How long do wire transfers take?

United States By Christy Lowry Apr 30, 2022

Article summary

Wire transfers are a way to quickly send money from your bank within the United States or internationally.

In this article, we’ll examine domestic and international wire transfer times. Find out when the funds become available, what happens at weekends, reasons for delays, and what to do when a wire money transfer is held up or lost.

Other kinds of electronic money transfers can be as quick and offer more security.

 

In this article

 

How long does a domestic wire transfer take?

One of the reasons domestic wire transfers are so popular is the speed in which they process. If you are sending money from your bank to an account at the same institution, it is normally completed within 24 hours, sometimes, even instantly. A worst-case scenario would be around three days if sending to retailers or businesses.

Sometimes, wire transfers can take longer. This can be down to human error (for example, a mistake when filling in the form), public holidays or location. However, when you consider large checks or deposits can take as long as 10 days, it’s clear why domestic wire transfers are so widely used.

 

How long does an international wire transfer take?

The wire transfer time for an international payment is usually longer than domestic. The funds could take between one and five days to reach the recipient, sometimes longer. If you’re unsure, talk to your bank and ask how long they expect it to take.

Even once it reaches the recipient’s bank, there may still be processing to take place. Factor in a potential change in currency and that can delay things further.

Human error in the transaction, public holidays and location specific factors can also cause delays. Sometimes, an international wire transfer can take up to three weeks.

 

Does a wire transfer send on weekends?

Although you can initiate a wire transfer during the weekend, it won’t be processed until the bank’s next business day.

In the US this is Monday, but if you’re sending internationally, this can lead to longer delays, because the weekend falls at different times in different countries. For example, in Egypt it falls on Fridays and Saturdays, and in Somalia it’s Thursday and Friday.

If possible, try to request your transfer at the start of the working week so it has time to arrive and be processed before the weekend potentially holds it up.

Does a wire transfer happen immediately?

Wire transfers are so-called because they used to take place through telegraph wires. These days, they happen electronically. This speeds the process up considerably, but times still vary. Some banks can make wired funds available to recipients immediately, especially when the transfer is between accounts at the same institution.

The Expedited Funds Availability Act (EFAA) requires US banks to make wired funds available within one business day. However, banks can set their own cut-off times for receiving transfers, which can differ from closing times.

Are wire transfer funds available immediately? 

Again, times can vary, but normally this is the case. When wiring funds, you don’t transfer actual cash from one institution to another. Banks can complete the electronic process as long as they have the correct specific information regarding the recipient and how much money they can expect to receive.

If the process goes smoothly, using FedWire for immediate transfer, expect the funds to be ready quickly, if not immediately. This is because, unlike some other forms of financial transfer, there are no bank holds on the money.

A domestic wire transfer must go through a domestic Automated Clearing House (ACH) before it’s ready. International wire transfers must clear a domestic ACH and a foreign equivalent, which is another reason to expect it to take longer if sending abroad.

 

What can delay a wire transfer?

Time of transfer

Bank cut-off times vary depending on the institution. If you miss the cut-off by even a few minutes, your transfer will be recorded as starting the following day. US banks aren’t open at the weekend, and international transfers can be slowed down as the weekend falls differently in some countries. Bank holidays will also delay proceedings.

Payment errors

Although the wire transfer process is electronic, errors can still happen. For example, you may have put in the wrong details for the recipient. One wrong number or incorrect spelling could cause a delay, or even cancellation. Or, you may not have enough money in your account for the funds to clear.

Payment method

There are two main transfer methods for wire transfers. The FedWire system is used for real-time gross settlements (RTGS) and this is usually immediate. International transfers usually go through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network. When these transfers can’t be processed directly, SWIFT makes the money pass through intermediary banks. A delay at any of these can make the process take longer.

Bank timeframes and methods

Every bank has its own timeframes and methods of working, and you should try and find out your bank’s cut-off times. For example, Bank of America’s cut-off for next-business-day transfers is 8pm EST. At Chase Bank, the cut-off is 4pm EST for Personal Banking customers. Some banks may have fraud prevention processes that could slow things down.

Wire transfer destination

Similarly, the destination of the transfer can delay the process further and cause extra complications. Differing time zones, whether within the US or abroad, can be a factor. Also, converting the currency to that used by the destination, or that country’s methodology, can impact. Some countries, including Afghanistan and Cuba are slower to pay than others.

 

How do you track a wire transfer?

Now you know the timescales for wire money transfers, you’ll be more aware if there is a delay or if it has gone missing. Fortunately, there are tracking systems in place to monitor your transfer.

Each wire transfer to or from a US bank account passes through the Federal Reserve Bank, where it is assigned its own input/output message accountability data (IMAD/OMAD ID). This ID number includes a combination of transaction date, identifier for the source bank (IMAD) or destination bank (OMAD) and a sequence number.

If a domestic transfer takes more than 24 hours, or an international transfer has been more than five days, you can ask your bank to trace the wire using the IMAD/OMAD ID. It’s unlikely your wire transfer has gone to the wrong account, but if so, this number will find it.

 

Alternatives to wire transfer

When you make a wire money transfer, it can be difficult to get the money back and it’s very difficult to identify or track who picked up the money. Scammers sometimes tell potential victims that wire transfers are the only way to send money for this reason. So, it’s best to avoid wiring money to someone you don’t know.

There are alternative methods of sending money. Money transfers are similar to wire money transfers, but can be sent via providers other than banks. Western Union offers this service.

Like wire transfers, money transfers don’t transport physical money, just financial information. Unlike wire transfers, they don’t use the SWIFT system, and can be sent online, often on any day, at any time.

 

FAQs and guides

  • What is a wire transfer?
  • How to make a wire transfer
  • What’s the difference between a wire transfer and a bank transfer?
  • How to send money internationally

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