If you’re wondering how to send money overseas for free then you should know it is this simply is not possible.
Although people constantly look for things online such as free international money transfers or free international wire transfers, and these terms are spiking up in popularity with each year passing, and the fact you’ll find plenty of competition from leading banks and currency brokers looking to offer their services, you won’t find these providers explicitly offering free international money transfers. They want to make money too.
‘No transfer fees’ of ‘fee-free international money transfers’ are often advertised, but what exactly does this mean?
In this guide to free international money transfers we explain this and why you can’t send money internationally free. View the various components making up the cost of an international money transfer below:
The payment fee is the clearly evident fee charged on every international payment that you make. On your standard bank charges you’ll see an international payment is almost always more expensive than a domestic wire. International payment fees are important to be aware of, particularly if you make frequent or regular payments. They can, however, soon start to be dwarfed by the exchange rate you are charged for larger payments. Most money transfer companies will waive the payment fee for customers as they make money on the FX spread they charge customers. Banks nearly always charge a payment fee and apply a wide FX spread to the exchange rate.
FX Spread / Exchange Rate
This fee isn’t so obvious. It’s the markup that the bank or foreign exchange provider adds to the interbank exchange rate. Like any purchase, the more currency you buy, the better the exchange rate / FX spread you should get. The provider you choose will prove a decisive factor on the exchange rates you are offered as well. Nowadays, many FX providers clearly detail the FX spread they apply to their customer exchange rates so you’ll know exactly how much it is you are being charged prior to entering into an agreement. Some providers (mostly banks) still prefer to hide their spreads – this is usually when they are looking to charge extortionate prices. When you are offered fee-free international money transfers the provider will still make money via the FX spread.
Commissions can be charged in forex trading but this is usually only applied when an FX deal is for trading only purposes. A commission is traditionally levied by the forex department of a bank or by forex trading firms. However, when a bank-to-bank transfer is involved and the transaction involves deliverable FX for a good or service it is unlikely you will have to pay a commission. In the past, many banks used to advertise “commission free” trading on international payments but would charge huge FX spreads and expensive payment fees.
If this is turning out to be a long and technical read for you and require recommendations of money transfer companies offering fee free service and offer great FX margins, resulting in a cheap cost, view our recommendations below:
Best Providers MTC August 2021 – Low Fees but NOT FREE
- Min Transfer: £/€/$ 100
- Currencies Supported: 39
- Offices : UK, EU, USA, India, South Africa.
- Our Rating : 97.8%
- Most Global Offices and Reach
No Fees from Anywhere
96% Client Satisfaction
- Min Transfer: £/€ 100
- Currencies Supported: 40
- Offices : UK, EU, Singapore, and Australia.
- Our Rating : 93.4%
- Extremely Tailored Service
MoneyFact's Best Provider Award
Diverse Hedging Options
- Min Transfer: £/€/$ 50
- Currencies Supported: 120
- Offices : UK, EU, Australia, USA, HK, UAE, and South America.
- Our Rating : 92.8%
- Extremely Tailored Service
Industry Veteran since 1979
Diverse Hedging Options
How can Banks and Money Transfer Firms Make Money?
One of the best ways to understand how much we should be paying for an international money transfer is to understand how international money transfer providers and banks make money – this way we can easily snuff out those companies exploiting us and those offering a fair price.
When banks trade FX with each other they do so at the interbank foreign exchange rate. This is the true exchange rate that you’ll find when you google a particular currency pair. Most people wonder if banks can trade at the interbank exchange rate with each other then why am I not eligible for this rate? The truth is it’s a bit like everything. To provide FX as a service is costly – technology, compliance and staff are just a few of the costs involved. It’s impossible for money transfer firms to offer the interbank exchange rate whilst encountering these costs. If they did, they would soon go out of business. For this reason, customers should expect to encounter some sort of FX spread in their transaction. That being said, it doesn’t need to be an extortionate spread that is so often applied by banks and some money transfer brokerages.
In case you’re wondering why banks are able to trade at the interbank exchange rate with each other – all banks incur similar costs to provide foreign exchange so they are happy to waive these costs when trading with each other. Commonly, at the close of play on each business day, you will find banks trading currencies with each other depending on their customer deposits and the currencies they are long and short in.
You can easily calculate the spread you are being charged, as follows:
(Rate Offered – Interbank Rate / Interbank Rate) x 100 = FX Spread
Read more here: how international money transfer companies make money
Fee-free International Money Transfer Services
If saving on payment fees is important to you then virtually all of the leading international money transfer firms offer fee-free international money transfers for private clients. What’s more, you should almost certainly achieve a better exchange rate than with a bank. Some money transfer firms, such as WorldFirst, offer fee-free international money transfers and publicise the tight FX spreads available to customers. You should find yourself getting a good deal with a number of FX providers though, particularly if you’re trading large volumes and you’re prepared to negotiate.
Although there are no free international money transfer services, we determine these providers as the closest to ‘free international money transfer services’ that you’ll find. If you’re looking for free international money transfer from the UK then WorldFirst is a very credible option as it still remains cheap despite not being free. And the same applies for TorFX if you’re seeking a free international money transfer from Australia – it won’t be free but it should be cheap and the firm holds a local Australian office.
Just always be sure to be aware of the spread on offer – simply by comparing the exchange rate charged by your provider with the interbank exchange rate on google and using the simple formula already mentioned above.
Near-Free International Money Transfers?
If you’re an HSBC account holder then you may have come across their ‘free international bank transfer’ offering on international payments for HSBC Premier and Advance current account holders. This only applies when you are transferring money to another HSBC account, through HSBC’s online banking system. Basically you can make a free international money transfer online if it’s the same currency. If it’s a cross-currency payment you’re making then it’s worth double-checking HSBC’s exchange rates, as they’re not always particularly good. All your saving on here is the payment fee – which you would do by using a money transfer firm in any case.
This concept of saving money when you’re transferring money to another account holder from the same money transfer provider as you has started to catch on though with some of the hottest FinTech’s in the international money transfer industry now offering this. For example, if you’re transferring money from your TransferWise account to another TransferWise account holder, then this is the closest to a ‘free money transfer abroad’ you’ll get – with next to nothing in payment fees and a tight FX spread. Cheaper than if you were paying a non-Transferwise account holder.
What’s the Cheapest Way to Send Money Abroad Then?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question. The currency pair involved, the amount you’re sending and the country it’s going to will all influence the FX spread and payment fees you’re charged. For exotic currencies you can almost always expect a wider spread then that of majorly traded currencies such as GBP, EUR, USD and AUD. For larger payments we believe the best international money transfer services are Currencies Direct to be one of the most competitive offerings available, and for low value international payments WorldFirst and TransferWise are great value. Both Currencies Direct and WorldFirst offer fee-free international money transfers, whilst the fee involved with TransferWise is negligible and you’ll achieve a very tight markup on the exchange rate.
Please note wire transfers cannot be reversed once getting to their destination, similarly to a transfer made with banks.
Hopefully you are now aware there is no such thing as ‘how to send money internationally for free’, similarly to no way to instantly send money abroad to a bank account.
A free money transfer abroad does not exist but having an expert on your side is generally always preferred as even the FX spread can soon start to look insignificant if there’s a big move in the FX market against you. For those who need to make regular international transfers it might just be the case of building a strong relationship with an account manager you trust at a specialist money transfer firm – with the right guidance you might be able to time your transfer to maximise your returns by a significant amount. Or at least lock in your exchange rate to hedge against a rate moving against you in the future. Be weary of firms offering free international money transfers/free international wire transfers or ‘0% spreads’ as these companies are likely to start widening your spreads after your initial trades.