HomeChallenger BanksFirst Direct Bank

First Direct Bank

First Direct was founded in 1989 as part of Midland Bank, which merged with the HSBC bank in 1992. In an independent survey including 17 personal current account providers made in 2020.

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United Kingdom

About First Direct Bank

First Direct came out second in “overall service quality”, third in “online and mobile banking services”, and first in “overdraft services”.

Can I use First Direct Bank for international bank transfers?

Yes. First Direct allows international bank transfers outside of the UK. In order to accomplish a transfer, the sender must have the following information:

  • sender’s account details

  • reason for payment/ sending

You'll also need the following details from the beneficiary:

  • full name and address

  • bank code: usually a BIC (Business Identifier Code)

  • International Bank Account Number (IBAN) or account number

  • bank address

  • payment reference (if applicable)

The completion of these details will prevent delays or incorrect transfers. Expect to receive an occasional call from the First Direct team as part of their service to prevent fraud.

How long do transfers take with First Direct Bank?

The processing time for transfers depends on the country of the recipient account. Recipients living within the European Economic Area (EEA) take a working day of processing time before the receipt of the money transfer. Recipients living outside EEA will have to wait longer as it takes 4 working days to reach them. It must be noted that other destination countries might take more than 4 working days. Additional security checks will sometimes cause further delays as part of the First Direct Bank’s efforts to mitigate fraud.

Are there transfer limits?

For online transfers, there will be a 50,000 GBP limit imposed per day. If the transfer would be in a different currency, the limit will still be based on the equivalent of 50,000 GBP.

For telephone transfers, there will be no transfer limits.

Can I use a First Direct debit card when traveling abroad?

Yes. The First Direct debit card can be used in other countries outside the UK. Non-sterling transactions (any transactions done outside the UK in a currency other than GBP) will incur a 2.75% fee of the total amount of a transaction. This calculation applies to foreign cash withdrawals as well.

Non-sterling cash fee when using an ATM incurs 2% for non-First Directory members, on top of the Non-Sterling Transaction Fee. First Directory members are excluded from paying the Non-sterling cash fee.

First Direct Bank Exchange rates and fees

First Direct Bank is transparent with its policies in exchange rates and fees as seen in their terms and conditions. They feature good advantages for their clients in need of international money transfer services.

Exchange rate

Unfortunately, the First Direct Bank does not publicly show its own exchange rates. They advise consulting with them for exchange rates, especially if not in GBP or USD currencies. If the client already decided to use First Direct Bank for an international money transfer, First Direct will show their updated exchange rates right before confirmation of a transaction.

Transfer fees

Whether a client will transfer (1) from First Direct to HSBC, (2) Euro (EUR) within EEA, (3) EUR outside EEA, or to (4) other currencies, all of First Direct transfer fees are free when done online. The only other option is to send funds through their telephone service. Transactions for options (3) and (4) incurs a 4.00 GBP transfer fee under this option.

Additional costs

While no figures were given, First Direct explicitly states additional fees may come from the beneficiary or intermediary bank fees. No other additional costs or fees were stated in their terms and conditions.

How do First Direct Bank transfer fees compare to using a money transfer provider?

No other money transfer provider offers free transfer fees similar to First Direct. Wise calculates their transfer fees based on your total amount, a fixed fee based on your preferred transfer method, and the market exchange rate. World Remit considers the same factors, which results in large fees. Currencies Direct offers no transfer fees, but it presents lower market rates to gain revenue from cutting the transfer rates. CurrencyFair incurs a flat rate of 3 EUR per transaction added with a 0.45% margin to the total amount.

First Direct Bank pros and cons


Online app - First Direct enables their clients to view their transactions, balances, and accounts within their app. It also allows them to pay their bills and send money. Disabling stolen or lost cards can also be done in the app.
24/7 Customer Service - In cases of inquiry or need for assistance, First Direct can be reached online or through telephone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They guarantee that an available agent can address clients’ concerns.
Money Wellness Hub - First Direct complies and updates articles tailored for the benefit of the financial life of their clients. Aside from articles, quizzes and statistics can also be used for further financial knowledge. All of these can be accessed on their website.
No bank transfer fees - Perhaps no other challenger bank offers this service, especially for international transfers. There is a 50,000 GDP daily limit for transactions, but there are no transfer fees or minimum threshold amount required for money transfers.
Highly trusted bank - First Direct continues to be recognized through the years for their service and products as seen in their overall trust ratings and awards.


Account opening - First Direct accounts can only be opened from the UK despite their full remote setup.
International transfer processing time - Money transfers outside EEA countries can take up to 4 days or more to arrive. Other money transfer providers can transact from real-time up to a day.

First Direct Bank Additional Products

First Direct also delivers the following products for their client aside from their usual banking services:

  • Overdraft - An extra 500 GBP can be availed for clients with insufficient funds that need to make transactions within the month. If eligible for this product, First Direct sets no interest on the first 250 GBP borrowed and applies a 39.9% equivalent annual rate (EAR) variable for the succeeding amounts borrowed. A bigger overdraft can only happen if the client arranges for it in advance (and is eligible for it).

  • Travel Money - Home delivery of other currencies is made available by First Direct. The funds in a client’s First Direct debit card can be used for the currency exchange. The processing time takes up to three days before arrival.

  • Savings Accounts - Five different savings accounts can be availed through First Direct. Their advantages include high-interest rates, 1.00 GBP minimum first deposit, and tax-free interest.

  • Loans - It only takes minutes to borrow up to 30,000 GBP with First Direct through their app. A relatively low 3.3% APR is applied.

  • Credit cards - First Direct customers can enjoy 0% interest balance transfers and no annual fee credit cards once eligible. With a few clicks in their app, a credit card can be availed. Examples of payment limits per month are shown on their website.

  • Insurances - Life, home, and travel insurance are made available to First Direct customers. The terms and conditions clearly explain the coverage of the insurances. Access to these insurances must be done through telephone instead of their app.


First Direct shows promising remote banking services done online (First Direct app) and through telephone. While the initial account opening can only be done in the UK, their services extend worldwide. Their products ease the overall banking life and day-to-day financial needs of a UK resident or citizen. High ratings and good reviews continue to praise their performance through the years. Comparison with other challenger banks and online services showcases them as the cream of the crop.

Their app can be used anytime and anywhere for their usual services as long as an account has been made. General inquiries, frequently asked questions, and other services can all be seen on the First Direct website. If deemed insufficient, a 24/7 representative can accommodate specific concerns regarding their products and services.

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Keith Hodges
Keith Hodges
Keith is a digital specialist with a background in the financial industry, both as a marketeer and a journalist. Keith joined in order to take the business to the next level and expand our offering in multiple international money transfer markets.