Making international money transfers within the European Union is now (in theory at any rate) easier and less costly than it used to be, as a result of EU moves to create a single system for electronic payments across Euro borders.
If you transfer Euros between countries within the European Union (plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) then the charges that apply should be same as those that apply to corresponding transfers within a country.
The rule applies on condition that the sum is paid is Euros and that it is less than €50,000.
Most importantly, you must include the IBAN (International Bank Account Number) and receiving bank SWIFTBIC (Bank Identifier Code) for the person or company to whom you are sending the money.
Your IBAN is basically your bank account number plus some other bank and country codes; your SWIFTBIC identifies your bank and the country.
The receiving bank is only permitted to apply a charge if it also applies a charge to bank transfers within its national borders.
There is widespread evidence that many European banks are subverting the new rule, either because they have chosen to introduce a charge for a transfer within country, or they are continuing to apply a distinct charge for international transfers.
In particular, it would seem that UK banks are not universally applying the rule on the basis that they operate outside of the Eurozone area, or they use different payment systems. The charges from the UK also appear to be some of the highest in Europe.
The situation is a complex one but, broadly speaking, the single payments rule does not apply to transactions made in currencies other than the Euro in an EU country that has not adopted the Euro as its single currency, e.g. the UK and Denmark.
As a result the regulation will not apply to a deposits made in Pounds Sterling to an account denominated in Euro currency held in France, i.e. where the exchange conversion is carried out by the receiving bank.
Nonetheless, if the transfer is being made in Euros from an UK account denominated in Sterling, to an account denominated in Euros held in France, then the regulation will apply (although, in these circumstances, the UK bank is entitled to apply a currency exchange fee).
The same goes for a transfer made from a Euro denominated account in the UK to a Euro denominated account in France.
Therefore, a UK bank is not entitled to charge a higher fee for a transfer of Euros from the UK to France: the charge must be the same as if it were making a transfer from a British account to another British account.
The EU rule on bank transfers does not apply in relation to international cheques, where processing charges can be high - comprising a basic charge and a percentage of the sum. There clearance time for cheques is also considerably longer than for bank transfers.
Since 2008 it has been possible (at least in theory anyway!) to make payments by direct debit (prélèvement) between countries in the Eurozone, although the development of this facility is only gradually being introduced by the banks, and is unlikely to be fully available until 2014.
Do not assume you can transfer money within the EU without the French taxman knowing about it, as banks are obliged to report to the Customs Authority all transfers in excess €10,000. There are similar rules that apply in relation to financial instruments.
You may also be asked by the bank about the origin or destination of funds moving between international accounts.
When making cross border payments, banks are also required to supply sender information to the receiving bank. Accordingly, if you or a third party abroad wire funds into your French bank account, their personal details will almost certainly appear on your French bank statement.
There are no international conventions, so each bank is free to apply their own charges.
Accordingly, you need to contact your branch or check their schedule of tariffs.
You should expect a charge not less than €30, and often greater than this sum.
The charge can comprise a fixed administration fee, a percentage fee, and/or a currency exchange fee if the sum is not received in euros.
As an alternative to transferring cash via your own bank you can also do so through a specialist foreign exchange broker.
The service offered by brokers is arguably more competitive and quicker than a bank. They have lower overheads, they specialise in currency exchange and may well have better access to the wholesale market, so you can get a better rate.
Particularly if you wish to transfer a large sum (say, for house purchase) or make payments on a regular basis you should consider using a currency broker.
Try your bank and then ring a broker for a comparison of charges and rates.
You will need to register with a broker before you can use their services, but maintaining an account with them is normally free of charge.
Our own partner broker is FC Exchange..
For more detailed information see our Guide to Currency Exchange.
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