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Last updated: 31st August, 2020

moneytransfer, pagofx

Everything you need to know about transferring money abroad

Confused about international money transfers? You’re not alone. With different services, unclear fees and security concerns, sending money abroad can seem complicated – but it doesn’t need to be! We’ve put together this comprehensive guide where you can find out everything you need to know about making payments abroad. We’ll look at the different international transfer options, before explaining what to look out for in terms of costs, security, speed, ease of use and more.

What are my options? 

You have a few choices – some of which you may already be familiar with. Nowadays, many people send money online – either through their bank or building society, or one of the newer online service providers known as FinTechs (financial technology). The banks offer you a familiar name to deal with while the FinTechs use innovative technologies to make transactions quicker, cheaper and easier.

Away from the web, you can still send money by going to your local high street bank – normally you arrange the transfer at the counter, and the bank employee will set everything up for you. You can also use a specialist high street transfer service, which often do not require you set up an account – you can simply hand over the cash you’d like to send. Finally, FX brokers can often provide good deals, securing a preferential rate, but they often work with large volumes of money and so may not be willing to send smaller amounts.

We’ve gone into more detail on different ways to send money abroad – including how you can save money – here.

How secure are they?

One of the biggest concerns for many people when they’re sending money abroad is whether or not their money is being kept safe. Whichever service or organisation you choose, it’s important to check that they’re being regulated by the relevant authorities and that they have security measures in place to protect your money. While many people have a degree of trust and familiarity with their bank, not everyone is aware of how best to assess the security of newer alternatives like money transfer apps – that’s why we’ve written an article that answers the question “are money transfer apps safe?” in more detail.  

For example, if you choose to transfer money from the UK, look for providers regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, meaning that your money is safeguarded until the associated payment has been sent, and you are fully protected in the case of defective execution of any payment.  

Understanding the costs

When sending money abroad it is important to understand how much you are paying and what you are paying for. There are two ways these charges are usually calculated: 

Exchange rates

In simple terms the exchange rate determines how much of a particular currency another currency buys. For example, how many euros you can buy for £10. You can find out more detail in our ultimate guide to exchange rates.

Crucially, some companies add an inflated mark-up added on top of the real-time market exchange rate as a way of charging for the company’s time and resources. Be aware that unless a provider confirms they are offering the real-time mid-market exchange rate (such as PagoFX), most of those who offer their services ‘fee-free’ are most likely charging in the form of an inflated exchange rate instead.  

When comparing exchange rates, look out for the real-time exchange rate, which is the ‘real’ exchange rate without mark-ups or fees – this is the one you’ll find through Google or Reuters. You can find out more in our article on understanding real-time, mid-market exchange rates.


Foreign exchange companies have the same operating costs as any business – with employees to pay, premises to rent and various licenses they must renew – and so they add fees to pay these costs.  

However, often banks, building societies, high-street transfer services and FX brokers won’t tell you how much these costs are upfront. For example, if you are exchanging money in person, the employee simply includes the additional charges as part of the transaction. Looking out for services which make fees and costs transparent and up-front before you start your transfer means you can be confident on what you are actually paying, and what your recipient will receive.

Understand the total cost of your international transfer

In summary for costs, the key questions to understand are: 

● Am I getting the real-time exchange rate?

● Am I clear on the fees I am paying? 

● Am I clear on how much I am sending, and how much the recipient will receive?

With PagoFX, all of this information is available upfront so you can understand the total cost of your international transfer and send money abroad with confidence. For more detail, read our article on understanding the total cost of your international transfer.

Consider the timing 

While we’re used to seeing money move almost instantly between bank accounts in the UK, it can be more time consuming to send money abroad. The process can take anywhere between a few minutes and five-plus business days depending on the provider.  If you send money over a weekend or bank holiday, this can significantly affect the time it takes.  

Ease and access

Often there is the perception that sending money abroad is difficult, but with the newer fintech-style money apps it is no more difficult than making a payment to a friend in your home country. For example, with PagoFX by Santander, simply download the easy-to-use app, register and verify your identity, and you can be sending money abroad in minutes with any UK debit card – there’s no need to have a Santander account. 

It’s important to consider how your recipient needs to receive their money. Although in most cases it’s cheap and easy for recipients to have the payment deposited directly into their bank account – like with PagoFX – sometimes they may request their payments another way. There are lots of providers who make it possible to send money that can be picked up as cash in person at an office or bank, delivered to their home, directly onto a credit card or as mobile phone credit.  

Be in line with the law

International money transfer laws are put in place to prevent criminal activity like money laundering. Transferring money between countries isn’t illegal, but miscommunication or failure to follow laws and fill out required information can result in serious punishment. For example, some countries have a cap on the amount of money that can be transferred without filing a report – always make sure you’re following both local and international laws when sending money abroad.

Make sending money abroad easy with PagoFX

PagoFX by Santander is designed to help everyone send money abroad with confidence – offering the speed and low cost of a FinTech, and the security and peace of mind of being backed by a global bank. PagoFX offers real-time exchange rates and displays a full breakdown of the costs, what you are paying for and how much your recipient gets, before the payment is confirmed.

Once you’ve set up your PagoFX account, just tell us much you would like to send, the recipient’s currency and their bank details. When this is done, PagoFX displays the real-time exchange rate and fees before your transaction is confirmed. PagoFX transfers are processed the same day, unless the transaction is submitted after the cut-off point (which means after a given time, your payment will be processed the next business day). Cut-off points vary depending on the currency you are sending. If you have any questions, expert live help is available through in-app chat, web or by email to support you. Download PagoFX now on the App Store and Google Play or sign up at PagoFX.com