Forget the financial jargon. Transferring money from France to the UK is relatively simple, but the costs will vary depending on whether you use a bank or currency broker.
There are four simple steps in an international money transfer. These are shown below.
In practice, the process is extremely quick and easy as your bank or currency broker should do the hard work for you.
No matter whether you use a bank or currency broker, the steps will be the same.
How long does it take?
As the UK and France are both in the EU (for now!), it doesn't take long for your money to arrive.
Typically, your money should arrive into your UK bank account in 1-2 working days after it has been received by your bank or currency broker.
As brokers and banks essentially use the same process, you would think the speed of transactions would be exactly the same. However, from my experience, I have found the banks are generally slower - sometimes by several days.
I suspect the reason is the systems and processes used by banks are less efficient, which causes delays in processing times. Given that a bank has to execute all sorts of different financial transactions from many different branches, things don't run as smoothly.
A currency broker should offer quicker turnaround times and keep you informed at every stage of your money transfer.
Best way to transfer money from France to UK
These days there are plenty of companies that can transfer money internationally.
Some are focused on smaller, 'micro-payments' to friends and family; while others specialise in larger amounts for properties abroad and emigration.
Ultimately, your aim is to move your money in a fast, secure and cost-effective way.
In days gone by, people would have automatically headed to their bank.
It is understandable.
A lot of people have been with the same bank for years, even decades, and aren't aware that they have a choice in the matter.
However, times have changed.
Today, if you need to send money abroad, there are better value options than banks.
The banks aren't too worried, though. They're still making billions off their customers and foreign exchange isn't a priority for them.
France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas, makes most of their income (over 70%) from savings deposits and loans.
Foreign exchange is 'non-core'.
It's no wonder the staff at branches have minimal knowledge and training in money transfers.
And the exchange rates (set by head office) just aren't competitive or very responsive to the market.
All in all, it's a bad deal for the customer.
Banks can charge up to 5% to transfer money from France to the UK.
That means on a money transfer of say €120,000; you could pay out €6,000 in fees and charges.
Why not request a quote and see how we compare.
How to avoid transfer fees
You will get hit for international transfer fees if you use your bank to send money from France to the UK.
Almost all the big banks in France will charge you international transfer fees in addition to their uncompetitive exchange rates.
To give you an indication of what to expect, we looked at BNP Paribas and Societe Generale.
Outgoing International Transfer Fees:
BNP Paribas: 1% up to EUR 100,00
Societe Generale: 0.5% from EUR 25,000 to EUR 250,000 (1%-1.5% for smaller amounts).
If your international transfer is urgent, the banks will charge you yet another fee.
If you want to receive a confirmation that your money is sent, that also comes with a fee.
If you want a smile, I would imagine that's extra too!
You can, however, avoid paying these fees. The solution is quite simple – don’t use a bank.
Some currency brokers are happy to waive international transfers fees altogether.
What is a currency broker?
Currency brokers specialise in international money transfers.
There are cost and service advantages when using a currency broker.
If you would rather be doing other things with your time than sitting in front of the screens all day and watching the movements in exchange rates, then a currency broker can keep an eye on things for you.
Currency brokers are watching the screens anyway as part of their day-to-day job and are more familiar with the factors driving the fluctuations in exchange rates.
If you have a specific exchange rate you wish to aim for, a currency broker can then put in place a rate alert. That way your broker could simply give you a call or send you an email if the rate gets to that level.
If you are hard to get hold of, you could also arrange to leave a market order. A market order gives your broker authority to go ahead and secure a specific exchange rate for you if the rate reaches to that level, so you don’t run the risk of missing a certain rate because you were unavailable.
Or you might just want a call if the Euro to GBP rate moves in your favour.
Once you've spoken with a currency broker, you can let them know the details of your situation, particularly the amount you are looking to transfer and the timeframe you have in mind.
How to get the best exchange rate
A major exchange rate, such as EUR/GBP, changes every 2-3 seconds throughout the day.
Monitoring rate moves is a lot easier these days as there are quite a few websites, such as XE and Oanda, that provide live exchange rates.
But if you look closely, you will find a disclaimer with words such as "for information purposes only" or "not available to consumers".
If you haven’t seen these disclaimers before, it’s because they are usually hidden at the bottom of the page or require you to click on a link to read them.
So why are these rates not commercially available?
It’s because they are known as "interbank" rates.
As the name suggests, it is the rate that banks transact with each other at – it is like a wholesale clearing rate. Not even large corporations that trade several hundred million at a time can achieve the interbank rate.
The fact that interbank rates are what most people see on the internet is a source of frustration and confusion for consumers.
We understand that the regulators, specifically the FCA, are seeking to ensure this critical fact is not hidden away as it is essentially misleading and creates false expectations.
In terms of finding out real rates, it's best just to get a real quote.
You will at least know where you stand, and if you like, a broker can keep an eye on the rate for you.
A pro-active currency broker can monitor the movements in the exchange rate and let you know when the rate moves in your favour.
Banks and online-only systems will not give you any help when it comes to guidance on rates.
You are left to decide on the right time to transfer your money. This can be daunting if the amount is large.
Online-only operators such as Transferwise or Revolut are two of the better known "do-it-yourself" services. They are particularly popular for smaller amounts (under £5,000), but the support you get as a customer is very limited.
For larger amounts, many customers want the peace of mind of having someone they can speak to, and that can offer assistance and guidance.
A currency broker can not only help you with the timing of your transfer but check over the details such as the payment information to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Just as a little tip: the number 1 cause of money transfer “mishaps” is the customer giving the wrong beneficiary details.
It’s why we double-check this to prevent problems. But I know in the online-only world, a lot of errors happen, and then the money can go astray.
A window of opportunity
For a property sale in France, you might have a window of 1-2 months between exchange and completion.
As you probably know, property transactions can take a while in France. But that time is essentially a window of opportunity to get the best exchange rate possible.
Over the course of a few months, exchange rates will typically move between 1%- 5% - sometimes more if there’s a big economic or political event.
To put that into perspective, if the sales proceeds from a French property sale were €150,000 and you were looking to transfer the money back to the UK, you could be €1,500 - €7,500 better or worse off depending on the exact timing of your transfer.
It shows how fluctuations in the exchange rate can make a big financial difference to the end result.
One thing a lot of people don’t know is that you can lock-in an exchange rate in advance of your expected transaction date.
In the case of a property sale, it means you can secure a rate before completion. This is called a forward contract and basically allows you to fix a rate for up to 12 months ahead.
Using a forward contract enables you to take advantage of a favourable move in the Euro against Pound Sterling and also means you know exactly how much money you will receive ahead of the completion date.
This can give customers peace of mind and allow them to budget more effectively. For example; people often have plans to use the money to buy a property in the UK. If you know exactly how much you will be receiving in Pounds, you can start searching for your next property with much greater certainty.
You may also wish to read our Practical Advice for Selling Your Property in France.
How safe is it using a currency broker?
One of the questions we get asked a lot is whether it's safe using a currency broker.
I completely understand. I've been a customer too.
The one thing I would suggest is you use a currency broker that is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
The reason is important.
An authorised and regulated company is obligated to keep your funds 'segregated'.
This means your money will be held in a separate and safeguarded bank account used for client money only.
An authorised currency broker must have a completely separate bank account for their own commercial purposes.
The bottom line is as long as you choose an FCA authorised and regulated currency broker, your money transfer will be conducted through a safeguarded client account.
If you need to transfer money from France to the UK, you can avoid paying excessive fees and charges.
I am one of the directors of Key Currency – an independent currency broker.
Every day we help people achieve great exchange rates and bypass high fees.
We have gained a 5-star "excellent" customer rating on Trustpilot as a result of over 500 customer reviews.
Most customers who are planning to transfer a large amount of money will naturally want to know more about any company they deal with.
Key Currency is 100% owned-and-operated by its directors.
We are an open and transparent company.
The names, faces and backgrounds of our directors and all our people are shown on our website.
If there is ever a problem, our people are at the end of a telephone. We don't hide behind an app or a website.
For those selling property in France, we have considerable experience in helping you complete the process with minimal stress and worry.
If you feel our service could be of use to you, simply request a free quote below.