How long do international transfers take?

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For more and more organisations, managing international transfers is an important part of doing business. And businesses able to make cross-border payments in the fastest, least-expensive way possible may find themselves gaining an important edge on the competition. 

However, knowing exactly how long an international transfer will take to process is far from straightforward. There are plenty of different factors and moving parts involved, making the whole process a complicated and sometimes unenviable one for businesses to navigate. 

Fortunately, there is a way to make international transfers easier to manage. By familiarising yourself with how international transfers work, you can develop a better idea as to how long each one will take. And you might end up saving yourself and your business time and money in the process.  


What is a SEPA payment, and how long does it take?

Let’s start with one of the most important and influential payment types in Europe. SEPA is an initiative that aims to enhance the European payment experience, by establishing a unified market exclusively for euro-denominated payments. SEPA applies to credit transfers, direct debits and card payments in participating European countries, eliminating the need for separate national payment systems.

Compared to traditional cross-border transactions, SEPA payments offer faster settlement times. Most SEPA transactions are processed within one business day (although they can take up to four in exceptional cases), facilitating efficient cash flow management and enabling timely optimisation of working capital. 


What is a SWIFT payment, and how long does it take?

Moving on, let’s talk about SWIFT payments. 

Unlike SEPA, which is limited to the euro, SWIFT operates across a massive range of different currencies across the globe.   

Settlement times for SWIFT payments can vary due to factors such as destination country, intermediary banks and compliance processes. Despite the name, SWIFT payments are slower than SEPA and generally take several business days to settle. This time may be longer if the request is made on a public holiday or over the weekend.


How long do foreign currency transfers take?

Transferring money with traditional banks 

So we know what SEPA and SWIFT payments are, and we know that the latter is almost always made from one currency to another and could take up to five days when processed with a traditional bank. 

At this point, you may be thinking that this long turnaround is made up for with lower transaction costs. If only life were that simple! In actual fact, money transfers made between different currencies by traditional banks come with a host of different fees, including issuing commission, exchange commission and increased rate commission, plus the fees charged by the issuing and receiving banks.

Don’t worry, though! There is an alternative to traditional banks. One that offers faster execution, greater visibility and competitive rates.


Transferring money with iBanFirst

Unlike traditional banks, iBanFirst offers a whole suite of different payment speeds, so that you can choose the best option for you and your business.

In fact, iBanFirst allows you to control the speed and cost of your payments (depending on account currency, bank and beneficiary’s country). 

Our different rates of payment speed:


  • Instant. Payments between iBanFirst accounts are instantaneous and free of charge
  • Real-time gross settlement (RTGS). These payments are received by the beneficiary's bank in less than an hour during normal business hours (NB: The payment may not be credited immediately to the beneficiary's account, depending on the bank's processing times.)
  • Express. Payments are generally credited to the beneficiary's bank account within 24 hours
  • Standard. Payments are generally credited to the beneficiary's bank account within two to three working days.

How to track an international transfer

It's worth remembering that money transfers are not a bank's core business. What's more, bank-to-bank money transfers generally involve several intermediary banks. All these factors explain why transferring different currencies with traditional banks is often a slow and unresponsive process. 


With iBanFirst, you’ll have access to a payment tracker, meaning you can keep on top of your payment in real-time.


And for even greater transparency, it's also possible to identify which banks charge fees during the process, and how much they charge!

Maximising your control over international transfers

For businesses, there’s no way to make instantaneous and free money transfers across different currencies. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find solutions that are faster, less expensive and provide greater visibility than those offered by traditional banks.  

Alternative partners, such as iBanFirst, ensure transparent, secure, international money transfers, low-cost international payment tracking and, above all, shorter transfer times than traditional banks. Want to learn more? Request to speak with an expert today.