How Long do International Bank Transfers Take?
A delayed international money transfer can be a disturbing experience. Money sent to someone abroad has a purpose; it is probably to meet a need, pay some outstanding bills, manage a project, or fix an urgent situation. Hence, customers like to have their international transactions processed and delivered quickly. But that is not always the case in reality. This article is a simple guide to understanding how international money transfers work and how long they should take to complete. It will show you how to make fast money transfers to associates, friends, and family members abroad.
How do International Money Transfers Work?
International money transfers can take place in either of two popular ways. You can make a wire transfer via a bank or use a money transfer service. The difference between them is that the former works through a network of banks, while the latter uses non-banking systems.
To make an international bank transfer, you need to contact your bank and place an order for the payment. You can do it in person at a branch of your bank. Another option is to fill out your bank’s online form with the required details if internet banking is available. The cost of this service will depend on the transfer fee, the current exchange rate, the recipient’s location, and other factors. When you make a transfer order, the sending bank processes it and sends the money to the receiving bank through popular networks or financial messaging systems like SWIFT and SEPA.
Non-bank international money transfers are usually cheaper, more convenient, and faster than SWIFT and SEPA. They allow their customers to make cross-border payments online using their smartphones instead of visiting a physical branch. In that way, they significantly reduce their operating expenses and provide many cheap services. Most money transfer providers offer free, safe, and secure accounts. When a customer sends a request for funds transfer, they process it using the current exchange rate and forward the money to the recipient’s account or bank.
What is the Role of an Intermediary Bank in the Transfer Process?
Intermediary banks help connect sending banks with receiving banks. They can operate from locations different from those of the originating and final banks. The international banking system needs them since most wire transfers involve banks without any pre-established business relationship. However, intermediary banks are sometimes responsible for some delayed payments as they also add to the processing time.
Instant Global Bank Transfers – What are the Challenges?
Countries in different parts of the world have different rules governing cross-border payments. As a result, international transfers are not subject to the same regulations. The legal steps to be taken as money moves from a bank account in one country to a foreign bank account make it difficult to create a global instant wire transfer system.
In addition, the standards for data processing and accounting formats are different between countries. This situation makes it hard to automate international payments. Furthermore, technological possibilities differ from one country to the next. For example, it is difficult to integrate systems that monitor transfers in real time with those that rely on batch processing or have limited data processing capacity. Therefore, it is challenging for banks to make sure cross-border payments always arrive on time everywhere.
How Long Do International Payments Take?
An international bank transfer should get to the receiver in one to three days. However, the payment might take up to five or more days. The factors responsible for the delay include the bank’s fraud prevention policy and the currency.
Why do bank transfers take 3 days?
A money transfer might take three days to process because your bank is following what is known as the "Three-Day Good Funds Model" of payment processing. What is it? It is a system in which a bank must hold money for three days to see whether there will be an official report that it came from a fraudulent transaction. If there is no such report, your payment becomes safe to process.
Can bank transfers go missing?
A bank transfer never actually gets missing. It is always somewhere in the electronic system. The money will be sent to the receiver's account or returned to the sender after some time. But when a law enforcement agency seizes a transfer because it is from a fraudulent transaction or linked with a sanctioned person, it is usually never returned to the sender.
Also, it sometimes happens that a transfer can take so long that the sender may think that the money is "missing." The situation may have originated from a human or computer error while handling the wire transfer. Hence, the money is "stuck" somewhere in the electronic system. In such a case, the only way the bank can send the money to the receiver or return it to the sender is to get the error fixed.
How is SWIFT helping?
More than 11,000 banks and financial institutions are connected to SWIFT. Despite being a large network of technologically powerful financial institutions, it has yet to reduce how long international money transfers take between all its members.
However, in response to the challenges mentioned in the previous section, SWIFT is working on enabling instant and frictionless international payments. It has enhanced its platform so that delays can be minimised in different aspects, including fraud detection and transaction screening.
Moreover, SWIFT claims to have improved the speed, traceability, and transparency of money transfers with its Global Payments Innovation (gpi) programme. Using a unique end-to-end transaction reference (UETR), the SWIFT gpi now performs real-time tracking of the progress of payments. As a result, the system claims that approximately half of all foreign payments made through it now reach their intended recipients within five minutes, and two-thirds of them get to their respective accounts within half an hour.
Common Factors Slowing Down International Bank Transfers
International wire transfers between banks are supposed to be fast, considering the impressive digital transformation in the banking industry. But many customers still experience delays in completing their wire transfers for any of the following common reasons:
- Fraud prevention: When processing international payments, banks are to prevent fraud. It is a legal requirement in many countries. Therefore, banks follow a series of steps to ensure that the transfer is not in connection with any fraudulent transaction. As your transaction moves from one bank to another, this policy can increase the time it takes to send the money to the receiver.
- Geographical destinations and currencies: The countries of the sending and receiving banks can affect the wire transfer time. SEPA transfers between European countries are cheap and fast; they require a single currency — the euro — and take one working day. SWIFT transfers between member banks in over 200 countries can take two to five days to execute. The transaction may take a long time if the money involved is not a popularly traded currency like the US dollar, euro, or British pound sterling. The reason is that the money you sent will have to go through some stages of currency conversion.
- Holidays and weekends:Banks typically do not operate during holidays and weekends. They are open on business days, usually Mondays to Fridays—some countries include Saturdays. So, if the territory of the receiving bank is observing any public holidays, you should expect a delayed payment. Also, if you transferred the money on a Friday, you should expect the processing to take until the following week.
- Cut-off times: Every bank has a cut-off time. It is the time of the day when customers' payments can be received and processed. So, knowing the cut-off time of your bank can help you place a transfer instruction early enough. If your request comes late, your bank will not process it until the next business day.
- Time zone: We live in a world where people experience day and night differently in some countries. Hence, the daily opening and closing times of banks are not the same globally. So, when making international wire transfers, expect the receiving bank to process your transaction during opening hours according to its time zone.
Alternative to Bank Transfers
As we mentioned earlier, bank transfers have more disadvantages than benefits. The modern world is not standing still and companies offer more and more alternative methods of sending funds. About some of them and their main features, AskWallet was informed by Agita Locika, Head of Key Account Management at Profee:
“When it comes to sending funds abroad for personal purposes, the speed and security of the transfer are what the users are concerned about the most. Real-time card-to-card transfers provide for both.
Transfers with traditional banks may take up to a maximum of 5 days, whereas card-to-card money transfers usually take only a few minutes to be completed.
So, what are the other advantages of card-to-card transfers?
- Funds are delivered and available for use immediately. Because the funds are delivered directly to the recipient's card, there is no need to shift between accounts or wait for prolonged clearing procedures for funds to be credited to the account. The minute you receive the money, you can start using it.
- It is safe. Service providers who process card details are required to comply with market security standards (e.g., PCI DSS). In simple words, to protect cardholders against misuse of their personal information, they use a certain set of rules and procedures to identify that the transaction is indeed initiated by the cardholder.
- It is simple. To make a wire transfer, you will be required to provide plenty of details about the recipient, including their IBAN, address, their bank details (SWIFT, address, name), which you may not always have on hand. For a card-to-card transfer, you will only need the card number of the recipient and their full name – as simple as that!
- User-friendly interfaces. In contrast with traditional banks, money transfer service providers tend to create easy-to-understand user interfaces with very plain and straightforward instructions. This saves a lot of our precious time that can be spent on more important tasks.”
What is the Fastest International Money Transfer?
Traditional banks do not offer the best international money transfer services, especially when it comes to transaction speed. So, if you are looking for the fastest international money transfer services on the market today, use any of the ones we have listed below. They are all licensed and regulated; they comply with international best practices and are safe and secure.
Profee is a quick money transfer service for card-to-card transactions. It is used to make fast international payments from Europe and the United Kingdom to any Mastercard or Visa card. You can use Profee to send money to family, friends or to your own cards in more than 45 countries across the European Union, Africa, Asia, the United Kingdom, and North America in two minutes. You can also use its website or mobile app to keep track of the best currency exchange rates daily.
Paysera is a FinTech company that provides low-fee international money transfer services with support for more than 20 currencies issued by central banks. With its multi-currency account, you can make free transfers to Paysera account holders in seconds and free SEPA payments to the European Economic Area (EEA) within one working day. You can also use a Paysera account to send money to banks in countries outside the EEA, but this will cost you a fee of €7 and can take up to 3 working days to complete. Also, Paysera currently provides many cash pickup points for transfers to Ukraine and promises to ensure that the money gets to the receiver in 10 to 20 minutes.
Wise is a popular service for sending money abroad at competitive exchange rates. It offers an international account that it claims to be eight times cheaper than the best traditional banks in the United Kingdom. You can make transactions on its website and mobile apps, which you can download from the App Store and Google Play. The service can be used to send money to 80 countries, and transfers are usually completed within one day. Besides, you can track the payment in your account. More than 13 million people use this service.
TransferGo is an international payment service. It offers a fast way to transfer money to more than 160 countries, promising to deliver the payment within 30 minutes. Your first two transfers through TransferGo are free of charge. You can enjoy getting assistance in a language you understand because it provides a multilingual customer support team. Download its app from the Huawei AppGallery, the App Store, and Google Play to wire money worldwide.
Paysend is a trusted service for simple and fast money transfers to over 150 countries. It charges a flat fee of €1.5 for money transfers from Europe, $2 for transfers from the United States, and £1 for transfers from the United Kingdom. You can expect the money to get to the receiver in a few minutes.
WorldRemit offers safe, secure, and fast money transfer services. Its mobile apps, which are available for free download from the App Store and Google Play, can be used to send money to more than 130 countries. The company boasts of completing 95% of its customers’ international money transfers in minutes.
International bank transfers take one to three working days. However, they may take longer periods, depending on factors such as the fraud prevention policies of the banks and whether the sending or receiving banks are on holiday.
Banks follow legal procedures to ensure that fraudulent transactions are prevented. The process usually takes some time to complete. Hence, transfers are delayed.
International bank transfers are not instant in most cases. They will take one to three days, or even more, to complete. SEPA transfers will take a day, while SWIFT transfers can take a longer time. However, there are many money transfer services that make international transfers in minutes.
No. Banks process international transfers only during working days. This practice is common worldwide.
The only way to know whether your bank transfer was successful is to contact the receiver. You place a telephone call to them or send them a message to confirm whether the money has been credited to their account.
The Bottom Line
International bank transfers typically take one to three days to complete. SEPA payments take one day, while SWIFT transfers take two or more days. Although the SWIFT platform is improving, it still has a long way to go to create instant international payments worldwide. Meanwhile, the fastest way to send money abroad is to use mobile money transfer services.