Receiving money from abroad: Things to consider

TransferWise
20.09.19
6 minute read

Receiving money from overseas in currencies other than GBP shouldn’t cost you a small fortune. And it shouldn’t be complicated either.

Using your UK bank account may seem like the most convenient option, but it may involve fees and marked-up exchange rates - that could mean you’ll receive less than you should.

This article will cover the key things to consider when receiving money from abroad, including the fees and exchange rate. We will also take a look at how alternative providers, such as TransferWise, can help you receive money internationally.


Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at some of the fees for receiving international payments with UK banks, and the exchange rate applied to see how they compare. All examples are based on receiving payments in a foreign currency from outside the UK via an electronic transfer.

Receiving under £100 (Fee) Receiving over £100 (Fee) Exchange Rate + Mark-up
TransferWise Free Free Real exchange rate - no mark-up.
HSBC £0 per payment £8 per payment* Exchange rate - possible mark-up¹
Natwest £1 per payment £7 per payment Exchange rate - possible mark-up²
Halifax £2 per payment £7 per payment Exchange Rate + mark-up (1.5% to 3.2%)³
Ulster Bank £2 per payment £7 per payment Exchange rate + possible mark-up⁴
Nationwide £0 per payment £0 per payment⁵ Exchange rate + possible mark-up
Create your free account & get paid better with TransferWise.

*These fees are based on receiving a foreign currency payment from within the EEA. There may be additional fees if the payment is sent from an account outside of the EEA - see the HSBC site for full details. The banks listed are not a full list of UK banks that offer international payment services. Those listed do not denote preference, and the order of those listed does not denote importance or relevance.


Save on international payments with TransferWise

Once you’re set up, receiving international payments is simple and practical for everyone, whether you’re receiving money from your friend in Vancouver or from a client in Valencia. IIn fact, with your free TransferWise account, you’ll be able to:

Receive money from 30+ countries for free into your borderless account. Get free local account details in minutes for EUR, USD, GBP, AUD and NZD - to easily receive payments with zero fees.

Convert back to GBP any time and get the real exchange rate. When you’re ready to convert your money back to GBP, you’ll always get the real exchange rate.

Mid-market exchange rate - why is it so important?

When you need to convert a balance back to GBP after receiving an international payment, you obviously want to get the best exchange rate possible. It can make a huge difference to the real amount of money you receive.

The mid-market, or real exchange rate is the only rate worth caring about. You’ll need to always check if you are getting the real exchange rate, and not a marked-up rate. You can see it for yourself by checking the rate that you’ll see on Google.

Banks might advertise low or even no fees, but they often add a mark-up to the real exchange rate, or the interbank exchange rate when they convert your money. This means that there may be fees hidden behind the exchange rate offered. .

Alternative providers, such as TransferWise don’t do this. If you need to convert money with them you’ll get the real exchange rate, with up-front fees. You can also sign-up for TransferWise exchange rate alerts to keep up-to-date with the real exchange rate.

Receiving international payments - things to consider

Unclear exchange rates and differing fees from different banks can make finding the best option to receive an international payment more complex than it needs to be. It’s best to keep it simple. So here are some things to bear in mind before you receive your first payment from overseas.

Banks may set their own limits

The sender’s bank may limit the amount you can send in one go, so you may receive the requested sum in smaller chunks over a number of days. Your receiving bank may also set their own limits that can affect your incoming payments, for example there may be a limit on the amount that will be automatically converted. This may be an issue if you are receiving larger payments. In both cases, it's always best to discuss this with the sender, and your receiving bank.

Check out the exchange rate and fees

Banks often advertise free or low-cost transfers, but add a hidden markup to the exchange rate. You’ll need to keep this in mind if your received funds need to be converted. You’ll also need to check if there are any other fees for receiving the payments to your account.

Multi-currency accounts are extremely useful

Want to receive money like a local with no transaction fees or marked-up exchange rates? A multi-currency account may be the answer. Take the TransferWise multi-currency account for example, this would let you receive the payment in the local currency and then convert it to GBP when it suits you.

Getting verified in advance is a very smart idea

Banks have to sometimes conduct routine checks on payments, so it’s best to ensure that your account is fully verified ahead of any payments, especially if you are expecting to receive larger amounts.

Multi-currency account

A multi-currency account can help you receive payments from overseas, as it allows you to receive and hold a number of currencies - with the aim of increasing convenience and reducing cost to you as the recipient. We have pulled together an overview of some of the multi-currency accounts available.

Multi-currency account Currencies available Fees
TransferWise Yes! Create your free account today. Receive in GBP, EUR, USD, AUD and NZD with local account details. Hold money in 40+ currencies. Free! There is no cost to receive payments to your local account details.
Halifax Yes. Does not offer its own foreign currency accounts, but offers it to its customers via a partnership with Lloyds Bank.⁶ GBP, EUR, USD It’s free to send and receive international payments to these accounts, but there is a monthly charge of £7.50 (8 EUR / 10 USD) to consider.⁷
HSBC Yes AUD, CAD, CHF, Chinese Ren, EUR, HKD, JPY, Norwegian, NZD, Dirham, SEK, SGD, USD, ZAR Can only pay-in from GBP account - the funds will then be converted by HSBC No fees for receiving payments.⁸
Natwest Only available for business and savings accounts. Most major currencies available including USD and EUR.⁹ N/A
Ulster Bank Only available for business customers.¹⁰ N/A N/A
Nationwide No. Nationwide International ceased operations in 2017. N/A N/A

The examples included in the above example are for personal current accounts - they do not refer to business or savings account. For full details of all account options provided - refer to bank’s sites directly.

You shouldn’t lose money when receiving an international payment, be it because of high fees or hidden fees in a marked-up exchange rate. This article has introduced some of the key things to consider when receiving an international payment, and how TransferWise can help.

With the tips above, and with your very own multi-currency account with TransferWise, you’ll soon be receiving money from overseas like a local. Even better, you’ll be saving money, and that’s bound to feel good.

Sources used:

1.HSBC: International Money Transfer
2.Natwest: Receive International Payments
3.Halifax: International Payments
4.Ulster Bank: Overseas Payments
5. Nationwide: Receiving international Payments
6.Halifax: International Banking
7.Lloyds: International Accounts
8.HSBC: Currency Account
9.Natwest: Cash Management Account
10.Ulster Bank: Foreign Currency Account

Sources checked on 16-September 2019.


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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