Transferring money from one account to another is one of the most common banking movements, although we do not always know all the processes involved in it. In this article we will analyze how long international transfers take, in which the country of origin and destination are not the same, and what the delay depends on.
Why are international transfers not immediate?
In the era of immediacy, international transfers can take from minutes to 5 days to reach the destination account: international controls, the regulations of each institution in each country, the cut-off time or currency exchange are some of the reasons that may cause a delay in the availability of the money sent from one account to another. In short, how long international transfers will take will depend on these factors.
But how long can it take to receive the money in an international transfer? As we have already explained, it depends on different factors:
- Within the SEPA zone, which comprises the Euro zone plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican City, the money takes 1 working day to arrive (not including weekends or holidays).
- If the transfer involves currency exchange, within the aforementioned SEPA zone, the delay can reach 4 business days.
- Outside the European Union and with currency exchange, transfers can take between 2 and 5 business days.
What does the delay of an international transfer depend on?
As we have already explained, there are different factors that explain how long international transfers take, among which are the economic legislation and the rules of each institution and country. In addition, the factors that have more weight in the delay of the arrival of the money are:
- If the movement is made on a working day or a holiday: all indicative deadlines refer to working days; on weekends and holidays there are no money movements, so if we make a transfer on those days we have to expect that the process will not start until the next working day.
- The cut-off time is the time at which the bank stops handling money transfers. There is no common regulation in this regard, so each entity establishes its own according to its own criteria. If you don’t know your bank’s policy, the best thing to do is to find out before making the transfer or to count directly on the fact that the money will take an extra day to arrive, just in case.
- If a currency exchange is involved in the transfer, i.e. if you send euros but the recipient receives dollars, for example, it will take a little longer for the money to be available in the destination account.
Why does it take longer outside the SEPA area?
The countries that make up the SEPA zone have signed an agreement that implies that the maximum time to process a transfer is 1 working day (always taking into account the timetables and the rest of the variables that may affect it). When a transfer is made outside this zone, there is no entity that monitors the processing times and forces the entities to reduce their terms, so there is no guarantee that the bank will not be delayed.
On the other hand, if the economy of the destination country is not strong and stable or if the originating bank does not have an account at the destination bank and has to use an intermediary to transfer the money, the process can take even longer.
How much do international transfers cost?
If it is an international transfer within the SEPA zone, the law states that the cost cannot be higher than that of a normal domestic transfer, so in most cases it will be a very low-cost or free transaction.
On the other hand, transfers involving countries outside the European Union and currency exchange, may apply high fees for items such as:
- Management of the transfer.
- Currency exchange.
- Possible services of an intermediary entity
In total, commissions of up to 35€ per international transfer can be applied in the case of banks, which, depending on the amount to be transferred, can be quite a high amount.
However, if you want to send money abroad at a lower cost, remittance agencies are the cheapest option compared to banks.
What are the alternatives for receiving money from abroad?
Although wire transfers are a simple and secure method, the timeframes and associated costs have led many people to opt for alternative methods of sending and receiving money:
- Bank checks
- Money orders
- Money transfer agencies.
How long do international transfers take through these channels? It is difficult to define exact times for each one, however, remittance companies or money transfer companies usually offer a better exchange rate, lower commissions and faster deliveries.
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