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Don’t get confused! This article is about sending money overseas. If you’re tripping abroad, read ‘the cheapest way to spend when overseas’ article

Send money overseas and you double the currencies, complications and cost. This week’s Deal is do it the cheapest way, possibly cutting the cost by 80%.

Whatever the transaction, remember the basics

There are two possible costs to moving, changing or sending money overseas.

· The Obvious Charge. Fees, charges or commission for the transaction.

· The Hidden Charge. The exchange rate you get is crucial. Many companies claim to be ‘charge free’ but then give you a substantially worse exchange rate, meaning you get less buck for your pound.

The best way to compare?

Just ask “how many Euros/Yen/Dollars will I get for my pounds after all charges?”

This Deal covers two areas:-

Sending money to friends and family overseas

Transferring large amounts of cash

Sending money to friends & family abroad

Presents wrapped with origami skills and tinsel bows may win emotionally, yet cold, hard cash is tough to beat.

The usual options

If speed’s important, there’s little alternative than using one of the two international money transfer agents Western Union or the slightly cheaper Moneygram. Here your money instantly arrives at the other end in a spendable format. Unfortunately this is extremely expensive, especially for small amounts, with the transfer fee often costing half again on top of the cash.

For less urgent transfers, the standard options are relatively expensive electronic bank transfers or international banker’s drafts. Yet these often cost Ј10 - Ј25 each. Also, banker’s drafts need sending by insured post, which again adds to the cost.

Advanced MoneySavers Note: Indian or US transfers

Those wishing to send money regularly to or from India have another option. Lloyds TSB has teamed up with Indian bank ICICI to allow zero fee currency moves via its Indian Banking service. You need to open a special Lloyds account. It's not available from all branches, but mainly those in areas with a high Indian ethnic population.

Those wishing to send regularly to the USA can use a service by Citibank allowing instant transfers via UK pound and US dollar accounts.

The cheapest way

Paypal* is the e-commerce payment system for online auction monolith Ebay. It’s designed to facilitate auction payments, but as a by-product can facilitate cheap, overseas money transfers.

To use it, both you and the recipient of the cash need an e-mail address (you can just set up a free internet e-mail address from Gmail or Hotmail) and a free Paypal account.

You simply pay money into your account via credit card or bank account and send it via Paypal. Your friend can then choose to have the money paid into their bank account, taking three to nine days (depending on country), or keep it with Paypal to spend on the internet, which can be done instantly.

Paypal operates in 45 countries around the world. While recipients in most North American, Western European and Australasian countries can withdraw money in to their bank accounts, there are some countries which prohibit this, so do check before starting the process (see the full list).

The Charges. Both paying money in and sending overseas is free. However, the recipient is charged when they get their money. The amount varies slightly country to country, but most are a similar scale of charges to UK recipients, which is 20p plus 3.9% of the value, e.g. on Ј30 that's Ј1.40.

In some countries there’s also a fee for withdrawing cash to a bank account, yet again it's tiny e.g. the UK fee is only charged for those withdrawing less than Ј50 and even then it’s only 25p.
The Exchange Rate. Paypal exchange rates are similar to that of high street credit cards when used abroad, and slightly better than bureaux de change rates; overall not too bad. The only currencies Paypal works in are Pounds, Canadian, US and Australian Dollars, Euros and Yen.

Advanced MoneySavers Note

For those interested in the technical stuff, Paypal's actual exchange rate is roughly the interbank rate minus a 2.5% loading. There is also a cross border charge that varies between 0.5% and 1%, but that’s included in the recipient fee not the sending fee.

If you're sending to a country which doesn’t use one of these currencies, simply send it in pounds as then the money is only converted once not twice, reducing the cost.

Time Taken

Setting up paypal account

Adding funds to the account
Instant (with credit card)

3-5 days (bank account if account new, otherwise instant)

Transferring funds to the other account
2.5% loading on exchange rate

Receiving funds at other end
Up to 3.9% + 20p (varies with country)

Other person using funds
Used as Paypal – Free

Withdrawn to account – 25p
Instant if used as paypal funds;

3-9 days depending on country to withdraw to bank account

These are standard fees, they can vary depending on country and account type, but it doesn’t vary substantially

Advanced MoneySavers Note: A solution for someone you trust.

An even cheaper way is to use the Nationwide debit card; the cheapest plastic for spending on whilst overseas.

This is only useful for giving regular amounts of money to someone who you trust absolutely. You set up the account and make the other person the second cardholder. Then you give them a card to use overseas, but you pay the bill here. This is the best exchange rate possible, though it has the obvious flaw that you rely on them to spend what you suggest

How does the cost compare?

Sending money via Paypal is much cheaper than Western Union, Moneygram or an international bankers draft, especially for smaller amounts.

To send Ј30 to the US costs Ј12 with Western Union. Use Paypal though and it's just Ј1.40, and you get a slightly better exchange rate.

Cost of sending money to the US

Send Ј30
Send Ј100
Send Ј200

Western Union

Abbey Int. Bankers Draft (1)


(1) This fee is made up of Ј10 for the bankers draft plus the estimated cost of insured postage to the USA.

Want To Discuss This Or Ask A Question?

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Transferring much larger amounts abroad

Moving serious money is becoming a more common occurrence; whether it's buying property or a car abroad, or simply leaving Blighty’s shore’s forever. When transferring these much larger sums, it’s important to remember that even small differentials in exchange rates can make an enormous difference

Think about it; a 1% improvement on Ј100,000 is Ј1,000. So finessing the very best rate takes on even more significance.

Step 1. Ask your bank

It’s rare your bank will actually be the best buy. However, it’s a very useful benchmark and some banks do have special facilities for their existing customers.

Step 2. Use a specialist currency broker.

Specialist currency brokers tend to offer the best rates for transfers. Typically they offer within 1% off the interbank rate, whereas your bank will be 2-3% worse than that.

However there is no hard and fast rule on which is best. It’s worth getting quotes from all of them to see who is offering the best rate for that specific currency. The big brokers include such players as HIFX*, Currencies Direct, Currencies and ISX FX (see a full list of brokers in the Provider A-Z*) .

Rates change constantly – so to find out who gives the best rate to your chosen country you need to get quotes as close together as possible.

And do remember, the golden question to ask is “how many Euros/Dollars/Yen will you give me for my Јx,xxx after all fees and charges?”

Are these as safe as houses?

Currency exchange businesses don’t have to be regulated by the FSA so there is always the possibility they are a bit dodgy. However, the big established businesses tend to have good reputations and should work without too much of an issue.

If you’re worried, the following is a useful checklist provided by the Chief Exec of one of the brokers, who frequents this site's Chat Forum.

How long have they been in business?
Are they speculating with your funds, or simply buying to order?
Are they registered with HM Customs as an overseas money service provider?
Do they have audited accounts at Companies House?
Any other market memberships or associations?
How many staff do they have and what turnover? Obviously a medium/large established company is more trustworthy than 2 guys in a room somewhere who have just started up!
Are your funds held separately from other company assets in a designated transaction account?

And, I would add, check out the Chat Forum on the site again for info and feedback on other providers.

Related Articles

Cheapest way to spend overseas

Getting Forex and Travellers Cheques

All other Travel articles

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LINKS THAT HELP THIS SITE (have a * above)
(this has no impact on product or recommendation - see explanation below)

Full list of brokers


Western Union

Currencies Direct

HIFX, Paypal


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