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How long does an international wire transfer take?

Wire transfers are convenient, but using a money transfer service can almost always get your money there faster.

Bank wire transfers have been around for more than a century, and although they’ve gotten faster, they still typically aren’t instantaneous. Several factors come into play when transferring money through your bank. Understanding why transfers take time and what alternatives are available can help you avoid delays when you’re in a hurry.

How long does a wire transfer take?

At best, expect the following transfer times for domestic and international transfers.

  • Domestic wire transfer speed – Within 24 hours is possible, particularly for transfers between accounts at the same bank.
  • International wire transfer speed – Between two and five business days, perhaps longer depending on various factors.

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 they 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. 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 are 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 faster.

Blue icon representing money transfers Image: Infogram

Digital money transfer services

Companies like Wise and CurrencyTransfer specialize 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.

Picture not described: BlueCoinsCashIcon_Infogram_94x62.png Image: Infogram

Cash transfers

Services like WorldRemit 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 R5,000 to India

Let’s say you need to send R5,000 to family in India. Here’s what you might face as far as fees and exchange rates as of Oct 17, 2020.

Digital money transfer serviceCash transferWire transfer
FeeR0R60R250 + additional correspondent bank fees
Exchange rate1 ZAR = 4.413 INR1 ZAR = 4.432 INR1 ZAR = 4.401 INR
Transfer speed1 dayMinutes2-5 days
Amount receivedINR 22,065INR 21,894.08INR 20,904.75
Verdict
  • Best value
  • Fastest
  • Slowest and most expensive

Using an international money transfer service can often deliver your money instantly, something that wire transfers can almost never achieve. On top of that, you’d end up sending 1,989.33 less rupees if you send through a wire transfer.

Compare ways to send money

Use our comparison table to see more ways to have your money there faster. Enter the amount you want to send, select your destination and click Calculate.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 60 1 day ZAR 0.00 0.068 USD
3,420
Skrill offers easy transfers to many popular destinations, but keep an eye out for added fees. Go to site Show details
AUD 2,000 2 days ZAR 0.00 0.068 USD
3,419
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour ZAR 2,500.00 0.068 USD
3,416
Use promo code FREE to send your first transfer with no fee. T&Cs apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Go to site Show details
EUR 8 3 - 5 days EUR 3.00 0.068 USD
3,409
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
USD 2,000 1 day ZAR 0.00 0.068 USD
3,419
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

Bottom line

Using your bank to send money domestically and internationally is hardly ever the cheapest or fastest option. To learn more about how to send money more efficiently, read our dedicated guide with hand-picked options that covers both domestic and international transfers.

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