Currencies Direct provides a broad selection of currencies, competitive rates, and cheerful customer service, despite the value limitations of its online platform.
- Excellent online platform
- Large selection of currencies
- Competitive rates for high values
- Helpful customer service
- Online trades limited to £25,000
- Funds delivered to recipient using Swift banking network
- Not the best option for low values
Currencies Direct has become a stablemate of Europe’s non-bank facilitators of currency exchange and cross-border payment services. Incorporated in the early days of specialist currency providers, the company has grown to over 300 employees spanning 8 international offices, including its headquarters in the United Kingdom.
Since its founding in 1996, Currencies Direct has maintained its focus on being an innovative service provider of foreign exchange and international transfers for individual and corporate customers. The company has helped over 210,000 individuals and small businesses and currently transfers more than £4.5 billion annually, making them one of the largest currency firms in the UK.
Currencies Direct takes pride in its innovative approach to servicing its customer base, which includes high-net-worth individuals and businesses, as the company’s online platform can facilitate payments between 42 currencies. To learn more about their capability, and to see if their service is right for you, read on for my in-depth review of Currencies Direct.
Company history and founding story
Currencies Direct was established in 1996 by Mayank Patel and Peter Ellis, who wanted to provide a better currency transfer service than was being offered by the banks at the time. Within 3 years of founding, the company had opened its first international branch in Torrevieja, Spain, and remains a large player in the Spanish market. 20 further along, and Currencies Direct now has regional offices in 7 countries around the world, in addition to its headquarters in the United Kingdom.
While co-founder, Peter, departed Currencies Direct In 2000, the company remained in co-founder Mayank’s control until 2015, when the company was sold. The new owners, a pair of private equity firms, Palamon Capital and Corsair Capital purchased the company for over £200 million. Mayank provided an insightful interview to Asian Wealth Magazine following the completion of the deal.
Since the Currency Direct’s acquisition, the company has been overseen by Keith Hatton as CEO, Neil Cooper as Chief Financial Officer, and Leo Markides as Chief Operating Officer. Each of these senior executives has extensive experience in banking and financial services, from firms such as Moneycorp and American Express. They are supported by Antony Jenkins, who has come on as Chairman from Barclays.
Currencies Direct supports the transfer of 42 currencies, leading to a total servicing of approximately 110 countries. For the most part, the company facilitates its transfers using the Swift banking network, which provides it with the ability to deliver funds to all corners of the globe. The downside to this network is there are often charges incurred by the recipient, of which, Currency Direct has no control of.
Currencies Direct has a minimum transfer value of £100. While the company is equipped to complete transfers of almost any size, its online platform is limited to a maximum transfer amount of £25,000. For any values larger than this, the customer service staff of Currencies Direct are more than happy to assist you with getting you what you need.
Exchange rates and fees
Before committing to using a currency transfer service, it’s important to understand its business model. Put simply, a company like Currencies Direct typically generates revenue in two ways. Firstly, it may charge a transaction fee for executing each transfer. Secondly, it may also take a margin on the exchange rate provided to its customers, also known as the “spread”; which is the difference between the exchange rate of the wholesale market (i.e. the interbank rate), and the exchange rate offered to the customer.
When comparing the pricing of Currencies Direct against traditional banks, the company fares pretty well. Banks typically charge a large transaction fee and a 5% margin on the total value of the transfer. Currencies Direct, on the other hand, does not charge a transaction fee, and the exchange rates are much more competitive than traditional banks; averaging between 2.63% of the total amount transferred for small values ($1,000), and 0.80% for larger values ($100,000).
When comparing Currencies Direct to other specialised currency transfer services, it holds up very well, especially for larger amounts. While currency services such as TransferWise and CurrencyFair don’t take a margin on the value of the transfer, and rather they provide their customers with the mid-market rate, they do charge a larger fee to compensate; amounting to approximately 0.60% of the transfer value for TransferWise, and even less for CurrencyFair. What Currencies Direct does have going for it, is a large selection of currencies and an ability to facilitate higher transfer values than most consumer-focused services.
Here is how Currencies Direct compares against its competitors when transferring Euro (EUR) into Australian Dollars (AUD):
|wdt_ID||Service||€ 1,000||€ 10,000||€ 100,000||Ave. cost||Review|
|1||Mid-market rate||1,599||15,990||159,900||0.00 %|
|2||Traditional bank||1,494||15,165||151,880||5.58 %|
|3||Currencies Direct||1,556||15,678||158,620||1.79 %|
|4||TransferWise||1,587||15,888||159,064||0.62 %||Read review|
|5||CurrencyFair||1,590||15,906||159,060||0.53 %||Read review|
As you can see, there are certainly many benefits to using Currencies Direct. With its ability to provide payments into hundreds of countries, it does provide excellent value, but may not always be the cheapest option. In addition, it should be noted that any transfer conducted via Swift will likely incur additional hidden charges by correspondent banks; the amount depending on the amount of the transfer and the recipient’s bank.
The transfer speed of an average transfer with Currencies Direct depends on a couple of things, including the currency you’re sending, the bank used and the size of the transaction. For the majority of currency pairings, you will need to allow between 2 – 4 days for the transferred funds to reach the recipient’s account.
Transfers involving more popular currency pairings may be completed even quicker. For example, transactions between GBP, EUR and USD are completed same-day; meaning that your funds will likely arrive in your recipient’s account the following working day.
What are the key features of Currencies Direct’s online platform? Let’s take a look at the various payment services offered by the company.
Spot contract. A spot contract consists of a single payment from one currency to another at the currently available exchange rate. If you need to send money right away, simply login to the Currencies Direct website or app, and with a couple of clicks, a transfer can be arranged.
Recurring payment. If you need to transfer funds on a regular basis, a single payment can be scheduled as a regular recurring transaction. This allows any future payments to be direct debited automatically, providing a convenient solution to make better use of your time.
Currency forward contract. If you would like to lock in an exchange rate but aren’t quite ready to transfer, you can use a forward exchange contract. This allows you to confirm a specific rate for up to 12 months in the future, protecting you from unfavourable rate movements.
Market order. Limit orders allow you to set a target exchange rate that you would like to transact at in the near future. If and when your target rate is reached, Currencies Direct will initiate the transfer of funds immediately.
In addition to the Currencies Direct headquarters in the United Kingdom, the company also has regional offices in Canada, China, India, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the United States. This global footprint allows Currencies Direct to provide assistance to its customer base during standard operating hours of the subsidiary’s location. Their customer service team can be contacted by phone or email.
In my experience, I found the customer service staff of Currencies Direct to be friendly and helpful. I did not have to wait too long to speak with someone on the phone, and my queries by email have been answered in a prompt and professional manner.
Security and regulation
Is Currencies Direct safe? Let’s take a look at the various initiatives the company undertakes to ensure the security of its customers.
Government regulation. As Currencies Direct is headquartered in the United Kingdom, the company is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and licensed as an Electronic Money Institution under reference 900669. The subsidiaries of Currencies Direct are also regulated by the relevant authorities in the jurisdiction of their operations; such as FinCEN in the United States and FSB in South Africa.
Customer funds held on trust. FCA regulations require that the client funds of Currencies Direct be held in segregated accounts, and are therefore kept completely separate from their own company accounts. This means that your money is safe should the company run into any financial difficulties.
Website security. The Currencies Direct website is protected with TLS encryption, which prevents sensitive data from being intercepted during your visit. You can confirm that this is in place by recognising a green padlock next to the website’s URL on your browser. Additionally, Currencies has implemented a range of security features such as two-factor authentication.
Can you trust Currencies Direct? Let’s take a look at look at some of the key factors which affect the company’s reputation.
Trustpilot. As of publication, Currencies Direct has received 2,044 reviews on Trustpilot with an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars; representing a positive experience in 91 percent of interactions with its customers. Here are some of my observations of the feedback posted:
- Helpful customer service staff
- Very good exchange rates
- Many happy customers in the Spanish market
- Occasional delays in transfer
- Miscommunication in fees applicable to less popular currency pairing
- Uncompetitive rates for small amounts
It is worth noting that Currencies Direct also collects customer reviews on Feefo, however, I do not suggest on relying on Feefo reviews alone. In my opinion, reviews collected on Feefo are not adequately separated from the influence of the reviewed company itself.
Social media. Upon viewing the Twitter and Facebook feeds of Currencies Direct, we can see a range of varied interactions between the company’s customer service staff and its customers. it appears that any queries raised by customers are being addressed within two days of posting, with Currencies Direct moving the conversation into private messaging to rectify the issue. Due to the size of Currencies Direct, the social media team is also quite active in publishing news and market updates, which could be very useful for those making regular payments.
Mainstream media. As for the mainstream media, Currencies Direct does not have too much vanity coverage, as they are already a very well established company. Much of the reporting completed by large media outlets related to the company providing updates and commentary on foreign exchange markets, displaying their competence in this area.
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Design. The Currencies Direct website has been designed thoughtfully, with special attention being paid to user experience and functionality. It can be viewed in 10 languages, including English, Chinese, French, German Korean, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. In addition to its online platform, Currencies Direct has also developed mobile apps for both Apple and Android devices.
Registration. The sign-up process is relatively straight-forward, taking only a couple of minutes longer than a typical consumer-grade service. You begin by entering your email and a password, before providing essential contact information such as name, address and phone number. The entire process takes around 10 minutes.
Identification. Before you are able to commence transferring funds, you first need to provide proof of identification so Currencies Direct can verify your account. Two documents are required; one proving your identity, such as a passport or drivers licence, and one proving your address, such as a bank or utility statement.
How does Currencies Direct work?
To familiarise you with the Currencies Direct service, I’ll take you through a transaction I completed with them recently. If you need some guidance in navigating your own account, you can follow along below.
Step 1. Visit currenciesdirect.com and log in. Once you have entered the Currencies Direct website, you are greeted with a relatively minimal interface. The dashboard provides a summary of current transactions in process, and a range of menu items to select from. To begin a transfer, click Make a Transfer. Alternatively, you can enter some basic information into the quick quote widget and click Transfer Now.
Step 2. To formalise the exchange rate for your quote, first, select your intended recipient(s) – the details of which are entered in a separate menu – and click Select.
Then select the currencies involved, the amount of the either originating currency or the recipient’s denominated currency and click Get Rate. The rate offered will depend on the size of your transfer. Larger transfers will generally be offered better rates. Once you are happy with the quote presented click Continue.
Select the method in which you intend to pay your funds to Currencies Direct. At this stage, the company can accept debit card or bank transfer.
Step 3. The specific terms of your quote are clearly outlined, including the exchange rate and fees applicable. Once you are sure you want to finalise and proceed, click Confirm.
Step 4. Once your transaction is confirmed, you are provided with instructions to proceed with your part of the payment. Before Currencies Direct can complete the transfer, you will first need to send your funds to their local account.
Step 5. Once your funds have been received by Currencies Direct in their local account, they will finalise the transfer to your recipient. You can track your transfer online or with their mobile app; throughout the process, your account dashboard will be updated with the payment’s status as it moves within the system.
All done! Finally, once the transfer has been completed, its status will be updated accordingly and the payment will be reflected in your recipient’s account shortly.
In my experience, the Currencies Direct online platform was simple to use and I was satisfied with the instructions provided to me along the way. The entire process took 3 working days, and the funds arrived, albeit with a short payment of $18. Upon querying this discrepancy with their customer service team, I was advised that as my transfer was conducted through Swift, there were fees charged by correspondent banks in the Swift system. The customer service member that I exchanged messages with said that these fees can vary and cannot be estimated in advance. While this may be the case, I think it would be reasonable to disclose this possibility, as best as possible, on the Currencies Direct platform.
10. Conclusion and final thoughts
Currencies Direct provides a professional and efficient currency exchange solution. Their online platform is easy to use and perfect for facilitating trades up to £25,000. For larger values, the company employs a competent stable of foreign exchange dealers to hold your hand through the process.
Currencies Direct is not really suited for small transfers, which are probably better suited to more consumer-orientated services such as TransferWise or CurrencyFair. That being said, the company provides competitive exchange rates for larger transfer amounts and is a very good consideration for individuals and businesses moving larger values in multiple currency denominations.
If you have any questions, queries or feedback, let me know in the comments below.