/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Why is it so slow to send money overseas?

Recently, I sent some cash to a colleague in India as part of a Which? Money investigation. But what shocked me was the trouble he had getting hold of the ‘reddies’. So what is the best way to transfer money abroad?

Chances are, a fair proportion of us will want to send money abroad at some stage in our lives. There are a few ways to get this done – you can use your bank, a wire service or a specialist transfer service.

Our research found big discrepancies between what providers charge for sending money abroad, such as an £87 difference between the cheapest and most expensive when sending $1,000 to the US.

And if you need to get cash to someone in foreign climes post-haste, our research found that using a wire service, like Western Union or MoneyGram, was your best bet. We found they’re usually the fastest, completing transfers in minutes (providing there aren’t any problems). This is great, considering that other transaction suppliers can takes days. But, unfortunately, life’s not that simple.

Secure but slow

When I tried wiring cash to a colleague in Mumbai, it really did take minutes. However, my colleague couldn’t access the cash because the wire service had placed a block on the transfer. And why was that? Apparently, it was due to money laundering safety measures and concern over potential scams.

To be fair, I appreciate the need for financial providers to be vigilant and help in the fight against financial crime. But, if my colleague was in desperate need of cash, this hitch could have proven awkward.

What makes it worse is that I received no indication that there was a problem. It was only when the recipient couldn’t access the funds that the issue came to light. Surely a little warning might have been appropriate?

A balancing act

I might sound like I have a downer on money transfer operators – but I don’t. They’re just being prudent. But it’s still an issue, and one that doesn’t get currency transfer providers off the hook. After all, banks are everywhere. Most UK banks have an international presence, and even if they don’t, banks still talk to one another. So why does it take days to transfer money anywhere outside of Europe?

I think it’s about time that the money transfer sector caught up with the rest of the e-commerce world and enabled fast transfers, rather than including caveats detailing ‘typical’ timings. This way we could all rest assured that our cash would reach its destination in time. I think emails to the currency sender, asking for security clearance if there proved to be a problem, would also be a good idea.

Have you come across any problems when transferring money abroad? What are the fastest and slowest transfer times you’ve achieved?


I’m not sure just how “globally-available” their services are, but I’m somewhat surprised that you haven’t made any mention of Paypal’s facilities for transferring money between individuals in different countries. OK, they might not always be the cheapest and it can still take some time to transfer money out to the payee, but I still think they should be mentioned!

Completely agree – I have used Paypal for this purpose – it is not instant and it is not free – but it is easy to do provided both are on the internet and have e-mail.

Stewart C says:
27 July 2012

I use a company called Oanda Global Transfer. It takes a little bit of setting up but they give the best exchange rates around. The exchange rate more than covers the transfer fees in comparison to any other method. Also if there are any problems they will email immediately, they also have on-line chat which answer your questions in minutes. Can’t recommend them enough.

John says:
2 August 2012

Your article was helpful and timely as I am about to send money tomy daughter for her airline fare from Melbourne to visit us in the UK.

Is it possible to do better by buying the ticket in this country and sending it to her or are there IATA or other regulations preventing this?


AFAIK, it’s still the case that IATA rules stipulate that all air tickets must be purchased and paid for in the country of original departure. With internet, of course, you can remotely purchase and pay for a ticket for your daughter, but you’d have to do it on the Australian site of the airline, in your daughter’s name. Then, you would be effectively transferring the money to your daughter, but indirectly by paying with your card. Naturally, you’d be billed in $AUS, so you’ll also be hit for the currency exchange at card rates, but they’re usually comparable to what you’d be charged any other way.

The IATA rules MAY have changed since I last heard of them being as I’ve described, but I don’t think they have.

Deborah Perkin says:
20 November 2012

I want to send money monthly to a friend in Morocco. She does not have a bank account. What is the best way to do it please?

Adrian McTiernan says:
23 November 2012

I wonder if it might be easier if she could open an account at a bank, then there should be no problem, unless it is a cultural problem, perhaps? Or, could you open one on her behalf?

Adrian McTiernan says:
23 November 2012

I use PayPal – I transfer money into my friend’s PayPal account now, and in about 15 minutes, it appears on his account, or his PayPal Credit card. Using PayPal, there are no unpleasant high charges, no worries about money laundering, and no-one even knows my bank details. I am aware that not many people know about this, but it is time they did. Please go and check the PayPal site – it is such a good system – I have used them for about 5 years, and would never go and try the bank for sending money, or use a cheque book unless I have to. I originally used it as a safe way to pay for Ebay purchases, but found out about transferring money quickly when a friend in America needed some dollars immediately, and I was able to have them with him in less than 30 minutes. You only need the email or name by which the friend is known to PayPal, and the process is done online in a few keystrokes.

I hope this is of help

Adrian McTiernan says:
23 November 2012

Oops! – I forgot to mention that when using PayPal, both of you need to have a PayPal account, or PayPal Credit Card. It’s no good having just an email address, because it needs to be linked to your and the recipient’s accounts or where would they send the money? I hope this makes it clearer

peteW says:
5 February 2013

My partners son is at college in U.S he has a Bank of America account what is the cheapest way of transferring money into it. At the moment we do it through the post office but I think we get clobbered with charges both ends.

Arthur Woollard says:
26 June 2013

Hi has any money used torfx or telegragh international money trasfer to send money they seem to promise best rates ? Arthur

Has anyone any experience about this new transferwise.com service? I’m not bothered if it takes time but I want the best excahnge rate, security and no service fees to transfer money from my UK account to my Finnish account. I’m looking to send quite a big amount next time so that I can pay off my Finnish student loan (I used while studying in UK) in one go – an the bigger the amount gets the more nervous I’m sending it abroad. My own bank charges £25 for foreign transfer which is ridiculous. In Finland it costs just few euros and you get the actual currency exchange rate every time.

DavidP says:
10 October 2014

I have found good exchange rates for cash at ‘The Money Shop’. I also use them for Western Union cash transfers under say £200 as the exchange rates are better than at my bank and it’s faster and cheaper for this amount.
Does anyone know about http://www.xe.com? The mid-market exchange rates look good and there appear to be no fees.

Can anyone suggest the best way to send money from Canada to Australia?

To send money abroad, has anybody tried (recently) http://www.xe.com or http://www.globalwebpay.com? GlobalWebPay appears to deliver any sum for a fixed transfer fee of £4.75, delivers to bank accounts, and you can pay by debit card or bank transfer. We used it several years ago to transfer money from the UK to Canada and it was fine but it would be nice to have recent comments on it.

RalphY says:
28 January 2015

We’ve tried a few services over the years. We used GlobalWebPay to pay a holiday deposit by bank transfer and found the service fast and reliable. It’s refreshing when the rates advertised online are actually what you got once registered! Others we’ve used are Paypal (easy to do but the fees add up & exchange rates were poor) and Western Union (good for urgent payments but you pay a huge transfer fee.)

Bolly says:
2 February 2015

Recently sent some birthday to granddaughter in NZ from my HSBC account. Charge was £4 this end but her bank charged her $25 to receive $100. This is a fixed charge but I fail to see how it costs that much to receive when the exchange is done this end and the money is sent in $.

Hazel says:
10 April 2016

Can anyone help please. Son backpacking around India had wallet stolen. Which is the best way to get about £200 to him safely, quickly and best price. Western Union seems secure but pricey. I would be grateful to hear what you recommend.

Is he near a bank that has branches in this country? HSBC seem to be everywhere and there are Indian banks with branches in this country. If this is a possibility, I would think it would be the quickest and safest way to transfer money. Don’t know about cheapest though.

That is what I might try first. Perhaps someone will have a better suggestion for you.

It might be worth having a look at MoneySavingExpert dot com. Try “sending money abroad”.