How long do international bank transfers take?

United Kingdom By Steve Wong April 15, 2022

Find out how long international transfers take and what can affect transfer times

Whether it’s sending money to loved ones, covering bills or paying a business, there are so many reasons to transfer money internationally. But waiting for funds to move from one place to another can be stressful when you don’t know exactly how long it will take.

So, how long does an international bank transfer take? In truth, it varies, but we can give you a good idea of what to expect so you can put your mind at ease.

Find out everything you need to know about international money transfer times here.


In this article


How do international bank transfers work?

From Europe and South America to the Middle East, you can support relatives and friends across multiple continents. Whether your loved ones live on the other side of the world or right on our doorstep in Europe, each international bank transfer follows a straightforward process.

To start with, a payment order is sent between your bank and your receiver’s. This often involves the SWIFT network, which stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

What this means is that the instruction for a transfer from Point A to Point B is sent securely. During an international bank transfer, these instructions may be transmitted to an intermediary bank before arriving at their destination.

There are several ways you can instruct an international bank transfer, depending on your bank or financial institution. For example, transfers could be made online, over the phone, or by a money transfer app. However, some banks will require you to make transfers in person in certain circumstances.


How long does an international bank transfer take?

For many, it’s strange that international bank transfers take any time at all, with most being done online. Generally, it’s because there are certain procedures in place to verify the transfer and protect you from fraud. When you think there are 27 countries in the EU alone, it’s important there are no mix-ups across borders.

On top of this, each bank has its own cut-off time, meaning if a request is not submitted before that point, it won’t be handled until the next business day.

From the point of cut-off, it generally takes 1-5 business days. But there are a variety of factors that can affect the timeframe.


What factors can impact the time an international bank transfer takes?

Understanding the reasons for potential delays, as well as what the average time for a transfer is, can bring you peace of mind when sending money internationally. It can also ensure your loved one knows when to expect to receive their money.

Here are a few of the checks and common mistakes that can delay your money as it leaves the UK:

Method of payment

From bank accounts to card payments, you’ll have a variety of payment options with most service providers. Your chosen method can impact the time an international bank transfer takes.

Incorrect payment details

A major contributor to lengthy transfer times is providing incorrect payment details, as any wrong information could cause your payment to be bounced back and declined. To save yourself time and stress, it’s essential to double-check all receiver information is correct before making a transfer.

The bank you use

Some banks are faster than others. There are many reasons for this but the only real way to know how long an international bank transfer might take with a particular bank is to ask for an estimate.

If their estimated timeframe is too slow, then you may be able to search for a new provider. It’s worth noting that it’s not only timeframes that can vary between banks, but costs too, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

The positive news is that there were 367 banks and building societies reported to be operating in the UK as of January 2021, so you’ll have lots of options.

Intermediary banks

If your international bank transfer needs to be processed through any intermediary banks, this could affect the transfer time. In some instances, your bank will be able to communicate with your destination bank, meaning quicker transfer times. However, in other cases, the transfer may travel through up to three intermediary banks while the funds are moved.

The quicker the route, the quicker the transfer arrives. There are also considerations like the various banks’ cut-off times and fraud checks.

Fraud prevention measures

To protect your money, and uphold the security of your transfer, banks use fraud prevention processes. If there are any issues or suspicions with your transfer, you could see delays.

Even if your transfer goes smoothly, each bank will have its own procedures to ensure the lawful transfer of money, that may have their own timescales included. Generally, this isn’t something you need to worry about, and banks will usually account for this in any transfer time estimates.

The destination country

Each country has its own regulations, infrastructures, working hours, and fraud prevention processes. This means your destination country will affect the time of your transfer, as banks may have an easier or harder time communicating.


Transferring money into different currencies can have an effect on transfer times, simply because this is an extra step in the process. One solution could be requesting your bank to handle your transfer in the currency of the receiver. Some money transfer services can also convert currencies faster. Otherwise, there is little you can do to change this.

Time zones

While you may have made the cut-off for your local bank, your receiver’s might be closed for the day, or perhaps there’s a special event slowing down processes. Issuing your international bank transfer during the destination country’s business hours could help your money move faster.

Weekends and holidays

One of the largest factors attributed to long transfer times is weekends and bank holidays. You may have more success making a swift transfer if you issue it earlier in the week, or before the eve of any bank holidays, to allow for processing times.


What information do you need to send an international bank transfer?

As you’d probably expect, a few key details are needed to ensure your international bank transfer goes smoothly and passes through different security checks.

While the exact information might vary slightly depending on your method of transfer, and the service you use, you’ll always need some information. Generally, you’ll need to provide the following:

  • Name and address of receiver’s bank
  • Recipient’s IBAN (International Bank Account Number)
  • BIC/SWIFT code of receiver’s bank
  • Transfer amount and currency type
  • Reason for transfer

Additionally, international bank transfers can levy different fees, such as:

  • Mark-up on exchange rate fees
  • Outgoing transfer fees
  • Incoming transfer fees
  • Intermediary bank fees

Depending on your money transfer amount, you may also be required to provide some form of ID, or register for accounts when using third-party transfer services.


How long does a Western Union international bank transfer take?

Western Union provides several ways to make an international bank transfer. Your destination country as well as your chosen transfer method will influence the time it takes to complete an international money transfer.

The quickest way to transfer money internationally is to send funds online, by using the app, or by issuing a transfer in person at an agent location, then paying with a debit or credit card.

Depending on where and when you are moving money, an international bank transfer can be completed in as little as one banking day. To find out what details you need for a successful transfer, and how long it can take to reach each country, visit our bank account details help page.


Send money around the world with Western Union

Western Union offers a reliable way to send money quickly, using a method that suits you. Send money internationally online, with our mobile app, or at one of more than approximately 600,0001 agent locations around the world.

1 Agent location count valid as of September 30th 2021.

Whether you’re sending money for a special occasion, supporting friends and family, or investing, Western Union is here for you.


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