HSBC international transfer: Fees, rates and transfer time

06.03.18
9 minute read
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Sending money abroad is now easier than ever. In fact, HSBC alone processes some 1.3 million international transfers for customers every year. However, it’s still a pretty complex business for banks to make sure all their customers’ money lands in the right place, so of course, there are costs involved.

How your money will be transferred depends to an extent on where it’s going. If you bank with HSBC UK you might see international transfers referred to as SEPA payments, international payments, Worldpay or Priority Payments. The payment route used, as well as costs, cut off times, and the processing times vary, depending on where your money is headed. You may even be able to save using a service like TransferWise - but more on that later. Because the timescales - and costs - involved in moving money abroad vary depending on the circumstances, it’s a good plan 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.

While the prices may seem comparable at first glance, 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. Which means there are likely 1-3 intermediary banks in addition to the recipient bank that may levy fees of their own. Costing you even more.

Provider Fee Exchange Rate Total Cost
HSBC (UK) £4 Exchange rate + markup £4 + exchange rate markup + likely fees from both intermediary and recipient banks
TransferWise £4.29 The real exchange rate - the same one you find on Google £4.29

(Source 1, Source 2 3 January 2018)


Now that you know a bit more about what an international transfer really costs, here’s all you need to know about making one with HSBC.

What are the fees for an international payment with HSBC UK?

Before you start, it’s a good plan to understand the fees involved when making an international transfer with HSBC. However, don’t forget that there may be additional charges added by the recipient bank or any intermediary banks who handle the transaction along the way.

HSBC’s fees vary depending on the specific circumstances of the transfer, and are set out below. However, make sure to check out all the small print online before commiting.

HSBC International transfer fees table

HSBC UK International Transfers Regular Fees
Incoming international transfer Free if the transferred amount is under £100£6 for sterling transfers over £100£8 for non-sterling transfers over £100
Outgoing international transfer Worldpay to another HSBC account - free if processed online, via telephone banking or in branchWorldpay to a non-HSBC account - £4 if processed online, £9 if processed by telephone or in branchPriority Payments to another HSBC account - free if processed online, via telephone banking or in branchPriority Payments to a non-HSBC account - £4 if processed online, £30 if processed by telephone or in branch
Additional fees may apply See Additional Fees section below

(Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, 3 January 2018)

HSBC exchange rates

As well as any flat fees applied, the other important thing to understand is the exchange rate that’ll be used for your transfer. HSBC’s Personal Banking Terms and Conditions document explains the rates used if you ask them to convert the currency before the transfer takes place:

The HSBC Exchange Rate applies to all conversions apart from Global Transfers when the HSBC Global Transfers Exchange Rate will apply. These are variable rates that change frequently. If you ask us to make a payment immediately, we’ll provide details of the exchange rate and you’ll have the opportunity to accept or reject it before confirming you want us to send your payment. If you ask us to make a payment in the future, we’ll apply the HSBC Exchange Rate/Global Transfers Exchange Rate at the time we make the payment.

That means that, if you ask HSBC to convert currency as part of a transaction that’s being processed immediately, you can see the rate used. Just make sure to compare it to the real rate with an online currency converter, to make sure it’s fair. If you’re asking HSBC for an international transfer to be made at some point in the future, though, they’ll just apply the rate of their choosing, without showing it to you in advance.

You might also find that it's not HSBC that sets the exchange rate for your transaction. For example, if you’re transferring money abroad using a different currency than your account, an agent or correspondent bank might choose the exchange rate to apply. They might also add fees, which have to be paid by either the person sending or receiving the money. As these intermediary banks don’t need to worry about keeping their customers happy, they generally don’t offer a great deal. They can mark up the exchange rate and keep the difference as profit, as well as charge any fees of their choosing.

(Source 3 January 2018)

Additional fees from HSBC

HSBC international transfer Additional fees
Sending/recipient bank and/or intermediary bank(s) HSBC’s General Price List explains: “For international payments, the recipient’s bank (and any other bank we use to send the payment) may also make a charge. You’ll only have to pay these charges if you choose “sender to pay all charges” when you request your payment.”
Priority payments arranged by visiting a branch or via Telephone Banking Service (TBS) £30
Tracing or enquiries related to an international payment HSBC’s General Price List explains: “We may charge for any enquiries we receive in respect of each payment instruction, whether made by you or another person. We will not charge you if we have made an error. We will advise you of the charge before we start investigations on your behalf.”

Because there are fees added by both the bank sending the money abroad, and the bank which receives it, you might also be asked if you want to pick up the recipient fee if you’re transferring money to someone overseas.

Similarly, if someone sending money to you selects the option to have you pay the recipient and intermediary fees, you might find you receive less than you expected. Additional fees could be a percentage or a fixed cost and can be pretty high depending on the amount being transferred, whether there are intermediaries involved, and the recipient bank’s policy.

And if HSBC sends your transaction via the SWIFT network, then there could be up to 3 intermediary banks involved, each taking their own cut of the money. As mentioned above, they might even dictate the exchange rate used in converting your money and since neither you nor your recipient are their customer, they’re not at all bothered about your happiness.

(Source 3 January 2018)

A cheap and transparent alternative: TransferWise

Your bank doesn’t always offer the best deal when it comes to international money transfers. In fact, you could get a much better deal with TransferWise. Unlike most traditional banks, TransferWise specializes in international money transfers. That means that moving your money is fast and secure, and even better, TransferWise uses the real exchange rate with only a small transparent cost.

You might also find it useful - if you make international transfers regularly, and like your money to be as mobile as you are - to get a new TransferWise borderless multi-currency account.

Borderless accounts are great for people who live or work overseas, or travel regularly, as you're able to manage and move your money around the world at the touch of a button - with no monthly fees. They’re also a perfect solution for freelancers working across borders. If you get paid in the EU, the UK, Australia or the US but live elsewhere, a borderless account will let you get paid locally using virtual local bank details - cutting out international transfers entirely.

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

How do you make an international bank transfer with HSBC?

HSBC allows customers to make international money transfers online, by visiting a branch, or by phone if you prefer. The bank will use a SEPA payment where possible if you’re transferring under €2,000 within the EU. A Worldpay payment is offered if SEPA isn’t available, and finally a Priority Payment if neither of the other two can be used. Which payment method is chosen depends on where you’re sending money - and whether you’re able to bank online or not.

If you hold one of the HSBC UK premium accounts, you can also choose to move your money using what’s known as a Global Transfer. However, for this article, we’ll focus on the options available to holders of a regular HSBC UK account.

In general, it's easiest and quickest to organise your transfer online.This is also the cheapest option by far. Full details of how to make an online transfer are available on the HSBC website.

Online transactions are capped at £50,000 while branch-based transactions are unlimited.

(Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, 3 January 2018)

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

If you want to send money internationally, you're going to need a few key details:

  • The transfer amount
  • The full name of the person you’re sending the money to, as written on their account
  • The country you’re transferring to
  • The recipient’s IBAN, or account number if you’re transferring to the US
  • The recipient bank’s SWIFT/BIC code, or routing number if you’re transferring to the US
  • The reason for payment and any payment reference needed

(Source 3 January 2018)

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

You’ll need to give the sender the following to receive an international money transfer with HSBC:

  • 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. Don’t forget to take into account any charges you’re liable for.

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

(Source 3 January 2018)

How long does an international bank transfer with HSBC take?

How long your transaction will take depends on where it’s going. You’ll usually find that payments to an account within the EU will be credited on the next working day. However, it’ll take a bit longer to get money elsewhere in the world. Most international transfers would be completed within 5 days, but this depends a lot on where your money is going and any further checks required to complete the transaction.

(Source 3 January 2018)

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

The bank doesn’t offer a way to speed up payments as they’ll choose the best route for your payment based on the fees and time it’ll take. It's also very important to note the cut-off times for payments, which vary based on the destination. This is usually 3:30 pm for euro and sterling payments, and 6:00 pm for dollar payments. Different cut-off times apply for other currencies, so it’s a good idea to check before you confirm your transaction.

Contact / Help - More questions around your transfer?

If you have specific questions about your transfer, there are several different ways you can talk to HSBC:

  • Log in to online banking for frequently asked questions and to chat with an advisor
  • Use the HSBC branch finder to get help in person
  • Or give HSBC a call - 03457 404 404

Whether you’re making a one-off payment overseas - to pay for a holiday perhaps - or are a regular user of international money transfers, there are a few pitfalls and hidden fees which can lead to nasty surprises. Do your research in advance, to avoid paying too much for your transfer, and make sure you get the best deal for your situation.

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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