One of the most common ways of transferring money is using established banks. These institutions have been around for centuries and many people see them as the default option for sending money – whether for sending funds to family and friends abroad or paying for business expenses. Banks offer convenience, but it is worth noting that they are often among the most expensive ways of transferring money. Find all the biggest banks on this page, along with all the information you need in order to get the best deal.

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How to send money from one bank to another

You can transfer money from one bank account to another whether within the same banking institution or across different banks, as long as both you and your recipient have bank accounts. When sending money domestically, you typically only need to enter the name, account number, and sort code of your intended recipient; with international transfers you will generally have to supply the relevant IBAN or BIC number.

How to find your IBAN and BIC number

For your transfer to be successful, you will need several details from the beneficiary including their IBAN (international bank account number) and BIC (bank identifier code). These aren’t as obvious to find as you usual banking information but can be easily obtained once you know the steps. 


IBAN is an abbreviation for International Bank Account Number and is currently used for transfers to over 69 countries around the world. IBAN comprises 34 alphanumeric characters broken down as follows:

  • The first two letters make up the country code. For the UK, the country code is GB.
  • The two digits that follow are referred to as the check or control digits. They help in checking for any transcription errors in the account number and transfer destination.
  • The last set of 30 alphanumeric characters is known as the basic bank account number or BBAN. This country-specific number identifies the bank and account number and is decided by the destination’s payment authority such as the central bank.

The best way to find your IBAN is to contact your bank, or log into your account through the bank’s mobile application. With most banks, your IBAN will be easily obtainable in your ‘Account Details’ section.


BIC is a short form of Bank Identifier Code. The BIC system is owned and operated by SWIFT – a secure global financial messaging system used for international payments across the world. Also known as the SWIFT address or SWIFT Code, BIC helps to identify the recipient’s country, bank name, and at times the branch. 

Similarly, to finding your IBAN, your BIC is generally easily found in the ‘Account Details’ section of your bank’s online portal or mobile app. If you can’t find it here, then the best thing to do is call your bank directly.

How bank transfers work

From the user’s perspective, bank transfers are pretty straightforward: you supply the required information and the amount you wish to send, and the money appears in your beneficiary’s account in a few days. There are a few different ways that you can make a bank transfer, however, and we’ve outlined the most common methods below. It is important to bear in mind that the most important parts of any transfer are to ensure you can access your account, have accurate details for the person you’re sending money to, and that you have enough money in your account to fund the transfer.

Online bank transfers 

Most banks have online portals that allow their customers to log in and make transfers. To access the portal, users have to go through a multifactor authentication system where in addition to their password, they might have to input a One Time Password (OTP) or a Transaction Authorization Number (TAN) sent to them via text messaging. The exact security steps will depend on your bank.

Once successfully logged in, customers can make both local and international transfers. Here are the steps involved.

1. Enter beneficiary details. Input the beneficiary account name, account number, their address, BIC/ SWIFT code, IBAN number, the name of their bank, branch, and bank address. You can also indicate the beneficiary email address so that they can be notified when the transfer has been initiated.

2. Enter intermediary bank details. If the payment is processed through an intermediary, the sender will be required to input the intermediary bank details including the bank name, address, and branch. 

3. Give transfer information. Here, the sender keys in the amount being transferred, the currency, the date they want the transfer to be executed, transfer reference, the purpose of the payment and how the charges will be shared. The sender or beneficiary can pay all the charges or, in some cases, can do a split between them.

4. Agree negotiated exchange rate. If the transfer involves a currency exchange, the bank gives the sender an option to insert the rate they have negotiated with the bank. If there is no negotiated rate, the slot is left blank.

Once the details have been input, the sender should double-check for accuracy before submitting the transfer for processing.

Mobile app transfers

Some banks have smartphone apps on the Play Store and App Store which customers can download and install to allow them to make transfers. The process works similarly to using the bank’s online portal. It is worth noting that commonly banking apps can only be used for domestic transfers, with other options being more suitable for international money transfers.

Telephone transfers

If you’d prefer to do things over the phone, you can call your bank and have the customer support representative or designated personal banker guide you through the transfer process. For this you’ll have to supply the same information as outlined in the online process above. Not all banks offer this option, and some connect you to an automated service instead of a live person to help you with your transfer.

In-person bank transfers

If you want to transfer money in a more personal way, then you can go down to a branch of your bank and initiate the transfer there. Again, you will require the same information listed above, but the staff in your branch will be able to assist you in filling all the details out. 

Pros and cons of using banks for money transfers

Bank transfers are among the most popular and reliable ways to move funds around the world, but this is in part because people see them as the default option. Before you decide on whether you should use them or consider an alternative such as an online money transfer provider, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons.


  • Highly regulated: Banks are registered, authorised, and regulated by payment regulatory authorities. These could be central banks in the respective countries or special purpose bodies like the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority in the UK. 
  • Strongly secured: Banking institutions have put in place foolproof security systems such as multifactor authentication systems, biometric systems, SSL technology layers, and PCI DSS protocols for card payment security.
  • Larger limits: Typically, bank transfers have no limits, and this means you can easily move large amounts to finance transactions like buying holiday homes or other assets.
  • Extensive and reliable network: Banks are present in nearly every corner of the world and even if it means using intermediaries, your money will still be delivered.


  • Steep transfer fees: Banks charge steep fees for international transfers (often in the region of $40). You may be charged more to facilitate telephone transfers. For instance, Barclays Plc charges a £25 fee per telephone banking payment. The recipient may also be charged SWIFT fees and intermediary fees by their bank which is deducted for the amount transferred.
  • High exchange rate margins: Often referred to as hidden costs, exchange rate margins are the extra percentage a bank applies on top of the mid-market exchange rate when transferring between currencies. These can quickly add up and eat into your transfer amount. For instance, the Royal Bank of Scotland charges a margin of 4.13% to transfer money from the UK to the US – which is much higher than you’ll see with some alternative providers.
  • Slow transfer speed: Most local bank transfers are delivered the same day or the following business day. However, international transfers can take up to 3 or 5 days to arrive. A good example is when using NatWest to transfer money to Colombia. The transfer can take 4 days to be delivered.

Are there alternatives to transferring money with my bank?

Yes. In the age of the internet, there are now a wide variety of other options for customers to consider when transferring money abroad. These can often save you money, or give you access to money transfer methods that are hard to find with banks (such as home delivery cash transfers). We’ve run through the best alternatives options for you here.

Money transfer companies

Money transfer companies enable users to send money faster and much cheaper than banks. These platforms are based online and use proprietary technologies and bank-grade security layers to take in customer funds and have them delivered to their recipients.

Customers must sign up for these services by registering accounts with the providers online or using mobile apps. Once the accounts are opened and verified, users can initiate transfers to their beneficiaries and pay using bank accounts, debit cards, credit cards or even cash for select providers.

The biggest attraction of these services is that money transfer companies are much cheaper than using banks to transfer funds. Providers like TransferWise make all international transfers at mid-market rates, with no margins applied. Other like OFX do not charge any transfer fees but only a small exchange rate margin to cover their operating costs. Typically exchange rate margins are between 1% and 2% with these companies, whereas you can see margins as high as 5% when using banks.

This cost-efficiency is also seen in the fees charged by money transfer companies. The level of transfer fee charged will depend on the provider you use, but the fees are typically significantly lower than you’ll find with banks – making these services a much more financially viable option, especially if sending remittance payments home.

Money transfer companies have various options for delivering funds to beneficiaries. Transfers can be made to the recipient’s bank accounts, cash pick up points, delivered at recipients’ homes, or deposited in cards. In countries like Nigeria, Kenya, India, and the Philippines, beneficiaries can have funds deposited into their mobile money wallets or even have cash delivered to their doorstep.

In terms of transfer speed, cash pickup and mobile wallet deposits are usually instant or can take a few minutes. Transfer to bank accounts and home deliveries can take up to 3 days depending on the provider, transfer amount, and destination. For instance, TransferWise and WorldRemit take 1-2 business days to deliver international transfers to bank accounts.

International money orders

Customers can send money overseas using international money orders. In the United States, senders can purchase international money orders at the various Post Office locations countrywide, and transferring money in this way gives a reliable way of sending money securely in the post.

There do tend to be small limits with international money orders, however. In the US, the maximum value per money order is $700 and customers can pay using debit cards, cash, and traveller’s cheques. 

Apart from the dollar value of the money order, senders must also pay a $10.25 issuing fee and a further processing fee that varies based on the transfer destination. The low limits and high fees with international money orders generally mean that other options are better for the majority of transfers.

The transfer speed depends on the mail service used to send the money order. For instance, Priority Mail Express International takes 3–5 business days while the Global Express Guaranteed service takes 1-3 business days to deliver the money order to the recipient.


Services such as Western Union, Ria, and MoneyGram allow in-person transfers at their branches or agent locations. Customers walk in with cash which they pay at the counter after filling in the money transfer forms. 

There is no requirement that they should sign up for accounts and the money is sent to pick up points that are close to the recipient. There is a transfer code the recipient gets that they use at the pickup point to collect their transfer. 

Transfers take minutes to be delivered, which can make transferring money in this way attractive and easy, but it’s important to bear in mind that the cost of the transfers including hidden charges can be steep – so make sure to research providers before sending money this way.

How much does it cost to send money with a bank?

The cost of a transfer consists of transfer fees, exchange rate margins, and other incidental costs that the sender and recipient get charged. The costs depend on the banking institution involved and transfer destination – local or international, and for international transfers banks will typically be more expensive than online money transfer providers. Here’s a quick breakdown of the main costs to consider when transferring money with a bank.

Transfer fees

Banks charge $40 on average in transfer fees for international transfers – but the exact amount you’ll be charged will depend on the bank, where you’re sending money to, and how much you’re sending. For instance, when transferring money from the UK to Australia, Nationwide will charge you £20. Recipients are also charged some fees to receive funds. In Kenya, beneficiaries are charged about £5 per inward SWIFT transfer.

Exchange rate margins

When making international bank transfers, a margin will be applied on top of the exchange rate if your transfer involves a currency exchange. This is usually quite high with banks, and you can expect your currency to be converted at margins of up to 5% above the mid-market rate. Compared to money transfer services that charge between 0 and 3%, banks can be quite an expensive way to transfer money, especially where large transfers are involved.

When transferring money from the UK to the US, NatWest charges about 4.14% in exchange rate margins. When sending money to Australia from the UK, the Royal Bank of Scotland charges margins of up to 4.96%.

Additional costs

You can occasionally face additional costs when transferring money with a bank. With some transfers, money will have to be routed through 3rd party banks to complete the transfer and this can incur additional fees, if funding a transfer with a credit card you can incur cash advance fees, and in some countries beneficiaries may be required to pay receiver’s fees. It’s important to check these details before making your transfer to ensure you don’t end up paying more for your transfer than you expect.

How long do bank transfers take?

Domestic transfers can be delivered the same day or the following business day. However, international bank transfers can take between 3- 5 business days. If there are any intermediaries involved, transfer times can be quite unpredictable, but generally 5 days is the upper limit.

Is sending funds with a bank secure?

Bank transfers are generally secure and reliable ways of sending money. Customer funds are held segregated accounts separate from the banks’ business funds. Banks are also regulated by independent organizations like FCA, Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC), Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and the central banks in the respective countries.

Among the security layers that banks have in place include multifactor authentication systems, SSL technologies, and PCI DSS protocols that safeguard customers’ debit and credit card information when making payments.

These factors make banks one of the most secure ways of sending money, but you still have to keep your wits about you and ensure you don’t fall victim of any scammers. If at any point you’re unsure about the information you’re being asked to provide, call your bank directly and ask. And before you send any money be absolutely sure you have the right information for your recipient and that they are someone you can trust.

Want to know more about bank transfers?

Check out our bank transfer guides below:

How to set up bank accounts for international transfers?
Making international card to card transfers
Everything you need to know about bank transfer fees
Everything you need to know about International bank transfers
What is a BSB Number
Our guides to virtual banks


Banks have been at the heart of the global financial system for centuries. They play a critical role in both local and international transfers, and provide a secure and reliable service with an extensive sending and disbursing network.

On the other side, banks tend to charge the highest fees for international transfers out of the options available, meaning you can often find a better deal by comparing your options. There are alternatives such as money transfer companies that can move your money faster and cheaper than banks without compromising on information security and quality of service. 

While money transfer services leverage the banking system at one point or the other, they have proprietary, technology-enabled transfer systems. Money transfer providers can be an excellent way of delivering funds to your beneficiary especially in places where bank service penetration is low or cash is required immediately.

Using our money transfer comparison tool, you can quickly compare the cost of the different money transfer companies available on your transfer route against the cost of doing bank transfers. This can help you in making the best money transfer decision and decide whether you want to use your bank or another option for making an international transfer.

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Artiom is a marketing graduate from the University of Portsmouth, Artiom’s primary experience is in SEO but he has a broad knowledge of all facets of digital marketing. He optimises the organic experience on with the content team, manages and creates unique marketing tactics, and generally supports the overall growth of the website.