How long do international money transfers take?

United States By Christy Lowry Jun 10, 2021

Sending money abroad can bring up several important questions and concerns. Whether you need to send money to family and friends or for business reasons, the last thing you want to spend your time doing is wondering how long it will take for the funds to arrive. So, how long does an international money transfer take? While there is no simple answer to this question, we can give you a good idea of what to expect. Find out everything you need to know about international money transfer times here.

How do international money transfers work?

International money transfers typically use the SWIFT network, which stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. This network allows banks and other financial institutions to communicate securely with each other in a fast and accurate manner. The SWIFT network is used to transmit wire transfer information between thousands of banks worldwide.

Money transfer instructions are sent from the sender’s bank to the recipient’s bank and may be transmitted to intermediary banks before arriving at the final bank. Depending on the bank or financial institution, you may be able to make an international money transfer online, over the phone, or on a money transfer app. Some banking institutions require you to make the transfer in person in one of their branches.

To make an international money transfer, you’ll need to supply information that may vary depending on what entity you’re using. Typically, you’ll need to know:

  • Name and address of recipient’s bank
  • Recipient’s IBAN (International Bank Account Number)
  • BIC/SWIFT code of recipient’s bank
  • Reason for the transfer
  • Transfer amount and currency
  • Who will pay the fees: You, the recipient, or a split between you and the recipient

There are a few different fees associated with international money transfers, including:

  • Outgoing transfer fee
  • Intermediary bank fees
  • Incoming transfer fee
  • Mark up on exchange rate fee

How long do international bank transfers take?

Depending on the bank, international bank transfers can take longer than you might expect. Once you’ve submitted your transfer request, the bank will follow its usual procedures. Each bank has its own cut-off time, which means if a request is not submitted before the cut-off, it won’t be processed until the next business day. From there, most international bank transfer times are quoted as 1-5 business days. However, some factors may affect this timeframe.

Factors that can affect international bank transfer times

Understanding what might cause delays in international money transfer times can help you have an idea of when your recipient can expect to receive money.

Payment detail errors

One factor that can affect international bank transfer times is incorrect payment details. If any information is found to be incorrect, your payment can be sent back. To avoid this error, be sure to double-check that all your recipient information is correct.

Payment method

Although many international money transfers are paid for with the same bank account number as the transfer funds, banks and service providers offer other options for payment like a debit card. The method of payment can impact how long an international money transfer takes.

Bank initiating the transfer

The reality is that some banks process transfers faster than others. To make an informed choice, ask for an estimate, so you know how long your transfer will take. If the timeframe isn’t ideal, you may be able to find another provider that is both faster and possibly less expensive than your bank.

Intermediary banks

How long it takes for your money to reach your recipient’s bank also depends on how many intermediary banks it must go through to reach its final destination. Your bank may be able to communicate directly with your recipient’s bank, or it may need up to three intermediary banks to move the money along to the final bank. This less direct route takes time.

Country of destination

Depending on what country your money is headed to may affect the time it takes for the banks to communicate. The speed of bank processing varies from country to country whether it be because of slower infrastructures, more stringent regulations, or fraud prevention processes.

Fraud prevention processes

To uphold the security of international money transfers, various fraud prevention procedures are used by banks. These processes can delay the transfer as it may pass through up to three banks in the SWIFT network before landing at your recipient’s bank. Any additional fraud prevention practices by the final bank may add additional time to the transfer.

Weekends and holidays

Another factor that may slow down the international money transfer time is if it is a weekend or holiday and the bank is closed. To avoid any delays, try to request your transfer at the beginning of a workweek to allow for processing time before the weekend.

Currency conversions

Converting currency is an additional step in the transfer process that may add processing time. There are not many options to work around this other than asking your bank if they could send your transfer in the currency of your recipient or finding a money transfer service that may be able to convert currencies faster.

Country time zones

Although it may be open during business hours in your neighborhood, your recipient’s bank may be closed for the night. To encourage a faster international bank transfer time, try to send your money transfer during business hours in the country of its destination.

What are same-day international money transfers?

Same-day international money transfers allow you to send money overseas that will arrive within 24 hours to your recipient. These expedited transfers typically incur additional charges or fees but do speed up the process. There are three main methods you can use for same-day international fund transfers, and which options are available depends on your bank network and the receiving country.

Bank transfers

It is possible to transfer money between certain countries within 24 hours using most major banks while other countries may take up to five days to arrive. Check with your bank to confirm what processing times are available for your transfer and what fees are involved.

Digital money transfer services

Online services exist for same-day money transfers that are cost-effective and can be done by setting up the transaction on the service provider’s website. This type of transfer will require a bank account, debit card, or credit card for funding.

Cash transfers

Various money transfer services can easily send money to various locations around the world within minutes. Simply visit a nearby agent location to initiate the transfer, and your recipient will be able to receive the funds at a branch near them shortly.

How long do Western Union international transfers take?

Western Union offers multiple ways to send money internationally, and the international money transfer time depends on the country where your recipient lives and your transfer method.

To get money to your recipient within minutes, simply send funds online, with the app, or in-person at an agent location, and pay with your credit or debit card. Recipients can quickly pick up cash at Western Union locations worldwide.

When you transfer money using a bank account, funds can arrive in as little as one banking day depending on where you are sending the money to. Find out what details you need for a bank account transfer and how long it will take to reach each country with our bank account details resource.

Send money around the world with Western Union

Need a fast and reliable way to send money internationally? Western Union lets you send money quickly in a way that’s convenient for you. Transfer funds on the go with our mobile app, online, by phone, or stop in at one of over 525,000 agent locations* worldwide. Whether you need to support friends and family nearby or around the globe, Western Union is there for you.

*Network data as of March 2021.


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