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How long does an international bank transfer take?

If you’ve ever sent an international payment, you’ve probably wondered about international bank transfer times. Businesses increasingly rely on cross-border transactions and need payments to go through as quickly as possible, while consumers are used to having their demands fulfilled instantly. How long do international bank transfers take? Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive answer, although we can give you a good indication. Find out everything you need to know about international bank transfer times, starting with how international wire transfers actually work.

How does an international wire transfer work?

In most cases, international bank payments are actioned through the SWIFT network – a secure messaging system that banks use to send information. When you send an international bank transfer, banks will use the SWIFT network to ensure that your payment reaches its destination. However, it won’t always get there directly. Some payments go through intermediaries – also known as corresponding banks – almost like taking a series of connecting flights to arrive at your destination. It’s also worth mentioning that the SWIFT network doesn’t actually move your money, just your payment order.

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How long do international payments take?

Generally speaking, international bank transfers will arrive within one to five working days. Let’s explore what this looks like.

To send an international payment, you simply need to gather all the necessary information (IBAN number, BIC/SWIFT number, recipient’s banking details, etc.) and submit them to your bank, whether that’s in person or via an online banking app. In most cases, international bank transfers can only be processed on business days, provided that they are requested before the cut-off time, which varies from bank to bank.

Assuming you make your international transfer request before the bank’s cut-off time, it should be processed on the same day. If not, it will almost certainly be processed on the following business day. Once the transfer has been processed, the funds will usually be deducted from the sender’s account. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will arrive with the recipient at the same time. As stated above, international bank transfers will generally arrive within one to five working days.

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What factors are most likely to slow international bank transfer times?

Although you’d assume that international bank transfer times would be instantaneous, particularly given the rise of online banking, they can be delayed for a number of reasons:

Fraud prevention

One of the main reasons for delays to international wire transfers are the fraud prevention processes and procedures put in place by banks. The SWIFT network requires transfers to pass through up to three correspondent banks before arriving at their destination. Then, once the funds have actually arrived, processing time at the recipient’s bank could delay payment even further.

Incorrect payment details

Another factor that can have a big effect on international bank transfer times is erroneous payment details. Payments can be sent back if any of your beneficiary’s information is incorrect, so before you make a payment, double check the name of your recipient, the name of their bank, their account number, their IBAN number, and their SWIFT/BIC code.

Holidays and weekends

Sometimes, slow international payments are caused by something as prosaic as bank holidays and weekends. Put simply, if the bank is closed, then your payment can’t be processed. If you’re making a payment that needs to be sent as soon as possible, check whether there’s a bank holiday in your recipient’s country beforehand. It’s also a good idea to send your payment at the start of the week, so that it has time to arrive and go through processing before the weekend.

Different currencies

Currency conversion can be another drag on international bank transfer times. If your payment needs to be received in a different currency to the one it was sent, processing times can be lengthened.

Different time zones

It might be midday in London, but it’s the middle of the night in Los Angeles. If you want to make sure your international bank transfer goes through as quickly as possible, you should try to send it during business hours in your recipient’s country.

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