International Bank Transfers: What You Need to Know

Discover how to make international bank transfers to complete business deals, pay for goods and services, and assist friends and family. Every year at Mover Focus, we encounter dozens of families and individuals who need help completing bank transfers between countries.

To assist our readers in the future, we have created the following step-by-step guide to transferring money from one country to another.


Our goal is to become your one-stop hub for all things international moving. You can compare moving companies and find useful resources to assist you when preparing for an international move.

  • Highly competitive exchange rates
  • No transfer fees
  • Personal currency expert support
You can obtain a free no-obligation quotation from our recommended provider for large transfers.

How to Perform an International Bank Transfer

Many people have completed an international money transfer at least once in their lives. However, most consumers have never needed to send money abroad. If you plan to transfer funds across the border, you may feel unsure about what to expect. Prepare yourself for the money-wiring process by learning how to do an international bank transfer below.

Step #1: Submit Identification Information

Whether you plan to use a money transfer service—which is best—or a bank to send money internationally, you will need to provide your identification documents up front. In most cases, you will only need to supply your ID once to create your account. After that, you will be able to transfer money between countries without submitting identification info.

Some service providers will allow you to submit your electronically stored ID via third-party intermediaries. This feature can make the sign-up and money transfer processes easier and more efficient.

Step #2: Provide the Recipient’s Banking Details

Once you submit your identification and create an account, you can make your first international wire transfer. Money transfer companies will need the banking details of your intended recipient to deposit the funds in the correct account. For international bank transfers to the U.K., that means you will need to know the recipient’s:

  • Full name
  • International Bank Account Number (IBAN)
  • Bank Identification Code (BIC), also known as a SWIFT Code

In most cases, you can save the recipient’s banking details for future use, allowing later international money transfers to go more smoothly. On occasion, your service provider may ask for additional information regarding the recipient, including:

  • Recipient’s address
  • Name and address of the receiving bank
  • Reference numbers
  • Various additional security details

Step #3: Secure an Exchange Rate

Next, you will need to secure an exchange rate for your transfer. Some money transfer websites and apps automatically convert currencies based on the location of the two bank accounts. Otherwise, your wire transfer company or banking institution may ask you to choose the local currency you wish to sell and the foreign currency you want to buy.

Most money transfer companies will lock in your foreign exchange rate as soon as you select your two currencies. Usually, you will have a set amount of time to complete the transaction before the exchange rate changes. If you take too long to remit payment, you may have to go back and reselect your currencies to secure an updated exchange rate.

Step #4: Remit Payment

After selecting your currencies and securing an exchange rate, you will need to pay for the transferred money, as well as any fees. In general, a bank will require possession of sufficient funds in your account before remitting payment. Money transfer companies may allow you to pay later, depending on the level of trust they have in you and the amount of money you wish to transfer.

In recent years, many banks and money transfer companies have started employing a two-factor authentication process whenever a client wishes to complete an international bank transfer. Most of the time, using this feature means that you will receive a code via text or email. Submit that code to confirm that your identity matches what they company has on file. You should receive immediate payment confirmation on your device.

Step #5: Confirm the Money Transfer

Once you remit payment, you will receive a confirmation text or email for your records. Make sure to save, archive, or otherwise back up your confirmation information for future reference. If you later encounter any problem with your international wire transfer, you will need your transaction details when working with customer service personnel.

Make sure to ask the recipient to inform you when the money arrives. If it does not show up after five days, you may need to contact your bank or wire transfer company. In most cases, you can clear things up within a matter of a few days.

How Long Does an International Wire Transfer Take?

How long your international bank transfer will take depends on various factors. Some of the most crucial determinants include:

  • Location of the funds
  • Location of the recipient’s bank account
  • Type of money transfer service or banking institution you use
  • Time and date of the transfer request
  • Bank holidays

How Long Will an International Wire Transfer Recipient Have to Wait?

Most of the time, it will take no more than 1-2 days to complete an international wire transfer between the U.K. and Europe. It will take 2-5 days for other international recipients to receive funds from the U.K. (unless you send money near the end of working hours on a Friday or right before a national holiday, in which case you should expect a delay).

The SWIFT System

Almost all bank transfers to and from the U.K. rely on the Society for Worldwide Interbank Telecommunication (SWIFT) system. SWIFT serves as the primary global bank transfer solution for much of the world. True to its name, the system allows you to send money to another country in a fraction of the time it formerly took.

Why Have My Funds Not Arrived in the Recipient’s Bank Account Yet?

Nowadays, most of the delays consumers experience when using SWIFT involve processing constraints that recipient bank branches face. The currency conversions and the international transmissions only require a few minutes to complete.

Are Money Transfer Companies Safe to Use?

In the U.K., all legitimate money transfer companies must become authorised and regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) of the Bank of England and the independent Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). These governing bodies lay out the rules and procedures for money transfers within the U.K. and across international borders.

Some of the most important rules for international bank transfers involve chain of custody, segregation of funds, and bookkeeping matters.

You can check the website of the wire transfer service you wish to use to ensure that it has received the stamp of approval from the PRA or FCA.

Money Transfer Fees: What to Look For

Bank fees represent the main reason smart consumers choose to engage money transfer companies instead of banks for international money wires. Some of the most common fees that banking institutions charge include:

  • Transfer fee
  • Priority fee
  • Tracking fee

Keep in mind that the recipient bank might also charge additional banking fees.

Consumers who try to send money internationally through their banks almost always pay more than they otherwise would with a money transfer company. As a result, the specialised money transfer industry continues to experience significant growth. Some foreign currency exchange specialists even advertise their no-fee services.

Affordability: Banks vs. Money Transfer Companies

Most U.K. residents allow their banking institutions to handle any international bank wires. However, this practice proves less affordable than going through specialised channels. Savvy consumers know that using a private money transfer service will save them a significant sum of money if they intend to send funds at regular intervals.

Average Costs

Money transfer specialists compete with big banks for customers. To draw consumers away from banks, wire transfer companies offer better rates. For example, you can expect your bank to charge 3-5% of the total transfer amount. Money transfer companies charge between 1.5% and 2.5% on average, which can save you a lot of money when transferring a significant amount of funds.

Differences in Fee Structures and Exchange Rates

You can attribute much of the difference in cost to banks charging higher fees and using worse exchange rates than private money transfer companies do. In addition, money transfer specialists often charge a flat fee, whereas banks utilise a tiered system that reserves the best rates for amounts in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Time and Expertise Are Money

Sometimes, customers encounter delays when trying to use their bank to send money internationally because most bankers have never initiated the international bank transfer process. Almost invariably, customers will have to wait while their first point of contact requests assistance from a manager or someone else who knows how to transfer money overseas.

If you experience delays when trying to wire money to another country through your bank, you may want to try a professional money transfer company instead. Because a money transfer company specialises in international money wires, you should not run into any snags that would postpone the receipt of international payments.

What to Look for in an International Money Transfer Company

With so many different money transfer companies vying for your business, you may find it difficult to single one out from the crowd. Some claim they offer the best exchange rates. Others say international transactions carry no hidden fees. Explore some of the ways you can find the best international money transfer service below.

1. Size and Experience

When deciding on a money transfer company, you should look at the size and experience of potential candidates. Research when the company formed, how many customers and staff members it has, how many transactions it completes per year, and the total volume of transferred money.

2. Direct SWIFT Access

International currency transfer companies that have a hardwired connection to the SWIFT system will process your foreign transactions faster than those that do not. If you need to send money abroad and time is of the essence, then you should look for a service provider who does not need to queue up to process your transaction through a third party.

3. Authorisation from PRA and FCA

Almost all money transfer specialists seek authorisation from the PRA and FCA before opening their doors for business. However, by masquerading as reputable wire transfer companies, scam artists occasionally trick unwitting consumers into handing over significant amounts of money. If you have any doubts about the company you wish to use, check for their authorisation first.

4. Registration with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs

All international money transfer companies must register with Her Majesty’s (HM) Revenue & Customs as a Money Service Business (MSB). If you do not see a reference to the money transfer business in the registry, you may need to perform some additional research to ascertain the company’s legitimacy.

5. Segregated Trust Accounts

Choose an international wire transfer business that places the money in a segregated trust account before disbursement into the receiving account. Following this protocol provides extra security for your funds, creates a precise chain of custody, and allows you to protect the money against the claims of third-party creditors.

6. Strength and Transparency

If you can, try to get a hold of your preferred money transfer company’s balance sheet. Every once in a while, a money transfer company goes bankrupt. Protect yourself against lengthy delays in getting your money back by keeping tabs on the overall financial health of your wire transfer service. If your service provider demonstrates enough transparency to display its accounts online, even better.

7. Customer Service

Perform a little research on the money transfer providers you might use for international wires. Try to find customer reviews to gauge the responsiveness of the company to consumer complaints. Ascertain how long it took before customers made contact with an actual human being. Customer service becomes crucial when dealing with a substantial amount of money.

Mover Focus and Currencies Direct — The Perfect Partnership

Mover Focus and Currencies Direct have linked up to make your international move go more smoothly. Find a moving company, ship bulky belongings, and send an international bank transfer to almost anywhere in the world. You will have the support of two professional teams to help you enjoy a successful move to a foreign country.

If you need to send money abroad, click the link below to see what Currencies Direct can do for you.


Categories Money Transfer