Recent Updates

How Long Does an International Bank Transfer Take?

May 28, 2024June 13th, 2024No Comments

When sending money across borders, one of the most common questions is, “How long does an international bank transfer take?” While most international payments typically take 1-3 days, the timeline can vary significantly. For example, 41% of cross-border payments made via SWIFT gpi are credited to the beneficiary within five minutes so the answer isn’t always straightforward, as it depends on several factors, including the destination of the funds and the payment route used. Understanding these elements can help set realistic expectations for how long it will take for your money to arrive at its destination.

What is a Payment Route?

A payment route refers to the path that your money takes from the sending bank to the receiving bank. This route can involve several intermediary banks, especially if the transaction is going to a country where the sending bank doesn’t have direct partnerships. The efficiency and speed of a transfer heavily depend on the chosen payment route. Let’s take a look at some different payment routes and how and why some take longer than others. As the majority of payments sent via Rutland FX are on the SWIFT network, let’s examine the general payment timelines for SWIFT payments and what the variables are.

SWIFT Transfers: General Payment Time Frames and Influencing Factors

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network is one of the most widely used systems for international bank transfers. SWIFT transfers can vary significantly in time, generally taking between a few minutes to 1-3 business days to complete. Recent data provides a more detailed look into these timelines:

  • On average, 41% of cross-border payments made via SWIFT gpi are credited to the beneficiary within five minutes.
  • Nearly 100% of SWIFT gpi payments are completed within 24 hours.
  • The average payment processing time on SWIFT gpi is eight hours and 36 minutes, while the median is only one hour and 38 minutes.

However, the speed of SWIFT transfers can vary significantly across different payment routes. The fastest routes have a median processing time of less than five minutes, while the slowest can take more than two days.

Factors Influencing SWIFT Payment Timelines

Number of Intermediary Banks: On average, cross-border payments on SWIFT involve just over one intermediary between the originator and beneficiary banks. Each additional intermediary can slightly prolong the payment time.

Destination Country: Payments to countries with advanced banking infrastructures, such as Northern America and parts of Europe, tend to be processed faster, often within minutes or seconds. Conversely, payments to regions like Northern Africa and Southern and Central Asia have longer median processing times, sometimes exceeding 22 hours. This is due to factors such as capital controls, compliance processes, and limited operating hours of beneficiary banks.

Bank Processing Times: Each bank has specific cut-off times and processing schedules, which can affect the overall transfer time. Delays are more likely to occur if a transfer is initiated close to these cut-off times.

Local Clearing Systems: Delays can also be influenced by the local clearing systems in the recipient country, especially if these systems have limited operating hours or rely on batch processing.


Alternative Payment Routes to SWIFT and How They Compare

While SWIFT is a widely used and efficient method for international transfers, there are several alternative payment routes that can offer different advantages depending on the specific needs of the sender and recipient. Some of the most notable alternatives include SEPA, Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), and Immediate Payment Service (IMPS).

SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area)

SEPA is designed for euro-denominated transfers within Europe. It aims to make cross-border payments as easy and efficient as domestic transfers. SEPA Credit Transfers typically take one business day to complete, providing a quick and reliable option for transfers within the eurozone. SEPA Instant Credit Transfers offer an even faster solution, processing payments in seconds and operating 24/7, including weekends and public holidays. This makes SEPA an excellent choice for urgent transfers within Europe. However, SEPA is limited to euro transactions, so it is not suitable for international transfers outside the eurozone or involving other currencies.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

EFT is a broad term that encompasses various electronic payment systems used for transferring funds between banks. In the United States, the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network is a common example of an EFT system. EFT transfers are typically used for domestic payments and can take several business days to complete. The time frame depends on the banks’ processing times and cut-off schedules. EFT is generally slower than SWIFT for international transactions and is better suited for regular, non-urgent domestic payments.

Immediate Payment Service (IMPS)

IMPS is a real-time payment service used in India for instant interbank transfers. It operates 24/7, including weekends and holidays, making it highly efficient for urgent transfers within India. IMPS transfers are usually completed within seconds, providing immediate confirmation to both sender and recipient. While IMPS is excellent for domestic transfers in India, it is not applicable for international transactions, limiting its use to within the country.

Comparing Alternatives to SWIFT

Each payment route offers distinct advantages depending on the context of the transaction. SWIFT is versatile and widely accepted for international transfers, with the ability to handle multiple currencies and cross-border transactions involving various intermediary banks. Its speed has improved significantly with the introduction of SWIFT gpi, making it a reliable choice for many users.

SEPA stands out for euro transactions within Europe, providing quick and often instant transfers with minimal fees. It is an excellent option for businesses and individuals frequently dealing with euro-denominated payments. However, its limitation to the eurozone restricts its broader international use.

EFT systems, such as ACH in the United States, are well-suited for domestic transfers but generally slower for international payments. They offer a cost-effective solution for regular payments that do not require immediate processing.

IMPS provides a robust solution for instant domestic transfers within India, offering unparalleled speed and convenience. Its use is restricted to India, making it inapplicable for international transactions.

In summary, while SWIFT remains a dominant and versatile choice for international transfers, alternative routes like SEPA, EFT, and IMPS offer valuable options depending on the geographical and currency requirements of the transaction. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each payment route can help users select the most appropriate method for their needs, ensuring efficient and timely transfers.

Paying International Suppliers?

If you are making international payments Rutland FX can help you by reducing the cost of cross border payments, you can call us on 0203 026 0112 or request a callback to discuss your requirements.