How long does an international bank transfer take?

How long does an international bank transfer take?

Money matters are an essential part of many people’s and companies’ daily routines. And sometimes, they need to deal with international transfers. 

There are different types of transfers, with their rules and functionalities that sometimes are hard to follow. But knowing how long it will take for a person to receive the money you have sent is important. You don’t want to keep them waiting an extra time, or be late with a recurring payment. That is why today Genome‘s team is covering all the basics about the time frames of different international money transfers, and what you should know about them.

How does an international wire transfer work?

Wire transfers (aka money transfers) are a way of sending money electronically between two financial institutions, bank accounts, etc. International bank transfers occur when you send money to a person/company that is situated in another country. 

In most cases, international wire transfers are made using the SWIFT messaging network, as banks exchange information and not money when you make a transfer to someone else. 

SWIFT transfers

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which was created in 1973. SWIFT network is now used by over 200 countries around the world to exchange the data necessary for international transfers. 

Most banks, PSPs, and fintechs offer clients this type of money transfer. We will elaborate more on SWIFT transfer time and how they work later on in the article. 

SEPA transfers

You can also transfer money internationally using the SEPA system. Single Euro Payments Area is a European Union initiative established in 2008 to make cross-border EUR payments within the eurozone faster, cheaper, and more convenient. 

These transactions can be only made within a SEPA zone, which, as of 2021, consists of all the current 27 EU member states, as well as the next 9 countries: the UK, Andorra, Norway, San Marino, Iceland, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Vatican City State. Find out more about transfers between the aforementioned countries and the intricacies of sending money to a non-SEPA state in our article: “SEPA countries list 2021”. 

Wire companies’ international transfers

Some people don’t have bank accounts or need to send funds to someone who does not use the services of financial institutions. In that case, the wire transfer companies will come in handy. 

These businesses provide transfer services in a plethora of ways. For instance, you can come to the wire company’s branch in Tallinn and settle a cash transfer to your friend in Munich. Just ensure that the wire company also has a branch there – this way the friend can visit them and receive the cash you have sent. In most cases, they will need to provide their ID card to pick up the money. 

Some wire companies allow you to send money via their website, or even order an international money transfer on the phone. 

Services of wire agencies and what wire transfers are all about are described in greater detail in Genome’s article: “What is a wire transfer and how does it work?”.  

How long do international payments take?

In the previous part of this blog post, we have determined that there are different ways of sending money to other countries.

First of all, let’s quickly go over the wire transfer agencies. These operate on their own terms and the time it takes them to pass your money to the other person differs. So, if you will ever decide to approach wire companies for their services, the transfer time will likely be stated on their website.

Now, let’s discuss the SWIFT transfer time. Generally, such payments take 1 to 5 business days to be completed. If you want your funds to reach another person as soon as possible, we advise you to consider the following:

  • The time of the day you make an international bank transfer. Your financial institution likely has a transfer cut off time – if you set up a transaction before the said time, it will be processed faster;
  • The day you make the payment. Plan your transfers – make sure you don’t instruct them the day before a weekend/holidays, otherwise, they will take longer to reach the receiver;

SEPA transfer time is generally shorter than when the SWIFT messaging network is used. It requires 1 to 3 working days to complete a SEPA payment, but the time also depends on many factors like time zones and weekends. Though faster, SEPA transfers have their limitations, as they are available only between 36 SEPA zone countries.

Learn more about the time SEPA and SWIFT international money transfers take in their respective sections presented below.    

How long does an international wire take with Genome?

Genome offers internal, SEPA, and SWIFT transfers. The time it takes to complete each of these varies. 

Internal money transfers

Internal money transfers are the payments between personal and/or business clients that use Genome. To send money to another Genome user, you only need to enter their account ID/email/phone/IBAN and an amount you would like them to get. 

The best part is that these transfers are instant and free! And easy to make, of course – see for yourself after opening a personal or a business account within Genome!

SEPA money transfers

Use SEPA international transfers for seamless and secure cross-border payments within the eurozone – available for 36 countries. Set these transfers from Genome’s dashboard – via your app or the website. 

The time to complete a SEPA transfer differs between 1 to 5 business days, and depends on the time zone you and the receiver are in, if the payment is made the day before the weekend/holidays, the time of day it is instructed, etc. You will need to enter the beneficiary’s name, IBAN, and BIC.

SWIFT money transfers

Send funds around the world using SWIFT – the most common way of wiring money internationally. To do so, you will also need some basic information about the receiver: their full name, BIC, and an IBAN/account number.

It takes 1 to 5 business days for the SWIFT payment to arrive*, which also depends on the distance between payment destination points, holidays and weekends, etc.

*Please note, that right now the SWIFT transfers are temporarily unavailable within Genome. We will notify you as soon as you can use them again. 


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What factors influence an international bank transfer time?

We’ve briefly explained the factors defining the timeframes for SWIFT transactions above. Now, let’s dig deeper into the issue and see why, sometimes, your international financial operations take longer than it’s expected. 

  • cut-off times

All banks and financial institutions have their specific cut-off times. Basically, this is the time of the day, by which transfers should be processed. Usually, if you instruct a payment at the end of the business day, it will be handled only the next working day. 

One more interesting thing about cut-off times has to do with processing transactions. All the transfers ordered by a certain time are cleared in the so-called batches. It means that your payments won’t be handled separately but only along with all the other transfers. Remember about cut-off times, especially when making urgent transactions. 

  • time zones

Time zones are one more important component of the prompt delivery of international transfers. For instance, the UK and Australia, just like the US and Europe, have a quite significant time difference. Even if your payment was processed early in the morning in France, the Australian receiver will only get their money the next day when banks are open in Sydney. 

  • bank holidays and weekends

The same goes for bank holidays in different countries. Financial institutions and banks do not operate on days off, which makes international bank transfers even longer. Even if in your country it’s a regular business day, the country where you’re sending money to can have a bank holiday. As a result, all payments will be delayed. 

  • fraud prevention and anti-money laundering

One of the reasons why cross-border transactions take so long, is, actually, an additional safety. A sending bank is double-checking the provided details to make sure the funds are wired correctly. The receiving financial institution does the same before the money is settled in the payee’s bank account. Transfers are intentionally delayed to avoid any mistakes and make sure that funds end up in the necessary account. 

When it comes to the maximum amounts for international money transfers, each bank and network have their limitations. If the sum is very large, you may need to submit additional documents explaining the reason for the transaction. It also takes at least a few hours, so it’s better to be aware of the payment limits in advance. 

  • banking infrastructure

The more developed country – the more profound its banking infrastructure is. In other words, financial institutions of less developed countries are often not well-connected. In such cases, intermediary banks step in to help wire the transfer wherever is needed. The more parties are involved in the process – the longer it will take to process your transaction and receive funds.

  • currency

If you’re making an international transfer in some not-so-common currency, be prepared to wait longer for the transfer to be completed. Such currencies as EUR, GBP, and USD are used daily in most countries of the world. On the contrary, if you’re sending or receiving, for example, AED (currency of the UAE), the payment can be delayed because additional time is needed to process such a transaction. 

Usually, international payments that are instructed correctly and processed within the same banking network, are completed within given timeframes. Do not forget to double-check both sender and receiver details to avoid any delays. If something is wrong with any bank code or sender’s/receiver’s name, transactions can get stuck somewhere in the middle of the network. 

Now, let’s look at the most popular and widely used transfer systems and find out what are their timeframes for receiving international transactions. 

How long do SWIFT transfers take?

SWIFT payments take from 1 to 5 business days. The SWIFT system supports numerous currency types, as well as cross-currency transfers. 

However, if you order a transaction on Monday, it will not necessarily arrive at the receiver’s account by the end of the working day on Friday. The SWIFT network is the largest one in the world, with many intermediary banks. Be patient and wait for 5 full business days for your payment to settle in. 

How long does SEPA transfer take?

SEPA cross-border transactions are a little bit faster and need only 1-3 business days to be completed. They can only be ordered in EUR and are available only in the eurozone. This is everything you need to know about timeframes for SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit (SDD). 

Nevertheless, there’s one more scheme of SEPA payments that is significantly faster. We’re talking here about SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst) which takes up to 10 seconds. To check if your financial provider takes part in the SEPA Instant Scheme, go to this page with all the participants. 

How long does an IBAN transfer take?

Some international transfers are mistakenly called IBAN transfers, which is not correct. In most cases, when people say “IBAN transfers”, they actually mean SEPA payments. You see, an International Bank Account Number is the most distinct part of SEPA transfers, that is why the mix-up with “IBAN transfers” happens.

An IBAN allows identifying the money receiver, as it consists of the ISO code of the country, check digits (to ensure the IBAN is correct), bank and branch codes, and a person’s account number. The maximum length of an IBAN is 34 characters, and the length can vary between countries. 

Learn more about it in our article: “What’s an IBAN: everything you need to know about it”.

Getting back to the “IBAN transfer” time: it is the same as for SEPA payments because they are just two different names for the same transaction. The transfer will be completed within 1 to 3 business days but can take longer due to weekends or holidays. To make an international bank transfer via SEPA, you will need the recipient’s full name, IBAN, and sometimes a SWIFT code.   

How long does it take to receive an international transfer?

Receiving international money transfers is the other side of sending them. Consequently, the timeframes will be the same (1-5 business days in general). Of course, there are exceptions and unpredictable situations that influence the timing. 

Just like we discussed earlier in the article, the timeframes for receiving a cross-border payment depend on a bunch of factors. Among them: your financial provider and its network of intermediary banks, cut-off times, and even the banking infrastructure of the destination country. 


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How long does an international transfer take?

Normally, international payments are processed within a few business days. Within the SWIFT network, the transfers are completed during 1-5 working days, while for the SEPA system this time ranges from 1 to 3 business days. 

Why do international bank transfers take so long?

Even though banking infrastructure and technologies are improving every day, international transactions are still not instantaneous for a variety of reasons. First of all, cross-border payments are processed slowlier to avoid fraudulent actions. Intermediary banks, just like the sending and receiving ones, check the information to ensure safe payments. Secondly, the network that connects banks all over the world is huge, with all the processes taking time to wire your funds through. Thirdly, every day is a holiday somewhere in the world. Banks and financial providers do not work on days off, which may cause delays in cross-border transfers. 

Can international bank transfers take longer than 5 working days?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is yes. The banking system is a complicated network, especially when it comes to international payments. Even though the timeframes for cross-border transactions are generally true, you never know if any obstacle arises in the way of your transfer. For example, it can be a wrong bank account number or a power outage in one of the branches. Keep in mind that delays are always possible and order your transactions beforehand.

Are there faster international money transfers options?

If you’re wondering how long does it take for an international bank transfer to be completed and if there are any better solutions, you can look into using fintech services. Most of them offer free and instant internal transfers in different currencies. However, you should remember that such transactions are only possible for the users of the same fintech company. If one of the parties does not have an account with the same company, the transfer will go through the SWIFT system or any other regular network and will take a few business days.