How do you choose how to send money overseas? There are many different providers offering this service, from traditional high-street banks, to well established transfer specialists, to startups. Not to mention the many different sorts of financial institution that have emerged in the last few decades.
Virgin has been offering money services - via Virgin Money - since 1995¹. Like many banks and financial service providers, one of the services it offers is international money transfers. Virgin Money doesn’t have its own specialist product here, though: rather, they use a service provided by the international transfer company World First. It’s all done under the Virgin banner, but it’s provided by World First².
Before you get started, a word.
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Now, back to what you came here to read.
This article will take a look at the service that Virgin and World First offer, and how it works.
There are 2 ways you can use Virgin Money for an international transfer: online or by phone. The process is much the same either way³:
- First make sure you’re signed up.
- Either call Virgin Money or log in to the website, and give details of your transfer - how much, and who to.
- Take a look at their quote, and if you like the rate they’re offering, book the transfer.
- Pay - you can do this by bank transfer or debit card.
Then it’s out of your hands - your money will converted to the currency you requested and transferred to your recipient.
A useful feature is their “forward contract” service - you can book a transfer, at the current exchange rate, to be transferred in the future. So if you like the look of the exchange rate on one particular day, you can take advantage of this and book a future transfer at that rate. You can also set up regular payments via Virgin Money³.
Here’s an overview of what the transfer will cost you with Virgin - it’s the same as with World First².
|Virgin international money transfer||Fee|
|Exchange rate||Mid-market rate + spread|
Not a long list - great news. Read on for more on the exchange rate.
Thanks to World First, Virgin offers its customers a large variety of currencies and destination countries for its international money transfers. It includes the usual suspects plus many more unusual currencies, so chances are you should be OK.
Virgin again take their cue from partners World First here, and are honest about the approach they take. “We make our money in the same way that all banks and foreign exchange companies do,” they write: “by taking the difference between the interbank rate and the exchange rate we quote you”².
What is the interbank rate? Also called the mid-market rate, it’s the rate at which the banks trade between themselves for high-value transfers. It’s the average of the current exchange rates both buying and selling a particular currency pair. But as Virgin/World First write, this rate generally isn’t available to consumers via the banks.
Instead, it’s normal for banks and financial service providers to charge a marked-up exchange rate and simply keep the difference for themselves. That’s why you always have to be suspicious of offers of “no fees” or “zero commission”.
TransferWise is an example of a company that doesn’t. Rather, TransferWise uses the real mid-market rate and is fully open about the fee it charges on top of that. So you can see the exact, full cost of your transfer before you actually make it and without having to look up the mid-market rate separately.
Anyhow, as Virgin/World First says, their exchange rates tend to be better value than those offered by traditional banks. And they’re confident enough about this to offer a “best exchange rate guarantee”, through which they promise to better a quote you get from a high-street bank⁴. There are a few catches, though - for instance, you can’t use this guarantee to get money back from transfers already made. What’s more, the offer only applies to banks, not specialist money transfer providers. Which is where you’ll get most of the best deals.
Like World First, the focus is on high-value transfers. The minimum is £1,000, and there’s a £50,000 limit per trade and £100,000 per day if you do it online. If you do need to make a payment for a higher amount you can contact Virgin to discuss your options².
It always depends, but they try to deliver transfers in pounds, US dollars or euros on the same working day - though it might take longer to show up in the foreign account. For other currencies, they advise to allow between 1 and 4 days².
More questions? Best to contact Virgin directly. Call 0330 159 3895 if you’re new to Virgin Money Transfer or request a callback via their website. I you want to contact Virgin from outside of the UK, you can call +44 207 095 0770.⁵
Virgin’s money transfer service is provided by World First, and the product offered is much the same as World First’s own. It’s a good, quite flexible service that has some useful features like letting you lock in an exchange rate for transfers to be made in the future. What’s more, there are few fees apart from the exchange rate, and even the exchange rate should be competitive compared to that offered by other banks.
But if you want the best exchange rate of all, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Sources used for this article:
*All sources checked on February 15, 2019
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