, solid reputation
TransferWise has been operating globally since 2011, and with transfers starting as low as £1, it has some of the lowest fees around.
How to use TransferWise
TransferWise works in a few, simple steps. First, you need to sign up for a free account, using desktop, mobile or either the iOS or Android apps.
Then you provide the recipient’s name and bank details. They don’t need a TransferWise account for you to send them money. You can send money to yourself (e.g. savings), another individual or a business.
You can then pay for your transfer by credit or debit card, or by local bank transfer to TransferWise’s UK bank account. The provider’s smart technology links local banks all over the world. Once you’re all set up, you and your recipient will get an estimate of when the money will arrive.
TransferWise: An overview
- Send 36 currencies, including US Dollars (USD), Euros (EUR), Indian Rupees (INR), New Zealand (NZD) and Australian Dollars (AUD)
- Low transaction fees
- Transfer time up to 3 days—usually closer to 1 day
- Authorised by the FCA
OFX: Decent rates, lots of customer support
Formerly called UKForex, OFX is a global money transfer company with offices in the US, Australia, Hong Kong and Canada. Registration is a three-step process. First, you need to fill in your details on the registration page (there is no obligation to transfer anything at this time).
Then you choose between a personal or business account. Someone from OFX will call you to walk you through the setup. It’s worth checking out the FAQ page too. Step three is verification; in most cases this can be done automatically.
If you have to send documents, it will take a few business days to complete registration. You’ll usually need a photo ID and proof of address. But you can’t use one form of ID to cover both.
Once you’re up and running, you just enter your recipient’s bank details, then transfer the funds via debit card (personal transfers only) or online. OFX does not apply transfer fees, but there may be third party fees from the receiving bank or an intermediary for the conversion. There is also 24/7 support and an app.
OFX: An overview
- Minimum transfer £100
- Transfer times 1–2 days
- Global network of banks
- 50+ Currencies including US Dollars (USD), Australian Dollar (AUD), United Arab Emirate Dirham (AED), Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), Canadian Dollar (CAD) and Indian Rupees (INR)
- Authorised by the FCA
XE Money Transfer: No minimum transfer, instant quote and send money to over 100 countries
XE Money Transfer has a network of 130 +countries that you can transfer to. These include the Euro area countries, the USA, Australia, Mauritius, Thailand, New Zealand and India.
You’ll need to set up an account online or over the phone, which can take a bit of time—there are a lot of questions to answer. So it’s probably not going to be worth the trouble if you’re an infrequent sender. But once you’re up and running it’s all pretty simple.
Like other providers, you can select a personal or business account. Confirm the currency you want to exchange, the amount you want to send and the destination account. You’ll get an instant quote via SMS. Then you can confirm your payment method which can be via bank transfer, debit or credit card.
XE doesn’t charge fees. But again, that doesn’t mean you won’t be charged by third parties. Transfer time is one day, but it can take up to four working days for the money to clear in the receiving account.
XE Money Transfer: An overview
- No transfer fees
- Competitive exchange rates
- 60 currencies
- 24/7 account support and management
- Track payments by email and SMS
- Top security and encryption (also FCA authorised)
Western Union: User-friendly, 200+ countries
Western Union’s website is easy to use, and there’s no need to set up an account. Just select where you want to send the cash via the drop-down menu of 200+ countries. Then you’ll get a summary of the exchange rate, transfer fee, transfer total, delivery time, and the amount the receiver will get in their currency.
Once you’ve done that, there are click-through options for payment via bank, cash or card payment—which varies per country.
It’s convenient for small amounts, as you can send up to £799.99 without ID verification. If you want to send a larger amount you’ll likely have to go through ID verification. Money usually clears in the receiving account in 2-4 working days.
Western Union: An overview
- No account setup
- Speedy option for small sums
- Transfer tracking
- FCA authorised
Azimo: Simple, secure, speedy
Azimo is a relative newcomer, having initially launched in 2012. The easiest way to use it is via the iOS or Android app. You can set up and send money the same day, following a three-step process. To set up an account, you’ll just need to register with your email address and password. Next, enter your date of birth, residential address, and mobile number.
Then, enter your recipient’s details and choose the transfer type (online or cash pickup), and account details. Once that’s done, choose your amount. You can send as little as £10 or up to £12000 for card payments, but there’s no cap on online bank transfers.
The first two transfers are free. The biggest bonus is speed—transfers are as fast as 30 minutes when sent direct to the bank. SWIFT payments are processed in 24 hours, and cash pickups can be ready in as little as one hour. Mobile wallet top-ups are instant. The fastest method is card payment, so use that rather than online transfer if you have a need for speed.
You can track progress, but there isn’t the same 24/7 customer support as with some other providers.
Azimo: An overview
- Simple, three-step process
- Competitive exchange rates
- £10–£12,000 via card payment. No cap on online payment
- Multiple transfer types (online, cash pickup, money wallet)
Setting up a digital bank account: Sending money on the move
Digital banks are fast becoming a top option for international use. Check out our piece on the UK’s digital-only banks for a full run-down.
Digital banks like Monzo, with its signature coral card, and Revolut, the digital nomad darling, offer competitive rates for international transfers and withdrawals.
So far, Monzo’s strength is in international withdrawals. However, Revolut offers decent rates, charging only 0.5% for transfers above £5000 per month. It currently offers 30 currencies, which is lower than most money transfer providers.
You can set up accounts with digital banks in minutes too, so if you want to manage and move money abroad, then it’s a great option.
If you want to live in a particular part of the world, you’ll need to keep an eye on comparison sites like Monito.com or FX Compared.com to determine the best option on any given day. Costs given are indicative based on current pricing, and total costs refers to exchange or intermediary fees.
Best ways to send money to European countries
If you need to transfer money out of the UK to countries within the EU, like France, Italy, Spain and Greece, then TransferWise ranks highly. We found something like 50p total costs on a £100 transfer, paid via bank transfer, for next-day transfer.
For non-Eurozone countries like Poland and Denmark, it’s best to check by individual country. So far for Denmark, Western Union seems to offer the best deal, with 71p total costs on a £100 transfer via bank transfer, and a speed of 3-5 days. If you want to send money to Poland, TransferWise might be the top-rated option, with costs of 77p on £100 paid by bank transfer.
Transatlantic transfers: Sending cash to the USA and Canada from the UK
From what we have seen, TransferWise works out as the cheapest, most reliable option for sending money from the UK to USA or Canada, with next-day transfers and exchange costs at under £2 based on a transfer amount of £100.
South Asia: Transferring money from the UK to India and Pakistan
So far, TransferWise also seems to be the top provider for transferring money to countries in South Asia. For Pakistan, TransferWise is probably your best bet, with same-day transfers and total exchange costs of 31p, based on transferring £100 via bank transfer. Sending £100 to India via TransferWise costs £1.72 when paid by debit card, and should arrive the following day.
Sending money down under: UK to Australia transfers
When you need to transfer money out of the UK, Western Union seems to offer a solid deal for Australia, with a total cost of just 19p on £100, which should arrive in 3-5 working days when done via bank transfer.
For New Zealand, it seems like TransferWise comes out on top, with next-day transfers for a total cost of 85p based on a £100 transfer paid via bank account.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Article first published in April, 2020. Last updated August 13, 2020.