Very good value foreign currency transfers with Azimo

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I was sent some information on Azimo, a super-low-cost money transfer service, last week, and it made me realise that I have never looked at currency transfer services before.  I thought it would be good to review Azimo and the other different options.

A lot of Head for Points readers may find themselves transferring money to another country if they have a house or family there, or if they need to pay for a holiday home rental.  You may even need to pay off a foreign credit card bill if you are using cards not issued in the country where you are living.

The knee jerk reaction in such cases is to use your existing bank – many will even let you make such transfers via your existing online banking service.  You are unlikely to be getting a good deal on the exchange rate, however.  A number of companies such as Caxton and Hi-Fx have sprung up in recent years to compete, offering the same service at a far lower cost.

Azimo positions itself slightly differently.  Whilst it is more than happy to send payments to Europe, the USA etc, they are also able to make Western Union-style transfers to developing countries.  It therefore offers a good deal for migrants who want to send money home.

It can handle payments to 190 countries, so literally pretty much everywhere.  In some countries, such as Ghana, the recipient can pick up the money in cash from selected locations if they do not have a bank account.

What is impressive about Azimo is that they will give you a quote without you having to even register.  Via their home page you can run through various scenarios.

The transaction fee varies from nothing to £10.  European transactions are just £1.  Transfers can be made via their website or by using their mobile app.

The exchange rate used is VERY close to the spot rate.  On Sunday, when I wrote this, they were quoting €1.183 to France vs a spot rate of €1.196.  For something more exotic, like Thailand, the rate was 52.9  vs a spot rate of 53.7.  You won’t get anything nearly as good from your bank.

For comparison, I also looked at HiFX as I have an existing account with them.  For Euros, they were offering an exchange rate of €1.15 and a £9 fee, noticeably worse than Azimo.  For Thai Baht, HiFX quoted 51.6 THB to the £1 plus a £9 fee – again, worse than Azimo by over 2%.

Azimo is UK-based and fully licensed, and is backed by a group of well-respected private equity and venture capital investors, most of whom I am familiar with from my previous career.

If you currently use Caxton or HiFX, Azimo is worth a look next time you make a transfer.  If you are currently using your normal bank to make large currency transfers, then you should bang your head against your desk and then take a look at all three of these companies.

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  1. Frenske says:

    Perhaps first stop for foreign transfers should be: It is made by the origonal designers of skype.

    Although I signed up I never had to use it at the end. It is limited to a smallish number of countries. As far I understand money is not really transferred, but it is levered against money tranferred in the other direction e.g. from France.

    There is no fee so is excellent for small sums.

    • It’s incorrect to say there’s no fee with Transferwise. They give you an exchange rate that’s only a few pips away from what FX traders are paying, and they then assess a charge of approx 0.5% for their service. Still excellent value, but not free.

  2. Kenneth Tan says:

    Thomas Exchange Global appears to offer better than compared with Azimo. They do physical cash at their branches (3 in the city, 1 in Victoria and 1 on the Strand) as well as bank transfers. Much better exchange rates if you print an order on line compared with just rolling up to the branch.

  3. Gabbai says:

    Transferwise is a better service. As an example taken a minute ago, a [gross] transfer of £1000 to US$ will give $1655.96 as against $1630.49 with Azimo. I have checked out Transferwise against others numerous times and it always comes out on top, sometimes by a very large margin.

  4. Noqueuing says:

    Thanks everyone about the advice regarding Transferwise.
    I’ve always used Best Foreign Exchange (better than HiFX), but just checked and Transferwise did beat them by a few pounds for a £1000 transfer!!
    Thank you Head for Points for once again educating your truly!

  5. Amex FX rates are horrific. I used them to accept a couple of US$ payments to my business but I was losing somewhere north of 5% per trade.

    I’ve opened a US$ account now as I was losing out again when I then spent US$, although that’s less of a concern with the new zero FX loading credit cards…

  6. I’d also say transferwise is a great option – very slick w

  7. Is this only for transfers to individuals or does it work to companies too? I’m thinking this could be a cheaper way to pay off an Amex ICC Dollar statement… 🙂

    • I imagine they can send to any bank account. I was using HiFX to pay my IDC bill – the reason I stopped is that Standard Chartered, their US middle man, took an undisclosed $20 fee!

      • Ahh – did you find any way round that? That’s a pretty hefty fee!

        • No, I went back to using HSBC because I only ever put very tiny charges through that card. HSBC also does not charge me a flat processing fee as I used to work for them and it is an ex-staff perk!

        • Ah OK, not something widely available then! I’ll keep using it as I do then currently then – pretty much not at all! (mainly got it for the xfer to SQ and the travel insurance without having to spend on an Amex/for over-70s!)

  8. Volker says:

    Azimo and transferwise don’t even seem to offer credit card payments.

  9. Morgan says:

    Here is another vote for TransferWise – however, one note of precaution it’s depth of liquidity is not wonderful. I tried transferring a relatively small amount of GBP to EUR (~£5K) and didn’t get filled over a day. I had to use (still very reasonably priced) their broker service to complete the trade.

    It would be helpful if TransferWise gave some indication as to the liquidity of their currency pairs.

  10. Just a word of warning – make sure you are happy with the exchange service you are using. Does anyone recall Crown Currency Exchange a few years ago that went belly up and took all the deposits as well? They operated a postal based currency exchange service and had branched out to transfers as well. I believe several people lost their life savings and were using the service to start a new life abroad.

    Make sure that any money you transfer goes into a protected client account!

    • That’s because they offered to lock in an exchange rate in exchange for keeping your money for a while.

      Of course any firm could go bankrupt before the receiving bank is credited the money. Hence for amounts under 10000 of local currency, I will keep using cash until it is outlawed or I am incapacitated. For everything else, there’s HSBC Global Transfer.

      • Just wondering: How do the rates on HSBC Global Transfer compare with using these other services? Are they competitive? Or does HSBC take a huge spread?

        • Stripy says:

          My experiences of HSBC Premier tfrs have shown them to be 2%-2.5% off the spot rate. Their rates also seem to get marginally better the more you transfer. I’ll be looking at some of the options mentioned in this discussion – they must be able to beat that!

      • John – Your are right, but CCE also offered an instant service and I believe a significant amount of money was lost in the last couple of weeks before they went under.

        Moral is whoever you use, make sure the money is held in a protected client account. If it isnt then steer well clear!

  11. Gabbai says:

    Make sure the service you think of using is properly licensed and it is also worth speaking to them to get a feel of how professional the set up is. I did that with Transferwise and I have make several large transactions through them. The rate is great and the speed of completion is also excellent. They are also UK-based and fully UK licensed.

  12. Yozza77 says:

    When I was doing relatively large transfers to the USA, I checked out a few sites including transfer wise and found currencyfair to be cheapest.

  13. The situation when Azimo really comes into its own is when transferring to countries with artificial currency exchange rates. You can bypass Argentina’s tourist charge on currency and get the current “blue market” rate through a much safer means than haggling with illegal money-traders on the backstreets.

    Currently Azimo offers 16 pesos to the pound whereas the spot rate is only 13. A superb offer and I’ve used it with success on two occasions to pick up pesos in Buenos Aires.

  14. Gabriel says:

    We need to regularley transfer money in Europe, so we keep a current account with Citibank for this purpose. The transfer is free, and the £/€ exchange rate is very good (€1.193 this morning vs the €1.194 spot rate). There are also some other advantages in using a Citibank card (you can attach it in minutes to a pounds, euros or dollars account, in order to avoid exchange fees while travelling, etc.). Please note that in order to get the best rate you need to transfer money into the euro account from another bank, and not from the Citibank £ account, which is plain stupid and annoying – luckily you can do the transfers through their internet banking.

    • Can you explain this more – it may be of particular interest to me…?
      Is the citibank account you have the citigold current account?
      Are you transferring to another citibank account or to any account?

      • Gabriel says:

        I am surprised to see that they don’t advertise it anymore, but the Citibank Plus Current Account (which is free if you have £1800 coming in and 2 Direct Debits paid out per month) allows you to send money free using SEPA transfers, to any account, not just other Citibank accounts. You can also open an Euro and an USD account for free if you hold the Plus Current Account, and you need to transfer Euro / USD to/from these in order to get the best exchange rates.
        I hope it helps.

        • Gabriel says:

          “SEPA Funds Transfers enable you to transfer funds in Euros from your Citibank UK account to a bank account within the Single European Payment Area (SEPA) by the end of the next banking day (subject to cut off times). There are currently over 30 European countries in the SEPA. Please note that there is currently no fee for making a SEPA transfer. However Citibank exchange rate will apply if you request a SEPA Funds Transfer (in Euros) from a non-Euro account.”

  15. just tested with EUR, exchange rate is slightly better on transferwise compared to azimo

  16. Gabbai says:

    Despite being a keen Transferwise user, I have certainly learned from this blog that it always pays to check around each transaction for any sizeable amount, but also that Azimo offers a lot that others simply don’t have, at any rate.

  17. Koshka says:

    Transferwise has been good for me as well. A couple of villa rental payments in Euros and a family transfer for Swedish Kr.

  18. barca99 says:

    slightly OT but is there a site whereby one can send GBP to a friend’s bank account, funded by a credit card? paypal allows this but effectively costs about 3.5%

    • No, no real alternative. You could try something like iZettle or SumUp but you need to buy the hardware and they will close you down very quickly when they realise you aren’t a real business.

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