Author, Andy Brown
Trying to get exchange rate information from the big banks can seem like an impossible task. Below I’ve broken down the foreign exchange rates for each of the major high street banks so you can find out exactly how much it will cost you to make an international transfer.
Which UK bank has the best foreign exchange rates?
Banks certainly don’t make it easy to find out their exchange rates!
It’s incredibly frustrating for someone who just wants a straightforward answer.
Of the major UK high street banks, Halifax offers the cheapest exchange rates. However, money transfer specialists can normally provide better exchange rates than any of the big banks.
Click the bank name below to find out the exchange rate costs for your bank:
Barclays don’t appear to provide an exchange rate calculator and all online rates are ‘indicative’.
This means they aren’t the exact rates that Barclays will charge and may differ slightly from what you’ll get on the day of transfer.
Barclays exchange rate costs are typically around 2.75%, but be aware that this can change depending on the exact amount you transfer.
That means on a £10,000 international transfer with Barclays you would pay £275 in exchange rate costs. On a £100,000 transfer, a margin of 2.75% would cost you £2,750.
As with most banks, Barclays seem to do everything they can to push you online to complete your transfer.
Online banking puts all the pressure and responsibility of the transfer onto you.
Should anything go wrong, it’s on you.
Using Barclays, to find out the exact exchange rate margin you will be charged, you have to follow the transaction through to the last possible point. So while Barclays eventually tell you the charges, they wait until the very last possible moment.
It seems to me that Barclays is hoping that after going to all that trouble, the non-savvy consumer will just tap and go ahead with the transfer without taking the time to compare the rate to any other currency brokers.
To avoid paying more than you have to, it’s best to shop around for the best rate before you carry out your transfer.
Whilst we were gathering information on HSBC’s exchange rates, we had to jump through several hoops on their website to find the exact rates for comparison.
Also, the highest page you’re likely to come across on Google is centred around Hong Kong Dollars – not massively helpful to those of us wanting an to transfer other currencies like Pound Sterling, Euros and Dollars!
Again, we need to calculate the ‘spread’ to see how much HSBC are really charging for international money transfers. The spread is the difference between buy and sell rates – that’s how the banks make their money.
To do this yourself, you would need HSBC’s exchange rate calculator – which is very hard to find if you didn’t know about it beforehand.
The HSBC exchange rate margin for Pound Sterling to US Dollar is 2.321%. Meaning a money transfer of £100,000 would cost you £2,321.00. Note at HSBC, the exact margin changes depending on the currency you need.
For Australian Dollars, the spread is 2.916%. Meaning a £100,000 transfer would cost you £2,916.12.
For the Euro, the spread is even larger at 3.132%. This means our £100,000 transfer would cost you £3,132.37.
One additional thing to note is that HSBC (like most other banks) advertise ‘no fees’.
Don’t get sucked into this advertising.
HSBC international transfers are not free. They just make their money from exchange rates, rather than fees.
The bottom line is it pays to shop around, whichever currency you wish to trade.
For Santander customers, the exchange rate on international transfers totally depends on the transfer’s size.
However, finding out the exact rate is much more difficult.
This requires getting a quote and calculating the margins yourself.
Santander’s website has a currency exchange calculator – which you may think is a very detailed tool.
However, the rates quoted here aren’t the same rates you’ll get with an international transfer with Santander!
These are market rates that don’t show the cost that Santander actually charges. We had to do some digging.
For an international transfer of £100,000 or more at Santander, you’ll be susceptible to margins between 2%-4%. This means the Santander exchange rate costs would be between £2,000-£4,000.
If your transfer amount is below £100,000, the margin will likely be even higher than that, meaning Santander will take an even higher percentage of your transferred amount.
We’d recommend, shopping around to try and find an exchange rate with lower margins.
And even though you may not be able to compare a direct margin from Santander, this should give you a rough idea and help you save money on your currency exchange.
If you have a Natwest account, the good news is that they make their exchange rates clear and transparent. The bad news is the rates are some of the worst we’ve found.
As with other exchange rates from banks, these are indicative and may differ from the rates you will receive at the time of the transaction.
However, the hard work is calculating the profit margins for these currencies.
We have done this for you for the most popular currencies.
Looking at Natwest exchange rates for US Dollars, Australian Dollars and Euros, the margin charged is 4.6%. This is huge.
This means a £100,000 international transfer could cost you £4,600 in exchange rate charges.
This exchange rate cost is similar across the board for other currencies.
If you’ve seen the margins of other banks and providers, you’ll realise the need to shop around, whatever your currency, as a better margin is very achievable.
If you have a Lloyds account and are considering using them for your international money transfer, you’ll most likely be presented with their different tiers of money transfer services.
It is not easy to decipher which tier is best for your international transfer, but this is dependent on your amount and how regularly you’ll be transferring currency.
So, unfortunately, this is another hurdle you’ll have to work out yourself, depending on your circumstances.
The exchange rate costs of international transfers at Lloyds also depends on the amount of currency.
If you used Lloyds Bank for an international transfer, the exchange rate costs range between 2.4% and 3.2%.
You need to send a large amount to qualify for the better rates.
For example, on a transfer of £10,000, you would be charged 3.2%, incurring exchange rate costs of £320. Whereas on a transfer of £100,000, you would pay 2.4%, which works out at £2,400 in exchange rate costs.
In addition to this, be aware that Lloyds also adds on a fixed transfer fee and charges the recipient a fee too.
Lloyds also have an exchange rate calculator, but this is an indicative rate close to the interbank rate and isn’t the exchange rate you’ll receive.
As with a lot of other banks, exchange rate margins for Halifax are dependent on the amount you’re transferring.
The exchange rate costs are higher for small amounts but gradually get better for larger sums.
For example, on a £10,000 money transfer, the exchange rate margin is 3.55%, which works out at a cost of £355.
On a £100,000 international transfer, the exchange rate margin at Halifax is listed at 2.1%. This means Halifax are charging £2,100 on a transaction of this size.
To qualify for Halifax’s best rates, you need to send £250,000 or more, which won’t be applicable for most people.
Here’s where you can find the full list of exchange rate margins for Halifax. It’s a bit hidden, but scroll down to the ‘How much does it cost? section.
Once you find it, this section also has a Halifax exchange rate calculator. Here you can put in the exact amount you’d like to transfer and find out exactly how much an international transfer would cost you in exchange rate margin.
Halifax’s margins aren’t dependent on the currencies you’re transferring, only the amount.
When hunting for more information on Halifax’s exchange rates, you’ll need to be careful to search for ‘international payments’, rather than ‘currency exchange’ to avoid travel money results.
Also, Halifax transaction charges are unique as they are free for the Euro, but other currencies charge you £9.50. There are also charges for the recipients. £12 for the USA, Canada and Europe and £20 for anywhere else in the world.
Additional fees that you also need to be aware of.
For RBS customers, indicative exchange rates are listed for each currency.
Although this makes it easy to see the rate for the currency you need to transfer, finding the RBS commercial currency rates page is no easy feat.
As you may have gathered by now, the key information you need is the spread between the rates to determine how much RBS takes from each transfer.
We’ve done this for you.
The exchange rate margin at RBS for GBP to Euro, works out at a whopping 4.6%.
For a £100,000 international payment, this would hand £4,600 straight to the bank.
This exchange rate costs are the same for US and Australian Dollar transactions and are similar across the board.
Again, we thoroughly recommend shopping around to find the best rate possible. As you can see from this example, it could save you a lot of money on your international money transfer.
If you’re a Nationwide customer, they make a list of indicative exchange rates available. But this does not make it easy to calculate the margin.
We’ve done the calculations and worked out that Nationwide’s exchange rate margin is 2.3% across the board – regardless of transfer amount.
This is not dependent on the currencies involved in your transfer either.
Using our £100,000 baseline transaction amount, this would cost you £2,300.
As it is so difficult and awkward for someone new to currency exchange to calculate, many people don’t realise this cost exists.
They think a one-off £20 transfer fee is the only cost incurred.
This is simply not the case.
It may not be done deliberately, but the transfer fee can often act as a smokescreen for the actual margin and cost you will incur.
If you’re a TSB account holder and would like to use them for international transfers, they don’t make their exchange rates or margins readily available.
If you use TSB for an international transfer, unfortunately you’ll need to follow the transaction through to the point of confirmation just to find out the TSB exchange rates.
This doesn’t bode particularly well for the rate they’ll be charging.
And you’ll have to calculate the exchange rate margin and total cost (including fees) of the transaction yourself.
That’s a real headache for sensible consumers who want to shop around before they commit to their international transfer.
You’ll also see that TSB have a limit of £75,000 on international transfers. Anything larger than that and you’ll have to go elsewhere.
Also, whether you choose to carry out the payment online or over the phone, TBS adds charges from £10 to £20, depending on the transfer amount.
If you’re banking with The Co-operative, you’ll be subject to exchange rate costs of 4% on international money transfers.
You may have already worked out, that that works out as a £4,000 fee on a transfer figure of £100,000.
To find out specific exchange rates (that all include the 4% margin), you’ll have to give the Co-op a call to get a quote on the exchange rate at the time.
They also add a charge of 0.25%, a minimum of £13 and a maximum of £35.
Key Currency: A trusted alternative
High street banks can initially seem like the most logical option for international money transfers.
However, once you dive deeper into how much they charge, it makes sense to consider your options.
You will find there are much easier, cheaper and more efficient ways to send money abroad, like currency transfer specialists.
Key Currency are a prime example of a helpful, friendly and reliable antidote to big banks.
- British-based and privately owned
- Specialists in currency transfers with lower overheads than traditional, cumbersome banks
- An independent provider who can deliver lower rates
- Able to assign you your own personal representative
We believe in guiding you through the international transfer process. We watch the markets for you, to make sure you get the best possible rate.
We don’t push you online to deal with the process yourself. It’s not fair to place the responsibility onto you. Instead, we provide helpful guidance and support to make sure your money transfer is done efficiently.
Our fees are included in the exchange rate quoted to you (which is highly likely to be lower than the banks), so there are no extra costs.
Take a look at our 5-star TrustPilot rating with over 1000 reviews; the highest available in our industry.
Key Currency is an FCA regulated Authorised Payment Institution (No. 753989), and as such, you have the peace of mind knowing that all money transfers are conducted through safeguarded client accounts.
To compare us to the high street banks, simply request a free quote below.