How Long Does a Money Transfer Take?

Tom July 2022 Content Creator 6 min

Table of contents

Since its inception into modern culture in 1871 via telegraph, electronic fund transfers (EFTs) have revolutionised commerce and defined the world as we know it today. Technological developments like the aforementioned telegraph, credit cards, personal computers and the internet have all contributed to upping the speed and convenience of money transfers. 

So, with all the digital technology we have today, how long does a money transfer take? 

In this blog, we’ll go over the basics of money transfers in today’s world. We’ll look at the factors affecting them, the durations for SEPA payments and international payments, and the differences between paperless and non-paperless transactions. 

How long does a money transfer take in a nutshell

  • Money transfers are affected by the time and date of sending, location, information provided, financial institutions, and currency types
  • SEPA money transfers occur mostly between European countries and depend on the type of SEPA transfer being made
  • International money transfers rely on the SWIFT network and depend on which countries are involved
  • Non-paperless transactions offer in-person verification, while paperless ones prioritise convenience between distant merchants and recipients

How does a money transfer work?

When an electric fund transfer takes place, no physical money is moved between the banks or financial institutions of the sender and receiver. It’s actually information that is passed between the two concerning the financial institutions, account numbers, and amounts being transferred. 

When the sender pays the amount upfront, this sends a message to the recipient’s bank containing payment instructions via a secure system such as SWIFT. The recipient’s bank will then receive all the sent information and deposit the sender’s funds into the right account. 

Finally, the two financial institutions will settle the payment on the back end, after the transfer has been completed. 

Factors affecting money transfer time

Wondering why some transfers take a few days and others are instantaneous? There are a few different factors affecting duration time.

When you sent the money

The time and day of the transfer will affect how long it takes. For transfers between regions with different time zones, this is doubly true. Check the corresponding bank’s cutoff time for transfers and plan accordingly, if you need the money to arrive as quickly as possible. 

Your and your recipient’s location

International and domestic transfers differ in duration, because there are more checks that need to be made on the money when it’s travelling across countries. So, if you’re sending money from Germany to the US, it’s going to take longer than your inner city transfer after last night’s dinner. 

Domestic transfers typically take 24 hours to complete and are often faster than that. Transferring between two people who belong to the same institution, the funds may arrive immediately. 

International transfers can take between one and five business days to complete. Certain countries are considered ‘slow to pay’ countries meaning transfers between them will often take longer. 

Causes of these slow to pay countries may be: 

  • Intermediary banks
  • Poor infrastructure
  • Certain fiscal policies
  • Bureaucracy 

Information provided

Failing to include all the relevant information when making a transfer will inevitably delay the arrival of your funds. You’re required to include the following information in a transfer: 

  • Recipient’s full name
  • Recipient’s bank name and address
  • International Bank Account Numer (IBAN)
  • SWIFT/Bank Identification Code (BIC)
  • Account number

Your and your recipient’s financial institutions

Certain financial institutions will dictate the length of time it takes for domestic or international transfers to go through. Generally, a transaction between two people from the same financial institution will arrive faster because there are fewer intermediaries performing checks on the transfer information.

Look closely at your financial institutions international transfer speed and costs to decide which ones to use. 

Differing currencies

If you and your recipient are transacting in different currencies, this can also add some time to the transfer. This is due to the process of currency conversion, which adds another factor to the existing checks and requirements. 

How long does a SEPA money transfer take? 

SEPA is the Single European Payments Area. A selection of countries within and outside Europe, SEPA regulates payments between countries and is designed to remove a lot of the bureaucracy and slow payment issues between involved countries, ultimately accelerating global commerce. 

How long a SEPA transfer takes depends on what kind of transfer it is: 

  • SEPA Credit Transfer: one business day
  • SEPA Instant Credit transfer: fewer than ten seconds
  • SEPA Core Direct Debit Transfer: minimum of two business days
  • SEPA B2B Direct Debit Transfer: minimum of three business days

How long does an international money transfer take?

Most international fund transfers are managed through the The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT network. This is the Belgian cooperative society responsible for international transfers. 

There’s no definitive duration for all international transfers, however generally it takes one to five business days for an international fund transfer to be completed. 

Paperless vs non-paperless 

Conducting transactions means considering the best way for you or your business to conduct that transaction. Although paperless may be the more common and efficient way to conduct transactions today, there are certain benefits to non-paperless, in the right conditions. 


Where paper is involved, it becomes much easier to verify the recipient or sender of the transaction. They can visit you at your place of business and sign the documents in person, eliminating the chance of fraudulence via false identity. If the person is unable to visit you, the transaction will take longer. They will have to download, print, sign, and send the documents by post. 


Paperless transactions fit most situations in which you are unable to verify your recipients in person and you have reliable access to an internet connection. With increased security and advanced verification methods, paperless transactions are becoming more secure and reliable. 

Conclusion: how long does a money transfer take?

Money transfers today are mostly conducted online. Global commerce is enabled by the internet and ETFs, meaning numerous checks have to be performed on each transaction to verify identity and ensure security. These factors affect the duration of each transfer, which is why organisations like SWIFT and SEPA unify countries to ensure faster, secure payments. 

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