Santander international transfer

This article will cover everything you need to know about Santander international payments including: how much one costs, how long it takes, and how to make your first Santander international bank transfer.

Despite being a banking giant with over 14 million active customers, Santander might not be your best option if you need to send money abroad. In fact, alternative services like Wise, Western Union and OFX can be much cheaper, faster, and easier to use.

Santander international money transfer comparison

Let's start with the costs and delivery times involved when sending an international transfer with Santander compared to some specialist providers. The full cost of international transfers can include up to 3 fees:

  • 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 commissions
    • you may not see these in advance so your recipient gets less than they expect

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
Santander No transfer fee but exchange rate margin and intermediary or agent 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

In our example there's no Santander transfer fee if your payment can wait until the next day, but the urgent payment charge is fairly high at 25 GBP.

Santander uses its own exchange rate for international payments, which includes a Santander commission fee based on the amount and currency involved, and may also include fees payable to other banks involved in the transaction. We'll cover this in more detail a little later - but it's useful to know that bank exchange rate markups can add around 3% to the cost of your transfer. That would add 30 GBP onto a transfer of 1,000 GBP.

Specialist money transfer services can often offer better exchange rates than banks - some, like Wise for example, pass on the mid-market rate to customers with no markups at all. Specialists also often use more modern approaches to processing international payments, which are cheaper and faster than the old-school methods used by regular banks. This means they will often get your payment where it needs to be faster. Getting set up with a specialist provider is usually easy too - create an account online or in the provider's app, to send and track payments 24/7.

Santander international transfer fees

The international bank transfer fee you'll pay with Santander depends on the payment type and urgency:

Transfer typeSantander transfer fee
Sending euros to the EEA (SEPA non-urgent payment) No fee
Standard international payment (any currency) 25 GBP
Receiving an international payment

Free for most accounts - check your account Key Facts Document for details

Santander exchange rate

Santander sets its own exchange rate for international transfers and cash withdrawals. Here's what the Santander terms and conditions say:

"Payments and cash withdrawals in foreign currency:

a) will be converted into pounds at our current exchange rate as at the date we receive the Payment Instruction for that type of transaction;

b) will incur a commission fee based on the amount of the transaction in the currency of origin; and

c) may incur commission fees imposed by the retailer or bank that carries out the payment or cash withdrawal."

This means that Santander international transfers may incur exchange rate markups and third party commissions. We'll cover the third party fees and commissions later. When it comes to exchange rates, it's common for banks to add a markup to the mid-market rate to create their own standard customer exchange rate. This can add about 3% to the cost of your payment.

3% may not sound like much, but it quickly mounts up:

  • Sending 1,000 GBP - 3% exchange rate markup would add 30 GBP to the total
  • Sending 5,000 GBP - 3% exchange rate markup would add 150 GBP to the total
  • Sending 50,000 GBP - 3% exchange rate markup would add 1,500 GBP to the total

To see the Santander international transfer exchange rate that'll apply to your payment, you'll have to get a quote online, by phone or in a branch. By comparing the rate you're offered to the mid-market exchange rate you can see the mark-up - and don't forget, even a small difference can mean a big extra cost which eclipses the initial transfer fee entirely.

Here's a reminder of the total costs - including exchange rate markups - from the providers we looked at earlier. This is what you'll pay with each if you want your recipient to end up with 1,000 EUR in their account in the end:

  • Santander: Up to 25 GBP transfer fee + exchange rate margin + relevant commission fees
  • Wise: 3.18 GBP
  • Western Union: 0 - 2.90 GBP transfer fee, exchange rate margin applies
  • OFX: No transfer fee, exchange rate margin applies

Santander additional fees

The third and final fee you need to know about when sending a Santander international transfer may not be paid to Santander at all. Third party fees, which are also known as commissions or intermediary fees, apply when transfers are processed under the SWIFT network.

In this case, Santander works with partner banks known as intermediaries or agents, to pass your payment to the recipient. These intermediaries will deduct a fee as they process the transaction, and this fee can't always be known in advance. This can mean your recipient gets less than you're expecting in the end.

Depending on the payment destination, you may be able to choose to pay all agent commissions and charges yourself, split them with the recipient, or have the recipient cover all costs.

How long does a Santander international money transfer take?

How long your international transfer will take depends on the currency and destination country, and whether or not you get your arrangements made before the bank's cut off time.

Cut off times vary by currency and payment type. If you miss the deadline, or are arranging your payment outside of banking hours, it will start to be processed the next working day.

Here are the cut off times and delivery estimates by payment type:

Currency being sentCut off timeDelivered by

Euros - SEPA payment

  • 1pm by phone

  • 2:30pm online

  • 4:30pm for branch payments
Next day

Euros - standard payment

  • 11:30am for online and phone payments

  • 2:30pm for most branch transfers
  • Same day for EEA payments

  • Up to 4 working days outside the EEA
US dollars
  • 1pm by phone

  • 3pm online

  • 4:30pm for branch payments
  • Same day to the US

  • Up to 4 working days outside the US
Any other currency
  • 1pm by phone

  • 3pm online

  • 4:30pm for branch payments
Up to 4 working days

Santander's delivery times for standard payments in euros to the EEA, or USD to the US are competitive. But non-urgent SEPA transfers or payments in any other currency may take a bit longer, which means an alternative provider might get your money where it needs to be faster.

Here's a reminder of the international money transfer times for the providers we profiled earlier:

  • Santander: SEPA payments arrive next day, standard transfers in EUR or USD may arrive same day - all other payments could take up to 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 Santander

Pros:

  • Familiar and secure option
  • EUR and USD payments may arrive on the same day
  • No transfer fee for SEPA payments Cons:

  • Standard transfers have a high 25 GBP fee
  • Exchange rate markups and commissions can push up costs further
  • 4 day delivery times for payments in currencies other than USD and EUR

Choosing to transfer money abroad with Santander might seem reassuringly familiar, but it can work out more expensive than using a specialist, thanks to high exchange rate markups, fees and commissions.

How to make an international transfer with Santander

You can send a Santander international payment:

  • Online or using your mobile device
  • In a branch
  • By phone

The fees are the same whichever option you choose, but sending money online is usually the most convenient option. Here's how:

  1. Log into your online banking service
  2. Click Payments and Transfers
  3. Select International transfers
  4. Follow on screen prompts to enter the payment details
  5. Add your recipient's details
  6. Check everything over and confirm when you're happy

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

To send a Santander international bank transfer you'll need:

  • Your recipient's full name
  • Your recipient's bank account number or IBAN
  • Receiving bank's SWIFT/BIC code
  • Depending on destination country, other details like a routing number or CLABE might be required

For some international payments, you'll need to complete a security step by receiving a one time passcode to your registered mobile phone. It's a good idea to keep your phone handy while you set up your online transfer, just in case.

Transfer limits and available countries

There may be a Santander international transfer limit, based on your account type and the destination country. For current accounts this may mean you can send up to 25,000 GBP in a single payment, or up to 100,000 GBP a day.

Currencies offered by Santander include:

  • Australian dollar
  • Canadian dollar
  • Czech koruna
  • Danish krone
  • Euro
  • Hong Kong dollar
  • Hungarian forint
  • Indian rupee
  • Israeli shekel
  • Japanese yen
  • Mexican peso
  • Moroccan dirham
  • New Zealand dollar
  • Norwegian krone
  • Philippine peso
  • Polish zloty
  • Pound sterling
  • Qatari riyal
  • Romanian leu
  • Saudi riyal
  • Singapore dollar
  • South African rand
  • Swedish krona
  • Swiss franc
  • Thai baht
  • Turkish lira
  • UAE dirham
  • US dollar

Receiving money from abroad with Santander

To receive an international payment into your Santander account, you'll need to give the sender:

  • Your full name
  • Your account IBAN
  • The Santander SWIFT/BIC code

Santander SWIFT code

SWIFT codes are unique identifiers issued to banks and other financial institutions around the world, to help make sure international payments end up in the right place. They're like postcodes for your payments. The Santander SWIFT code is ABBYGB2LXXX.

Conclusion

Traditional banks like Santander might be the first thing that comes to mind when you're thinking of sending an international payment - but they're often not the cheapest or fastest. Alternative providers like Wise, Western Union and OFX can often offer better exchange rates and lower overall costs. And because they use their own payment networks, some providers can also get your money where it needs to be far quicker than your regular bank can.

Shop around and compare a few options - including traditional banks and alternative services - to find the best deal for your international transfer.

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

Santander international bank transfer FAQs

How much does a Santander international transfer cost?

SEPA payments in euros don’t have a transfer fee - standard transfers cost 25 GBP. Exchange rate markups and commissions can also apply.

How long does a Santander international money transfer take?

Some payments in euros and US dollars can arrive the same day, SEPA payments arrive the next working day, and most other standard international transfers can take up to 4 working days.

How to transfer money internationally with Santander?

Send a Santander international money transfer online, using the Santander mobile app, in a branch or by phone.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated 2 February 2022