Saturday, 4 October 2014

International Transfers for tango travellers

Ok, this is a matter of so much trouble to Brits who travel for tango purposes that it's become a perfectly genuinely Frequently Asked Question. As I've been asked it multiple times, here's the answer for people struggling to make European transfers in Euros directly from a UK bank. I've done it again today and remembered the gotchas.

You ONLY need the following information, nothing else:

  1. IBAN, the very loooong number which starts with a country code like FR or DE. If your bank's form does not seem to understand this number when you paste it in, remove the spaces. I have no idea why the forms are too stupid to do this automatically, but for some reason they often are, and it baffles people.
  2. BIC, the Bank Identification Code, a shorter string of letters.
  3. Name of the beneficiary (person or company you are sending the money to).
That's it. You do NOT need to fill any address information, it's completely unnecessary, so leave those boxes blank if the form allows it, or repeat whatever address you have if your bank's form is so poorly designed that it doesn't. The chances are that any extra information will be ignored, and the bank's helpdesk will probably confirm this, as mine did.

There may be more than one option for how the costs are paid which can vary from bank to bank. Mine only actually provides one option, which has a totally misleading name ("shared") but nevertheless results in the correct number of Euros reaching their destination. Start by selecting whatever option lets you specify the exact amount of the bill you are trying to pay.

Alternatively, try Transferwise, which I haven't yet used myself (only because my bank's system is unusually cheap and I am used to it), but I know lots of people who've used it very successfully. It is almost certain to be cheaper and better designed than your bank's system. The only gotcha is that people fairly often misunderstand the form in such a way that they make a transfer the wrong way round, FROM the destination currency TO the source currency. This results in exchanging the money and paying all of the costs twice over, and under-paying the actual bill by as much as a tenner, so it's no longer cheaper than using the bank. Plus it's embarrassing. So try not to do this.

I hope that helps someone, because apparently it's been driving my friends round the bend. I do it multiple times a year, and it's the sort of thing you would just never have had to do even once if you weren't travelling in Europe in order to dance tango. Because all other sorts of business take credit cards, and in Argentina you just turn up with a bra full of USD.

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