Theoretically, we now have the SEPA system, which should allow low-cost money transfers between bank accounts within the EU.

About a year ago, I asked my German bank (Postbank) about the costs of money transfer to Poland. I was informed that if I give the IBAN number of a Polish account, no money will be charged. I've transferred a test sum of 10 Euro, and was charged a 8 Euro fee. Both banks denied taking that fee. The Polish bank claimed no fee should be charged if I explicitly select the SEPA option, but Postbank doesn't allow that (they claim they detect SEPA transfers automatically).

Now, I'd like to transfer a larger sum, and I'd like to avoid such pitfalls. Do I have any real possibility to learn about such fees before doing any transfer? What claims do I have in case such fee is taken from me, although it was promised not to be taken?

  • 3
    +1 I believe that this problem affects only EU-but-not-EURO countries. I have the same problem with France->Czechia transfers.
    – yo'
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 10:36
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    I think SEPA only works properly if you are transferring from an EUR account to an EUR account (eg you have an EUR account in Poland and not a Zloty one)
    – SztupY
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 10:36
  • 2
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about technicalities of two banks' terms and conditions, and probably not applicable to other businesses or life as an expatriate in general. The OP could have easily checked at which bank the transfer fee was collected, and contact the respective bank to resolve the issue.
    – nikola
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 11:08
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    @nikola, no, money transfers are extremally important for expats, and my question is how to avoid such pitfalls in general. I doesn't matter for me if the problem are poorely technicalities, but what matter, what to do to not let them rob me out of hard earned expat money
    – user41
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 11:08
  • 4
    @Smiling_Man but bitcoins aren't even money. I could buy gold as well, but it's not a solution. I've wanted to do money transfer.
    – user41
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 14:09

2 Answers 2


As of this year there will be no "national" transfers, all transfer between EU banks will be SEPA transfers, thus priced equally regardless if both banks are in same country or not.

SEPA will create a payment market for all cashless euro payments, in which there will no longer be a difference between national and cross-border payments. From 1 February 2014, the current national credit transfer and direct debit procedures will expire. Subsequently, all payment service providers in the euro area will only be able to settle payments using the new SEPA procedures.

source: Bundesbank

Due some banks lagging behind, EU has extended deadline by 6 months, but most banks implement this already. Note, that the deadline is only for the format in which transfers are done, rather than charges.

If you're transferring Euros to account in Złotys, bank can apply currency conversion fee (usually fraction of percent, sometimes with some minimal fee) and convert it according to it's exchange rates which usually have significant spread (for example mBank has spread of 6%, thus effectively you're loosing 3% of value). Which bank will apply this depends on the currency you've selected while making the transfer. If you selected Euro, than conversion will be done by the receiving bank, if you selected PLN, then conversion is done by sending bank.

To avoid all these problems, the easiest remedy is to create (sub)account denominated in Euro in your Polish bank. Most, if not all, Polish banks have that option. You can then use 3rd party service to exchange EUR->PLN at much better rate. You can compare these 3rd party exchange services here: http://strefawalut.pl/ As you can see the spreads are significantly lower than in banks.

  • So this will apply to all intra-EU transfers, including for example GBP-HUF or HUF-PLN transfers?
    – SztupY
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:50
  • @SztupY: yes, all SEPA transfers, however, there is still question of currency conversion.
    – vartec
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:52
  • I just checked my bank (UK) and they say that only EUR transfers are considered SEPA, if I want to send money to a non-EUR account they will still charge non-SEPA rates.
    – SztupY
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 15:02
  • @SztupY: you can send EUR to non-EUR account and let the receiving bank handle the currency exchange.
    – vartec
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 15:26
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    I've made a SEPA transfer, but using 'internal' not 'international' form, and I've created an account in EUR in Poland, and it went without a fee, finally!
    – user41
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 19:28

Disclaimer: I am the co-founder of a comparison website for international money transfer services which gives me insights to respond to OP’s question.

Traditional banks may charge fees on the sending and/or receiving sides for international money transfers. There are two variables you have to check (with your bank or money transfer operator):

Transfer fee is charged by the payment service provider to transfer the money. It can either be a fixed fee, or vary depending on the transfer amount.

Conversion fee in the form of a differences between interbank exchange rates and the rates they apply to their customer's transactions. This conversion fee is not paid upfront and is essentially hidden to the untrained eye.

You either need to ask your banks (sending/receiving side) what are the transfer fees and the exchange rate applied or use a money transfer operator that applies more interesting exchange rate and transparent cost structure. You’ll make a national transfer in their bank account in Germany and they will transfer money on your bank account in Poland.

As we don't cover Germany-Poland yet on our comparison engine, I have manually searched here for a 1000€ transfer with some innovative companies we know of (sorted by order of increasing cost):