Below is a simple guide to the best ways to transfer money from the US to the UK – without paying high bank fees.
I’ll explain how it works, how long it takes, and compare the best services for USD to GBP.
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links which can save you even more money! For more information, see my disclosures here and make sure to check out the best and cheapest ways below.
Best Rates For Sending 5,000.00 USD to GBP
Best Rates For Sending 5.00 USD to GBP
1. Best Ways Compared
If you’re sending money from the USA to the UK, the best services you can choose are Wise, OFX and Ria or Western Union.
Now: From from our experience, which one you should choose depends on the amount you are sending.
|Best Transfers for USA to the UK|
|Best for small amounts (Below $7000 USD)||Wise (Go to Wise Review)|
|Best for large amounts (Above $7000 USD)||OFX (Go to OFX Review)|
|Best for small cash pick-up||Ria or Western Union (Go to Ria Review)|
|Best for small fast transfers||Wise (Go to Wise Review)|
|Cheapest transfers||See small and large amounts|
Why do you need to choose a money transfer service based on the amount?
There is no one-size-fits-all service.
Each money transfer company has a specific set of competencies, which benefits you as the user in terms of
- Savings on transfer fees
- Flexibility in payout methods (bank or cash transfer)
- Types of customer support (Phone support for many people is especially important for large amounts over $7000 USD/approx. £5000 GBP)
- Transfer experience (unexpected account hold ups and transfer delays in emergencies can be frustrating)
Let’s dive a little deeper to understand which services you can rely on based on your specific needs.
1.1 Small Bank Transfers Below $7000 USD/approx £5000 GBP
For smaller transfers from the the US to the UK we recommend going with a service like Wise (review) who are known for their low and transparent fee structure.
But it is not just the fees that matter.
Wise makes it easy to sign up, transact and has top shelf online customer services.
This is why we recommend them as our number one pick in this category.
But that may not be the best part:
Wise also offers a multi-currency account and debit cards for both individuals and businesses, which lets their users hold, manage, and convert between 50+ currencies.
The coolest feature of the multicurrency account is the ability to get international bank details in 10 major currencies, including GBP.
Wise also offers a lot of flexibility in terms of funding your transfers – both card (faster) and bank transfers are supported (generally slower but cheaper).
See the most up to date rates through the Wise calculator (opens new tab) you can see the fees you pay without signing up.
1.2 Large Bank Transfers Above $7000 USD/£5000 GBP
For large transfers to the UK from the USA, we recommend services like OFX in our review.
- OFX is regulated in the USA (by FinCen) and the UK (by the FCA) – this provides an added level of confidence.
- OFX fees are designed to reduce (in percentage terms) as the amounts increase.
- OFX has excellent phone support and physical presence in the USA and the UK (OFX has offices in both US and UK)
- OFX offers flexible services like Spot Orders, Forward Contracts, and Market Orders to save money on large transfers in the long term
Here’s the deal: Most people just want to log into their account online and easily set up a transfer.
OFX does this.
But in some cases (like all money transfer services) regulations can create issues.
Common issues include:
- Different banks limits on amounts they can transfer
- You may need to provide additional information to verify your address (if you recently changed address)
In practice, online customer service (think chat bots) just does not cut it.
With offices in New York, Toronto and London (and actual people in them you can talk to) OFX can provide top shelf customer service 24/7.
Also OFX may charge a fixed fee of $15, however if you click here (opens a new tab) you can avoid these fees all together.
1.3 Small Cash Transfers Below $7000 USD/£5000 GBP
Cash transfers come into play when your recipient doesn’t have a UK bank account.
- If your child just moved to the UK to study and they don’t a UK bank account yet
- Your friend is traveling and needs money urgently (for a medical emergency, lost their wallet, etc.)
These instances may be rare, but we want you to know which services you can use for fast cash transfers from the USA to the UK.
Western Union offers guaranteed cash transfer in minutes with their Money In Minutes Service, while RIA and MoneyGram have an excellent physical presence in North America (they’re integrated into pretty much every 7-eleven and Walmart in the US).
See how these cash transfer services stack up against each other: Ria vs MoneyGram vs Western Union.
Your might also like, What is Remittance? especially if you are sending cash.
2. Cheapest ways to send money from the USA to UK
2.1 Cheapest Option for Smaller Bank Transfers
Wise (review) always offers consistently (they can change based on the amount and destination) low fees for smaller bank transfers from the USA to the UK.
For one, they allow transfers at the inter-bank rate or midmarket rate (as they like to call it) unlike any other money transfer company out there.
Second, they charge a small fee which is completely transparent, also unlike their competitors who charge a fee as well as a margin.
Third, they have local bank accounts in the USA and the UK, so you’ll never be saddled with any unexpected fees (like sending and receiving bank fees).
Usually, bank-to-bank transfers are very affordable and fast for USD-GBP transfers. You’ll pay transfer fees as low as $7 USD for sending $1,000 USD (funded with a bank transfer) to the UK and usually your money will arrive in a couple of hours.
When you fund your transfer with a credit card, the money arrives instantly. But you also pay an extra fee, which can be great in an emergency.
2.2 Cheapest Option for Larger Bank Transfers
XE and OFX are both very good choices for large USD-GBP transfers, however OFX is our top choice even if it is a little more expensive due to its combination of ease of booking transfers online and high emphasis on customer service. They also have New York and London offices staffed with people you can speak to 24/7 which can be very comforting for large transfers.
If you are in the US, OFX also has no fixed fee with a $1000 USD minimum.
Depending on the country you are in, OFX sometimes has a fixed $15 USD fee for all transfers below $10,000 USD as well as a margin on the exchange rate.
Want to waive this fee forever? Access OFX using this link to OFX here.
Most importantly for large transfers both OFX and XE reduce the margin on the exchange rate (in percentage terms) as the amount increases.
This makes OFX very affordable for your large transfers.
Learn more about transferring large amounts affordably in our in-depth OFX review.
3. Fees You Should Know About
Using a bank like CitiBank, Chase, or Wells Fargo may seem like the easiest way to send money to the UK from the US.
However, international bank transfers with high-street banks turn out to be very expensive and come with a host of hidden fees.
For example, if you are funding your transaction through a wire transfer banks charge fees between $15-$35 USD.
Meanwhile some transfer services like Wise and OFX allow ACH transfers to fund the transaction and these are usually free!
You might also like ACH Vs. Wire Transfers.
But here is the kicker:
The biggest fee is usually the margin built into the exchange rate.
With banks, this is typically double or triple that of a money transfer service but it can be higher.
Also they usually have additional fixed fees like the wire transfer fee for sending money overseas.
And the receiving bank will also change to a fee to receive international funds.
For example, a USD-GBP transfer with CitiBank can cost $35 USD minimum.
Here are the fees you should know about:
- Fixed fees
- Margin on the exchange rate (usually the largest cost in a transfer)
- Sending and receiving fees (charged by your bank and the recipient’s bank)
3.1 Fixed Fees
This is typically a small fixed fee charged by international money transfer providers, and it is often this fee that money transfer providers focus on in their marketing.
Many services claim to be “fee free” or have “no fees” and this can be helpful (especially for smaller transfers), but you really need to consider all the fees and add them up.
The next fee is typically the largest part of all the fees you pay.
3.2 Exchange Rate Margin
Most money transfer companies don’t offer the inter-bank exchange rate (that is the rate at which banks and large financial institutions exchange currency with each other).
Instead they add a percentage margin to make money from your transfer and call this the exchange rate.
Usually, this margin is a percentage of the transfer amount, and this is often the biggest fee in a transfer.
How to get the lowest exchange rate:
Almost all banks and money transfer companies just exchange your money at their customer exchange rate and that’s it – you just have to accept what you are given.
It does not have to be this way:
Comparisons between leading money transfer services (which you can find at the top of this page) give a good indication of who is offering the best exchange rate.
However, you should know that great service can come at a small extra cost. The key here is to use a top ranked service and not bank and you will save a significant amount.
Also, companies that specialize in large transfers make sure this percentage margin goes down as the amount increases (making it affordable to send large transfers with them).
3.3 Sending and Receiving Fees
Sometimes sending and receiving banks can also charge fees, which are often overlooked.
The truth is many people never know about them until they get their bank statement (well not you)!
This can be between $15-$45 USD, depending on your bank and if the service you use has local bank accounts in the USA.
For example, Bank of America charges $45 USD for sending international wire transfers.
If you use a bank directly to wire money or to fund a transaction with a money transfer service that does not have bank accounts in the USA, this fee comes can be significant especially for smaller amounts.
And that is just the sending fee.
If you use a bank (and some money transfer services) the receiver will also get charged a fee to receive the funds from a foreign bank.
For example, Barclays and HSBC charge £6 and RBS and NatWest charge £7.50.
This is where it’s useful to transfer with services like Wise and OFX, who can often remove these fees by having local bank accounts in all the major countries they operate.
More fees: you may not be able to avoid some fees like a cash advance fee (typically 3% of the amount) if you’re funding your transfer with a credit card.
4. Safest Ways to Send Money from the USA to the UK
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to use a service that is regulated at the federal level with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
If you are a resident of the US, you are protected by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which regulates the financial products Americans use including international money transfers of $15 or more.
Wise, OFX and XE are all regulated by FinCEN in the USA as well as the UK with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) designed to preventing theft, fraud, and money laundering.
OFX and XE also have physical presence in the USA and the UK and offer excellent phone support, which makes them reliable options for large transfers.
Other than regulatory methods, they also use SSL encryption, two-factor authentication, and other measures to make sure your money is safe.
5. How to Send Money from the USA to the UK
It’s easy to get started with your USD-GBP transfer to the UK
- Choose a money transfer company that meets your specific needs (small or large transfer, cash or bank transfer, slower or instant transfer) from our recommended services above.
- Sign up on their website and verify your account. Usually, you’ll need an address proof and a national ID to verify your account. However, services like OFX and XE may need more paperwork (like bank account statements and purpose of transfer) to make sure your large transfer is processed smoothly and safely (and to meet regulations).
- Enter the recipient details and double check them
- Fund your transfer with a bank transfer (most affordable), cash, or credit card (the latter lead to faster transfers but also higher fees)
- Confirm the transfer and track it on the service provider’s mobile app or your online dashboard.
- Funds arrive.
You might also like: Online Money Transfer Services in the USA which also covers other destinations like UK, Canada, Australia, Philippines and India
6.1 Which Bank Details Are Needed to Send Money to the UK?
- You will need to link your bank account with full account details after you sign up with a money transfer service.
- You will also need the following details of your recipient to make sure the transfer goes smoothly: their full name, address, and their IBAN code (the code to identify their specific banking branch) for smaller bank transfers.
Example of a UK IBAN: GB29 NWBK 6016 1331 9268 19, where “GB” is the country code, “29” is security check code, “NWBK” is the bank’s identifying code, and “601613” is the branch code, and “31926819” is the account number
For cash transfers, you may need to share the details of your recipient’s national ID or driving license (which they need to carry to collect the cash).
6.2 Can I Send Money to the UK For Free?
Wise’s multi-currency account gives you the option to set up international bank details in GBP or hold GBP, which minimizes the fees to a certain extent. But you still have to pay the currency conversion fees when you add money to your multi-currency account.
6.3 Can I Send Money to the UK With CashApp?
CashApp (international) is great for local peer-to-peer payments in the US and the UK to friends, family, and trusted local businesses.
Cash App do offer USD-GBP transfers at the mid-market rate, with no additional fees subject to their $1,000 within any 30-day period for those not verified.
6.4 Do UK Banks Charge Fees for Receiving International Transfers?
Yes, some UK banks may charge fees for receiving international transfers. For example, Barclays charges £6 GBP or $8 USD to receive each overseas payment for amounts over £100 or approximately $140 USD.