How long do money transfers take?

United States By Christy Lowry Apr 1, 2021

Money transfers are electronic transfers of money between banks that make it easy for a business or individual to send or receive funds. These transfers are done by using an interbank network that moves funds from one bank to another.

Domestic money transfers are typically completed in 24 hours while international money transfers are completed in one to five business days. Of course, these numbers aren’t universal and how long a money transfer takes ultimately depends on several factors.

Read on to learn how money transfers work, factors that influence how long they take, and other options to quickly send money online domestically and internationally.

How do money transfers work?

Rather than transferring physical money, a money transfer involves sending information from one bank or financial institution to another. In most cases, the person sending a money transfer pays for the transaction at their bank. The bank then sends a message to the receiver’s bank via SWIFT or another secure network with payment instructions.

Money transfers are different than other ways of sending funds, such as checks, cashier’s checks, or ACH transfers. One of the main differences is how long it takes for the money to arrive. Depending on how and when you initiate a money transfer, funds can be available almost immediately because the money is moving from bank to bank and there is usually no bank hold placed on money received.

Sending a money transfer often includes a fee. Depending on your transfer and whether it’s domestic or international, fees can range. That’s why it’s a good idea to check for any fees before initiating a money transfer.

Factors that affect how long a money transfer takes

Money transfers can take a few minutes to a few days. Here are some factors that may affect money transfer speed:

Timing of the money transfer

How long a money transfer takes depends on the day and time of day that you initiate the money transfer. Consider the time of day, the time zone you’re sending funds to, weekends, and bank holidays. For example, Bank of America’s cut-off for next-day and three-day money transfers is 8 p.m. EST and 5 p.m. EST for same-day domestic transfers and international transfers.

Location you are sending or receiving from matters

The speed of your money transfer also depends on where you’re sending or receiving funds from.

Domestic money transfers are typically completed within 24 hours and sometimes faster. If you’re transferring between accounts at the same financial institution, funds may be available immediately.

International money transfers typically take between one and five business days, depending on the difference in time zones and exchange rates.

Some countries are classified as “slow-to-pay” countries, meaning that money transfers may take longer (up to three weeks). You can ask your financial institution for a list of slow-to-pay countries if you plan to send or receive money from these areas.

Incomplete information

The last factor that can affect the speed of your money transfer is the information you include, or don’t. Generally, you need the following information when transferring money:

  • Full name and address
  • Bank name, address, and telephone number
  • Bank account number and account type (e.g., checking or savings)
  • Bank ABA routing number (for domestic transfers)
  • Bank IBAN and BIC/SWIFT codes (for international transfers)

If you’re missing any of this information or the information is incorrect, your money transfer will likely take longer. You also run the risk of the transfer being canceled if you can’t provide accurate information.

Method financial institution uses to money money

There are a few primary ways financial institutions send money, which can affect how long a money transfer takes. The most common ways to transfer money include:

  • Fedwire: For large, time-sensitive transactions.
  • Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT): Commonly used for international transactions.
  • Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS): Can process multiple transactions in batches.

Administrative processes and cut-off times for these different methods can affect how long it takes to complete a money transfer.

How long does an international money transfer take?

Wondering why an international money transfer can take several business days for the funds to arrive? Several factors contribute to the longer transfer times, which may include:

  • Method used to transfer funds: As mentioned above, the method for transferring money can affect how long it takes.
  • Time zones: If you’re sending money across the globe, initiate the money during the business hours of your recipient’s country.
  • Currency: Processing may be delayed due to currency conversion.
  • Holidays: other countries observe different holidays that may affect the timing of money transfers. Check to see if you’re sending to a country that’s observing a holiday and adjust when you initiate the money transfer accordingly.

Western Union offers quick and convenient ways to transfer money

You have lots of options when it comes to sending money, but Western Union aims to make sending money fast and convenient. Whether you want to transfer money to a bank, send for cash pickup, or transfer money directly to a mobile wallet, Western Union gives you options so you can choose the best way to send and receive money, almost anywhere in the world.

You can send money quickly online or with the easy-to-use app. You can also visit an agent location near you to transfer funds to over 200 countries and territories. Plus, you can track your transfer and receive updates along the way, so you’re always in the loop about your funds.