A Guide on the Cheapest Way to Send Money to the UK from the US

Here’s how to get the most GBP in your UK bank account when transferring money into the country.
A Guide on the Cheapest Way to Send Money to the UK from the US

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Sending money to the U.K. from the U.S. could be expensive if you don’t know which service to use for the amount you want to send.

Banks, for example, won’t always be your best choice for transfers under USD10,000, and online money transfer service providers won’t always be your cheapest choice for larger transfers.

That said, this guide will show you the money transfer service options you have available, how much each service provider will give you in GBP, and what to watch out for when transferring money from the U.S. into the U.K.

But first, be sure to check out Monito. It will give you an overview of the cheapest ways to send money to the U.K. on any given day, and for any given amount.

What to Watch Out for When Sending Money to the UK from the US

When transferring money into the U.K., consider the transfer fees, exchange rates, and transfer speeds. Let’s start with transfer fees.

Transfer Fees

You have to pay one or more of the following fees when sending money to the U.K.

  • fixed fees
  • percentage fees
  • combination fees

Let’s break down each one in more detail.

Fixed Fees

Fixed fee are the first type of transfer fee you’ll pay when sending money to the U.K. This type of fee doesn’t change with the amount of money you transfer into the country, unlike with percentage or combination fees.

For example, if you send USD1,000 or USD10,000 you’ll be charged the same fee, which varies between banks and online money transfer service providers.

TD Bank in the U.S., for example, charges USD50 no matter how much money you send to the U.K. This makes bank transfers a good choice when sending USD10,000 or more into the country.

Percentage Fees

Percentage fees are another type of transfer, but as opposed to fixed fees, percentage fees change with the amount you send to the U.K.

Online money transfer service providers like Wise charge a percentage fee of 0.48 percent on a USD1,000 transfer, meaning you’ll pay roughly USD4.80 in Wise percentage fees to get GBP in the U.K.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t include the ACH bank debit transfer fee, which I’ll cover in a later section.

Also, aside from paying a percentage fee to the service provider, you also have to pay 1 percent to 3 percent fee to your credit card company if using a card to pay for your transfer.

Combination Fees

The final type of fee you might have to pay when transferring money into the U.K. is the combination fee, which is both a fixed fee and a percentage fee.

PayPal uses this payment structure for its international money transfers.

However, fee types don’t always determine if a service is going to be cheaper or more expensive. Higher fees can actually yield you more GPB if you get a great exchange rate.

Exchange Rates

Not many banks or online money transfer service providers give you mid-market rates that we know of – except for Wise – so be sure to check the exchange rate against the mid-market rate on XE.com.

Moreover, many service providers that don’t claim to charge transfer fees, such as Xendpay for the first GBP2,000, make money by taking a small portion of the exchange rate.

To be exact, Xendpay takes about 2 percent to 3 percent of the mid-market exchange rate found on XE.

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Transfer fees and exchange rates aren’t the only thing you have to consider when transferring money into the U.K. You also have to consider transfer speeds.

Transfer Speeds

Whether you’re in a rush to get your money into the U.K. or not, you should familiarize yourself with the transfer speeds of some of the top money transfer service providers.

Wise, Xendpay, and banks will usually take one to three business days for transfers. Western Union, on the other hand, will send your money in minutes. However, they will charge some hefty fees for that speedy service.

Now that you know about transfer fees, exchange rates, and transfer speeds, let’s look at your money transfer service options.

Money Transfer Service Options

When it comes to sending money to the U.K., you have quite a few options, from online service providers to brick and mortar banks.

Xendpay

Many expats in the U.K. use Xendpay because its “pay what you want” model for the first USD2,275 wire transfer you make to the country.

xendpay

Not having to pay a fee doesn’t mean your transfer is free, however. Xendpay still takes a percentage of your exchange rate, usually about to 2 percent to 3 percent of the total.

And if you pay for that transfer using a credit or debit card, banks you’ll have to pay the card company a 2.3 percent fee – so be sure to pick the wire transfer method.

Despite skimming some of your money on the exchange rate, Xendpay still tends to be one of the cheaper choices for expats in the U.K.

A USD1,000 transfer to the U.K., for instance, would get you GBP721.

Keep in mind that once you surpass your USD2,275 limit, Xendpay will tack on additional fees depending on your payment method. They are:

  • wire transfer – 0.5 percent fee
  • credit card — 2.3 percent fee
  • debit card — 2.3 percent fee

When it comes to transfer speed, Xendpay will have your money in the U.K. in one to three business days.

Xendpay places a lot of emphasis on security as well. It takes data protection seriously and has joined in anti-money laundering efforts. The online money transfer service provider also uses up-to-date internet security protocols.

Xendpay is available online or for Android and iOS.

Wise

Wise is also a great choice for getting the most GBP for your buck, and unlike many other online money transfer service providers, it offers mid-market exchange rates.

Wise charges a percentage fee like Xendpay, and its rates are very comparative.

To transfer USD1,000 into the U.K., it charges a percentage fee of USD4.90 along with a USD2.59 bank fee for bank transfers. When it’s all said and done, you’d get GBP715.99 for that transfer.

If you opt to pay for your USD1,000 transfer with another method, here are some of the fees you’d have to cough up. Remember, credit and debit cards charge anywhere from 1 percent to 3 percent in fees.

  • wire transfer — USD5.64 fee
  • debit card — USD11.27 fee
  • credit card — USD37.44 fee

Wise’s transfers are speedy, too. When using the service, you’d get your money in the U.K. in one to three business days if you transfer from Mondays to Thursdays.

As for security, Wise employs a fraud team, uses real-time notifications, and protects your online data.

You can use Wise on your laptop, Android, or iOS phone, and verifying your account is a relatively quick and painless process.

Check out our in-depth review of Wise.

Bank Transfers

Usually, when expats have to transfer a lot of money into the U.K., they forgo the online options and stick with a brick and mortar bank.

It makes sense to go this route when sending large sums into the country because most banks charge a fixed fee (instead of a percentage fee), which means you’ll save some serious cash.

Imagine having to pay a 3 percent fee of USD300 on a USD10,000 transfer. It would seriously decrease the amount of GBP you’d get on the receiving end.

If you instead transferred through Bank of America or TD Bank, you’d only have to pay USD45 or USD50 respectively.

But remember, some banks don’t reveal their exchange rates, so it’s best to ask if you don’t see that info listed on its website. If you can’t find out, though, it’s safe to assume the bank is charging between 2 percent and 4 percent in exchange rates fees.

Moreover, bank transfers are just as quick as online transfers. The money will reach your bank in the U.K. in one or two business days.

The trade off with using banks is the convenience factor. There’s nothing like being able to log into an app and transfer cash in a matter of seconds.

With banks, you don’t get that ease of use. But if you’re in no rush to get your GBP, and you’re sending upwards of USD10,000, use a bank.

Western Union

Western Union may be a household name in the world of money transfers, but they don’t offer the best rates in the world.

western union

For one, Western Union doesn’t tell you its transfer fees. But it’s safe to assume they charge between 4 percent and 5 percent of the mid-market exchange rate found on XE.

That said, if you send USD1,000 to the U.K. from the U.S. using Western Union and a bank transfer with a USD5 fee, you’d only get GBP648.

For same-day transfers of USD1,000 using a credit cards, you’d pay a 3.5 percent fee of USD34. Using a debit card, that percentage fee would be 0.7 percent.

Since Western Union has been around for a very long time, you can guarantee they take security seriously.

Western Union’s user interface is a lot easier to use than a bank, as well, but remember that ease of use means exorbitant fees.

PayPal

You can use PayPal’s Xoom to transfer money to the U.K., but like Western Union, it won’t give you the most GBP on the receiving end.

When you send USD1,000 to the U.K., Xoom takes roughly 2 percent to 4 percent of your transfer in exchange rate fees and tacks on a debit or credit card fee – depending on which one you use – of USD30.49.

That gives you a total of GBP711 on the receiving end.

Xoom may not be as expensive as Western Union to send money to the U.K., but it’s not as cheap as Xendpay or Wise either. It is quote fast, though. You can have GBP in your U.K. bank account in a matter of three hours.

Since Xoom is part of PayPay, security will never be an issue. It also uses data encryption and fraud monitoring on each one of your transfers.

Xoom’s user interface is easy to navigate as well and links to your PayPal account. Xoom is also available on Android and iOS.

ATM Withdrawals

Fortunately, the majority of ATMs in the U.K. are free to use. That is, banks don’t charge ATM fees, even on foreign withdrawals.

However, privately owned ATMs like Cashzone can charge fees of between USD2.07 to USD2.76 per withdrawal. These ATMs will be easy to spot, though, since they have to disclose their fees before you go through with your transaction.

Remember, banks in the U.S. may still charge a fee for international ATM withdrawals, usually around USD2 to USD5 along with a 2 percent to 3 percent currency exchange fee.

So if you were to withdraw USD1,000, you may only get GBP708.82 on a good day. With ATM fees, it could be less than that.

Cryptocurrency

The U.K. has nearly 230 cryptocurrency ATMs across the country.

They are different from traditional ATMs in that that they don’t connect to a bank account, but rather a Bitcoin wallet or exchange.

You can, however, use these machines to withdrawal cash money.

The Best Method to Send Money To UK from the US

According to the table below, Xendpay will get you the most money when sending USD1,000 to the U.K., but once you get close to USD10,000 or more, you should consider using a brick and mortar bank to transfer money.

MethodSpeedUSD1,000USD10,000
Wise1 to 3 daysGBP715.99GBP7,164.01
Xendpay1 to 3 daysGBP721GBP7,216
Bank Transfers1 to 2 daysGBP673.35GBP7,239
Western Union1 to 5 daysGBP648GBP6,942
PayPal1 dayGBP711GBP7,110
ATMInstantGBP708.82NA

With these numbers in mind, Xendpay is your best choice when sending up to USD10,000 to the U.K. from the U.S. However, if you have to send more than USD10,000 into the country, go with a bank transfer.

If you go this route, make sure your bank charges a fixed fee instead of a percentage fee. If they charge a fixed fee that equates to less than Xendpay’s percentage fee, you know you have yourself a good deal.

Sending Money from Canada

When transferring money into the U.K. from Canada, Xendpay will get get you the most GBP in your U.K. bank account.

When sending larger amounts, like CAD10,000 or more, a bank such as Scotiabank will yield more GBP on the receiving end because it charges just CAD19 for international transfers.

Scotiabank will also take 2 percent to 4 percent in exchange rate fees, but it’s still cheaper than Xenpday for large transfers.

Now, on to You

Now that you know which money transfer service providers get you the most GBP for your money, you can confidently transfer money into the U.K. knowing you did your due diligence.

Moreover, always be sure to cross-check the numbers here with those on Monito, as exchange rates change by the day and could result in more or less GBP in your account.

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