For instance, for converting pounds to US dollars and sending the money to an overseas account, Transferwise charges an 80 pence fee, plus 0.4pc of the amount converted, and there is no margin taken from the exchange rate.
Exchanging £1,000 would cost £4.78, with the account at the other end receiving $1,309.11 – at the time of writing, the exchange rate was just under $1.32.
Azimo charges £1.99, and your first transfer is free. The recipient would receive $1,313.05 if £1,000 was sent, minus the £1.99 fee if it was not your first transfer.
These services are best used for smaller, one off amounts, up to the low thousands of pounds. Beyond that, a specialist broker with a wider range of services is likely to be best.
They have the ability to set up regular payments, target certain rates, and use currency “futures” contracts to guarantee rates ahead of time.
They will also likely offer a more personal service, potentially with an expert account manager if you are making large transfers. Options include Moneycorp and FC Exchange.
One problem with currency transfer services is that your money is not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) while it is held by the transferring company.
Large firms trading more than £2.5m a month have to be authorised by the City watchdog, meaning they have to keep your money separate from the company’s money.
That means if the company goes bust, your cash should be safe.
Smaller firms – which are typically more prone to going under – don’t have to do this, so your money is at much greater risk.
Search on the Financial Conduct Authority’s register to check the status of a firm.
Banks do offer FSCS protection while they hold your cash, but the trade off is the much higher cost of transferring your money.