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Five traps to avoid when transferring money to and from the UK

Navigating international finances can be complicated, no matter how seasoned you are at transferring funds overseas. Knowing the common pitfalls of sending money abroad can save you a lot of trouble (and hopefully some money too).

Five traps to avoid when transferring money to and from the UK
Photo: tbtb/Depositphotos

The changeable market keeps most expats on their toes with exchange rates, fees and timings. Whether you’re sending money to friends or family in far-flung places or repatriating money back to the UK, you should know the most common mistakes people make when transferring money internationally.

That’s why we’ve collaborated with international payments specialist Hargreaves Lansdown to help you avoid falling into these traps.

Stop losing money on international transfer fees with Hargreaves Lansdown

1. Forgetting to check the exchange rates

Whether you’re a small business or an individual, chances are you’ve used your bank to make international currency exchanges and transfers. After all, this is the most obvious option. But it’s also often the most expensive option as you could be paying well above the odds.

Even the smallest change in the exchange rate offered by your provider could cost you hundreds of pounds (possibly thousands). So it’s important to shop around for the best rate.

Save as much money as possible by looking at currency specialists, such as Hargreaves Lansdown, as the exchange rates they offer are often better than the banks’. This is especially beneficial when transferring large amounts of currency for more expensive purchases such as property.

2. Paying transfer fees

Although still a common practice, it is unnecessary to fork out extra for high bank transfer fees. Incurring a flat fee can sting if you’re sending relatively small sums across country borders. Some currency specialists offer individuals or small businesses regular payment plans for recurring payments which help to keep costs down.

There are providers, like Hargreaves Lansdown’s currency service, that offer low or no transfer fees. This can save you up to £30 on each and every transaction, which really adds up if you are making multiple transfers or paying invoices. 

3. Making insecure payments

Not all currency specialists are created equal, some are more secure than others. Make sure you’re protected financially from the moment the money leaves your account to when it reaches its destination account.

The terminology can confuse the most clued-up of people but there is a huge difference between whether a firm is authorised or registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Hargreaves Lansdown’s Currency Service is an FCA-authorised service, which in practice means they are legally bound to keep your money transfers separate from their company funds and provide financial safeguards proving their stability.

Whilst registered firms may choose to safeguard your money, they aren’t required to do so. And they don’t have to provide the FCA with as much detail about their business, so the regulator can’t check on their financial health.

4. Leaving it until the last minute

Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of the exchange rate on the day you transfer. If time allows, savvy savers should plan their transfer as far ahead as possible. This gives you more flexibility as you’ll have the option to fix an exchange rate for the future, or target a specific rate. 

If you’re fixing an exchange rate you’ll have the peace of mind to know what a future purchase will cost you, regardless of whether rates move up or down. Targeting a specific rate will enable you to make the most of improvements to rates, but doesn’t offer protection if rates move against you. Both of these options are only available if you plan ahead.

Bypass bad exchange rates with Hargreaves Lansdown

5. Not keeping up to date on the latest news

You wouldn’t expect to be well-versed in current events without consuming the news. The same goes for your finances. Without monitoring the latest market developments it leaves you vulnerable to making the wrong decisions in the fast-moving world of finance.

Stay on top of trends and currency movements and how to best position yourself to take advantage of the highs and avoid the lows. Hargreaves Lansdown offers a free weekly report on their website and via email, making sure you get the most from your payments. Please note, their service does not provide personal advice, but can provide information for you to decide what’s right for you. If you’re unsure please seek advice.

Download your free guide to international currency transfers here.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Hargreaves Lansdown July 2018

The Hargreaves Lansdown Currency Service is a trading name of Hargreaves Lansdown Asset Management Ltd. One College Square South, Anchor Road, Bristol. BS1 5HL, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority as a Payment Institution under the Payment Services Regulations 2017, see www.fca.org.uk. FCA Register number 115248. Registered in England and Wales. Registration number: 1896481.

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The best banks for non-EU citizens living in France

Many foreigners in France - particularly pensioners - need to keep a bank account in their home country, but not all banks will offer accounts to people living abroad.

The best banks for non-EU citizens living in France

Most people who move to France get a French bank account – but many also maintain accounts with banks in their home countries to receive income in the form of pensions, property rentals, salary, or to hold savings and pay bills.

This is particularly key for pensioners, as some pension providers will not pay into a bank account in another country, but others just prefer the convenience of having a bank account and debit card to use on visits home in order to avoid extra transaction fees.

Banks within the EU benefit from ‘passporting’ arrangements that allow them to operate throughout the Bloc, but for those outside the EU it’s a little more complicated.

Here are the options.

International accounts

Many banks offer ‘international accounts’ aimed at those who have moved to other countries.

The major drawback is the cost; many accounts have a minimum deposit level or stipulate a minimum annual income, so they may not be suitable for pensioners, people on a low income, or those who just want to use their account for a few basic functions while keeping most of their income/assets in their French account.

Most expat/international accounts also charge a monthly fee and some charge transfer fees on top of that. 

They’re really aimed at ‘high net worth’ customers (ie rich) so they’re often not suitable for people who have lower means or have retired to France.

Internet banks 

The last few years has seen a proliferation of new internet banks, which offer online-only services and operate across Europe.

The advantage of these is that you can sign up with a French address and then carry out transactions in another country.

Many people use internet bank accounts – Wise (formerly the money-transfer service Transferwise, now set up as a bank), Revolut or Starling are notable examples – when they first move to France before they set up French accounts.

The disadvantage for some people is their lack of a physical presence so in case of a question or a problem contact can only be made by phone or – more usually – via email or chatbot. Many internet banks also do not issue cheque books or accept queues, which can be a problem for some customers.

Customers can set up accounts in different currencies and depending on the bank and its licencing you may also be account to get an account number and IBAN for your home country as well as a European IBAN.

READ ALSO The best UK banks for Brits in France

It means you can use the account for business back home, but also transfer money quickly and easily to/from France. It might give a better deal on exchange rates than receiving a pension in one currency and then spending in euros in France.

There’s a tendency to assume that internet-only banks are less secure, which isn’t necessarily the case, but if there are problems it can be harder to get redress. Make sure the bank you are using has a banking licence in your home country and France for peace of mind.

French banks

Most people living in France already have a French account for daily life, but can you use this for all your financial affairs?

It depends on your situation. Pension providers may only pay into a home account, while if you still have financial liabilities in another country, such as a mortgage, you may need to keep an account in that country. 

Keeping a home address

Many non-EU residents in France get around the problem by using a ‘care of’ address back home in order to retain their bank account – usually either the address of a property that they own or the home of a relative.

Whether this is allowed is a bit of a grey area. Opening a new account may be difficult, but existing accounts may be kept open. Some banks – especially British ones – seem to be keen on checking whether their customers are permanent residents while others don’t seem to care as much.

Basically you can’t lie to your bank if they ask you outright where your full-time residence or tax residence is, but not all banks ask this. 

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