Do you need to send a large sum of money overseas? Perhaps you’re planning on remitting money home to a loved one, or you want to make an international money transfer to cover the deposit on a new home abroad. Whatever your reason, if you’re sending larger amounts of money to an account based outside of the UK, it’s more important than ever to check out the fees applied for your transfer, and make sure the exchange rate used is reasonable.
This handy guide covers all you need to know about how to initiate an international money transfer for a large sum of money - including answers to the following crucial questions:
- What does the law say about the maximum amounts you can send abroad from the UK?
- What are the TransferWise limits for international transfers?
- What are the best ways to send money overseas?
- How do I receive large amounts of money from abroad?
- What kind of documents could I be asked to provide?
The UK government doesn’t limit the amount of money that can be sent abroad from the UK. However, bodies like the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) do monitor international money transfers to check for illegal activity.
Your bank or money transfer provider will be asked to collect some details about both the sender and the recipient of many international payments. Usually you’ll just have to follow the service provider’s process, and everything will be in order. If the FCA or HMRC have any concerns about transfers they're informed of - about money laundering or tax avoidance for example - they can investigate further, which may lead to civil or criminal action if the transfer is found to break the law¹.
TransferWise has some payment limits in place to comply with local laws, which depend mainly on legislation in the country you’re sending money to. You can get a full list of the currencies TransferWise supports, including the limits applied to payment amounts, online.
For example, if you want to transfer £500.000 to euro, you can do this in one single payment as the limit for payments to euro is €1,2 million per transfer. However, if you need to send a higher amount, this is still possible. Sending, for example, £5 million (or higher amounts) to euro, can simply be done in multiple payments. In these cases it is advisable to contact customer support before you make the payment, though, so they can guide you through the process and make it as smooth as possible.
For more detailed information about transaction limits when you want to send a high amount transfer and the information you might need to provide, check out the TransferWise Help Center.
If you’re sending a large amount of money overseas, you have a few choices to make. You might choose your high street bank, or a specialist money transfer service, for example. Each option comes with its own process and costs which you’ll need to compare, to get the best available deal. The key things to think about when choosing how to set up your international transfer include the following:
One of the most important things to consider is how safe your chosen method of transfer is. Simple common sense is enough to know that sending a large sum of money in cash through the post isn’t really safe. But how do you know your bank or money transfer service is really any safer?
One thing to look for is a provider which is regulated by the financial conduct authority (FCA). The FCA is the body that oversees financial institutions in the UK, so choosing a provider which is FCA approved and regulated means you know your money is safe².
Next you’ll need to look at the upfront fees which different services charge to send your money. These can vary widely between international transfer providers, so doing some research before deciding on the best method to use for your international transfer can save you a lot of money.
Another fee to look into is the fees that intermediary and receiving banks might charge you. Most banks, and some international transfer providers, use the SWIFT network to transfer you money to the recipient. What this means is that your transfer will pass through several (up to 3) intermediary banks, who can all take their fee off of the amount, and in a lot of cases the recipient’s bank will charge a fee for receiving the payment as well.
TransferWise is a service that offers customers international transfers using the mid-market exchange rate. The fee you’ll be charged is a percentage of the amount plus a small fixed fee of £0.80 and it’s always shown upfront, plus there’s no exchange rate markup. For payments in GBP the fee percentage for the first 100,000 is 0.35%, and for any amount above that it’s only 0.20%. You can find all you need to know on the TransferWise pricing page as well.
As well as looking at the upfront fees, you’ll want to check the exchange rates used by different international payment providers. It can be hard to know if you’re getting a good deal on the exchange rate for your transfer, because rates change all the time. The best way to make sure the exchange rate you’ve been offered is fair, is to compare it with the mid-market exchange rate.
The mid-market rate is the one that banks use to trade currencies between themselves, and the one you’ll find if you google the currency pairing you’re interested in. However, many banks and international transfer services don’t offer retail customers the mid-market exchange rate when they’re making a transfer. Instead, they add a markup to the real exchange rate, which they then keep as their profit. This isn’t transparent, and it can mean you pay more than you have to - it can especially add up when sending larger amounts of money.
You can receive a payment from abroad to your UK based account, by giving the sender the following information:
- Your full name, account number and sort code
- Your IBAN - international bank account number - and the bank’s SWIFT/BIC code
- The amount you’re expecting to receive, and the currency of your account
Before you arrange for someone to send you money from overseas, it’s worth discussing who will pay the costs of the transfer. For many transfers, the sender will need to decide who pays the fees when they initiate the transfer. Depending on the options their banks offers them, they can either select to pay the fees themselves, to split them with you as the recipient, or pass on all of the costs to you. Discussing your expectations in advance can make sure there are no surprises.
One way to make it easy to receive international payments is to get a multi-currency borderless account from TransferWise. The borderless account lets you hold money in over 40 different currencies in the same account, and generate local bank details to receive paid fee free payments in pounds, US, New Zealand and Australian dollars and euros. You could find this saves you both time and money, if you make or receive frequent international transfers.
Because the laws governing international money transfers vary in different countries, you might be asked for documents related to your transfer, to satisfy local requirements. For example, some transfers might involve proving your identity, or the source of the funds.
Here are some example of documents that you can use to show where the money is coming from. There are different documents that you can use, but bank statements are accepted in most situations, as long as they clearly support your explanation. For example, if the money you’re sending was obtained from your income and you send a bank statement to support that, the incoming salary has to show the company name.
The below list shows the most commonly used documents, so if you don’t have any of the documents mentioned in the table, you can contact TransferWise as there might be other documents that can be accepted as well.
|Source of funds||Possible supporting document|
|Property sale|| |
|Company sale|| |
If you need to send a large amount of money abroad it’s well worth doing some research to find the best transfer provider for your needs. High fees or a poor exchange rate can mean you pay more than you have to - especially when sending a large sum of money. Check the upfront fees, as well as the exchange rates used by different banks and international transfer services, so you know you’re getting a fair price.
Sources used for this article:
*Sources checked on January 14, 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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