When you need to send money abroad, or pay for something outside the UK, you have a number of options available to you. You could pay for items with a debit or credit card, but unfavourable fees and exchange rates make this an expensive method, especially when it comes to larger ticket items. Cash transfers are easy to set up and can be completed quickly, but fees vary widely and so they may not be worth it for smaller transactions. And there are limitations on sending large amounts via cash transfer, for reasons of security. You could also use your bank or building society, but you're unlikely to secure the best exchange rate this way. It's also rarely the fastest option.
If you're looking to make a one-off money transfer, or a series of regular payments abroad, an international money transfer might be your best choice. For a more detailed look at sending money abroad, check out our guide: Sending money abroad: a guide to international money transfers.
Not all money transfers are created equal
However, bear in mind that you could lose significant amounts of money and time if you fail to select a money transfer provider that's well suited to your needs. You should consider:
How much money you're planning to transfer
There's a vast difference between paying for a case of wine from your favourite French vineyard and sending money overseas to buy a car. Let's say your wine costs €120 and the car costs €20,000. Assuming your provider charges 4% percentage commission, you'd lose €4.80 on your drinks purchase but a whopping €800 on the car. The potential to lose considerable amounts of money is therefore much higher when you're paying for expensive items.
That's not to say you shouldn't try to save the pennies - they certainly add up over time - but do pay particular attention to your transfer provider when dealing in larger figures.
Also, think about how often you'll make international payments, or perhaps you need to make regular transfers. With FX providers such as CurrencyFair, you can set up a recurring transaction to avoid logging in and making the payment. That way, you'll also always get the best exchange rate available.
What's more important to you - speed or saving money?
When it comes to planning, it's also a good idea to think about your priorities in terms of speed vs saving money.
In general, it's better to wait for the best possible exchange rate so you lose the least amount of money on your transfer. However, if time isn't on your side, you might need to sacrifice a favourable rate at the expense of a quick transfer.
There's also the issue of how quickly the transfer takes place, and there's no hard and fast rule for this. International transfers can take between a few hours and a week for your recipient to receive the funds. This is because each bank has to carry out its own anti-fraud and financial crime checks on the payment.
For example, when you send money internationally with CurrencyFair, the entire process from sending in to transferring out usually takes one day but can take longer depending on a number of factors, including how you choose to deposit the money; the specific currencies involved; weekends and public holidays in the UK and beneficiary countries, as well as how quickly the recipient's bank processes the transfer. There are some things within your (and our) control, and some factors that are in the hands of third-parties.
For these reasons, you should plan your money transfer in advance. This offers two key benefits:
- You can transfer when the pound is strongest.
- You and your recipient avoid any unforeseen delays.
You can also then take advantage of CurrencyFair's Marketplace - our unique peer-to-peer exchange where you can set your own rate, and wait for it to be matched by another customer who wants to buy at that price. You might be able to secure an even better rate that way, saving even more money on your transfer.
What currency (or currencies) you need to transfer to
Before you select a provider, you should make sure they serve both the currency you're transferring from and to. Transferring from British pound sterling shouldn't be an issue - it's well supported across most providers, but you'll need to pay particular attention if you're sending money to a less widely traded currency, such as the Thai Baht. For example, CurrencyFair currently supports transferring into 22 currencies - check out the full list here.
Safety and security of your funds
This is an important one. Make sure the provider you choose is fully regulated and can send money internationally. For example, CurrencyFair is a regulated Payment Institution fully authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland. You can therefore feel reassured that your money is always safe and secure with us. In essence, you should always make sure you check a firm's credibility before handing over your money.
Finally, be wise to scams. Unfortunately, millions of Brits are the target of money transfer scams each year. If someone contacts you requesting an international payment, for whatever reason, make sure you can verify the recipient and transfer method. If you're looking for more information about how to avoid financial scams, we've pulled together some tips in an article here.
Shop around for the best money transfer provider
While it's easy to opt for a money transfer method that's readily available to you, such as your bank or debit card, bear in mind that it might not be the most cost-effective or efficient choice. Transferring via a bank is eight times more expensive than sending money with CurrencyFair, for example. For a more detailed look at sending money abroad, check out our guide: Sending money abroad: a guide to international money transfers. It's worthwhile comparing your options before you decide which money transfer option is best for you. And remember that you can have several tools at your disposal - it pays to know which option to use for which type of transfer or payment.