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Guide to international money transfers

From owning a property abroad to making regular international payments to friends and family back home, many of us will need to transfer money to another country at some point. With so many ways to send money abroad - from banks to high street exchange providers – it’s hard to know what the best option is. Fluctuating exchange rates and hidden fees add even more complication. This guide gives you the information to help make the right choice.

What are international money transfers?

If you need to transfer money abroad, there are a number of ways to do it. Banks, online money transfer providers and some high street exchanges offer money transfer services.  You pay them in GBP which they convert and send to the receiving bank account in the local currency.

Fees and exchange rates

Fees, charges or commission can apply both to the sender and the recipient. Some providers add additional charges to disguise the real cost of the service, which makes it difficult to understand how much your recipient will actually get. Banks typically charge much higher fees for transferring money abroad, and most providers add their commission to the exchange rate.

Some providers offer fee-free transfers, but then dilute the exchange rate to hide their commission which means you get less for your money. Other providers are more transparent with their fees and their exchange rates which makes it easier to see the true cost of your transfer.

Exchange rates fluctuate daily – by the minute even – so getting the best rate when you want to make your transfer can be a challenge. There is no way to predict the exchange rate, but money transfer services like Lebara Money Transfer allow you to lock an exchange rate you like for a small fee and transfer at a later date. A good way to stay ahead of changeable exchange rates is to use Lebara Money Transfer’s ‘rate alerts’ feature – where you can either get a daily alert for your chosen currency, or set a rate threshold so you’re alerted when the exchange rate reaches a certain level.

Is it secure?

Sending money abroad – either online, or via a high street exchange service – can be risky if you don’t use a reputable provider. You should always check that your chosen money transfer provider is fully regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as this adds extra assurance that your money is safe and protected. Being FCA regulated also protects against things like fraud and money laundering.

Many providers also offer mobile apps to conveniently transfer money abroad via your mobile phone.

How long does it take?

Most international money transfers take 1-4 business days to successfully deposit your transfer into your recipient’s account. There are external factors which can cause delays – and these are usually out of the control of your transfer provider. These include bank holidays (both in your location and your recipient’s location), delays with intermediary banks, ID verification checks, and incorrect bank details for your recipient. Most providers will keep you updated if there are any problems, for example if you need to verify your identity, your transfer provider should notify you and give you a few days to register your photo ID before cancelling your transaction. It’s important to keep checking your international money transfer account and your emails to check the status of your transfer. Services like Lebara Money Transfer even show you a progress bar, so you can see at a glance what stage your money transfer is at.