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Getting paid in foreign currencies – which bank is best?

Sometimes freelancers will find themselves doing work for foreign companies. Although this can lead to some interesting work, and the opportunity to do some travelling, it often carries with it the drawback of being paid in a foreign currency. If possible, you should always asked to be paid in your native currency (especially if you’re based in the UK, as an appropriate rate elsewhere can be a very low rate in the UK due to the strength of the Pound), however sometimes, for whatever reason, this is not possible. So should you end up being paid in a foreign currency, which bank is the best?

After a recent adventure trying to find out Lloyds TSB’s charges following a client insisting they must pay me via a cheque in dollars (I know, right?) I decided to investigate further.

Hopefully you’ll have better luck than me and will only be subject to an international transfer, which sport lower rates than international cheque banking.

It’s also important to note than international cheques are cleared in two ways. Collection means you will only be given the money once your bank has received it from the foreign bank, which can take several weeks. Negotiation means the UK bank will effectively loan you the money in a few working days, expecting that they will receive the payment from the foreign bank in due course. Negotiation is more convenient, but carries the additional risk that your bank will want their money back if the cheque is returned unpaid.

Bank NameTransfer ChargesCheque Clearing Charges
Lloyds TSBUnder £100 – £2

Over £100 – £7 (Source)
0.25% of GBP value (min £8, max £80) (Source)
SantanderNo charge (Source)£10 flat rate (Source)
RBSUnder £100 – £1

Over £100 – £7 (Source)
0.25% of GBP value (min £7, max £45)
NatWestUnder £100 – £1

Over £100 – £7 (Source)
Under £100 – £5

£100-£5k – £10

£5k-£20k – £30

Over £20k – £60 (Source)
HSBCNot readily available£6 – £60 (dependent on amount and source)

These charges are assuming you are a using a personal account and not a business account – the business account rates are harder to come by, but those we found were broadly the same as the rates for personal accounts.

So, which bank offers the best rates? Lets assume you are doing a piece of work worth £5,000. The charges would be as follows –

Lloyds TSB£7£12.50

Now lets imagine you are a lucky soul and are doing some awesome piece of consulting work worth £125,000. The charges would be –

Lloyds TSB£7£80

In both cases the outcome is broadly the same – the most expensive banks are Lloyds TSB and RBS, while Santander remains the cheapest.

The process to find this information is also worth mentioning – RBS and Natwest were the easiest to find, returning top results on Google for the relevant information. Santander came a close second, with their results on the first page. Lloyds hid their rates quite well – all they could tell us on the phone was that the charges were “Between £8 and £80”, and we eventually had to reach out on Twitter to find out it was in fact a percentage of the total amount (and be directed to the PDF link above). HSBC proved the most secretive, so much so we eventually reached out for more information, but their email response only contained some information. If anybody can find their rates online, please point us in the right direction.

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