How long does an international wire transfer take?

Do you wonder how much you need to wait for your international money transfer to reach your recipient on the other side of the globe? Read more to learn what is the average transfer time and how to send money quicker.

How international transfers work?

As you may or may not know it, banks don’t really physically move your money between borders. It’d be inefficient to drive around countries in a truck with millions of dollars each day. They simply exchange the transfer information. However, because of this, there are extra precautions and special systems to make sure everything stays in order.

SWIFT Network

When choosing a transfer method in almost every case there is information that it is a “SWIFT Transfer”. SWIFT is basically a secure messaging network for the banks and financial institutions to exchange transfer details and sensitive information through special codes. They are standardized to remove the language barrier and make it easier for foreign banks to communicate with each other.

However, the process involves going through a network of intermediaries, which generates not only fees but also additional transfer time.

What do you need for international transfer?

  • The name and address of the recipient’s bank
  • The recipient’s account number or IBAN (International Bank Account Number)
  • The BIC/SWIFT code of the recipient’s bank
  • The currency (usually, the banks will apply their own exchange rates, so if you don’t have the particular currency you should be able to order the transfer with your local currency)
  • *The reason for the transfer and source of the money (in some cases, especially for the larger amounts due to anti-money laundering policies, you may be asked to provide more detailed information about the character of the transfer)

You also need to decide whether you want to split the overseas payment fees with your recipient, or you want to cover the whole sum.

Average transaction time

The total transaction speed depends on a few conditions. There are different transfer methods (for example it’s faster to process an online wire, rather than in-person), different networks (such as SWIFT), or even different policies and regulations which affect how banks can handle the money.

Usually, you are told by your bank that it can take 3-5 working days. For some international transfers this time frame increases up to 14 business days...

Cut off times

All of the international transfers are being processed once everyday. Each bank has an individual cutoff time. This means that depending on the time of the day you issue your transfer, the procedure can be started on the same or the next day.

Here are the example cutoff times for few popular banks:

Wells Fargo5 PM Eastern Time (EST)
Chase Bank4 PM Eastern Time (EST)
Bank of America5 PM Eastern Time (EST)
Citibank US5:15 PM Eastern Time (EST)

If you place your transfer request on a business day before the bank’s cut off time, it should be processed the same day. However, the fact that the money left your account doesn’t mean that your recipient gets it immediately after…

What slows down the transfer?

Once an international wire transfer is initiated, funds are deducted from the account and the details are passed through the SWIFT network even up to 3 intermediaries or correspondent banks before finally getting to the final destination - your recipient.

While technically the transfer could be finalized much quicker, there are some extra precautions taken to prevent money laundering or fraudulent activities.

There are also some common problems, which affect the transaction tempo but could be prevented:

Bank’s details errors

Any mistake in the transfer details can lead to delayed or even lost transfer. That’s why it’s essential to double check if the recipient’s info is correct. Remember to use any SWIFT/BIC codes correctly. If you want to learn what these bank numbers and special codes for international transfers mean and where to find them, read this article.

Bank Holidays

Apart from weekends, on which banks usually don’t process transfers, try to avoid sending urgent payments around bank holidays. Keep in mind that your recipient’s country may have different customs and holidays than yours, so it’s better to do a quick online research before sending a transfer to avoid unnecessary delays.

Currency conversions

If your transfer requires exchanging currencies and you haven’t done it separately, it may also increase the total time of the transaction. However, in that case there isn’t much you can do. Just keep it in mind, while estimating when your transfer should arrive.

Timezones

Remember that while it may be midday in Europe, it is still night in the US, so you may need to add one additional day to the calculations to account for the different time zones and bank working hours depending on where you want to send the money to.

Recipient’s country

Generally speaking, sending money to more remote countries will take more time. In most cases your bank should have a good network established with the neighbouring countries. For example, sending money within the Eurozone is much faster than outside of it.

What are faster alternatives to bank wires?

To begin with, undoubtedly, sending money online through independent transfer platforms is not only faster but in most cases cheaper. Banks are no longer that competitive in the remittance market. Therefore, if you want to save time and money it may be worth it to research some bank transfer alternatives.

Check out the compare tool on our platform. You can type in there your transfer specifications and the algorithm will show you how much it will cost and how long will it take to send your amount with different companies. Then, you can simply choose the current top position on research the others based on your needs. You can also read there in-depth review and customers’ feedback to learn about the first-hand experience with your chosen company.

Cryptocurrencies are the future of money transfers?

You might have heard about these new purely digital currencies. Coins such as Bitcoin or Ethereum have been all over the media for some time now. Putting aside any controversies, the sole technology behind them grants incredible money transfer possibilities. Blockchain technology, which is the powerhouse behind crypto projects, allows to exchange securely and almost instantly a lot of data. We can already see that sending Ethereum’s coin ETH to any place in the world costs less than $0.20…

There are already few remittance companies which try to integrate blockchain technology to their own operations. Maybe soon we will get a fusion of fast, secure transfers and regular fiat currencies such as USD or EUR.

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