When Will My Payment Arrive? International Transfer Times Explained

Payments 26 April 2021
When Will My Payment Arrive? International Transfer Times Explained

It’s no surprise that cost and security are the main concerns when people make international payments. After all, who doesn’t want the best transfer rate and the reassurance that a payment will reach the intended recipient? But there is also another major consideration: speed.

Globalisation means that more businesses are operating internationally every year, while remittances have also been rising steeply. As the volume of cross-border transactions increases, so too does the demand for quicker transfer times. However, while consumers now receive on-demand services and digital speed for most things, payments have remained in the slow lane.

Let’s look at why sending and receiving money often involves delays, and how you can reduce friction and streamline payments.


Why international payments aren’t instant

Fraud prevention is one of the main reasons for delays. Banks must undertake a series of checks to minimise the risk of fraudulent transactions, and when money moves via the SWIFT banking system, which is responsible for most cross-border payments outside of the Eurozone, it involves a network of correspondent banks. At each bank, security checks must be carried out to prevent money laundering and other illegal activities. Correspondent banking is a step-by-step process that limits straight-through processing. 


Other factors that affect transfer times

Payment methods.

How you send and receive funds can impact payment times. If you are a business that sends and receives international payments you should consider payment methods that are in keeping with the needs of your customers and suppliers. Today, credit cards are usually the easiest and fastest means of payment.

Weekends and bank holidays. The movement of money is subject to the working week and bank holidays, and both vary according to the customs of each country. That means a payment may be held up if the workdays of the destination country are not the same as the country from which the payment is made. As a rule, a bank transfer that is made over a weekend will not be implemented until the next business day. Normally this will be a Monday, but not every country has Saturday and Sunday as non-workdays. For example, the working week in the United Arab Emirates is Sunday to Thursday.

Times zones and cut-off times. As well as different weekends and holidays, payments will be affected by different time zones and cut-off times. Schedules vary from country to country, as well as from institution to institution, all of which impacts when payments go through and are received by the payee.

Paperwork. Not all checks are to prevent fraud and to comply with know-your-customer and anti-money laundering regulations. Other procedures can also slow down payments. Once again, what happens at the other end of a transfer is dependent on different country rules and regulations for tax and other matters. This can involve labour-intensive paperwork to make sure all the information is correct. 

Payments can be returned if any of the details have been entered incorrectly, such as the recipient’s name, the name of their bank, the account number, the IBAN number, and the SWIFT/BIC code. When things don’t go smoothly, perhaps due to human error even small mistakes can lead to significant delays. Moreover, the correspondent banking model means payments can go through a long chain before reaching their destination, which increases the likelihood of errors – and hence delays. 

Local payment times. Another thing to remember is that local payment times vary from country to country. You may find that money is slower to arrive if payments are made to less developed countries, where banking systems are sometimes less efficient than in developed countries. Even in the Eurozone, there were delays until the creation of SEPA (single euro payments area).

Currency conversion. Processing times can increase when the sender’s currency needs to be converted into the receiver’s currency. Currencies such as the euro and the US dollar, which are regularly traded in FX markets, are normally exchanged more quickly than less frequently traded currencies. 


So, how long will a payment take?

Is the money being sent using the SWIFT network? How long will the required fraud checks take? Is there a big difference between the sending and receiving time zones? Will currency conversion be required? Any one of these factors will affect international payment times and, if combined, can create a significant drag. Often, the ‘three-day good funds’ rule applies. That means funds are held for three days to ensure all the necessary security checks are made to prevent fraud. In some cases, it can take up to five days for money to show up in a receiving account. Typical transfer times are between two and four business days, but online transfers to popular destinations can be completed ‘same day’ if they are straightforward and cut-off times are observed.


Making international payments fast and simple

If you choose an online payment provider like Safenetpay, you will combine speed with security and convenience. Not only can you accept and make payments in a wide variety of ways, you’ll also have your own UK account number, sort code and IBAN – and you can make payments effortlessly in more than 150 currencies. Open an account today and make international payments fast and simple.


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