UK banks charge SMEs £4bn in hidden international money transfer costs each year

Posted on the 12th January 2016
  • 96% of bank revenues from foreign currency transactions are hidden from small business customers
  • The worst offender is Barclays which makes an average of 3.68% on transfers
  • Study ranks the best and worst banks across different transaction sizes

UK banks charge SMEs £4 billion in hidden money transfer costs per year.

Cambridge, UK, 12th January 2016 - A new study has found that UK banks charge small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) nearly £4bn in hidden transfer fees each year to make international payments. 96% of these fees are hidden from the customer using the exchange rate offered. This is the first time that a study into the actual rates charged by banks has been conducted.

International trade is worth over £700bn to UK SMEs according to McKinsey&Co and recent figures from Oxford Economics show that the number of SMEs doing business in more than six countries will increase 129% in the next three years. 50% of all UK SME international trade is with Europe.

The study, “UK SMEs International Payments Analysis” was conducted by payments consultancy Accourt and commissioned by Money Mover, the online currency exchange and international payments service. It highlights the lack of transparency by banks around the fees they charge SMEs and how these fees are calculated.

The study found that 96% of the revenue for a bank for an average transaction of £75,000 within the EU comes from the margin that banks add to the exchange rate they receive from the money markets – known as the ‘spread’. The charge is hidden in the exchange rate, therefore the SME will never see it - even though it makes up the majority of the amount that the bank charges the SME. The average total transaction cost charged by a bank to a SME customer on a transfer of £75,000 is 2.43%, or £1,822. Of this cost, £1,807 is based on the spread which is hidden from the customer.

Overall, SMEs will pay between 1.12% and 3.68% of the transfer amount due to spread. This hidden charge is in addition to the upfront fee that banks disclose when making a transfer. Including fixed fees, the most expensive bank makes 3.70% on any transfer and the cheapest makes 1.14% for transfers over £100k. The table below displays the ranking of banks surveyed for the average SME transfer amount of £75,000:


GBP amount

EUR amount

Bank Rate

Mid-Market rate

FX Spread Cost

Fixed Fees

Total spread (including fixed fees)

Total cost of transaction



€ 98,917.50









€ 99,097.50









€ 101,864.62









€ 98,845.88









€ 100,664.78









€ 101,288.51








Commenting on the findings of the study, Money Mover CEO Hamish Anderson said, “When it comes to international payments, it’s clear that the UK’s major banks are overcharging and underserving their SME customers. The UK’s banks are collectively failing to give SMEs the knowledge, transparency and visibility which they need to make an intelligent and informed decision. This lack of transparency is not only unfair and uncompetitive, it’s also costing the UK’s SMEs precious cash in unnecessary fees.”

Cost was not the only issue revealed by the study - transparency also emerged as a key concern surrounding currency transfer services. In some cases, the SME won’t know how much they are being charged or the amount that the recipient will receive until after the payment has been made. This makes it very difficult for SMEs to compare banks and the costs they apply, and therefore choose the lowest cost provider.

In addition, the utility of services offered by banks provide very little in the way of appropriate and useful feature for their customers. SME customers could benefit hugely from offerings that integrate into SMEs exiting financial and accounting systems and processes.

“The UK’s SMEs are the growth engine of the UK economy,” continued Money Mover CEO Hamish Anderson. “In an increasingly globalised economy, business should review how they move money across borders. There are much better ways than banks.”

The complete Accourt study, “UK SMEs International Payments Analysis”, is available to download.

A downloadable infographic summarising the findings of the study is also available.

- ENDS –

Note to editors:

Accourt researched six of the top ten banks in the UK to discover the costs of making an international transfer using a bank as a service provider. These costs include the FX spread and any fixed fees associated with the transaction.

Accourt conducted both desk research and interviews with the banks to obtain the findings. It asked each bank questions on fee structure and spread, and charges for SEPA and non-SEPA payments for the following transaction brackets; £0 -£10K, £10K-£100K and over £100K (including SWIFT costs if applicable).

Other currencies were researched but only EUR transactions were analysed for comparison purposes. Further details on the research methodology are included in the report itself.

About Money Mover

Money Mover is the online currency exchange and global payments service dedicated to SMEs.

Money Mover aims to make international money transfer an asset rather than an inhibitor for SME growth by empowering businesses to make global payments and international money transfers quickly, at pre-defined rates and with transparent pricing. Its online platform offers a rich user interface that provides SME-focused tools, reports and functionality to support existing processes/workflows.

Money Mover is part of the growing wave of FinTech companies focused on delivering a better quality of service than incumbent institutions. The cofounders of Money Mover, based in three different continents, were disillusioned with the way that current money transfer practices hamstrung SMEs. They set out to create a global payments platform that put the best interests of its customers at its heart.

Based in Cambridge, UK, Money Mover is backed by Andy Homer, Sir Peter Michael, and a group of financiers, entrepreneurs and technologists.

For more information, see:

About Accourt

Accourt is a leading provider of strategic and operational consultancy services to the payments industry worldwide. Our clients include banks, card schemes, financial services institutions, payments and technology providers, telecom operators, corporates, merchants, and government organisations. We aim to make a powerful, positive difference to our clients’ futures.

Our consultants are all experienced practitioners with front line P&L experience, combining unrivalled strategic expertise with operational know-how. From defining and setting strategy, to implementing deployment, through to final delivery, Accourt is dedicated to minimising operational risk and ensuring a successful and profitable outcome for our clients. We have a passion for delivering real and lasting value and we bring focused, world-class expertise to complement client teams.