'How can I avoid getting stung by exchange rate movements?’

Liz Phillips tackles common foreign exchange challenges faced by expats.

We want to move a large sum overseas, but we’re worried about it getting lost in the system. How long does it take and can we track it along the way?

It depends who you use. High street  banks have standard services taking three to five working days or faster and costlier priority services taking one to three days, depending on where it’s going.

If you use a specialist currency broker, however, it will be faster and cheaper. Brokers typically take a few hours to move money to other major countries such as those in Europe, and can usually do it the same day to most other developed countries if you put your order in before lunch. At this speed, you don’t really need to worry about where it is while it’s being transferred.

If you’re still worried, go with a broker that offers an online tracking service so you can keep an eye on where your money is as it moves along the chain.

Elisabeth Dobson, from World First, which is one of the brokers with this online service, says: “The popularity of this secure, high-speed system has grown significantly over the last 12 months, as people gain more and more confidence about managing their money online.”

I’ve moved to Australia to be near my daughter and grandchildren. I need to transfer a lump sum to buy a home near her. How do I make sure I don’t get caught out by exchange rate movements?

The Australian dollar has been very strong for some time now. Australia has benefitted from huge demand for its raw materials from China, which has been powering ahead with major building projects. But China has slowed down recently which has affected the Australian export market, and even Australia isn’t immune to the crisis in Europe.

Currently, £1 will buy around 1.55 Australian dollars , though it does move daily. It’s more important to get a good rate when moving a large sum as even relatively small changes make a huge difference to how much you receive at the other end.

Stephen Hughes, of Currencies.co.uk , says: “Expert currency brokers will do all they can to ensure you can make an informed decision on when to convert your funds.

“Not only will a specialist currency broker be able to keep you up to date on all the relevant currency market movements, but they will also outline the options open to you to get the best deal.”

He suggests splitting the amount you’re exchanging into two, to hedge your bets using different methods. You could fix some of it for up to a year when you see a good rate by paying a small deposit, and leave the rest to exchange the moment you see the pound rise against the Australian dollar.

Once you sign up with a broker, a dealer will keep an eye on the market for you.

We are retiring abroad and will need to receive our UK pension every month. Can you tell us the cheapest way to do this?

Once you’ve opened a local bank account, you should look at the various foreign-exchange specialists in the UK. Make sure you go with an established forex broker and compare different companies’ exchange rates over several weeks. Most currency specialists have regular payment plans that allow you to send money to your foreign bank account at regular intervals. They also charge lower fees and offer more attractive exchange rates than the banks.

There are different types of plan. With the basic one you send a set amount of sterling to your foreign account each month or at whatever interval you choose.

“The amount you receive in your foreign account will fluctuate with the exchange rate, but you can change the interval, take a payment holiday or cancel the plan at any time,” explains David Kerns of Moneycorp .

Another option is a fixed-rate plan where you lock in the exchange rate for a period. “This plan gives you a fixed exchange rate, and the reassurance that each time you’ll be paying the same amount in pounds and receiving the same amount in local currency for your pounds,” says Mr Kerns.

This article was published in the Telegraph Weekly World Edition.