Have you ever wondered, “How long do international bank transfers take?

Banks and money transfer services have different timelines, ranging from seconds to days. A bank transfer’s duration depends on its structure and internal processes for sorting payment requests.

This article explains how international bank transfers work, the factors affecting transfer speed, and the history of international money transfers. We will compare average transfer times for major providers and discuss common delays like time zones and fraud prevention.

How Do International Bank Transfers Work?

There are many types of international money transfer methods. International bank transfers began in the mid-20th century with SWIFT.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) established a revolutionary way for banks to communicate and transfer funds globally. It set the stage for our modern international banking system.

SWIFT has facilitated international wire transfers. It allows financial institutions to exchange standardized financial instructions securely across borders. This helps to make sending money internationally easier, more efficient, and safer for individuals and businesses.

The Role of SWIFT in International Wire Transfers

At its core, the SWIFT system is a secure messaging system that allows banks to exchange standardized financial instructions, enabling international wire transfers.

Every time you make an international wire transfer, your bank sends a SWIFT message to the recipient’s bank. This message contains all the necessary details, such as the transfer amount, currency, recipient information, or recipient’s banking details.

When you initiate an international wire transfer, your bank will debit the specified amount from your account, including any applicable outgoing fees, such as transfer or currency conversion fees. The sender’s bank then prepares a SWIFT message containing the transaction details and sends it to the recipient’s bank via the SWIFT network.

SWIFT code breakdown. Decode the components to understand potential factors affecting "How Long Do International Bank Transfers Take?"

If the sender’s bank does not have a direct relationship with the recipient’s bank, the transaction may involve one or more intermediary banks, which usually reflect varying processing times.

These intermediary banks help facilitate the transfer by bridging the gap between the sending and receiving financial institutions. However, the involvement of intermediary banks can lead to additional fees and potentially longer processing times.

The Role of IBAN in International Payments

The International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is a standardized system designed to identify bank accounts across different countries, primarily in Europe. It was developed to simplify international money transfers and minimize the risk of errors.

An IBAN comprises up to 34 alphanumeric characters, including a country code, check digits, and the account number. This unique identifier allows banks to quickly and accurately determine the destination account for an international wire transfer.

IBAN code breakdown. Knowing its components can shed light on potential delays impacting "How Long Do International Bank Transfers Take?"

As the global financial system evolves, the use of IBAN will become more widespread, extending beyond Europe. Adopting a standardized account identification system like IBAN can streamline international money transfers, making them faster, more secure, and cost-effective.

Providing the recipient’s IBAN can expedite the process of sending an international wire transfer. The IBAN enables banks to automatically process the transaction without manual intervention, reducing the likelihood of errors and delays.

In the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), which includes EU countries and several non-EU countries, IBAN is mandatory for euro-denominated wire transfers. SEPA aims to make cross-border payments as fast and efficient as domestic transfers, with funds typically arriving within one business day.

Factors Influencing the Speed of an International Wire Transfer

Alongside the internal factors that affect a bank’s international transfer speed, several external factors outside your provider’s control can alter the length of your transfers. Here are some of the key ones:

Time Zones

An international payment crossing many time zones can encounter significant processing times due to providers having specific operating and business hours in each zone. This can lead to transfers being put on hold until the next business day or until the recipient’s bank resumes operations.

For example, if you send money overseas and the recipient’s country is in a different time zone, the transfer service might pause processing until the recipient’s bank is open.

Fraud Protection/Prevention

While fast transfers are expected, safe international transfers are usually prioritized. Stringent security measures to protect against fraud and financial crimes tend to come at the cost of time.

Laptop screen displaying a shield protecting money. A visual metaphor for compliance checks that can impact "How Long Do International Bank Transfers Take?"

Extra layers of verification, particularly for larger or unusual transfers, often result in extended processing times. Anti-money laundering protocols and fraud prevention processes add additional steps to ensure the security of your funds, which can cause delays.

Currency Conversions

Sometimes referred to as FX conversions, international transfers often require currency conversions, adding extra processing time. This can also lead to delays, additional transfer fees, and sub-optimal exchange rates if you’re with a provider that is not specialized in international transfers.

At Bancoli, however, currency conversions are efficient and use interbank rates, ensuring a smooth transfer experience.

Bank Holidays

Many countries worldwide have bank holidays that pause regular working schedules, which can delay international bank transfers.

Even if your country is not on a bank holiday, the recipient’s country may be, which could mean your transfer or payment will not be processed until the next business day. This is especially important for same-day or next-day transfers where the weekend falls close to the transaction date.

How You Can Ensure the Fastest and Most Secure International Bank Transfers

Aside from a few external factors, your international transfer time almost always depends on your provider and their internal systems.

Clock with converging arrows. Visualizing the timeframes involved in "How Long Do International Bank Transfers Take?"

To ensure your international wire transfer is processed as quickly and securely as possible, here are some steps you can take:

Provide accurate recipient details

Double-check the recipient’s account number, name, and any other required information to avoid delays due to incorrect or missing details. If necessary, ensure that the correct SWIFT or IBAN code is included.

Submit your transfer during business days

Initiating your wire transfer on a business day can help avoid delays due to weekends or holidays in the sender’s or recipient’s country.

Be aware of cut-off times

Each financial institution has its cut-off times for processing wire transfers. Submitting your request before the cut-off time can ensure faster processing.

Choose the right currency

Transact using currencies that can reduce the transaction complexity. You can use one of the currency accounts in your Global Business Account to make currency transactions more convenient and minimize delays due to currency conversion.

Consider online banking

Initiating your wire transfer through online banking can be faster than visiting a branch in person. You can access your Global Business Account from anywhere in the world when you need it.

How to Access Efficient, Cost-Effective, and Secure International Bank Transfers

Bancoli’s Global Business Account is a multi-currency bank account for efficient and secure B2B international payments.

It allows businesses to hold, receive, and send payments in key global currencies, including USD, EUR, GBP, SGD, and HKD. The account supports outgoing payments in over 25 currencies, such as AUD, MXN, JPY, INR, CNY, and more. One key advantage is the instantaneous transfer of funds between Bancoli accounts.

World map with country flags. Understanding geographical distances can influence "How Long Do International Bank Transfers Take?"

The Global Business Account offers competitive transaction fees and access to real interbank exchange rates. It provides up to $1M in fund protection for businesses and robust security measures, including military-grade encryption, two-factor authentication (2-FA), identity verification, and advanced fraud detection systems.

In Conclusion

International bank transfers involve a complex network of financial institutions. Factors such as time zones, currency conversions, fraud prevention measures, and the efficiency of each bank’s internal processes can impact transfer speeds.

For more efficient transfers, it’s essential to provide accurate recipient details, submit transfers during business hours, and choose a financial services provider to fulfill your international B2B payment needs.

Bancoli banner with text “Access efficient international transfers”

Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens if Money is Transferred But Not Received?

You should immediately contact your bank if you do not receive an international bank transfer within the expected timeline. The bank will then assist in tracking the transfer and resolving any potential delays or issues.

Do Large Bank Transfers Take Longer?

This depends on your provider and how often you send large transfers. If your transfer is flagged unusually large for your account, it may undergo additional scrutiny and security checks, leading to longer processing times.

Can I Track My International Bank Transfers?

Most banks and financial institutions provide tracking options for international bank transfers, allowing you to monitor the status and progress of your transactions. This can help provide transparency and peace of mind throughout the transfer process.