When transferring large amounts of money, the smallest exchange rate difference can really add up – not to mention additional service fees on top. It would be difficult not to be overwhelmed by the amount of different options available to transfer money between countries these days so here’s a straightforward round-up of the most popular choices for people moving to Canada for a working holiday.
Probably the most familiar option to the majority of people, transfers are available via online banking from your home bank to your new bank in Canada. It sounds like the most sensible choice, but the exchange rate isn’t particularly good (typically 3-4% less than money transfer services) and banks charge a flat service fee for the transfer which typically takes 2-3 days. I have not found a single UK bank that is transparent regarding the exchange rates they use.
Example service fees for UK banks –
HSBC: £4, free from HSBC to HSBC
Online Money Transfer Services
A relatively new service, these work on a peer-to-peer system in which the host website does not directly transfer money across borders, but instead re-routes payments between people in corresponding countries. Check out this article from the BusinessInsider – it explains the process much better than I can!
Technology aside, the fees are lower than any other option and the exchange rate matches the ‘mid market rate’ – the one on live currency websites like XE. Each website is also incredibly upfront with the applicable fees and exchange rate using a calculator on the homepage – for this reason, it is worth quickly checking all three of these before sending money to see which offers the best rate. I use these services to transfer my money internationally.
TransferWise – 1.2% fee over $333CAD transfers from the UK. I use TranferWise often and it usually takes 48 hours to transfer between accounts. Highly recommended for the excellent exchange rate and ease of use.
CurrencyFair – Fixed 3 Euro transfer fee and 0 to 0.5% (total transfer amount) service charge. This link offers one free transfer!
Prepaid Currency Cards
Some people will be familiar with these from using them on holidays abroad. A good way to have money to hand on your arrival in Canada, they are re-loadable Visa/Mastercard debit cards which allow use in shops and withdrawals from ATMs. Loading money is fast which makes them also a great option for when you need money fast.
CaxtonFX – No fees, exchange rate is on average 5c lower than current mid-market value per £1. Minimum load £100. The exchange rate of chosen destination currency is ‘locked in’ when money is loaded onto the card. I’ve had a Caxton card for around four years now and I find it convenient and pretty good value.
Revolut – Multi-currency card with sleek mobile app. The rates mirror the Spot Interbank exchange rate and are calculated when money is spent using the card (as opposed to the CaxtonFX card). Can also send money to individuals using Revolut – accessible only through the app.
Accessible via online and in person at thousands of locations, Western Union offers transfers within minutes to every country you can think of. The speed is great but the fees are high – around 10% for small amounts, dropping to 1% after £1000. The exchange rate is not the best, but certainly not the worst either. During my test at the time of writing, WU offered 1GBP=1.8277 compared to the XE.com’s 1GBP=1.8437.
A popular option with higher fees than many realise. A PayPal to PayPal transfer is simple but costs more than other options. PayPal charges 0.9% to 5% in ‘Cross Border fees’ (that means sending money between different countries) plus a 3.5% fee for currency conversion. There is also a 3.4% fee for using a credit or debit card. The exchange rates they use are not advertised up front on the website either.
It may be old school and a pretty risky, but some people still prefer to cross borders carrying cash or simply withdraw all their money at their destination. Travelling to Canada, you are able to take $10,000CAD in cash without having to declare it. More than this amount is still allowed, but it must be declared on arrival – there’s a section for it on the customs card that you fill out on the plane.
The exchange rate at the Bureau de Change and other currency brokers are usually easily beaten by banks or money transfer services. ATMs fees can typically include both a flat fee and percentage charge of the full amount.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through and one of these services, I will receive a small percentage of the transaction at no extra cost to you.