How long do international bank transfers take?

Tilly Michell3 minutes
How long do international bank transfers take?
In this article

The modern world moves fast, and we expect financial services to keep up. When we send money to businesses or friends in the same country, we are used to the transaction being almost instantaneous, as well as easy and free. For this reason, it can be a shock when overseas payments take a long time to settle and come with additional transfer fees.

It can take up to a working week to send a simple payment to a bank account in a different country using traditional transfer systems such as SWIFT. That’s why it’s worth researching new-generation financial solutions like Airwallex, which allows you to transfer money internationally as quickly and easily as if you were a local.

What is the quickest way of sending money internationally?

Most international bank transfers are completed in one to five days. The exact time frame depends on multiple factors:

  • Your bank or financial institution: Different banks and financial institutions have varying processing times. Using a platform like Airwallex can help speed up global transfers.

  • Countries involved: Bank transfers between countries with well-established banking relationships and efficient systems may be quicker than transfers to countries with less-developed financial infrastructure.

  • Currency: Some currencies have stricter regulations or add additional steps to the transfer process, which can cause delays.

  • Regulatory requirements: Compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations can add processing time.

  • Time zones: Transferring between banks in different time zones can add delays.

  • Dates and timing: Weekends and public holidays in either the sending or receiving country can cause delays in processing international transfers, as can carrying out the transaction at the end of the business day.

Is there a delay with my international money transfer?

If you’re asking yourself why your international payment is taking so long, it’s worth going through the checklist above to see if one of these factors is adding a delay. If it’s been a week without the transfer being received, it may be helpful to check whether you made any errors when entering the recipient’s banking details.

It can be particularly important for businesses to complete international payments quickly, and to know upfront that the fees won’t surpass what is expected. If suppliers are paid late, it could add delays to the supply chain and end up with goods and services not being delivered on time.

As an added stress, transfer fees are often variable and may be deducted from the final settlement. This means your business may accidentally under-pay suppliers if these fees are not correctly calculated up-front.

How do international money transfers work?

The most common form of transaction across borders is a wire transfer using a secure messaging system called The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). This involves a fee. Sometimes the transaction takes place directly from the senders’ bank or financial institution to the recipient’s. At other times, it goes through intermediary banks, which can slow things down.

Airwallex allows businesses to bypass the SWIFT network and send transfers around the world via local payment rails; these transfers arrive in as little as one business day. 

What details do you need to send money overseas?

The bank details you will need for an international money transfer may vary depending on your method. If you are sending money via a wire transfer, you will need:

  • Recipient’s full name.

  • Recipient’s bank account details, including: bank name, bank address, branch or office location if applicable, and account number.

  • The BIC/SWIFT code of the recipient’s bank.

  • If the recipient is in Europe, you may need the recipient’s IBAN (International Bank Account Number), which is used to identify the bank account.

In addition to this, you’ll need to enter your own bank account details and the amount you want to send.

What fees are involved in an international money transfer?

The fees involved in an international money transfer can vary depending on the financial institution or service provider you’re using, the method of transfer, the amount being sent, and other factors. Here are some common expenses you’ll have to pay when sending money abroad:

  • Transfer fees: These may be charged by the bank for processing the transfer.

  • Exchange rate margins: These can often be hidden, so check that you are getting a good deal with the financial institution you are using. Banks and money transfer services usually add a margin to the mid-market exchange rate, and this can vary. 

  • Intermediary bank fees: If an international wire transfer passes through intermediary banks before reaching the recipient’s account, each of these banks can charge a fee for processing the transfer. These fees are typically deducted from the transferred amount, so the recipient receives a reduced amount.

  • Recipient bank fees: The recipient's bank may charge a fee for receiving and processing incoming international transfers. These fees can vary by bank and country. 

  • Sending fees: Sometimes your bank may charge you a fee for initiating an international money transfer.

  • Currency conversion fees: If you're sending money in a currency different from your account's base currency, your bank or transfer service may charge a currency conversion fee. This is separate from the exchange rate margin.

To find out the most cost-efficient way of sending money abroad, compare different financial companies to find which one works the best for you. Be aware of exchange rate margins and other hidden costs, and consider using specialised companies that may offer better rates than traditional banks. 

Traditional financial institutions can be slow to complete international money transfers. They can charge over-the-odds foreign-exchange (FX) rates and additional fees. Modern fintechs that specialise in international transfers are set up to transfer money overseas quickly and at better rates than traditional banks. 

Fast, low-cost international transfers with Airwallex

Airwallex is a global payments and financial platform with its own proprietary local payments network. It offers a faster, more cost-effective, and transparent alternative to legacy banking.

Airwallex lets you operate like a local business from anywhere in the world. Open currency accounts with local details in minutes. Receive payments in local currencies and settle into your multi-currency account, avoiding costly currency conversions, and make high-speed transfers around the world in a few clicks. If you do need to convert currencies, you’ll be able to do so at interbank rates. 

 Here are some of the advantages of sending money abroad with Airwallex:

  • Airwallex global transfers are fast. 77% of payments settle on the same-day.

  • Transfer to 150+ countries, in 46+ currencies.

  • In 90 countries Airwallex uses local payment rails rather than the SWIFT network, making payments faster and more cost-efficient.

  • Airwallex FX rates are market-leading, with no hidden fees.

For businesses that have suppliers and customers in multiple countries, Airwallex provides an innovative way of eliminating expensive fees and transfer delays. There are many other reasons why it’s worth switching to Airwallex. Sign up online to find out more or get in touch with us today. 

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Tilly Michell
Content Marketing Manager

Tilly manages the content strategy for Airwallex. She specialises in content that supports businesses in their growth trajectory.

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