First Direct international transfer: Fees, rates and transfer time

TransferWise content team
7 minute read

Sending money abroad - or receiving a foreign payment into your UK-based First Direct bank account - is usually pretty straightforward. However, with any international money transfer - which might also be called a currency account transfer, priority payment, or SEPA payment - there are costs involved, and it'll take a bit of time to make sure your money makes it to the right place. In addition, there are alternative money transfer providers like TransferWise that could save you money. But more on that later.

Because the fees applied when moving money abroad are often quite hard to calculate, and transfer times can vary, it’s a smart idea to do some research in advance so there are no surprises.

A quick example before we get started.

A theoretical online bank transfer sending £1000 from the UK to a euro bank account in Germany.

Provider Fee Exchange Rate Total Cost
First Direct Bank (UK) £0⁴ Exchange rate + likely markup £0 + exchange rate markup + fees from intermediary and recipient banks
TransferWise £4.29 The real exchange rate - the same one you find on Google £4.29

While the price difference on fees may not seem worth the switch, it isn’t just the stated fees you need to pay attention to.

What isn’t often mentioned is that, on average, banks and money transfer providers often mark up an exchange rate by 4-6% to make money on converting your currency. Which means it’s a good idea to compare the exchange rate you’re offered with an online currency converter** to find out how much your international transfer is really costing you**.

In addition, nearly all transfers sent internationally are sent via SWIFT. This means there are often 1-3 intermediary banks - in addition to the recipient bank - that may levy fees of their own. Whether it’s you or the recipient that pays these fees, they do cost.

Now that you have a little more of an idea about the real cost of sending money abroad, here’s all you need to know about making an international transfer with First Direct.

What are the fees for an international transfer with First Direct in the UK?

The exact fees you’ll be charged depend on the transfer details. Because some additional charges might be added by intermediary banks, it's not always possible to say exactly what a transfer will cost before it's processed. Check the First Direct terms and conditions² for more details.

First Direct International transfer fees table

First Direct Bank Transaction Fee
Incoming international transfer³
  • Payments within the EU up to €50,000 - £0
  • Non-sterling payments of £100 or more - £8
  • Sterling payments of £100 or more received from a bank outside the UK - £6
Outgoing international transfer (by phone or post)¹
  • To an HSBC or First Direct bank account - £0
  • To a non HSBC or First Direct bank account - £4
Outgoing international transfer (online)⁴
  • To any bank account - £0
Additional fees may apply
  • See Additional Fees section below

First Direct exchange rates

First Direct doesn’t publish the exchange rates used on international payments, but they do confirm the rate when you process your transaction.⁴ You can then choose to accept or reject the rate. If you’re setting up a transfer which will happen in the future, the rate that’ll apply will be that of the transaction date - meaning you don’t get to see it before the transfer is processed.

It’s also possible that an intermediary bank or the recipient’s bank might choose the exchange rate to apply. This depends on the exact transfer type you’re making. To make sure they profit on the deal, most banks mark up the exchange rate and keep the difference. This means that the exchange rate offered may vary quite a bit from the exchange rate offered on Google.

Additional fees from First Direct

First Direct international transfer Additional fees
Sending/recipient bank and/or intermediary bank(s) First Direct explains: “For some payments we may also deduct from your account charges made by agents, intermediary banks and the recipient's bank.”³ This means some transfers are processed with the SWIFT system, where there are often several banks involved in the process. These agent or correspondent banks might add their own fees to your transaction.
Cancellation of international payment First Direct notes: “If you give us incorrect information, and you ask us to try to recover the payment, we may charge you for this service. We'll give you the details of our charges before we try to recover the payment. The recipient's bank may also charge you if this happens.”³
Query about international payment First Direct expands: “We may make a charge for any enquiries we receive in respect of each payment instruction, whether made by you or another person.”³

A cheap and transparent alternative: TransferWise

TransferWise offers fast, secure international money transfers using the real exchange rate and only a small transparent cost per transaction. That means that if you have to send or receive money from abroad, you could get a better deal with TransferWise.

If you have to make frequent international transfers, for example, because you live or work overseas, or because you’re a freelancer working across different regions, you might also benefit from a TransferWise borderless multi-currency account.

With a borderless account, you can manage and move your money around the world at the touch of a button, hold your cash in different currencies, and convert it using the best available rates when you need it the most. If you get paid in the EU, the UK, Australia or the US but live elsewhere, the borderless account will let you get paid locally by allowing you to generate local bank details - so you can cut out international transfers entirely. Even better, there are no middlemen involved, so no extra fees to worry about.

See for yourself if you can get a better deal with TransferWise.

How do you make an international bank transfer (currency account transfer, priority payment, or SEPA payment) with First Direct?

The best way to make an international transfer with First Direct is through the online banking system. If you prefer, you can also carry out international transactions on the phone - however, this is at a higher charge. As First Direct doesn’t have its own branch network, you can’t talk to an advisor face to face to process your transfer.

It’s worth remembering, too, that online transfers are subject to a limit of £50,000 per day, while telephone transfers are uncapped.⁴

What do I need in order to make an international money transfer?

Exactly what detail you need to make an international transfer with First Direct depends on where you’re sending money to.

Generally, though, you’ll need the following to make an international money transfer with First Direct:

  • The full name of the person you’re sending the money to, as written on the account
  • The recipient’s address
  • The address of the bank you’re sending the money to
  • The recipient’s IBAN
  • The relevant SWIFT/BIC code, routing code, or sort code and national bank code

In some cases, you’ll have to specify the reason for the transfer, if the recipient bank needs this information because of their system or local laws. First direct might also give you a call to confirm the payment if they have any concerns about fraud or suspicious activity on your account.⁴

What do I need or what should I give to the sender in order to receive an international bank transfer?

If you're expecting money from abroad, don't forget, the sender needs a few key details to make sure you get your money safely:

  • Your full name and address, and that of your bank
  • Your IBAN
  • The correct SWIFT/BIC code
  • The amount being transferred - and the currency to be used

You’ll find your IBAN on any bank statement, and you can use this handy tool to find, or check your SWIFT/BIC code.

Both the sender’s bank, and your home bank might apply their own charges, and these can quickly add up. It’s a smart idea to agree in advance with the sender who will pay any charges associated with the transfer.

How long does an international bank transfer with First Direct take?

If you're transferring cash in an EEA currency to accounts in the EEA, your money should get there next working day.

Outside of the EEA, it'll typically take 4 or 5 working days - and may even be longer depending on the country you’re sending the money to.⁴ It's important also to remember the cut off time, which is usually 3:30 pm on a working day. However there might be different cut off times depending on the currency you're transferring, so it's well worth checking when you arrange the payment.

Is there any way to make a faster transfer for an extra fee?

First Direct doesn’t offer a way to speed up international payments. Although there’s a service called ‘priority payments’, this is actually just the name used for any transfer involving a currency conversion. Standard timescales apply.

Contact / Help - More questions around your transfer?

If you have specific questions about your transfer, there are a couple of different ways you can talk to the advisors at First Direct:

You don't want to pay more than you have to for your international money transfer - but because there are some common pitfalls, people often do. Do a bit of research in advance, and you can ensure you get the best deal for your circumstances.


  1. (9 April 2018)
  2. (9 April 2018)
  3. (9 April 2018)
  4. (9 April 2018)
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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