How long do wire transfers take?

United Kingdom By Steve Wong April 21, 2022

Learn about wire transfer times and how you can send money fast

A wire transfer can provide essential support to a loved one – or simply serve as a last-minute birthday gift. Whatever the purpose, you’ll be keen to get the money to your receiver as quickly as possible. And that requires a bit of homework into typical wire transfer times.

Generally, wire transfers can take anything from a few hours to a number of days. It all depends on the method, amount, sending and receiving destinations, and certain other factors. Understanding how long a wire transfer takes helps ensure it arrives on time.

Discover all you need to know about both domestic and international wire transfer times with our guide. Find out everything from how they work to the ways to ensure your funds arrive on time.


In this article


How do wire transfers work?

Wire transfers may sound complex, but they’re quite straightforward once you break down the jargon. They are a method of sending money electronically between financial institutions – such as banks and credit unions. They were originally sent via telegraph wires in the 1870s, which is where the slightly old-fashioned term originates. Today, it’s used to cover sending funds through non-bank money transfer services too.

Depending on where you want to wire money to and from, there are two main ways they work:

When you wire money, the funds aren’t moved from one financial institution to another immediately. Instead, you inform your bank or non-bank provider of the transfer amount and receiver.

The bank then tells the receiving bank of this and, when all required details are received, processes the transfer. They may use an intermediary such as SWIFT to make the payment.

Discover more about how to wire money.


How long does a wire transfer take?

You and your receiver shouldn’t be left waiting around too long for a wire transfer to go through. They generally happen quite quickly, as a fast and reliable way to send money to individuals, businesses, retailers and more.

Wire transfers can be completed in anything from under 24 hours to within five days or more – depending on the circumstances. Domestic wire transfers are typically quicker than international ones.

Transfers between accounts held with the same financial institution are usually fastest, often taking under 24 hours. Making a wire transfer overseas and to a different financial organisation can take longer.


How long does a domestic wire transfer take?

Most domestic wire transfers in the UK are completed within 24 hours. Many wire transfers between domestic bank accounts are made in minutes. Between accounts at the same financial institution, it can be even quicker. Just make sure you check your provider’s estimated delivery times for a general idea.


How long does an international wire transfer take?

The international wire transfer time is generally longer than for domestic transfers. It usually takes between one and five days – sometimes longer. Times vary depending on the receiving destination and where you’re sending the money from, which can mean the international wire transfer processing time takes longer.


What factors can impact wire transfer speeds?

From the sending method to the destination, how long a wire transfer takes depends on a range of factors. So it’s always useful to consider these when planning your wire transfer. This way, you can ensure your money reaches the intended receiver on time – whether sending domestically or internationally.


When you start your transfer

Most financial organisations have strict cut-off times – usually around 5pm. If you start a transfer after this, it won’t be processed until the next day, which can delay your money being sent. Wire transfers on weekends and bank holidays are normally processed the next working day.

If you miss the cut-off on a Friday over a bank holiday weekend, it may add an extra three days to the processing time. It’s just something to consider if you’re aiming to support loved ones as quickly as possible.


Where you’re sending your transfer

The location of your loved one can significantly affect the wire transfer time – from minutes to five or more days. Domestic wire transfers are almost always quickest and hardly ever take longer than 24 hours, even when going to a different financial institution.

The international wire transfer processing time can vary depending on the receiving country and take up to five days. In countries with slow processing times, it can even take up to three weeks. It mainly depends on the:


The method of bank transfer

How your funds are transferred from your account to your receiver’s affects the length of time it takes. This can include:

  • Bank-to-bank transfer – the quickest method, especially for domestic transfers that can be made in minutes.
  • SWIFT – for international wire transfers this can take longer, as it must be processed through financial intermediaries before reaching your receiver.

Check the method beforehand to estimate how long it could take.


Incorrect payment details

Entering one wrong number or misspelling the name of your receiver can lead to a wire transfer being sent back to your account or cancelled. This means you’d have to start again, delaying the transfer.

Carefully check your receiver’s details and that you entered them correctly to ensure a timely transfer.


Can a wire transfer be reversed?

Accidentally entering the wrong receiver’s details or amount can cause a problem, so always take your time when setting up a wire transfer. With a range of players involved, it’s not always easy to reverse one.

A wire transfer can only be cancelled if the receiving bank gets notice from the sending bank before it processes and completes the transfer. Unfortunately, this is rare with domestic transfers, as they can sometimes be processed within minutes. Once the receiving bank has accepted it, you cannot reverse or return a wire transfer.

With international wire transfers, there’s more chance of reversing it. The amount of cancellation time will appear on your receipt – sometimes around 30 minutes. In these instances, you can reverse a wire transfer within that set time, assuming it hasn’t been accepted.


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