Best Ways To Transfer Money Internationally

United Kingdom By Linas Janulevicius Dec 4, 2023

The best way to transfer money internationally

There are many reasons why you might need to send money internationally. You might be sending cash as a gift for a loved one’s birthday, to help someone out of a tricky spot when travelling, or to support family members with day-to-day living costs. 

However, transferring money abroad is different to paying your friend back for lunch using an app on your phone. Sending money overseas isn’t quite so straightforward. 

Let’s break down the process of transferring money internationally. There are many options to choose from, but here, we look at two of the best ways to send money internationally – bank transfers and money transfer services. 


Sending money overseas with your bank

Most banks offer ways to send money internationally. Here are the things you should know before transferring money to a foreign bank account with your bank. 


Banks use SWIFT transfers

When you make a foreign currency transfer with your bank, you’ll need to know your receiver’s SWIFT/BIC code. 

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It’s an organisation that establishes processes and standards for international money transfers. SWIFT serves as a universal way to send and receive money internationally and connects more than 10,000 financial institutions around the world. 

SWIFT works similarly to an airline, but for your funds. Because there is no direct route between all international banks, the funds need to go through many stops along the way. These stops are called intermediary banks and they send the transfer orders between different institutions using SWIFT codes. 

The SWIFT network also uses International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN) and Bank Identifier Codes (BIC). Transferring money through the SWIFT network can take up to five business days, depending on how many stops your money needs to make. 


Consider exchange rates

One thing to consider when choosing the best way to send money internationally is exchange rate. Your bank will need to convert your currency into foreign currency to be able to transfer it, and different banks use different exchange rates. 


Find out the international bank transfer fees

Most banks charge fees for international transfers. You should look at how much your bank charges for transfers abroad, and you can shop around to look for the best rates. 

Different send methods at the same bank may have different fees, too. For example, smaller transfers may be subject to lower fees. It’s worth researching to see if your bank charges different transfer fees for in-person, over the phone, and online money transfers. 


Prepare your foreign currency transfer

Lastly, if you’re making a money transfer from abroad through your bank, you’ll want to make sure you have all the required information. The information you’ll need may vary from bank to bank, but it’ll likely include: 

  • The SWIFT code of the receiver’s bank. 
  • The receiver’s full name. 
  • The receiver’s bank information (bank name and branch location). 

You may also need to verify your own identity by providing: 

  • A government-issued ID (like your UK driver’s license or passport). 
  • Proof of address. 
  • The reason for the transfer. 
  • Proof that you own the bank account or debit card that you’re using to pay for the transfer. 


Sending money overseas with a money transfer service

International money transfers aren’t just available at banks. Another of the best ways to send money internationally is with a money transfer service like Western Union. Before you send money this way, here are some things to know. 

Money transfer services can cost less than bank fees 

International bank transfer fees can range and depend on where you’re sending money to. On the other hand, some money transfer services have a flat rate, no matter where the transfer is going. Meanwhile, some money exchange transfer services, like Western Union, have options that make overseas transfers more affordable. 

You can even send your first international transfer with Western Union from the UK for £0 fee. 

You don’t need an account with a specific bank

One of the drawbacks of using a bank to send money internationally is that you need a bank account with that institution. Your options may be limited because you’re captive to the bank’s requirements and fees. 

With money transfer services, all you need to do is make an account and connect your bank account. You can have a bank account at a different financial organisation, as can your recipient. Some money transfer services also offer ways for you to send money internationally without a bank account at all.  

You can visit a Western Union agent location, pay in cash, and your receiver can get the funds in the payout method that is most convenient for them. 

Can be faster than a bank

With a money transfer service, you can send money in a flash with several options. In some locations, you may be able to initiate a same-day cash pickup. You can also save your recipient’s information so you can send money even faster next time. 

If you need to send money fast, using a money transfer service might be the best way to send money internationally. 


How to make a foreign currency transfer using a money transfer service

Sending money using a money transfer service will vary depending on the service provider you send with. 

When you transfer money abroad with Western Union, there are just a few steps: 

  • Create and verify your free account. You can register online in just a few minutes and verify your profile with your passport or UK driver’s license. 
  • Choose a destination and input the amount. You can send money to bank accounts around the world. 
  • Enter your receiver’s details. To send money to a bank account, simply enter your receiver’s details, including their name and address and bank account details. If you’ve sent to the same receiver before, their details are automatically saved. 
  • Select your preferred payment method. You can pay for your transfer via bank transfer, debit or credit card. You can also pay in cash at one of our agent locations across the UK. 
  • Your money is on its way! Depending on your chosen send and receive methods, it can arrive as fast as a few minutes. 


Which foreign currency transfer option is right for you?

You have a choice of ways to send money internationally. The best money transfer service depends on your needs, the needs of your receiver, your budget, and how fast you want the money to arrive. 

Using a bank to transfer money abroad is great if: 

  • You have all the relevant information, including your recipient’s SWIFT code. 
  • You have an account at that particular bank. 
  • You know all the transfer fees upfront. 
  • You know the exchange rates upfront. 

Using a money transfer service to send money abroad is great if: 

  • You want more options when it comes to how to send money (online, in-person, on an app, for example). 
  • You send to the same recipients frequently (their details are saved). 
  • You want to set up automatic transfers. 
  • You want lower fees with your transfer. 
  • You don’t have an account with a particular bank, or don’t want to use their transfer service. 

Banks offer consistent options, but often come with hidden fees and aren’t set up for repeated transfers. Money transfer services make it easy to send to the same receivers and you have more flexibility with how you send funds. 


Send money easily to bank accounts around the world

The next time you need to send money abroad from the UK, Western Union can help. With convenient ways to send money online, with the app, or from hundreds of thousands of agent locations worldwide, we make money transfer convenient. 

Ready to send money quickly and easily? Simply add the details of your transfer in the online send money form and we’ll provide everything you need to know to complete your transfer. 


Send money with the Western Union mobile app

Use our money transfer app for transferring money to a foreign bank account or for pick up in cash from one of our 500,000+ agent locations worldwide. 

Download the app