HomeExpatsExpat Bank AccountsA Guide to International Bank Transfers for Expats

A Guide to International Bank Transfers for Expats

Expats around the world may be required to send money internationally for a number of reasons, both personal or business, and bank transfers are often seen as the most convenient method. In this guide, we evaluate whether bank transfers are the best way to move your money overseas, how long they take, the fees involved and other alternatives popular with expats.

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How do I make an international bank transfer?

An international bank transfer refers to the process of sending money from a bank account in one country, to another bank account in a different country. A wire transfer is something slightly different; read our Guide to Wire Transfers to learn more.

An international bank transfer will be arranged through your bank, and we recommend following these 4 steps when setting it up:

1.Step 1 Comparisons are crucial
2.Step 2 Add up the costs
3.Step 3 Check and double check
4.Step 4 Confirm the transfer

What information is required to make an international bank transfer?

The information required to complete international bank transfers are determined by the destination country and corresponding banks. For a list of the different types of information you may be required to provide, see below:

  • Recipient’s full name

  • Recipient’s contact information

  • Name of recipient’s bank and bank address

  • Account number or IBAN

  • BIC/SWIFT code

  • Message or reference number (most commonly used for bill payments)

  • Any additional security details (most commonly used for email money transfers)

How do I set up an international bank transfer as an expat?


The online method of setting up an international bank transfer would be the easiest and most accessible option for anyone living overseas. For those no longer in their home country, financial services normally accessible in person at your local bank branch, will need to be accessed online instead. For this reason, it would be easier to utilise your online banking to move money overseas.

We have produced a detailed guide on How to Transfer Money Online as an Expat for more information on how to execute an online money transfer.

In person

As previously mentioned, many expats will not have physical access to their home country bank, but this is not to say they have not set up a bank account in their new country of residence. While it is not the most convenient option, international bank transfers can be made in-person at your bank and is a good idea for anyone hoping to transfer a large amount of money overseas.

Over the phone

Not all banks offer the option to set up an international bank transfer over the phone, but for those that do, you will be asked a series of security questions to verify your identity before any transfers can be made. It is worth noting that expats hoping to utilise the services of their home co, may be charged for international calls.

More guides on sending money abroad as an expat

How long does an international bank transfer take?

International bank transfer speeds vary depending on the banking institution, but most transfers take 1 to 5 working days.

What is the cost of an international bank transfer?

This is another factor determined by the banking institutions involved in the transfer, but most international bank transfers incur two main costs: exchange rate markups and transfer fees.

Transfer fees: These vary greatly, with some banks charging a flat fee for every transfer, while others add a percentage on to the value of the transfer. In some cases, banks charge both sender and receiver for international transfers.

Exchange rate: Banks will add a percentage-based markup to the exchange rate on offer, this means you do not receive the exactly mid-market rate used by the banks when trading. This is where banks make their money and as a result, are considered more expensive than specialist money transfer providers such as WorldRemit, Wise, XE, Currencyfair, Currencies Direct, Key Currency, Instarem and TorFX.

Make an international transfer with WorldRemit

As an example, WorldRemit supports international transfers to 150 countries in over 90 currencies, and you can initiate your transfer easily via your phone or computer.

In addition to having a transparent fee structure and competitive exchange rates, WorldRemit can also send international transfers within minutes compared to the several working days it can take for a bank to process.

What other international money transfer options are available?

If, after reviewing the terms of an international bank transfer, you have decided they do not meet your requirements, fear not. There are a number of alternative options available to expats, no matter where in the world they have relocated to.

Challenger banks are one of these great alternative options; many expats choose to open an account with one of the new alternative banks when moving abroad. This is because lots of these challenger banks are designed to meet the requirements of a "global lifestyle" and offer state of the art mobile banking, such as Revolut and Monzo.

As well as these alternative neobanks, international money transfer companies come highly recommended by expats. We recommend using specialist money transfer providers because these companies are built on the premise of simplifying the process of oversea payments while offering competitive, transparent rates. Use the MoneyTransfers comparison tool to find the best deal for your international money transfer.

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April Summers
April Summers
April is a trained journalist and the Content Editor for She has 10 years experience writing about a diverse range of subjects, from financial services to arts and entertainment. When she's not writing about global remittances she can be found daydreaming about her next holiday abroad.