Cheapest ways to make international money transfers

By:

Date: 7 March 2022

A man makes an international money transfer using an app on his phone

Whilst it may sound absurd, sending money overseas from the UK is not a strong point for banks. Despite handling vast sums of money globally, banks are generally a sluggish and expensive option when making international money transfers. Making foreign currency transfers remains a significant issue for those who need to regularly send and receive money abroad, make global business payments or simply control their FX reserves.

How much do UK banks charge for international money transfers?

Because of the outdated systems, particularly with wire transfers, payments can take days to send. Banks also charge up to £30 in fixed fees and as much as 4% in exchange rate margins. Banks are more interested in earning interest on the loans they provide to businesses and individuals than making currency transfers so they have no incentive to be competitive in the money transfer market.

How to transfer money to an international bank account?

Money transfer companies are by far the cheapest way to send money internationally because this is their focus. They're often fintech companies that specialise in FX, taking advantage of the market liquidity and newer payment infrastructures, presenting their service as an easily digestible app.

Although payment solutions like PayPal may appear to offer efficient international transfers, this couldn't be further from the truth. The reality is there are still many expensive online payment services that aren't banks, like PayPal, Western Union, and Payoneer, and are increasingly being outcompeted by FX specialists.

PayPal fees range between 4.2% and 4.9% per currency exchanges. Payoneer costs 1% to 2% on average. Western Union rates can be as low as 0.68% when completed online but as high as 8% if you use one of their 200,000 physical branches.

For more information about competitive international money transfer companies, check the mini-reviews below. The cheapest way to send money overseas is to compare currency transfer options, because some are more suited to corporate clients, whilst others are suited to private clients.

Top ten cheap UK money transfer options

Currencies Direct

Although many of the competitive money transfer companies are relatively new to the market, Currencies Direct is a fantastic example of an experienced FX specialist that has transitioned to the digital world seamlessly and effectively.

Currencies Direct is a great all-rounder, with more than just cheap exchange rates on offer view their app. They have an extensive global reach with a particular expertise in overseas property, making it the ideal choice for buying a home abroad - or an investment.

They offer access to a developer API portal along with batch payment functionality, making it ideal for business customers too. Premier Accounts are also offered to larger businesses. But, regardless of the account you have, the customer service and dedicated account manager are reliably helpful and supportive.

TorFX

Established in 2004, TorFX is another experienced broker that specialises in corporate FX as well as large international transfers. Despite being headquartered in Cornwall, TorFX has a commendable global reach with fantastic customer guidance.

TorFX's customer reviews are quick to point out the fantastic exchange rates on offer, far outcompeting local high street banks, as well as a hassle-free transfer process. Furthermore, delivery of funds is fairly rapid (quicker than banks) and the hedging products available and functionality are fairly extensive.

Generally, TorFX isn't suitable for customers who are looking for small, frequent transfers, but it's a great choice for businesses and those looking for large overseas investments.

XE

Established in 1993, XE has always been a credible company. But in 2019, its merger with HiFX propelled it into a new sphere of competitiveness. With no set minimum transfer, 98 currencies on offer and highly accurate quotes, XE is a well-rounded competitor to the previous two companies.

XE is owned by industry giant, Euronet Worldwide. The merger with HiFX means that they provide competent, dedicated account managers. The main issue with XE is that the merger is still relatively recent. The app functionality could be improved, for example, despite XE having one of the best currency exchange calculators on the internet.

Wise

Wise is the first company on this list that really shook the industry up. In 2010, London-based Wise (formerly called TransferWise) shot to fame with aggressive marketing techniques and a £6.5 billion market capitalisation; though at one point it had reached an $11 billion valuation.

Wise did two things exceptionally well: Offered a flat, fixed exchange margin (0.5% for most currency routes) and provided it via one of the best apps on the market. Customers had easy access to guaranteed rates via an easy-to-use app. Furthermore, the borderless debit card and multi-wallet currency accounts make Wise a really good choice for individuals and small businesses alike. However, there are no dedicated account managers and not much customer support as a result.

Currencyfair

Currencyfair, also founded in 2010, is a similarly exciting and innovative service. Whilst rates aren't fixed, the average reported exchange markup is around 0.5%, and pricing remains transparent when using the app.

Again, much like Wise, Currencyfair has a functional app with limited currency options and no dedicated dealer. Transfers are quick and simple, with most destinations being available. However, they also fall victim to focusing too much on the app and neglecting customer support. However, the P2P marketplace presents an opportunity to beat market rates.

Azimo

Founded in 2012, Azimo is a well-known money transfer company. With 60 currencies and over 200 jurisdictions, Azimo has a vast global reach and a low minimum transfer of £1. Azimo has a very highly rated mobile app with over 50,000 cumulative reviews between the Play Store and App Store.

The downside to Azimo are the fees (though they can be as low as £0.99 if the transfer isn't urgent). Azimo is an award-winning, innovative company, but there are no dedicated account managers and it's not ideal for larger transfers. In many cases, it's not the cheapest option.

WorldRemit

WorldRemit is a highly rated, highly credible company despite only being founded in 2010. WorldRemit is regulated in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. IT offers a low minimum transfer of £1 and deals in 70 currencies.

WorldRemit is remittance-orientated, with a strong quote system and good customer reviews. There are no hedging tools or dedicated dealer so, unsurprisingly, customer service is often at the heart of most complaints.

However, the mobile app is strong and spreads are reported to be around 1%. It is available in many European languages and has a strong global reach.

Revolut

Revolut is similar to WorldRemit and Wise, with no dedicated dealers and limited customer support, but the focus on a profoundly slick mobile app with fantastic functionality. Hedging and FX products are also lacking, as is the 29 currencies on offer selection. However, despite being relatively new to the market, Revolut have made a tremendous impact by offering a unique pricing structure and some novel services.

There are no fixed fees and a zero exchange margin when exchanging money Monday to Friday, making it the cheapest way for international money transfer. However, there is a free monthly limit of £1,000, and a monthly subscription cost is applied if you want to increase these limits. Thus, this is a fantastic choice for digital nomads, expats, and even small businesses who do not send large amounts.

There are around half a million positive reviews of the app on the Play Store alone.

Global Reach Group

Global Reach is a money transfer company that specialises in sophisticated remittance and Forex services. In fact, Global Reach doesn't even have an app, which highlights their focus on customer service and bespoke solutions.

Corporations do make up a big part of their business, but private clients are also welcome if they don't mind the £3,000 minimum transfer. Multi-currency accounts aren't offered, but the industry veteran is ideal for hedging, making large, secure transfers, and offers fantastic specialist advice. There is a lot of paperwork involved, but the benefit is that this offers a great, bespoke international transfer service.

Moneycorp

Finally, Moneycorp is the oldest company on this list having been founded in 1979. With over £40 billion in annual turnover, the company has built up a highly credible reputation for safe and competitive FX transfers with minimal international money transfer fees.

Despite a lacklustre mobile app, Moneycorp performs very well for both private and corporate clients. The minimum transfer is £50, and the global reach is staggering, with 120 currencies being handled and offices in every corner of the world - from South America to Asia and the Middle East.

Decent hedging products are also available and the company scores highly in the D&B rating.

Final Words: The fool-proof system for cheaper transfers

If you have opted to use any of the recommended UK currency transfer services listed on this page, you can't go wrong when compared to banks. While some quotes may be higher than others, depending on currency, timing, and the volume of your transfer - they are very likely to be cheaper than your bank.

If you're looking to further optimise margins on your transfer, because it's a large amount of money, or because you frequently transfer money to bank accounts abroad, the best advice would probably be to sign up with multiple companies. That way, you can receive quotes in real time to check what rates each of them are offering. A little bit of negotiation with your provider to request better rates can also help (if they provide account managers).

Copyright 2022. Article was made possible by site supporter Harold Jones.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.