Bank transfers have been around for more than a century, and although they have become faster, they’re still not instant. There are a lot of factors that come into play when transferring money through your bank. Understanding why transfers take time and what your alternatives are can help you avoid delays when you’re in a hurry.
At best, expect the following transfer times for domestic and international transfers.
Domestic bank transfer speed – More than one day is standard, usually when you make a payment online before your bank’s daily cut off point. It may be faster for transfers between accounts at the same bank.
International wire transfer speed – Between 2-5 business days, perhaps longer depending on one or more of the factors listed below.
When you send a wire transfer through your bank you should be provided with an expected delivery date, though this isn’t a guarantee of any sort. Wire transfer time varies based on many factors, some that are in your control and some that aren’t:
Your bank – Smaller banks may take longer for international transfers as these may not have an International Bank Account Number (IBAN).
Receiving bank – If you’re sending a wire transfer to a bank other than your own, the banks have to communicate, which can take time.
Time of transfer – Sending transfers earlier in the day is better, because if you send it at the end of the day it has to wait until the next business day to start processing. The same goes for the end of the week, or right before a bank holiday.
Type of transfer – Some banks offer expedited wire transfer services, but beware of high fees added to your transfer total.
How to have wire transfer funds available immediately
When you’re in a rush, or you just don’t feel like waiting, there are ways to expedite the speed at which your money is transferred. By default, almost no wire-transferred funds are available immediately, so use these alternatives to get your money to your recipient faster.
Digital money transfer services
Companies like OFX and CurrencyTransfer specialise in foreign currencies, making them some of the most cost-effective transfers. Most offer transfers directly to your recipient’s bank account, often in as little as a day.
Services like WorldRemit, Western Union and MoneyGram allow you to transfer cash for nearly instant pickup. While it’s a fast way to send money, you may pay more in fees than you would with a digital money transfer service.
Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending €1,500 to India
Let’s say you need to send €1,500 to family in India. Here’s what you might face as far as fees and exchange rates as of 9 July 2020.
Digital money transfer service
1 EUR = 83.25659 INR
1 EUR = 83.9860 INR
Better and faster than a bank
Fastest and best value
Using an international money transfer service can often deliver your money instantly, something that wire transfers can almost never achieve.
Using your bank to send money internationally is hardly ever the cheapest or fastest option. To learn more about how to send international money transfers, read our dedicated guide.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to transfer funds from one bank to another? It depends on how quickly the banks communicate with one another. Theoretically, the transfer could happen in just over one business day, but more often than not it takes two or more business days.
How long can a bank hold a wire transfer? Banks do not hold wire transfers. Unlike cheques that need verification to clear, the moment an incoming wire transfer hits your bank account it is yours to spend.
Zak Killermann is a writer at Finder. He’s ghostwritten hundreds of articles on fintech, finding his love for publication at St. Cloud State University. Traveling internationally for nearly half his life — and getting burned once by an OTC money exchange — Zak's vowed not to settle for anything short of the mid-market rate again.
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