How long does a bank transfer take?

United States By Christy Lowry Jun 2, 2021

Many people use bank transfers to send funds to loved ones, purchase products, and transfer money internationally. Whether you’re sending money to a family member for a special occasion, purchasing a home you’ve been saving for, or just paying back a friend for lunch, bank-to-bank transfers will help you send funds safely and quickly.

How long a bank transfer takes depends on a variety of factors, including where you’re sending money to and the type of financial organization you use.

Here, we’ll talk about how long bank-to-bank transfers take and things to know before you initiate a transfer.

How do bank transfers work?

Bank transfers are a way to electronically send money from one financial institution to another such as ACH transfers and wire transfers.

Bank transfers work by utilizing interbank networks. Many bank transfers use the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication network (SWIFT). The SWIFT network works for domestic and international transfers because it connects more than 10,000 banks and other financial institutions all around the world.

To initiate a transfer using SWIFT, you will need:

  • Your recipient’s bank information, including name and branch address.
  • Your recipient’s full name, address, and the type of account you are sending funds to.
  • Your recipient’s account number or IBAN (International Bank Account Number). Both of these numbers can be found by either asking the bank or on bank statements.
  • The recipient’s bank’s SWIFT code.

This information is then transferred through intermediary banks who ensure your funds get to the right place as fast as possible. These intermediary banks serve as middlemen which help process funds before they get to your recipient’s bank. Banks use intermediaries because there are too many accounts for one bank to manage all the transfers and funds. Because of this, funds are strategically dispersed to create a network of banks all around the world.

How long does a bank-to-bank transfer take?

Generally, a bank-to-bank transfer will take about three business days, depending on where the money is going and what network you are using. Let’s look at how long both domestic and international bank transfers take.

How long do domestic bank transfers take?

Domestic bank-to-bank transfers within the United States are usually available the next business day. Transfers within the same bank will be faster and may be processed immediately. This is because the funds are staying within the same financial organization. Bank transfers between banks will take longer, up to three business days for some transactions, because they have to go through intermediary banks that help facilitate the transfer.

How long do international bank transfers take?

International transfers take between one and five business days. As mentioned, international bank transfers often use SWIFT, which is an interconnected network of banks that help mediate the transfer. Depending on the financial organization, your funds could go through up to three intermediary banks, all around the world, which can tack on more time for processing.

Does a bank transfer take longer than other types of money transfers?

Bank transfers are a common way to send money, but there are a number of other ways to transfer money around the world that may be beneficial.

To compare, let’s look at some different types of transfers:

  • Wire transfers: Wire transfers are generally the fastest way to send money outside of the United States. Wire transfers happen instantaneously, making them a faster option than bank transfers – but they are also more expensive.
  • ACH transfers: ACH transfers are a great option for sending money domestically, but they generally take longer than wire transfers because banks process transactions in batches, and only do so a few times a day. This means you may have to wait for the next batch of transfers before yours is processed. This, combined with the intermediary steps between banks, can slow down the transfer.
  • Peer-to-peer applications: Peer-to-peer applications have grown in popularity thanks to apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle, which make it easy to transfer funds to friends and family. These applications are a form of ACH transfers.

Is it faster to send money between two different banks vs. the same bank?

Banks make it easier and more affordable to send money within the same bank system rather than to send money to another bank. This is also the case for transferring money between your own bank accounts.

Bank-to-bank transfers are faster because the funds don’t have to go through an intermediary, such as an automated clearing house. This means that your funds are touched by fewer people, therefore cutting down the bank transfer time.

How long do bank transfers take with Western Union?

Depending on the transfer, international bank transfers can take a few minutes or up to two banking days. Did you know that you can see how long your transfer will take online before you even get started? With our price estimator tool online, you’ll see almost a dozen combinations of sending channels, payment methods, and bank account details before initiating your transfer. No more guessing how much you’ll pay to send money within the United States or around the world.

Send money easily to bank accounts worldwide

Knowing how long a bank transfer takes is just one aspect of sending money worldwide. You should also understand the different types of transfer options, exchange rates, and how much your bank transfer will cost.

Western Union makes it easy to find all of this information before you even start your transfer. Start sending money online or with our money transfer app with confidence using our form that helps you estimate how long it will take for your transfers. With over 200 locations worldwide, we make it easy for you to send money to where it needs to go.

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