Halifax Current Account Card Abroad Assignment

With airlines continuously adding new routes, it can feel as if the world is getting smaller with more people either travelling or living abroad than ever before.  

And whether you're sending money home, paying for student fees or helping out a friend, the costs of transferring money from one country to another can be painful.

Piling on more pain, consumers currently also have to battle against a weak pound thanks to Brexit negotiations and continuing uncertainty.

This means it is now more important than ever to make sure you get the most competitive rates and cheapest fees.

Quids in: Online companies can slash the costs of sending money overseas but all have different features

For a long time the big banks and transfer companies dominated the market, often charging hefty fees alongside unfavourable exchange rates, which meant you got less for your money.  

But in the past five years, several challenger businesses have burst on to the scene, offering to dramatically undercut their more established rivals.

These websites will transfer money at a fraction of the cost and some promise to give you the 'true' exchange rate.

But the catch is - unlike a bank - they aren't protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, created by the government to protect the public if the financial institutions that hold their money go bust.

How can these internet companies send money so much cheaper? 

Many users don't realise that the rates and costs associated with transferring money can vary wildly from one provider to the next. 

It’s currently standard practice for banks to advertise a one-off fee between foreign and local accounts ranging from £4 at HSBC (for an online payment to a fellow customer) to £30 at Natwest.

On top of these upfront fees, many banks and transfer companies set their own exchange rate - which will typically be a lot worse than the actual forex market rate charged elsewhere and significantly eat into the sum being transferred.

For example, using transfer stalwart Western Union to transfer £1,000 from a UK bank account to one in France would send your recipient ‎€1.171.94 as of April 27. There's no upfront fee for sending cash to another bank account and the forex exchange rate is €1.1719. 

And challenger businesses also have various ways of making the transfer process cheaper.

They either match you with someone else looking to exchange the opposite way - as in the case of TransferWise - or by taking a smaller margin than their more established rivals.

Here we look at the different services on offer.

'Swapping' currency: TransferWise and CurrencyFair 

'Swapping' your currency for someone else's is one way to get a cheaper rate than going down the traditional route.

TransferWise was set up by two Estonians who were dividing their time between their native country and the UK. 

They ended up exchanging the money with each other, helping them to come up with the concept for the business.

TransferWise works by redirecting your payment to another user of its service who is receiving an equivalent transfer in the opposite direction, cutting out the costly process of converting the currency.

Its charges are based on a minimum amount and vary depending on whether you are sending or receiving money, and the type of currency. 

To transfer £1,000 over to France on the same day with TransferWise, including an upfront cost of £4.98, would result in your recipient getting ‎€1,175.02 on April 27 2017. 

The minimum amount you can transfer is one euro so you can send even small amounts.

Transferwise charges different fees depending on where you are sending money. For example the lowest charge is 0.5 per cent to send cash to the USA or Europe, but sending money to Colombia or Vietnam adds a 1.5 per cent fee. 

Swap and save: Some companies cut costs by matching users with someone exchanging in the other direction

CurrencyFair works in a similar way. It describes itself as a 'marketplace' with its exchange rates set by other users. 

It will charge 0.15 per cent of the total amount exchanged between you.

If there is no match available, CurrencyFair will step in and match with you for a higher rate of between 0.4 and 0.6 per cent of the total amount exchanged.

On top of that, the Dublin-based site charges a fixed transfer fee of €3, and the minimum amount you can transfer is ‎€8. On average, it says customers are charged 0.38 per cent on their transfer amount.

CurrencyFair is regulated by the Bank of Ireland and client monies are held separately with Bank of America, meaning that customers stand a good chance of getting their money back if the company were to go bust.

As of April 27, to transfer £1,000 over to France, including a fee of ‎€3, means your recipient would get ‎€1,174.30.

The bargain exchange rate: XE.com

XE.com allows you to set a target for the exchange rate, and if the market falls to that level it will send you an email alert - handy if you want to get the very best deal.

The site lets you get live quotes so you can compare across the market so that, in theory, you can get the cheapest deal available. 

And rather than charging any commission or transfer fees, the site makes its money by charging you slightly more than the transaction actually costs it to make.

The site says it can transfer 'in every currency that we know of' so this could be a good one to pick if you need to transfer into a less common currency.  

As of April 27, XE.com was quoting a conversion rate for £1,000 of ‎€ 1,184.17. It transfers to 53 countries and there is no minimum amount to send. 

Emigrating? Finding a cheaper provider could save you £1,000 if you regularly transfer money back and forth

Old Hand: Moneycorp

Moneycorphas been dealing in foreign exchange since 1979 and had 9.2million customer transactions last year. The minimum transfer amount is £50 and the site allows customers to make transfers between 33 currencies online.

It offers a range of options aside from money transfer including a forward contract where you can lock in an exchange rate for up to two years. The site also allows its customers to set up an alert via email or text message if the rate of exchange reaches their desired level.

It charges £9 to make an online transfer within two days, £5 for payments made within four days and £15 when made over the phone. 

As of April 27, transferring £1,000 to a French bank account would equate to €1165.16, and an additional £5 transaction fee is payable. 

Household name: PayPal

Most people knowPayPal for sending money within the UK, but it also offers overseas transfers. 

If you're using your bank account or PayPal balance, the sender incurs a fee of between 0.5 and 2 per cent, regardless of the total amount. 

If you use a debit or credit card there will be a charge of between 3.4 per cent and 7.4 per cent plus a small fixed fee that varies depending on the currency you are exchanging. 

There will also be currency conversion fee paid by either the recipient or the sender.

Honesty box: Xendpay lets you pay what you want

As of 27 April, if you were transferring £1,000 to a French bank account, the recipient would receive ‎€1.1352 or effectively €1,135.21 Euros.

The advantage of using this method is that you can transfer money just using the recipient's email address or mobile number, which is convenient if you don't know their bank details - they don't have to have a PayPal account.

However, the rates offered aren't particularly competitive if, like many people, you are paying by debit or credit card.

For larger amounts: Halo Financial

Halo Financial doesn't charge a transfer fee on amounts over £5,000, while anything less will incur a £15 charge. There is a minimum transfer amount of £250.

The site says its USP is assigning a 'foreign exchange consultant' to each client, who will discuss their individual requirements and offer a quote by phone, which they can accept or reject as they see fit.  

The site says that having a human being assigned to your account can save you cash as they can time the markets right to find you a more favourable rate.

Once you have set up an account you can trade over the phone or online and they can send funds the same day Monday to Thursday by 8pm or Thursday by 5.30pm.

Transfer companyEuros received for transferring £1,000 into a French account (including fees)
xe.com €1,184.17
Xendpay€1,180.35  (not including optional £4.50 fee)
TransferWise ‎€1,175.02
Currency Fair€1,174.30
Azimo €1,171.37
Western Union €1.171.94
Moneycorp €1,165.16
Halo €1,160 
PayPal €1,135.21
*Rates as of April 27 2017, including any compulsory fees.

As of April 27, sending £1,000 to a French bank account would result in a rate of €1,180 - however because this amount is under £5000 the transfer would incur a £15 charge so effectively the amount would be closer to €1,160.

Sites with Interesting features:

Xendpay - Pay what you want

'Pay what you want' money transfer app Xendpay lets you transfer money completely free. Customers enter how much they want to transfer online and then the site suggests a 'fair' amount to cover the charges. The site claims it offers the world's cheapest transfers,

As of January 24, Xendpay was quoting a conversion rate for £1,000 of ‎€1180.35, not including a suggested optional fee of £4.50.

Apart from that, debit cards outside of Europe will incur a charge of 2.6 per cent of the transfer amount, and credit cards will incur a 1.7 per cent charge in Europe or 2.6 per cent outside of Europe.

Users can transfer up to £900, or as much as £100,000 with a verified account (although card payments can only be for £5,000 at a time).

In theory, this means you can transfer large amounts fee-free, as long as your conscience allows. However, the site says 86 per cent of users voluntarily pay towards the service, with 72 per cent paying the 'fair fee' suggested.

Azimo - send money by mobile 

Azimo's app has a feature that lets you send money using a mobile phone number.

At the moment you can send money from the UK and Eurozone countries, and you can request and receive money in Poland, USA, Canada, UK and Eurozone countries.

There are no charges for using its person to person app feature.

If you use its standard online or app transfer service you will pay £1 for most locations, but your can move money to 200 different destinations.

As of April 27, transferring £1,000 to a bank account in France using Azimo's mobile feature would give your recipient ‎€1,171.37. 

What happens if one of these firms goes bust? 

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme will currently refund a member of the public up to £85,000 for any money they lose as a result of their bank or credit union gong bust. (This figure will fall to £75,000 from January).

But the FSCS will not cover you if any currency exchange firm goes bust.

However, most transfer companies are FCA authorised - meaning they keep client money ring-fenced separately from their own accounts. This means you are likely to get it back if the company does fold.

This site lets you compare different rates

FXCompared.comranks a wide range of transfer websites but on a variety of factors - not just price. The site also takes in to account reviews, speed of transfer, and whether the company can offer any additional services. It doesn't feature some providers, which it says do not live up to its standards.The site offers comparisons for 71 different currencies, and also has a range of free money transfer guides.

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61. Re: Halifax clarity card? anyone had experience of using these?

Bad experience with Halifax Clarity Credit Card - Watch Out

I have one of these cards, which looked like a great deal on the face of it. But watch out; there is a catch (well two actually).

Firstly, the security blocks are super aggressive. Our card was declined several times on our trip. We had to make repeated, long and expensive phone calls to get it unblocked again. We were promised that the block would not occur again after our first call, but it did, several times (i.e. after we had already told them we were abroad). To unblock the card there are two levels of interrogation. The easy type takes only 20 minutes on the phone. The 'hard' one was a 35 minute call. They ask you lots of probing questions and the security guys have not been trained in customer service - it feels like being interviewed by the police. After going through these calls several times, our card still got blocked, both on purchases and at ATMs (we knew this was not a problem with the ATMs, as they worked after we'd made the unblock calls). Sometimes, like when checking out at a hotel, it was just embarrassing. Other times we had to trek for miles to withdraw cash with another card and find wifi to get the card unblocked over Skype. The cost and the hassle of all this outweighed the savings on the card by tenfold.

The second catch is that you can only pay off the card balance over the phone if you have a Halifax current account. This means that if you come up against your credit limit while abroad and bank with someone else, you are completely stuffed. Your only option is to make a manual bank transfer using a complicated process which seemed to be designed specifically to be difficult to do whilst abroad.

We were hit by both of the above on our trip. In addition, on one of the days we were away the Halifax systems were down and we were unable to unblock, let alone find out our balance. This credit card wasted our valuable holiday time, cost us money, embarrassed us, and made our blood boil.

There are several other options on Money Saving Expert for cards to use abroad, and I would choose one of those instead if I were you.

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