How long does a bank transfer take?

Zorica Lončar

Need to pay a bill, or send money to a family member? One of the most common ways to do it is through a bank transfer.

If you want to make a bank transfer, you’ll naturally want to know how long the process is going to take.

In this guide, we’ll look at average bank transfer times, including how long it takes to send money abroad. Let’s start with the info you’ll need to set up your transfer.

Things you need to make a bank transfer

Before you can send money to anyone, you’ll need to have a few key details to hand. Here’s what you’ll need to set up a bank transfer:

  • The name of the person, business or organisation you’d like to pay.
  • The account number (8 digits) and sort code (6 digits) of their bank account.
  • The date you’d like the payment to be made.

Some banks may also ask you to provide the name of the person’s bank. You may also want to add a payment reference too. This can be helpful for your own records, and the person you’re paying will be able to identify who the payment is from and what it’s for.

How long does a bank transfer take in the UK?

How long does a bank transfer take to clear? It primarily depends on how the payment is sent – by BACS, Faster Payments or CHAPS.

If your bank sends the transfer by BACS (the electronic system commonly used in the UK to send payments between bank accounts) it will take around 2 working days to clear.¹

But if your bank uses the Faster Payments system, your payment could arrive in the recipient’s bank account almost instantly. If both the sending and receiving bank use Faster Payments, your transfer should clear in as little as 2 hours.²

If the payment is sent through the Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS) before a certain cut-off time, it will usually clear on the very same day.¹

If you’re not sure which payment system will be used for your transfer, it’s best to check with your bank – especially if your transfer is urgent.

How long does it take to transfer money abroad?

If you’re sending money internationally, yet another payments system will be used. Your bank will send your transfer through SWIFT – this is an international network of banks and financial institutions.

It usually takes around 2-5 working days for an international payment to clear, but it can in some cases take longer.³ It all depends on where you’re sending from and to, and the different processes of the banks involved along the way.

This is because when money is sent internationally via SWIFT, it doesn’t go directly from your bank to the recipient’s. There are often a number of other banks involved along the way, and this is what causes the hold-up.

Isn’t a bank transfer instant?

If you’re sending money from your UK bank account to someone else in the UK, and both banks use the Faster Payments system, the transfer should be made instantly (although it can take up to 2 hours).²

But Faster Payments is a UK service, so it doesn’t cover international payments.

You may also experience slower transfer times if you’re sending a very large amount of money. This is due to fraud prevention measures, where banks hold onto transfers for a few days to reduce the possibility that the transaction was fraudulent.

Are there any faster international money transfer options?

Luckily, you aren’t stuck with your bank as the only option for international money transfers. If you need to send money to someone in another country, and need it to arrive in a hurry, you can use Wise.

It’s easy and free to open a Wise multi-currency account. From here, you can send and receive money in 40+ currencies, to and from countries all over the world.

Payments typically take up to 2 working days to arrive⁴, but they can be quicker. Even so, that’s much faster than most banks using the SWIFT system.

And the best part? You can save money, as Wise is on average 8x cheaper for international transfers compared to UK banks.

Join Wise for free

How do I make a transfer with Wise?

It’s really easy to make an international payment with Wise. First of all, make sure you sign up for a free Wise multi-currency account. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the amount you want to send.
  2. Select the currency you’re sending from (GBP) and the currency you’d like to send to (for example, EUR if you’re sending to a friend in France).
  3. Check the low cost transfer fee and the exchange rate – these are displayed instantly, and there are no hidden fees and charges to worry about. As an added bonus, the exchange rate is based on the real, mid-market exchange rate, without an expensive mark-up added on top. This means you get the fairest rate. You’ll also see how much cheaper Wise is for your particular transfer compared to using UK banks.
  4. Check the arrival date for your transfer – this will also be displayed instantly.
  5. Fill in your recipient’s bank details.
  6. Pay for your transfer using a debit or credit card, or a bank transfer.
  7. Hit ‘send’ and track your payment if you want to. Your recipient will also receive a notification that the payment is on its way.

For large transfers or certain currencies, you may also need to provide a photo of your ID – this is to keep your transfer secure.

So, how long does a bank transfer take?

The only accurate answer to this is – it depends. Send money to someone in the UK through your UK bank and your transfer could arrive in a matter of minutes, but it could take up to two business days.

Send money overseas using your bank and your payment could arrive in 2-5 days, or your recipient could be left waiting longer. Using the SWIFT system, it all depends on how many banks and financial institutions are involved along the way.

If you can’t wait that long, and fancy saving some cash at the same time, use an international transfer specialist like Wise.

Open a Wise multi-currency account and you’ll get faster, cheaper transfers which are as reliable and safe as using your bank. Plus, there’s the handy option of being able to track your money on its journey across the world.

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  1. UK Interbank Payment Schemes
  3. Wise - transfer times for SWIFT payments
  4. Wise - GBP transfers

Sources checked on 23-November 2020

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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