The paper describes the effect of a low-frequency alternating magnetic field (LF-AMF) on the permeability and release properties of large (LUVs) and giant (GUVs) unilamellar vesicles loaded with citrate coated cobalt ferrite nanoparticles (NPs). The citrate shell allows a high loading of NPs in lipid vesicles without modifying their magnetic properties. The increase of magnetic LUVs permeability upon exposure to LF-AMF has been evaluated as the fluorescence self-quenching of carboxyfluorescein (CF) entrapped inside the liposome aqueous pool. Liposome leakage has been monitored as a function of field frequency, time exposure and concentration of the citrate coated NPs. Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM) experiments performed on magnetic GUVs labeled with the fluorescent probe DiIC18 and loaded with Alexa 488-C5-maleimide fluorescent dye provided insights on the release mechanism induced by LF-AMF. The results show that LF-AMF strongly affects vesicles permeability, suggesting the formation of pores in the lipid bilayer due to both hyperthermic effects and nanoparticle oscillations in the vesicles pool at the applied frequency. The behaviour of these magnetic vesicles in the presence of LF-AMF makes this system a good candidate for controlled drug delivery. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.