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Money Transfers... a guide for transferring money between the UK, Australia, Canada and beyond

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A common challenge faced by expats and travellers is to transfer money from Australia, UK, NZ, USA and Canada between banks. Bewildering arrays of choices exist, including using expensive international bank transfer services so finding a secure and inexpensive money transfer service is important. Workgateways understands this, from first hand experience, and we offer our cumulative insight in this guide. In this page we compare all the options available; including from one bank to another, travelex, western union and sending an international money order online.

However before you move a cent you will need a UK Bank Account

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Money Transfer Options

Several money transfer options exist and the best one for you will depend on your particular situation.

In general there are two situations in which travellers, expats and working holiday makers find themselves:


Situation 1
  • Primary aim is to work
    For example; You are settled in the UK and you want to transfer money from Australia to UK or Canada to UK or vice versa
  • You do have a bank account
    In the country where you are going to be receiving or sending the money
  • You are sending larger sums of money
    You are transferring money between banks with value greater than 500GBP
What to do in this situation »
Situation 2
  • You are passing through the country
    Where you are going to be sending or receiving money
  • You do not have a bank account
    In the country where you are going to be sending or receiving the money
  • You are sending smaller sums of money
    You need to send or receive money for sums less then approximately £500
What to do in this situation »

Situation 1

If Situation 1 best describes your circumstances (you plan to settle in one location for a while and you have a local bank account), you can save a lot of money, time and hassle by transferring money with a service that facilitates international bank to bank transfers.

The internet has brought with it a new breed of online money transfer companies that are highly cost competitive and user friendly compared with transferring through regular banks.

Until relatively recently, banks themselves were the only option. Then, companies like Tranzfers and 1st Contact launched a better service.

Note: If you only intend to do one transaction you will save some paperwork, but it will be more expensive, by using your banks’ services.

The Lowdown on the Key Players

Online Money Transfer Companies

If you want to use an online service there are two things you will require:

  1. Secure Internet Access
    If you have a home or your own work computer — perfect. Using a public-access computer is possible — but guard your passwords and transactions very carefully from prying eyes.
  2. A Local Bank Account
    You will need to have a local bank account (at your overseas destination) from which to transfer your funds home, or vice versa (a bank account at your overseas destination into which you can transfer money from home). See UK bank accounts to learn more about opening a bank account.

Tranzfers and 1st Contact are two of the largest and most competitive international money transfer companies.

  • Maximum fee of £7 and no fees for transactions over £5000
  • Excellent foreign exchange rates — compare exchange rates here »
  • Servicing the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong, Europe (Euro and Polish Zloty), Sweden and the USA
  • Secure online and phone access 24 hours; 5 days a week
  • Choose the time of conversion yourself at the click of a button
  • Licensed and regulated company in the UK and Australia
  • Ability to pay off your credit card in NZ and Australia
1st Contact
  • £1 to £15 for each transfer. UK to Aus and NZ is £7, Aus to UK is $5 (first transaction is free)
  • Competitive exchange rates that beat the banks
  • Every Fifth transfer free (and birthdays free)
  • 1st Contact moves money to Australia, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland, Europe and the UAE
  • It takes two to three business days, for the money to clear your bank. (Speed service transfers are also offered — 1 day)
  • Can guarantee rates when you use your debit card online (UK only)
  • No minimum transfer amount
  • Payments can be made to credit cards in AUS, NZ or SA but not to credit cards issued by UK banks.

How Does It Work

These companies operate their transactions in the same manner. First, you register with them online and input details of the transaction you would like to make (for your first transaction you usually have to fax a certified photocopy of your I.D. due to banking regulations).

Once you have registered and been approved, you are given the transfer company's bank account details. Through online banking at your financial institution, you deposit the amount you wish to transfer into their bank account in your name.

Based on the details you supplied during the registration process, the company will deposit your money into the recipient account of your choosing.

For example, if you were transferring money from Australia to the UK, after locking in a favourable exchange rate you would simply move money online from your (ANZ, Commonwealth or Westpac...) account to the money transfers company account in your name. This amount is then automatically paid to your nominated account in the UK (LLoyds, Barclays, HSBC...)


  • All transactions can be done electronically and clear quicker than banks themselves.
  • You do not have to go in person to any retail outlets. (However you do have to fax a certified photocopy of passport to most companies before proceeding with your first money transfer — banking regulations).
  • Some of the companies allow you to pay off credit cards back home, or you can send an international money order online to yourself or to friends and family — all you need are the recipient's bank account details.
  • Top up your account at home — especially if you have direct debits coming out of your home account — like mortgage payments etc.
  • Fees are reasonable — between £1 to £15 (much cheaper than banks)
  • Currency exchange rates are very competitive.
  • You can make transfers to many countries — countries include UK, AUS, NZ, SA, Canada and the list is growing. Some companies offer services to only some countries — be sure to check - UK to Australia and Canada or vice versa is common for Workgateways members.


  • You must have a bank account in the country from which you are transferring and which you are receiving (the latter is required only if you are sending to yourself).
  • You must have access to a secure internet connection — ideally home or work.
  • You must have access to either online banking or telephone banking through your financial institution.
  • Fraud: if you are uncomfortable with depositing money into a 3rd party account, be sure to use the services listed here.
  • Payments using cheques or credit cards are not accepted — electronic funds transfer only.
  • Eligible countries are limited — be sure your countries are covered before proceeding.

Best For

Transferring money between your overseas account to your home bank account — you can also monitor exchange rates and take advantage of highs or lows in currency differences!

If you keep your money safe from yourself in your bank account at home — you will have more when you return!

Banks — Interntional Money Transfer Services

  • Most banks have international bank transfer services.
  • You will need to currently have, or sign up for, online banking with your current bank.
  • You will usually need to know the address of the receiving bank, the account details of the receiving account, the account name and often the receiving bank's SWIFT code (an international bank identification system - ask your current bank for their SWIFT code).
  • This is a convenient way to transfer money — but it is the most expensive as well.
  • Transaction costs generally range between 15 GBP (Lloyds) for Standard services and up to 35 GBP (Barclays) for priority services. From an Australian bank it usually costs about 20 AUD.
  • Costs also include the exchange rate offered. These rates tend to be unfavourable compared with online money transfer companies. Currency Exchange rates for most banks are not easily available online
  • You can use this method to send an international money order online to your own home bank account or to a third party.


  • Few restrictions on the countries between which you can transfer money
  • No need to deal with a 3rd intermediate party
  • You can make online money transfers
  • No need for an internet connection if you don't mind going to the Bank's branch.
  • Less paperwork


  • Banks are more costly than dedicated online money transfer companies
  • For most banks you cannot easily check the currency exchange rates online or lock in a favourable one

Best For

Making a once off transfer where you do not mind paying the extra fees and exchange rate difference.

How much does it cost?

Many (if not all) of these services and banks use an exchange rate that is favorable to them.

If you are moving amounts greater then 1000GBP ($1500) it is important to realise this. Generally the only way you can find out a UK Bank's exchange rate for a particular currency is by going into a branch or calling them.

Tranzfers openly displays their going rates on their home page. Frankly, we like that because it is easy for you to see the difference by visiting a site like Yahoo's current currency exchange rate.

Situation 2

If Situation 2 best describes your situation, you may wish to utilize an established, global money transfer company such as Travelex or Western Union.

Sending money through these companies are nearly always in-person, cash transactions. Outlets exist nearly everywhere in the world.

Western Union will pay out only in cash.

In the UK Travelex will also transfer cash to a bank account, and can also organise an in-person pick-up in the UK, for smaller transactions this is often a great way to go.


  • No location too remote
  • No internet access required,
  • No local bank account required, send and receive cash.
  • Send a money order online to third parties — or to yourself if you'll be there to pick it up.
  • Sending your international money order online occurs quickly


  • Money transferred in cash making large sums unmanageable,
  • In-person pick-up is required — you must go to the actual Western Union representative and fill out a form.
  • Your recipient must pick up in person.
  • A quick-fix solution — not a long term solution.
  • You cannot transfer money from an account or from your credit card - cash only.
  • You can't send a money order online to yourself — unless you'll be back at home immediately to pick it up.

How much does it cost?

Transferring money through the above companies will usually cost either a percentage of the total amount transferred, or a set fee for certain amounts.

Therefore the amount ending up with your recipient will depend on the exchange rate and the transaction fee (percentage) that Western Union charges.

For example: sending 500GBP will cost approximately 37GBP — these fees change and you should check with your nearest Western Union or Travelex outlet.

Best For

Receiving relatively small sums of emergency cash from your friends/ family back home.

Organisations such as Western Union and Travelex seem to be a better option for people traveling in remote locations and who are not settled there (no bank account or address).

Their services are also suitable for travellers overseas who need quick cash sent from home by family or friends. A money order — UK to Australia for example is easy to arrange.

Worst For

The amount of money that actually ends up in your pocket. Consider both the exchange rate and fees to calculate and compare companies.


BEWARE Money Transfer Fraudster

WORKgateways words of caution: there are lots of companies that offer online money transfer services online from one country to another, usually asking for you to deposit your money with them as a first step. Because these transfers take place electronically and you are asked to deposit the money up-front, WORKgateways recommends that you only use services suggested on this page or services that fellow travellers and colleagues may have used successfully. If in doubt, go with name and reputation because your money is, literally, on the line.

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