Automated clearing house (ACH) transfers are also different. The money moves from bank to bank, but the transfer takes several days, and the payee won’t know for sure if the funds will arrive. ACH payments can be reversed, but only in limited circumstances.
Wire transfers are useful because the money moves within one or two days. Within the United States, same-day transfers are possible, and international transfers take an extra day or two.
What about receiving a wire transfer—is that safe? For the most part, yes. Payments are more certain because banks only wire money out if the sender has the funds available, usually within one business day (although exceptions may apply). What’s more, it is very difficult for the sender to pull money back after it’s been transferred.
With a wire transfer, money goes from one bank to another, and then to the recipient’s account. Inside of the United States, that means each party to a wire transfer needs a bank account. To open an account, federal regulations require that banks verify your identity (among other things) and ask for a physical address where you can be found.
Wires can be completed in one day, depending on how early you submit your request to send money. It may take several hours for the receiving bank to show the wire proceeds in the recipient’s account—even if the money is at that bank. A bank employee may just need to complete several tasks to make the funds available.
It is difficult to bank anonymously within the U.S., which limits thieves’ ability to pull off a scam with a bank wire transfer. You can keep your identity from individuals and businesses to some degree, but law enforcement generally has the ability to find you. Even Swiss banks cooperate with U.S. law enforcement efforts.
The main risk with wire transfers is when you send money.
If somebody asks you to wire funds, think carefully about who you’re sending to. Some transactions are especially risky. For example, if you wire money to an office that pays out the proceeds in cash (such as a retail “money transfer” shop in a strip mall, Western Union, or similar), it is harder to verify who got the money. Anybody with a fake ID can collect the cash.
The term “wire transfer” is often used for various types of electronic transfers that typically aren’t as instant or as safe as bank wire transfers, as described above. In fact, almost all payments are electronic (even checks get digitized).
A wire transfer is an electronic transfer from one bank or credit union to another. Learn about the speed, security, and costs of wiring money.
Similarly, weekends could delay your transfer. Though banks are closed in the US on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend isn’t the same all over the world. For example, in many Middle Eastern countries like the UAE or Egypt, the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. Which means you’ll want to make sure you plan your transfer so you’re sending it on a business day.
Speaking of fees, there are also generally fees associated with making SWIFT transfers. There will likely be an outgoing international transfer fee levied by your bank, and each of the intermediary banks is entitled to a fee deducted from the transfer amount. The recipient’s bank normally also levies an incoming international transfer fee.
How long it will take the bank to process and send out your transfer again depends on the bank and its specific policies. Generally, wire transfers will only be processed on business days if they are requested before the bank’s cut off time. Those cut off times will vary but, below, you can find the international wire cutoff times for some of the most popular US banks.
You’ll also need to gather some necessary information before making your transfer request, which will also vary from bank to bank. In general, for a regular international wire transfer, you should expect to need to know:
In order to make sure your international wire transfer arrives at its destination as quickly as possible, you’ll want to be aware of bank holidays both in your country and in the recipient’s country. Banks may be open in your country, but the recipient’s country may have different bank holidays.
And, if possible, request your transfer at the beginning of the work week so it has time to arrive and be processed in the recipient’s country before the weekend hits and holds the process up.
If there was a fraudulent transfer, there’s little hope that the funds can be recovered once a transfer is completed. That’s why wire transfers – both domestic and international – are done in a series of steps that are often purposefully slowed down. And that’s why, in part, once you send an international wire transfer, it can take up to 5 business days, or in some cases even longer, for the funds to be available in the recipient’s account.
If the wire transfer needs to be received in a different currency than the one you’re sending it in, it’s possible this can hold up processing times. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this, unless your bank will allow you to send the transfer in the recipient’s home currency. Or you use an alternative service like TransferWise where the conversion can often happen instantaneously.
Once the funds arrive at the recipient’s bank, there can still be processing time on that end of the transfer that holds things up. Which means it can take even longer for the transfer amount to actually appear as usable funds in the recipient’s bank account – even if the money’s already there.
Wondering how long it takes for an international wire to clear? And why it takes so long? You’ve come to the right place.