Avoid this bank rip-off when sending money abroad

Avoid this rip off when sending money abroad

International money transfers are typically for sending currency to someone abroad, for example if you want to buy a foreign property or move your funds when you emigrate.

However, choosing the wrong provider could see you lose hundreds of pounds in rip-off fees and currency exchange rates.

In fact, new data shows some high street banks charge up to six times more than the cheapest online money transfer providers.

If you need to send cash abroad, find a cheap deal by visiting our independent money transfer comparison site. It only takes seconds and could save you a fortune!

Alternately, read on to find out more about sending money overseas for less.

The worst ways to transfer money online

The businesses that probably spring to your mind first when considering an international money transfer are the most expensive.

High-street banks, Travelex and Western Union all find it very easy to get customers, so they don't bother with a low price. They can easily cost you an extra £600 than their less-known competitors on a transfer of £10,000.

Save money on international transfers with a broker

There are a lot of companies that are cheaper middlemen for your transfer than banks.

Some brokers now even settle their currency deals as peer-to-peer arrangements, where you exchange with other people and the broker takes a cut. This is putting strong downward pressure on exchange costs.

It's easy to see which is cheapest; you just compare the actual foreign currency you're getting after all costs between lots of different brokers.

You could try this comparison service, which does this for you.

The cheapest currency rates will vary by the day

The cheapest provider one day might not be the cheapest the next; it sometimes depends on their stocks of currency.

If a provider is low on one foreign currency, it might charge you more for it. If it has too much money in the other currency, it might charge less in order to restore some balance.

Some providers are cheaper in one currency than another, so you should think about comparing again when you're doing a deal in a new currency too.

Finally, some providers manage to be cheaper on small amounts and others specialise in larger ones. Be sure to compare rates again if you do a transaction of an unusual size for you.

How providers make money off you

Generally you won't be told the price you have paid for your money transfer.

Yes, you're told you'll get, say, €6,000 for £5,000, but that's not the price. You haven't paid £5,000, you've exchanged it. After all, you've got the €6,000, not the middleman. So where's his cut hiding?

The price you pay to the middleman is made up of two elements.

The first are the fees, which some providers charge. This might be a flat fee or a percentage commission. You might pay other supplementary fees so watch out for those too.

The middleman may also take a cut in the form of the exchange rate.

The "real" exchange rate is called the interbank exchange rate, which is the average of many banks' rates when they're exchanging different currencies between themselves. You and I can't usually expect to get the interbank rate, but that is the rate you usually see when you search for an exchange rate.

So for example at the time of writing the interbank pound-to-euro exchange rate is £1 to €1.18. However, an international money transfer provider might offer you just €1.09 or €1.13, for example, and keep the difference.

Transferring £5,000 at the "real" rate would get you €5,900. But since you're just getting, say, €1.09 per pound, you'll get just €5,450. That's a hidden cost of €450.

To find the price in pounds, you'll need to divide that foreign cost by the real exchange rate. €450 divided by 1.18 is £381. That's the hidden cost that you're almost never told about.

While some providers charge you both in the exchange rate and through commission, don't assume they're the most expensive.

Many companies are "commission free" but offer such dreadful exchange rates that they actually cost you twice as much.

Locking in your currency exchange rate

Some brokers allow you to lock in exchange rates for up to 24 months. These are called "forward contracts". This is really useful if you need to be sure the price won't get worse. This can cost extra, so be sure you need it.

Alternatively, some let you set an exchange rate that you're willing to deal at, and the transfer will only go ahead once exchange rates rise to match.

You should be cautious about playing guessing games about the direction of the currency market – especially in such uncertain times as these.

In our experience, you really need remarkable insights about the currency markets at a particular point in time to be confident of making a good call.

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Dream retirement destinations
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Dream retirement destinations

A study by MGM Advantage discovered that Portugal is the 10th most popular dream retirement destination among Brits.

You get the attractions of the sun, a more relaxed way of life, lower living costs and cheaper property. You can also benefit from pension arrangements that mean your pension rises with inflation.

And if you choose to, you can spend your time with the enormous expat population, feeling like you never left.

In the tradition of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there’s a large number of people keen to move to India, partly in order to enjoy a much higher standard of living than they would be able to afford in the UK.

If course it’s important to consider that your state pension will not rise in line with inflation - so will halve in real terms during your retirement.

This part of Europe offers a great combination of some of the lowest living and housing costs on the continent, along with a more forgiving climate than the UK.

For that reason Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Greece and Turkey are a big draw for retirees.

However, state pension provision varies across the region, so you will need to check whether retiring to these locations will mean your pension continues to rise in line with increases in the UK, or will be frozen when you move overseas.

Italy is a country of contrasts, so anyone planing a retirement there needs to think carefully about whether they want to call a bustling city home, or whether they would be happiest in the mountains or by the sea.

Housing tends to cost less than in the UK, and in some regions it's incredibly cheap. Living costs are also lower than in Britain, and your pension will rise in line with increases in the UK.

Canada is a big draw for British expats of all ages. This spectacular country is known for being welcoming to people from all over the world, and in many cases has no language barrier for Brits. The quality of life is high, and the cost of housing lower than in the UK.

However, you will need to factor in the fact that your UK state pension will be frozen on the day you leave, and you will need some health insurance if you want to replicate the sorts of things that are available for free on the NHS.

As with India, the Far East offers an exciting and dramatic change from life in the UK, with much lower costs, which can buy you a higher standard of living (although bear in mind your state pension will be frozen).

You will need to consider the cultural and practical differences associated with the move, but you will have the opportunity to live in one of the most exciting places in the world.

The weather, lifestyle, space, and lower cost of living means that British expats of all ages are keen to move to Australia.

Property can be a bit of a stumbling block in some areas, as prices have gone up so much. The currency is also strong, which has posed some issues for those who receive their income in pounds, and there’s the fact that the UK state pension will be frozen if you move. However, if you can overcome these things, then a new life in the sun awaits.

The US offers much more affordable housing, and in many respects a lower cost of living than in the UK.

It appeals to those who don’t want to live with a language barrier, but want more space, possibly more sun, and an American Dream of their own.

There are some important things to factor in before you move, such as the additional cost of healthcare, and the exchange rate. However, one bonus is that your state pension will rise at the same rate it does in the UK.

France is close to home, and yet offers cheaper accommodation than the UK, a lower cost of living, and in many regions there’s better weather too.

Your pension will rise at the same rate it would in the UK, and at any time friends and family are just a short boat or plane ride away. It’s no wonder France is the second most popular dream destination for retirees.

It will come as little surprise that Spain tops the list - largely because it’s already the most common overseas retirement destination for Brits.

Millions of us have experienced the delights of the sun, sea, and the lower cost of living while we were on holiday in the country, so it’s hardly a shock that so many want to experience it on a full-time basis in retirement.

Huge falls in the price of property has made this a cheap place to buy, and the fact that your state pension will keep pace with rises in the UK means you’ll be able to maintain your standard of living throughout your retirement.

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