Guest post from Daniel Abrahams:

NowHealth are delighted to welcome Daniel Abrahams, Managing Director of the world’s leading foreign exchange comparison site, We have teamed up with our dear currency friends to provide key information on helping expats find the best way to transfer money overseas, and at the same time, highlight some of the common pitfalls associated with the international payment process.


At some point in the expatriation journey, you will need to make or receive international payments. Boring part of the process? You could argue so. For many, the financial aspects of relocation, whether it is arranging your insurance cover to currency matters, are tiresome and expensive.

However, it’s certainly not fun being one of the many that are losing thousands unnecessarily on international payments. Whether it is the poor exchange rates or long winded process, sending money abroad can often be a nightmare. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. With a bit of careful planning and a few money saving tips along the way, these losses are entirely avoidable. We will also try to show you (if possible) how you can have some fun along the way.

Mistake #1 – Paying High Transaction Fees

Typically, banks will charge up to £40 per transaction and over the course of a year these fees can certainly begin to accumulate. Take two transfers per month at £40 per transfer and you could be paying nearly £1,000 in fees alone. These fees can be substantially reduced, if not eliminated altogether by transacting through a specialist currency company. Reputable payment specialists will often provide fee free transfers above £2,000 (GBP equivalent). Compare like for like the transaction fees offered between bank and foreign exchange broker.

Mistake # 2 – No clarity on the profit margin imposed on the ‘actual exchange rate’

When customers are quoted an exchange rate, Banks and non-bank foreign exchange companies make money exactly the same way. They sell currency at the interbank rate (i.e. the ‘actual exchange rate’) plus a margin. This means that the variable cost of making an international money transfer can vary significantly, depending on the rate offered and provider you chose to transact with. Banks will typically apply margins of between 3% to 5% of the value your international payment. In real money terms, the variable cost of making a £100,000 emigration transfer with a bank could be between £3,000 one day to £5,000 the next.

Payment specialist’s call into the live market, unlike banks who normally set their rates once a day. As they work with live rates, they can normally get very close to the market rate, typically inside 1%.

Mistake #3 – Lack of comparison with the ‘actual exchange rate’

Whether you transact with a bank or foreign exchange broker, always benchmark the rate offered with the ‘actual exchange rate.’ This will give you a clear understanding on whether you are offered a good or bad deal. Interbank exchange rates can be found on most reputable financial or news sites. On larger transfers where the ‘stakes’ are somewhat higher and substantial savings can be made, make sure you are quoted inside 1% of the ‘actual exchange rate.’ This exercise will take a matter of seconds but protects you against transacting at a poor exchange rate. Always remember, you are the customer and have choice.

Mistake #4 – Not utilising money saving options on international payments

The international payment space has matured, and there has never been a greater choice for individuals looking to transfer money abroad. From banks to specialist currency companies, don’t settle for the first deal you may stumble across. If you are very tech orientated, there has been a rise in online money transfer companies who let you transact from the comfort of your own home. Comparison sites are usually a good starting point to compare money transfer options. Whenever you make a payment, it is always advisable to compare at least two quotes on an ‘apples by apples’ basis. Look at everything: transaction fee, speed of transfer and exchange rate.

Mistake #5 Being a good old fashioned haggler

Whether you transact with a bank or specialist currency company, don’t underestimate the power of good old fashioned haggling. Nobody wants to turn away business and don’t hesitate to go back to the currency supplier with your own ‘counter offer.’ Often you will be surprised at the lengths organisations go to win your business. The worst that can happen is you get a ‘no’ and puts some fun into the process.

Pro Tip – Key questions to ask before you select a specialist currency company that’s best for you:

  • Are you authorised and regulated by the FSA? (Financial Services Authority)
  • Are you registered with HMRC?
  • Do you operate segregated client accounts to safeguard my funds?
  • Do I need to transact online or can I book a rate over the phone?
  • What margin are you applying to the rate of exchange? Aim for inside 1% OR haggle for a better rate.
  • Do you charge a setup fee for opening an account? If the answer is yes, run a mile. Accounts with reputable brokers can be opened free of charge, in a matter of minutes

Above all, good luck and from the whole team at, we wish you all the best, whatever stage of the emigration process you may be at.


Image source: Steve Bowbrick