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Sending Money Abroad with NatWest: Everything You Need to Know

Byron Mühlberg, writer at Monito.com
Sep 8, 2020
Affiliate disclosure

Thinking of using NatWest to send money abroad? While the bank does indeed offer an attractive no-fee policy for online transfers from the UK, users should be aware of the hidden fees that the bank charges on international money transfers, and mindful of the lower-cost alternatives.

National Westminster Bank is without a doubt one of the UK's oldest and distinguished financial institutions, possessing both a long history and a deep knowledge of the country's local financial markets. While the bank as it's known today formed in 1968, NatWest’s roots go back much further than that, with its predecessors having served clients since 1833!

These days, NatWest is considered one of the UK’s ‘Big Four’ banks, alongside Barclays, HSBC, and Lloyds. It offers a wide range of financial services to its nearly eight million private customers and 850 thousand small business clients across the country, boasting an impressive network of 960 local branches and 3,400 ATMs.

Due to the bank’s size, it should come as no surprise then that NatWest also offers international money transfer and currency exchange services. However, these services come at a steep premium, and savvy users should be cautious about using NatWest to send money abroad if the price is an important factor to them.

What Will NatWest Charge You?

On the surface, NatWest charges no fees for online international money transfers.

You could decide to pay extra — a flat fee of £15 GBP — if you'd like to have your transfer delivered a little bit earlier. If this is the case for you, your money should arrive overseas in one or two working days, as opposed to the standard two to four working days. However, this fee is completely optional, of course, and if you don't mind waiting, then you'd be paying nothing in base fees.

This no-fee policy also applies if you plan on sending your transfer to a Eurozone country over the telephone, by post, fax, or in a branch.

If you're planning to send money abroad using NatWest's mobile app or online banking website, be aware that the cutoff time for these transfers are at 15:00 and 16:00 local time respectively. There is also a daily limit of £10 thousand when sending money abroad using these methods.

Sending Money Abroad With NatWest: Beware the Hidden Fees

Delving deeper into the bank's exchange rate policy, however, it quickly becomes clear that sending money abroad with NatWest is by no means a free or low-cost exercise.

In fact, it is anything but!

When sending money abroad, you are, in essence, selling your Pound sterling to a bank which, in turn, agrees to transfer that amount to your beneficiary in a different currency. However, the amount that the bank sends across to another currency is almost never at an exact currency conversion, as you might see on Google, for example. Instead, banks set their own exchange rates and pocket difference — something that's known as an exchange rate margin.

This is how NatWest makes its money on international money transfers. In fact, NatWest charges an exorbitant amount using these exchange rate margins, with fees touching as high as 10% on some currencies.

This means that for every Pound sterling you'd transfer into another currency at that rate, you'd be paying around 10 cents to NatWest!

The Costs Combined

Because NatWest doesn't charge any base fees, the exchange rate margin forms the single fee that the bank charges its clients on ordinary online transfers abroad.

Have a look at the examples in the graph below to get a better idea of how NatWest's fees are broken up, and what you might expect to pay when you send money abroad (as of 10/09/2020 at 07:40 GMT):

The Costs Visualised

Amount transferred

£500

£2,000

£10,000

Exchange rate

4.417

4.418

4.419

Fees & commission

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

Total cost

£48.23

£192.93

£964.64

Total cost (%)

9.65%

9.65%

9.65%

Compare all your options and save upwards of 95% in fees compared to the bank

Sending Money Abroad With NatWest: Other Fees to Anticipate

Depending on your individual preferences and circumstances, NatWest may subject you to more fees still when sending money abroad. For example, these may include one of the following:

  • You'll pay a £22 fee you'd like to make your transfer over the telephone, by post, fax, or in a branch;
  • You'll pay a £30 fee you'd like to send money to any currency other than the Euro over the telephone, by post, fax, or in a branch;
  • If you'd like to transfer quickly (in one or two days) to Euros, you'll pay a £23 fee if you make the transfer over the telephone, by post, fax, or in a branch.

In addition, if the bank to which you’re sending your money doesn't have an established relationship with NatWest, you may be subject to what's called a foreign bank charge or agent charge. If this is the case for you, NatWest will use an intermediary bank to complete your transaction, and you'll be given the option either to pay the cost yourself or to pass the cost along to the recipient.

Is NatWest Right for You?

All things taken into consideration, NatWest is indeed a solid and reputable partner for your banking needs. As a client of theirs, you can expect to benefit from a wide scope of service and coverage, backed up by a tried-and-tested record of reputability.

However, if you're somebody who is interested in keeping costs down while sending money abroad, then NatWest's currency exchange options leave a lot to be desired. Not only will the bank charge you very heavy exchange rate margins on pretty much any currency you send to, but the transfer can take up to four days to arrive at its destination, leaving NatWest's international transfers uncompetitive in the face of lower-cost alternatives.

For this reason, if keeping costs low is important to you, we recommend that you explore your options on the many low-cost exchange rate providers available on the market. Take a look, for example, at how NatWest's foreign exchange services weigh up against those of a few such providers on a £2,500 transfer to Pakistan:

Provider

Time

Recipient receives

Payment option

Cost overview

NatWest

2-4 days

495,525 PKR

Bank transfer, credit/debit card

Upon paying

See more

Small World

≈ 1 day

543,452 PKR

Bank transfer

In advance

Transfer

Western Union

≈ 2 days

539,339 PKR

Bank transfer, credit/debit card

In advance

Transfer

Skrill

In minutes

537,573 PKR

Credit/debit card

In advance

Transfer

TransferWise

In minutes

537,573 PKR

Bank transfer, credit/debit card

In advance

Transfer

WorldRemit

≈ 2 days

536,020 PKR

Direct bank payment, bank transfer, credit/debit card

In advance

Transfer

You May Still Be Wondering...

Photo credit: Phil Nash from Wikimedia Commons, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 & GFDL

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