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Five traps to avoid when transferring money to and from the UK

Navigating international finances can be complicated, no matter how seasoned you are at transferring funds overseas. Knowing the common pitfalls of sending money abroad can save you a lot of trouble (and hopefully some money too).

Five traps to avoid when transferring money to and from the UK
Photo: tbtb/Depositphotos

The changeable market keeps most expats on their toes with exchange rates, fees and timings. Whether you’re sending money to friends or family in far-flung places or repatriating money back to the UK, you should know the most common mistakes people make when transferring money internationally.

That’s why we’ve collaborated with international payments specialist Hargreaves Lansdown to help you avoid falling into these traps.

Stop losing money on international transfer fees with Hargreaves Lansdown

1. Forgetting to check the exchange rates

Whether you’re a small business or an individual, chances are you’ve used your bank to make international currency exchanges and transfers. After all, this is the most obvious option. But it’s also often the most expensive option as you could be paying well above the odds.

Even the smallest change in the exchange rate offered by your provider could cost you hundreds of pounds (possibly thousands). So it’s important to shop around for the best rate.

Save as much money as possible by looking at currency specialists, such as Hargreaves Lansdown, as the exchange rates they offer are often better than the banks’. This is especially beneficial when transferring large amounts of currency for more expensive purchases such as property.

2. Paying transfer fees

Although still a common practice, it is unnecessary to fork out extra for high bank transfer fees. Incurring a flat fee can sting if you’re sending relatively small sums across country borders. Some currency specialists offer individuals or small businesses regular payment plans for recurring payments which help to keep costs down.

There are providers, like Hargreaves Lansdown’s currency service, that offer low or no transfer fees. This can save you up to £30 on each and every transaction, which really adds up if you are making multiple transfers or paying invoices. 

3. Making insecure payments

Not all currency specialists are created equal, some are more secure than others. Make sure you’re protected financially from the moment the money leaves your account to when it reaches its destination account.

The terminology can confuse the most clued-up of people but there is a huge difference between whether a firm is authorised or registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Hargreaves Lansdown’s Currency Service is an FCA-authorised service, which in practice means they are legally bound to keep your money transfers separate from their company funds and provide financial safeguards proving their stability.

Whilst registered firms may choose to safeguard your money, they aren’t required to do so. And they don’t have to provide the FCA with as much detail about their business, so the regulator can’t check on their financial health.

4. Leaving it until the last minute

Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of the exchange rate on the day you transfer. If time allows, savvy savers should plan their transfer as far ahead as possible. This gives you more flexibility as you’ll have the option to fix an exchange rate for the future, or target a specific rate. 

If you’re fixing an exchange rate you’ll have the peace of mind to know what a future purchase will cost you, regardless of whether rates move up or down. Targeting a specific rate will enable you to make the most of improvements to rates, but doesn’t offer protection if rates move against you. Both of these options are only available if you plan ahead.

Bypass bad exchange rates with Hargreaves Lansdown

5. Not keeping up to date on the latest news

You wouldn’t expect to be well-versed in current events without consuming the news. The same goes for your finances. Without monitoring the latest market developments it leaves you vulnerable to making the wrong decisions in the fast-moving world of finance.

Stay on top of trends and currency movements and how to best position yourself to take advantage of the highs and avoid the lows. Hargreaves Lansdown offers a free weekly report on their website and via email, making sure you get the most from your payments. Please note, their service does not provide personal advice, but can provide information for you to decide what’s right for you. If you’re unsure please seek advice.

Download your free guide to international currency transfers here.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Hargreaves Lansdown July 2018

The Hargreaves Lansdown Currency Service is a trading name of Hargreaves Lansdown Asset Management Ltd. One College Square South, Anchor Road, Bristol. BS1 5HL, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority as a Payment Institution under the Payment Services Regulations 2017, see www.fca.org.uk. FCA Register number 115248. Registered in England and Wales. Registration number: 1896481.

MONEY

Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

Milan is one of the most popular Italian cities for foreigners to move to, but it's also among the most expensive. We take a look at how much you'll need to live in the northern city.

Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

With its wealth of job opportunities and international appeal, Milan is one of the most popular Italian cities among foreigners.

According to the latest available data, the northern economic powerhouse is home to as many as 280,800 foreign nationals, who make up around 20.3 percent of the city’s total population.

After Rome, Milan is the second-most popular Italian destination among native English speakers, with UK and US expats leading the pack.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Milan is a much better city to live in than Rome

But Milan’s bustling job market and cosmopolitan life come at a price, with the metropolis being recently ranked as the third-most expensive Italian city to live in. 

So, how much will you really need to be able to live in Lombardy’s capital and what are the biggest expenses for residents?

Rent

While Milan has long been known for its high rents, living in the city has become possibly even more expensive over the past year.

In the first half of 2022, the average rent in Milan rose by 11.2-percent against the same period last year, with the average monthly rent currently at 20.14 euros per square metre, the highest in the region.

The asking price can even be as high as 33 euros per square metre in the more central areas of the city (Duomo, Cadorna, Cordusio, Parco Sempione, etc.).

Two tenants in a shared flat.

Renting in Milan is generally expensive, with the average monthly rent currently sitting at 20.14 euros per square metre. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

This means renting a one-bedroom flat in the city centre will set you back 1,260 euros a month on average and, while prices generally decrease the further away from the centre, renting the same type of flat in the city outskirts will still come at an average monthly price of 830 euros.

Sadly, things aren’t much better for those looking for a single room in a shared flat as rent can be as high as 620 euros in central Milan.

To see which areas of the city are cheaper when it comes to rent, you can refer to the following online map.

Bills

In the case of most tenancy agreements in Italy, utility bills are not included in the rent. 

Though bills are naturally dependent upon a household’s individual expenditure, monthly bollette – these include gas, electricity and water bills plus waste collection fees – for an 85-square-metre flat in Milan are estimated to add up to an average of 207 euros.

READ ALSO: Lights off and home working: Milan’s new energy-saving plan for winter 

That’s 31 euros over Italy’s national average, which sits at 176 euros a month. 

Groceries

The price of groceries in Italy has increased dramatically over the past few months, triggered by record levels of inflation.

According to the latest available data, Milan is the most expensive Italian city when it comes to grocery shopping as filling a supermarket cart with basic goods is estimated to set residents back 116 euros on average (that’s a 41-euro difference compared to the cheapest city, Naples).

The average Milan family spends 441 euros a month on groceries, newspaper La Repubblica estimates.

REVEALED: Which are Italy’s best-value supermarkets? 

A list of the most cost-efficient supermarkets in Milan can be downloaded here (click on ‘Scarica lo speciale supermercati’).

Loaves of bread are pictured at an Esselunga supermarket in Milan's Famagosta district.

Milan is the most expensive Italian city when it comes to grocery shopping. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Eating out

Milan residents love to eat out, with most locals indulging in a restaurant dinner at least once a week.

As in most major cities, the size of your bill will largely depend not just on the type of restaurant you choose but also on its location. 

A three-course meal for two people in a mid-range city restaurant will set you back 80 euros on average, according to Numbeo estimates, while a regular meal in an inexpensive restaurant comes at around 20 euros apiece.

Going out, leisure and entertainment

Milan is a bustling city and, as a resident, you’ll hardly ever find yourself wanting for things to do on a weekend.

Once again, the price tag of your leisure activities will be directly dependent upon what you choose to do and where, though prices are generally in line with those of other major Italian cities. 

READ ALSO: ‘It takes time’: Foreign residents on what it’s really like to live in Milan

For instance, a regular cinema ticket costs around 10 euros, whereas renting a tennis court for one hour comes at an average price of 25 euros.

Transport

Public transport in Milan is reliable and affordable. The underground (metropolitana) is by far the fastest way to get around town, though trams and buses are also available.

A monthly urban ticket with ATM, Milan’s public transport operator, costs 39 euros, whereas an annual ticket goes for 330 euros.

A number of generous discounts are available to low-income residents, people under 30 and students.

A tram in central Milan.

Public transport in Milan is reliable and affordable, with a monthly ticket going for 39 euros. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Despite the overall reliability and breadth of Milan’s public transport network, like elsewhere in Italy most locals use their own wheels – there are nearly nine registered vehicles for every 10 residents in Milan.

Aside from non-negligible fuel-related expenses, parking in Milan is fairly expensive, with tariffs starting from 1.20 euros an hour in the outskirts but reaching 4.50 euros an hour in the city centre. 

Access to the centre (Area C) is only granted to eco-friendly vehicles and there’s a 2-euro fee for residents or a 5-euro fee for non-residents.

Find further information on traffic rules in Milan on the town hall’s official web page.

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