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Sending Money Abroad with Barclays: Everything You Need to Know

Byron Mühlberg, writer at Monito.com
Jul 20, 2022
Affiliate disclosure

Thinking of using Barclays UK to send money abroad? While the bank may appear to charge no fees on international transfers online, our analysis has found that Barclays actually charges inordinately high hidden margins on its exchange rates, leaving the service uncompetitive in the face of lower-cost alternatives.

Arguably Britain's best-known bank, Barclays is one of the oldest and most established financial institutions in the world. Tracing its origins all the way back to humble beginnings in the seventeenth century, the bank is today listed on three international stock exchanges, and operates some 4,750 branches in dozens of countries across the globe.

As a client at Barclays, you'll enjoy world-class security and access to a wide range of financial services, including international money transfers. However, due to the high exchange rate margins that the bank charges on these services, we recommend that users stay well clear of Barclays for sending money abroad if the price is an important factor to them.

What Will Barclays Charge You?

In general, Barclays UK will charge you no fees on international money transfers, provided that you send your transfer using online banking or the mobile app. However, as we reveal below, no fees does not at all mean that the service comes for free!

While a fee will generally be charged if you'd like to send money abroad over the telephone or at the branch, fees will also not apply in this case if your money is being sent to an EU country (which take part in an agreement known as the Single Euro Payments Area).

Sending Money Abroad with Barclays: Beware the Hidden Fees

While Barclays UK may appear to offer a no-fee policy, the fact is that you'll still face very high costs when sending money abroad with the bank.

This is because of what's known as an exchange rate margin — the difference between the bank's exchange rate and the real exchange available on the market that's pocketed by banks as profit. In the case of Barclays, these exchange rate margins are very high, and stand on par with those of other UK banks — frequently touching 10% per transfer for some currencies.

Take a look at the graph below to get a better picture of how Barclays applies its exchange rate margins on international money transfers*:

* Values given at 11:00:00 GMT + 02:00

The Costs Combined

All costs taken into account on international transfers using online banking or through the mobile app, Barclays's exchange rate margin forms the only fee that you will pay in most circumstances.

Even so, the exchange rate margin can form a hefty chunk of your transfer, even at the lower end of the currencies. If you were to send £1,500 to a colleague in Hong Kong, for example, you would end up paying £75.18 in these fees at the time of writing. That's some 5% of the entire transfer amount!

Have a look at the examples in the graph below to get a better idea of how the bank's fees are broken up, and what you might expect to pay when you send money abroad*:

The Costs Visualised

Amount transferred

£500

£2,000

£10,000

Exchange rate

4.406

4.406

4.406

Fees & commission

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

Total cost

£43.15

£172.60

£863.02

Total cost (%)

8.63%

8.63%

8.63%

* Values given on 11/09/2020 at 11:00:00 GMT + 02:00

Compare all your options and save upwards of 95% in fees on money transfers of £500 from the UK to Poland, the United States, and South Africa:

Sending Money Abroad with Barclays: Other Fees to Anticipate

Take note that the exchange rate margin may not end up being the only fee you pay when sending money abroad with Barclays UK. Depending on your circumstances, you may also be subject to the following fees in addition to the exchange rate margin:

  • A £25 fee on branch or telephone banking when sending money to a country outside of the SEPA area;
  • A recipient fee, usually in the region of £2 to £20, that is typically charged to the receiver of your international payment. You'll have the option of paying this fee yourself upfront if your recipient is outside the EU or the EEA. Note that Barclays doesn't charge recipient fees on transfers to all countries. More information can be found here.

Over and above these fees, Barclays may also charge you what's known among UK banks as a foreign bank charge or an agent charge. This will occur if the bank to which you’re sending your money doesn't have an established relationship with Barclays. If this happens to be the case for you, Barclays will, in turn, make use of an intermediary bank to complete your transaction while charging you a fee for the trouble.

Is Barclays Right for You?

Without a doubt, Barclays UK is a reliable and trustworthy choice for your money transfers abroad. If you're a longstanding client of theirs or if you don't mind paying higher fees for the quality of their service, then sticking with them may indeed be the right choice for you.

However, if you're somebody who is interested in making savings on your transfers abroad, we'd recommend that you be sure to compare the top currency exchange providers to find the best deal to suit your needs. With a service such as TransferWise, for example, which is one among many similar competitive providers, if you were to send 2,500 to Poland, your recipient would not receive just 11,016 zł as they would with Barclays, but 11,945 zł -- nearly 1,000 zł more!

Take a look at the graph below to see how much your hypothetical beneficiary in Poland would receive using other low-cost alternatives to Barclays UK:

Provider

Time

Recipient receives

Payment option

Cost overview

Barclays

2-4 days

11,016 zł

Bank transfer, credit/debit card

Upon paying

See more

Western Union

≈ 2 days

12,004 zł

Bank transfer, credit/debit card

In advance

Transfer

Skrill

Same day

11,985 zł

Credit/debit card

In advance

Transfer

Xendpay

≈ 2 days

11,971 zł

Bank transfer, credit/debit card

In advance

Transfer

OrbitRemit

≈ 2 days

11,950 zł

Bank transfer

In advance

Transfer

TransferWise

Next day

11945 zł

Bank transfer, credit/debit card

In advance

Transfer

* Values given on 11/09/2020 at 11:00:00 GMT + 02:00

Find cheaper ways to send money from the UK

Photo credit: GroupEditor from Wikimedia Commons, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Cropped from the original.

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