Has anyone used a peer-to-peer option for sending money abroad? I pay a mortgage in the U.K. and am looking at the likes of CurrencyFair or Transferwise to exchange my Euro. Are there any hidden charges, and are they safe? I will be exchanging about 1k a month. The rates look far better than the banks.
I'd recommend an online FX broker like XE Trade at xe.com. There are no fees charged by XE other than the spread on the FX conversion itself (which you'll pay anywhere).
They have payment clearing facilities in several countries (including UK BACS) so provided you're dealing with a major currency it should be possible to transfer money "free" (of wire charges at least). The FX spread will be much better than you would get from a bank (since FX is their primary business).
The additional risk you take on is settlement risk. XE will not pay the sterling amount to your UK bank account until they have received the Euro payment into their account. If XE went bankrupt before crediting your UK account, but after you've paid them your Euros - you could lose your money.
XE is backed by Custom House, which is a large and established Canadian firm - so this risk is very small indeed.
There are other choices out there too, UKForex is another that comes to mind - although XE's rates have been the best of those I've tried.
I've been using xetrade for quite awhile, also used nzforex (associated with ozforex / canadian forex, probably ukforex as well) -- xetrade has slightly better rates than I've gotten at nzforex, so I've been using them primarily. That said, I am in the process of opening an account at CurrencyFair, because it appears that I'll be able to exchange money at better rates there. (XETrade charges me 1.5% off the rate you see at xe.com -- which is the FX conversion fee I believe -- there are no fees other than the spread charged). I think the reason CurrencyFair may be able to do better is because the exchange is based on the peer-to-peer trade, so you could theoretically get a deal better than xe.com. I'll update my answer here after I've been using CurrencyFair for awhile, and let you know. They theoretically guarantee no worse than 0.5% though (+ $4.00 / withdrawal) -- so I think it'll save me quite a bit of money.