HSBC UK Currency Exchange Rates explained

François Briod


Dec 14, 2022
Advertiser disclosure

Travelling or sending money abroad? Discover HSBC's fees for International Wire Transfers, Currency Exchange and for using your credit or debit card abroad (incl. ATM fees). You'll learn how to save money and how to make smarter decisions about currency exchange. HSBC is often an expensive choice for international money transfers and currency exchange. Better alternatives exist, compare ways to send money abroad to find the cheapest option and save up to 90%.

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Sending money abroad with your bank is often the most expensive way (except maybe for PayPal). There are plenty of other services specialised in international money transfer offering low fees and faster international transfer. Monito does not recommend you to use HSBC to send money abroad. Instead, use Monito's comparison engine to find the best money transfer service for your needs.

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International Money Transfers with HSBC UK

HSBC is an enormous international bank, providing services to customers in the UK and around the world. HSBC provides a complete range of worldwide banking services, and in this review we’ll focus on international money transfers for HSBC customers in the United Kingdom.

HSBC allows UK customers to send money to around 150 countries around the world and has generous transfer limits, making it easier to send large amounts. They also have some of the lowest fixed fees for international money transfers. Unfortunately, the exchange rates they provide are not competitive, so HSBC customers will pay much more in hidden fees than they would if they used a specialist money transfer provider.

HSBC allows you to send money in the local currency of the beneficiary, and they provide upfront exchange rates when making a transfer, so you know how much it will cost you. HSBC also offers future and recurring transfers through their online banking money transfer service.

What are HSBC’s  international money transfer fees and exchange rates?

HSBC does make fixed charges for sending money, depending on how you’re using their international money transfer service:

Sending money outside the UK or in a foreign currency within the UK

  • Online banking: £4 fixed fee
  • Branch and telephone banking: £9 fixed fee
  • Post: £30 fixed fee

For online, branch, and telephone banking, there’s no fee for transferring currency to another HSBC account. If HSBC sends money outside the European Economic Area, they may use an intermediary bank. The intermediary and receiving banks may impose additional charges.

HSBC does not provide international money transfer exchange rates directly on their website. They state that, “The exchange rate applied to your instruction will be the HSBC Exchange Rate applicable at the time your payment is made. This is a live rate which is updated by the second during market hours. We will notify you each time you make a payment from your account and where a currency exchange has been involved, we will confirm the HSBC Exchange Rate that has been applied.”

We can get an idea of the exchange rates that HSBC offers using a comparison tool from TransferWise.

Here’s an example of transferring £1,000 into euros:

  • The base exchange rate is 1 GBP to 1.138 euros
  • HSBC offers a rate of 1 GBP to 1.097 euros
  • This means HSBC’s exchange rate is around 3.5 percent worse than the base rate
  • When you take HSBC's fee into account, you’ll pay around £40 more to transfer £1,000 to euros through HSBC rather than through a specialized money transfer provider like TransferWise

This is why it is generally not recommended to wire money internationally with HSBC if you’re looking for the cheapest way to send money abroad, but to compare all providers with Monito and find cheaper alternatives.

Find out more with our complete guide on how banks and money transfer operators make money with hidden fees.

How long does an HSBC international money transfer take to arrive at the recipient bank?

HSBC says that payments to bank accounts in the European Economic Area euro and sterling will normally be received and credited the next working day. Other payments can take up to four working days, but could take longer.

Be aware that HSBC does have cutoff times and sometimes carries out security checks on transfers, which can delay your transfer by another working day. If you’re in a hurry, try finding the fastest way to send money abroad by comparing all international money transfer services with Monito.

HSBC international money transfer limits

HSBC may limit the amount you can send, depending on various factors:

  • Online, you can send up to £50,000 or equivalent
  • Over the phone, there is no transfer limit for Premier customers, and a £10,000 (or equivalent) limit for other customers
  • In an HSBC branch, there is no limit to how much you can transfer

How to make an HSBC international wire transfer?

You can make an international money transfer through HSBC via online banking, over the telephone or by visiting a local HSBC branch. Here’s the process you’ll need to follow for each:

Online banking

Visit your HSBC online banking portal:

  • Log on to the online banking service
  • Select the account from where you want to make the payment and select 'Move Money'
  • Enter payment details
  • Follow the on-screen instructions
  • Review and confirm payment

Phone banking

Call the relevant number below, depending on the type of customer you are and where you’re located:

  • HSBC Premier customers in the UK: 03457 707 070
  • HSBC Premier customers outside the UK: +44 1226 260 260
  • All other customers in the UK: 03457 404 404
  • All other customers outside the UK: +44 1226 261 010

Premier and Advance customers can access phone banking 24 hours a day. Other customers can access phone banking between 8 AM and 10 PM UK time.

At an HSBC branch

Visit a branch and ensure you have the following information with you:

  • Photographic identification
  • Details of the beneficiary
  • Details of how you want to pay for the transfer

Beneficiary Details

In all cases, you will need details of the beneficiary, the person receiving the transfer. Here’s what you’ll typically need to include:

  • Their full name and address.
  • Their bank code, which you can get from the beneficiary. In most cases this will be their Business Identifier Code (BIC) although some countries may provide a national bank code instead.
  • IBAN (International Bank Account number), SWIFT Code or account number: The IBAN is a series of alphanumeric characters that helps to identify accounts held anywhere in the world. Some beneficiaries may hold just an account number depending on their bank.
  • Country of their bank: Your beneficiaries' account holding bank may not always be the same as their home country.
  • The amount of the payment
  • Any reference or message for the beneficiary.
  • Reason for making the payment, if required.

What is HSBC’s SWIFT Code?

If someone needs to send you money from abroad, they’ll need a SWIFT Code.  The SWIFT Code for HSBC is: MIDLGB22

Which HSBC address and details should someone use when sending me money from abroad?

If you want to receive money into your HSBC account from someone outside the UK, here’s the information you’ll need to provide:

  • Your personal details including your name and address
  • The SWIFT code for HSBC UK, which is: MIDLGB22
  • Your IBAN (International Bank Account Number) or account number
  • BIC (Business Identifier Code)

HSBC allows you to receive money into your account from outside the UK in pounds sterling or a  foreign currency. If you receive money in a different currency to your account, HSBC will convert it to your local currency (normally GBP) using their exchange rates before depositing it.

HSBC may charge you to receive money into your account if you’re receiving more than £100, as follows:

  • Foreign currency electronic payments from banks outside the UK of more than £100 equivalent: £8 each
  • Sterling electronic payments from banks outside the UK of more than £100: £6 each

HSBC may choose not to impose a charge if you are receiving less than £100 or equivalent.

HSBC currency exchange service

HSBC’s currency exchange services are limited to HSBC account holders.

If you’re travelling abroad and want to exchange British pounds to a foreign currency before your travel, HSBC provides a currency exchange service. You can order and pay for your foreign currency online and have it delivered to your home address or pick it up at a local HSBC branch.

HSBC will convert your money into any major currency and provides fee-free next day delivery, with a minimum order of £100. Local branches will also buy unused currency back.

Exchange rates for travel money

Unfortunately, HSBC exchange rates for travel money are not very competitive. Let’s compare exchanging British pounds for U.S. dollars:

  • The base exchange rate for pounds to dollars is 1 GBP to 1.27 USD
  • HSBC offers an exchange rate of 1 GBP to 1.215 USD
  • This means HSBC is around 4.5 percent more expensive than the base exchange rate
  • This could cost you up to £45 more when converting  £1,000 to dollars

You can find much better deals, and pay much less, by comparing international money transfer providers.

Using your HSBC credit card abroad

In general, the foreign fees applied for using your HSBC credit card abroad will depend on your credit card. You can compare the options on HSBC’s website or learn about innovative multi-currency cards here.

Typically, HSBC credit cards apply a foreign transaction fee of 2.99 percent of the total transaction amount. If you withdraw cash on a credit card outside the UK, HSBC will apply an additional 2.99 percent cash fee on the amount withdrawn (minimum £3), for a total fee of 5.98 percent.

What are the fees for using HSBC debit cards at an ATM abroad?

HSBC charges international ATM fees as follows:

  • HSBC Premier Bank Account, HSBC Jade, HSBC Premier MyAccount, HSBC Advance Bank Account: 2.75 percent fee of the total amount withdrawn
  • All other accounts, 2.75 percent fee of the total amount withdrawn, plus an additional fee of 2 percent of the amount withdrawn (minimum: £1.75, maximum: £5)

What you need to know when withdrawing money/paying abroad?

The ATM or Point of Sale device will often ask you if you want to use your card’s currency (USD if you’re banking with HSBC) or the local currency (let’s say Euros if you’re in Paris).

What are the fees for paying in foreign currencies online or at a shop with HSBC credit or debit cards?

HSBC charges a 2.75 percent fee of the total transaction amount for making a purchase in a foreign currency using a debit card.

💡 Tip

You always want to pay in the local currency! If you pay in your home currency (UK pounds), you’re getting a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) which is often a very bad rate (we’ve seen 5-18% currency exchange margin).

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