HSBC International Transfer: Fees and Exchange Rate

Want to transfer money abroad with HSBC? This article will cover everything you need to know about HSBC international transfers including: how much they cost, delivery times and how to make your first HSBC international bank transfer.

HSBC serves over 40 million customers in 64 countries around the world - but they may not be the best option for international transfers. Providers like Wise, OFX and Western Union can often be cheaper, faster and more convenient to use. More on that later.

HSBC international money transfer comparison

When you’re sending an international transfer, there are several different fees you may pay, depending on the provider you choose:

  • Transfer fee - this is often the easiest to spot and can be low, or even free
  • Exchange rate markup
    • this can be the highest fee, but it’s often hard to see
  • Intermediary bank fees
    • you may not see these in advance so your recipient gets less than they expect

Let’s start with a comparison of the costs and delivery times involved when sending an international transfer with HSBC compared to some specialist providers.

Here we’ll use the fees that would apply for a payment to a friend in France, assuming we want the end amount received to be 1,000 EUR.

ProviderTotal costTransfer time
HSBC No transfer fee, but exchange rate margin and intermediary bank fees apply Next working day
Wise 3.14 GBP 80% of payments arrive in 24 hours
Western Union 7.11 GBP fee included in the exchange rate used Up to 2 days
OFX 21.11 GBP fee included in the exchange rate used

1 - 2 business days

*Fees and exchange rates correct at time of research - 24th November 2021

HSBC doesn’t publish details about the exchange rate margins they use for different payments; or about the intermediary fees that could creep in. That can make it pretty tricky to know the full costs of your payment in advance. Bank exchange rate markups alone can add around 3% to the costs of a transfer - that’s 30 GBP in hidden fees on a 1,000 GBP transfer.

Specialist providers often use bank beating exchange rates. Although many do still add a markup to the rates it’s often smaller than typical bank markups - and some providers, like Wise, don’t use a markup at all.

Specialists also often have faster delivery times compared to banks. HSBC is pretty competitive when it comes to sending pounds or euros in the EEA - but all other transfers may take up to 4 days. That’s longer than the usual delivery times for any of the specialists we’ve included above. Getting set up with an international money transfer specialist is usually pretty easy, and payments can be made 24/7 online and through providers’ mobile apps.

HSBC international transfer fees

Here are the HSBC international transfer fees for different payment types:

Transfer typeHSBC transfer fee
Sending euros to the EEA No fee for payments made online, by phone or in branch

17 GBP to arrange a payment by post
Sending euros outside the EEA; or any other foreign currency payment within the UK or internationally 5 GBP for payments made online, by phone or in branch

17 GBP to arrange a payment by post
Sending to another HSBC account No fee for payments made online, by phone or in branch

17 GBP to arrange a payment by post
Receiving an international payment Free to receive euros from the EEA

5 GBP for any other international payment

HSBC exchange rate

HSBC doesn’t publish details of how they calculate exchange rates online. Instead, you’ll need to visit a branch or set up a payment online, by phone or in the mobile app to get a quote for the rate for your transfer. Here’s what the HSBC Personal Terms and Conditions state about exchange rates:

“For current exchange rates, get in touch by coming into a branch or through Telephone Banking. We’ll also give you the rate if you make a payment using Online Banking.”

Many banks calculate their exchange rates by adding an exchange rate margin or markup to the mid-market rate. That can add around 3% onto the costs of your transfer, on top of any other fees which apply. 3% might not sound all that high but it can quickly add up. To put it in context, if your bank added a 3% exchange rate markup to the rate that was used for your transfer, here’s the cost you’d have to add into your payment:

  • Sending 1,000 GBP - the exchange rate markup would add 30 GBP to the total
  • Sending 5,000 GBP - the exchange rate markup would add 150 GBP to the total
  • Sending 50,000 GBP - the exchange rate markup would add 1,500 GBP to the total

As you can see - small changes to the exchange rates quickly end up costing way more than the transfer or intermediary fees often added by banks.

Here’s a reminder of how each of the providers we looked at earlier calculate the costs and the exchange rate they pass on to customers - in this case we are sending GBP to a friend, so they receive 1,000 EUR in the end:

  • HSBC: No transfer fee, exchange rate margin + intermediary or agent bank fees apply
  • Wise: 3.18 GBP transfer fee - no other costs
  • Western Union: 0 - 2.90 GBP transfer fee, exchange rate margin applies
  • OFX: No transfer fee, exchange rate margin applies

HSBC additional fees

In addition to the transfer and exchange rate fees you’ll pay when making an HSBC international transfer, there may also be intermediary or agent bank fees. These may be paid by the sender, the recipient, or both, depending on the payment type.

Intermediary fees arise when payments are sent using the SWIFT network. These payments involve several banks passing a transfer along until the money reaches the right account - like taking a series of connecting flights to reach a destination. However, each bank involved can levy a service fee for their time - and these costs can’t always be known in advance. That can mean your recipient gets less than you expected in the end.

If you’re sending an HSBC transfer in the EEA you’ll need to pay the HSBC transfer fees, and the intermediary charges yourself. For other payments you may be able to choose to cover the costs, split them with the recipient, or have the recipient pick up the whole bill themselves.

How long does a HSBC international money transfer take?

Like most banks, HSBC processes payments on working days only. To make sure your payment will start to be processed on the day you set it up, you’ll need to get it arranged early to meet the cut-off times.

HSBC cut-off times are as follows:

  • 3:30pm for GBP and EUR payments in the EEA
  • 6pm for USD payments
  • All other cut-off times are set by currency, and vary by payment type

If you miss the cut-off or are setting up a transfer out of hours, it’ll start to be processed on the next working day.

Assuming you get your payment set up before the relevant cut-off time, here’s how long it’ll take to arrive through HSBC international bank transfers:

Payment typeDelivery time
Euro or sterling payments in the EEA Next day
Any other payment Up to 4 working days

Depending on the payment type, HSBC may be obliged to carry out security and verification checks, which could slow down your transfer.

HSBC transfers within the EEA are delivered within a relatively competitive timeframe - but their transfers elsewhere can take longer than using a specialist provider. Here’s a reminder of the delivery times for the providers we looked at earlier:

  • HSBC: Euro payments can arrive the next working day, other payments can take 4 working days
  • Wise: 80% of payments arrive in 24 hours
  • Western Union: Up to 2 days
  • OFX: 1 - 2 business days

Pros and cons of transferring money abroad with HSBC

Pros:

  • Safe and familiar way to send money
  • Send to 150+ countries around the world
  • Arrange your payment online, in branch, by phone, in the app, or even by post

Cons:

  • Exchange rate markups apply which can push up costs
  • Intermediary charges will be added, and can’t always be checked in advance
  • Payments outside of the EEA can take 4 working days

Making an international transfer with a bank can be reassuringly familiar - but usually specialist services can offer faster delivery times, lower overall costs and a better exchange rate.

How to make an international transfer with HSBC

You can send international transfers with HSBC online, using the mobile banking app, in a branch, by phone or even by post. Fees vary depending on the payment type - but sending money using the HSBC postal service is always the most expensive option.

Making your HSBC international bank transfer online is usually the easiest way to get started - here’s how:

  1. Log on to online banking
  2. Select the account you want to use and click Move Money
  3. Enter the amount and currency you want to transfer
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to add your recipient details
  5. Review and confirm your payment

You’ll be able to make transfers through the HSBC mobile service for recipients you’ve paid before. The first time you pay someone you’ll need to take some extra security steps, so first time payments must be done online.

What information do you need to make an international transfer with HSBC?

To send money abroad with HSBC you need to provide the following information:

  • The amount and currency to transfer
  • Your recipient’s name and address
  • Recipient’s IBAN
  • Recipient bank’s SWIFT/BIC code
  • Recipient bank address
  • Reason for payment
  • Payment reference

Transfer limits and available countries

Last year HSBC customers sent payments to over 150 different countries, online, using the mobile service, in branch and by phone. Limits apply to some payments:

Payment channelHSBC international transfer limit
In branch Unlimited
Online 50,000 GBP
By phone 10,000 GBP for most customers

Premier customers can send up to 10,000,000 GBP

Receiving money from abroad with HSBC

If you’re expecting to receive a payment into your HSBC account from overseas, you’ll need to make sure the sender has:

  • Your personal details - name and address
  • Your IBAN or account number
  • Your SWIFT/BIC code

All of these details are needed to make sure international transfers can arrive in the right accounts without delays.

HSBC SWIFT code

SWIFT codes are unique identifiers which are issued to many financial institutions to help guide international payments to the right banks around the world. Some banks have the same SWIFT code for all account types, some prefer to issue different codes for different branches. HSBC has a few different SWIFT codes in use, which can vary according to the account you hold.

To find your HSBC SWIFT code you’ll need to either log into your account online to view a statement or find a paper statement or correspondence about your account. Most statements and bank letters will show your account number and the correct SWIFT code at the top, on the right.

Conclusion

Using your regular bank for an international payment might seem like the obvious choice - but it’s seldom the cheapest or fastest. HSBC may not have particularly high transfer fees - but once you factor in the exchange rate markups and intermediary charges, your payment may cost more than you’re expecting.

Alternative providers like Wise, Western Union and OFX are specialists in international transfers, and can often offer better exchange rates and lower overall fees. Some don’t use exchange rate markups at all, which means lower and more transparent overall costs. Check out a few options to make sure you get the best available deal for your needs.

Interested in making international transfers with banks? Read our guides on Barclays, Lloyds, Santander, NatWest, RBS, Nationwide, and Halifax.

HSBC international bank transfer FAQs

How much does a HSBC international transfer cost?

Sending euros to the EEA has no transfer fee - other payments have a 5 GBP transfer fee. Exchange rate markups and intermediary fees may also apply.

How long does a HSBC international money transfer take?

Payments within the EEA may arrive on the next working day - all other payments can take up to 4 working days.

How to transfer money internationally with HSBC?

Send money online, in the mobile app, by phone, in a branch, or even by post.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated 2 February 2022