When sending money internationally, the two key details that most people want to be answered are how much is the transfer going to cost, and how long will it take? Whether you’re sending money for business reasons, to family or friends abroad, or to keep up payments to your home country when living abroad, a reliable wire transfer is essential for many.
Although you can rarely get a definitive answer for how long your wire transfer will take, you can get a good indication when looking at the particular circumstances of your transfer. Here, we’ll be addressing everything you need to know about international bank transfer times.
Wire transfers are a fast and convenient way to send money electronically and are easy to initiate with most banks. Wire transfers between domestic bank accounts can take minutes and are almost always completed within 24 hours. International wire transfers, however, can take anywhere between 1 – 5 working days. Take a look at our guide for the fastest ways to send money.
While a wire transfer was traditionally done via a bank (using bank transfer, credit card wire transfer, or debit card ), these days there are a number of options to wire money with transfer services such as Western Union, World Remit, and TransferWise (read our review of the top 10 money transfer providers) and virtual bank accounts such as Revolut and Venmo. Non-bank transfer services will often offer more competitive exchange rates and fees than traditional banks. How long it takes to transfer money will also depend on a number of choices.
Money transfer providers are popular for their ability to process international transfers faster and for more competitive fees than traditional banks.
Provided the country you are sending to is supported, a provider can offer the option to transfer money via bank transfer, credit/debit card, cash pickup, and more. As an extra bonus, transfers are usually completed within minutes compared to several working days for traditional banks!
Most international bank transfers will be done on the SWIFT network, which stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
The SWIFT network is a secure messaging system that banks use to safely send information to each other such as instructions for international transfers. This network ensures that your payment reaches your target destination securely, but the delay in transfer times comes from the intermediary banks your transfer instructions go through along the way. This process is often compared to taking a series of connecting flights to reach an end destination – you’ll get there eventually, but it may take a little more time if you’re going via a less travelled route. You can learn more about safe bank transfers in our guide: are bank transfers safe?
The SWIFT network simply sends the instructions to deduct the sum you are sending from your bank account and add it to your recipient’s bank account. Once those instructions have been received, the transfer can take place.
Domestic wire transfer is an easy way to send money and fast to receive, rarely taking more than 24 hours and more often taking closer to minutes.
International wire transfers, however, can take anywhere from 1 to 5 working days. Remittance transfer times are largely dependent on the foreign currency your funds are being converted to, time zone differences in each country, and the sum you are sending (larger sums tend to take more time as they are subjected to more checks).
The time of day you start to initiate your transfer can affect the overall time your transfer takes. This is because most banks will have a cut-off time, after which time transfers won’t begin to be processed until the following day which could delay your transfer by an entire working day. Initiating your transfer early in the day is therefore highly recommended.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that weekends and bank holidays don’t count as ‘business’ days, so if you initiate a transfer on Friday, it’s unlikely that your recipient will receive their funds before the weekend.
Incorrect payment details can significantly delay your transfer time. An incorrectly entered digit or name can result in your payment being sent back to your account so you would essentially need to start it all over again, so for this reason, double-checking that you have got all the right details is highly recommended.
Barclays: Barclays Bank’s domestic wire transfer cut-off time is 17:30. For international transfer times, the cut-off for same day value currencies ranges from 09:15 (Barbados Dollar) to 17:50 (US Dollar). International currencies that give value the next working day have cut-off times throughout the day, up to 15:45 (Bulgarian Lev). Other currencies can take up to 7 working days to be processed.
HSBC: HSBC has varied cut off rates for international transfers depending on the currency you are sending. Transfers initiated before the relevant times in each region will be processed on the same working day, although your recipient may not receive the funds the same day – depending on where they are located. The full list of HSBC cut of times can be found here.
Lloyds: International transfers with Lloyds have a cut-off time of 16:00, but it’s worth noting that this can change depending on the currency you are transferring to. For example, wiring to Australian Dollars has a cut-off time of 15:45, while sending to Singapore Dollars has a cut-off of 12.45.
Santander: Santander has a useful tool to find the cut-off time for the currency pair you are transferring between. The cut-off time can range from 14:30 for Euro transfers, to 16:30 when sending GBP to USD.
Metro Bank: Metro bank’s cut-off time for international wire transfers ranges from 10:45 (when sending to Swedish Krona, for example), up to 17:00 when sending to US Dollars. Most payments are sent on the same working day or the next working day.
Natwest: The cut-off time for most currencies with NatWest is 16:00, although it is 10:30 for some currencies including South African Rand, Swiss Franc, and Danish Krone. Most transfers range from being processed on the same working day up to 3 working days if you send your transfer within the cut-off time.
Initiating your transfer beyond the cut-off time for your bank can make the difference between your wire transfer taking one working day or significantly longer, especially if you start the transfer at the weekend or during a Bank holiday.
To make an international wire transfer run as seamlessly as possible, you should have the following details to hand before you initiate the transfer:
If you’re sending a large sum of money, you may also need to speak with your bank to verify your transfer and potentially provide a reason for the transaction.
While wire bank transfers are a convenient and secure way to send your money abroad, they are not necessarily the fastest.
Often, a specialist money transfer provider will be able to process your transfer much faster, with the funds arriving in your recipient’s account within minutes or just a few working days, as opposed to up to 5 – 7 working days with your bank. Take a look at our guide which covers the fastest ways to send money abroad for more on this.
Elliott is a former investment banker with a 20 year career in the city of London.
During this time he held senior roles at ABN Amro, Societe Generale, Marex Financial and Natixis bank, specialising in commodity derivatives and options market-making.
During this time, Elliott’s client list included Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Schroders Asset Management, and the Pennsylvania State Public School Employees Retirement System, amongst others.
Yasmin Purnell is a Content Writer and Editor for MoneyTransfers.com. Having over 5 years’ experience writing across a range of industries including finance, insurance, and travel, Yasmin joined the team with a mission to make international money transfers and everything they encompass accessible to all.