NatWest is the largest retail and commercial bank in the United Kingdom. Since 2000, it has been part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, ranked among the top 10 largest banks in the world by assets. As part of its personal banking offering, Natwest provides individuals with the possibility to exchange currency and make international payments.
Being a bank, it is much heavier regulated than commercial FX companies. It also gets massive media coverage than any FX company, even Transferwise which constantly gets to the headlines.
Prudential Regulation Authority (UK), FCA (UK), Financial Services Compensation Scheme(UK), Financial Services Compensation Scheme (UK), British Bankers’ Association (UK)
Natwest is definitely “safe” in the old-fashioned sense of the word. There are more regulatory bodies supervising over its activities than any commercial financial service provider. It’s also definitely well-known and offers easier face-to-face access with over 1,000 branches in the UK (while in comparison, FX companies have between 1 and 5 UK offices in total).
On the other hand, it’s not all rainbows and sunshines with Natwest. There is a lot of criticism (and possibly, public rage as reflected our Client Reviews section) out there, and some of it has been confirmed as justified by the regulators who fined Natwest for its misconduct more than once.
An honest Natwest review could have not ignored either of these sides.
618 reviews on TrustPilot, and 150 reviews on ReviewCentre [True January 20, 2018]. In addition there are plenty of blog posts and forum comments about Natwest across the British internet. Vast majority of these posts and comments we have reviewed are negative (here’s one from ThisIsMoney and another one from MoneySavingExpert’s Forum).
Please note, the Natwest client reviews that were collated into this section do not necessarily discuss international payments.
Positive: Those who liked dealing with Natwest said the following:
Lack of interest from Natwest’s behalf on hacking attempts
Unhelpful client service
Denied access to funds with no reason
Bad business banking
Charging excessive fees
Poor interest rate
Poor telephone banking
Money sent via BACS didn’t reach the account
*/ This is just a sample. Too many complaints to list here.
There is a lot of discontent with Natwest’s banking services over the internet. Do few hundred of reviews are enough of a sample size to measure such an immense establishment with as many as 7.5m private accounts? Hard to say.
Fees: The fees detailed on Natwest’s website are £10 for Euro transfers, £22 Euro for non-Euro transfers, and £30 for priority 1-2 business day transfers.
In comparison, commercial FX companies like World First or TorFX charge £0 per transfer from the UK on any amount, and most destinations will receive payments within 1-2 days.
Exchange Rates: Natwest are showing a great deal of transparency by presenting an online rate: http://www.natwest.com/tools/commercial/currency_rates/rates.asp.
We have conducted an analysis on the margins these rates have from the current inerbank rate and we have concluded that Natwest take a markup of approximately 4% on GBP to Euro and GBP to Dollar transfers, which is as 6 more expensive than what World First or Currencies Direct charges, based on thousands of referrals we have sent to these companies. Transferwise charges a fixed 0.5% margin on these two currency pairings, which is 8 times cheaper.
Limits: Not stated but we assume the bank does not limit you on the quantities you can send abroad. Needless to say, the international payments service offered by Natwest if for its clients only.
Natwest fees and rates are much higher than any commercial fx provider.
Global Reach & Service
Dedicated Dealer: Private clients are not offered with a dedicated FX dealer.
Offices: Thousands of branches in the UK.
Ways to approach: Telephone, Chat, In branch or Online.
Translations: Natwest is focused on UK clients and thus has only an English language version of its website.
Accepts clients: UK citizens.
Currencies Handled: We assume Natwest will handle every currency in existence.
Client reviews: Majority of online reviews are very negative.
Unlike commercial FX companies which are able to operate in certain regions with its FCA qualifications (for example, in EU-countries or Australia), banks undergo very different procedures to accept non-UK citizens as clients. To our best understanding, Natwest does not operate abroad and thus, is offering its services only to UK clients.
Based on the client reviews we have collated and discussed earlier in this piece, clients are generally dissatisfied with Natwest’s banks services. That fact definitely has an impact on us when we seek to review its international payment services. Foreign exchange is quite a complicated process for first-timers and there are normally significant amounts of money involved, so the level of service is of a cardinal importance in this field.
Additionally, since Natwest Bank’s business goes beyond the narrow scope of foreign exchange, it does not offer its clients one of th ebest perks that some of the best money transfer companies do offer: a dedicated FX dealer that provides individual guidance to clients who need substantial amounts of money abroad.
It is really difficult to apply the same criteria used for commercial foreign exchange companies on a major bank like Natwest. Natwest offers a wide array of financial products which are far more complicated and time-consuming to review than FX.
Let us just say that Natwest, being a bank, offers services such as (but not limited to): private loans, corporate loans, mortgages, credit cards, current accounts, saving accounts, and investing accounts.
It is not specifically mentioned on Natwest’s website which hedging tools are offered for business clients (or, alas, we could not have located this information). We can use our industry experience to say that if you are a big enough client, you will gain access to any derivative you may desire.
For smaller business and private clients, we would say hedging is not accessible, at least not at the same extent it does for larger corporations.
Natwest bank has, as expected, an iPhone and Android apps. These apps enable clients to send international payments from their mobile devices effortlessly.
These apps are some of the best rated banking apps we have tested across the globe and the functionality seems similar to the one you can find on our best money transfer apps page (being non-FX oriented it may not have some of the functions that our best-rated apps have, such as placing a limit order on FX or receiving notifications on rate changes). This app was even award with the ‘Best Banking App’ award by the British Banking Awards in 2017.
The Natwest Bank app review rating on Google Play is 4.6 / 5, with more than 100,000 reviewers, most of them feel incredibly positive about the quality of the app and how seamless it is to use it.
Natwest has a whole array of services, including (supposedly) the most sophisticated FX hedging tools there are. It also boasts a really nice award-winning app with functionality that includes international payments.
There is no doubt that this is an area where being a bank makes a difference when compared to commercial FX companies which will always offer less than the bank (but possibly, for better prices, and with greater accessibility to smaller/private clients).
Bottom Line: Natwest Bank Review for International Payments
Natwest is one of the largest retail banks in the UK with reputation of over 5 decades. It is far more regulated than commercial FX companies, and has an extremely wide offering of currencies and hedging tools (for larger corporate clients) than what most commercial foreign exchange providers would be able to supply. In addition to that, Natwest boasts a really tremendous app.
While that being said, the fees for international payments at Natwest bank are very high compared to an industry standard which hardly ever charges fix fees anymore, and the rates provided to private clients are worse than those you can find with recommended FX companies. In addition to that, it should be noted that Natwest has been criticised by the media, as well as by online reviewers, and fined more than once for its misconduct (by the regulators).