ACH vs. EFT: What is the difference?

Adam Rozsa

If you need to send money to someone, pay a bill, or make a transfer, you’ve probably heard of payment processing options like ACH (Automated Clearing House) and EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer).

However, what’s the difference between ACH vs EFT? This guide tells you all you need to know.

International ACH payments are technically possible, they may not be available with regular banks. A Wise account may be a better way to get your money overseas – but more on this later.


What are ACH transfers?

ACH transfers are always processed through the Automated Clearing House network¹, which is operated in the US by an organization called Nacha². ACH payments are very commonly used as they’re cheap and cut administration. That makes them a popular choice for paying salaries, government benefits, bill payments and more.

Common ACH transfers include³:

  • Direct deposit - 96% of Americans get their salary with an ACH direct deposit
  • Split deposit - this feature allows you to receive a payment into several different accounts for convenience
  • Direct payments - this broad category covers bill payments using ACH debit or ACH withdrawal, transfers to friends, donations and many other transfers which move automatically within or between financial institutions, from one bank account to another

As you’ve probably guessed, huge volumes of ACH payments are made all the time. In fact, in 2020, Nacha reported over 20 billion ACH payments. The combined value of all these payments was over 60 trillion dollars.

Can I make an international ACH?

One notable drawback with ACH payments is that they’re usually only available for transfers within the US. While international ACH payments are technically possible, very few banks actually offer this service. Instead, banks tend to point you towards their wire transfer option - which can be slow and expensive.

However, in this case, your bank isn’t the only way to go. Specialist services, like Wise allow you to pay for your international transfer with a local ACH, which cuts the costs for you - and can mean your money arrives faster too. More on that later.

What are EFT transfers?

So now we’ve introduced ACH payments - what about EFT? EFT stands for electronic funds transfers. As the name suggests, EFT transfers involve money moving from one account to another electronically.

EFT transfers are usually facilitated securely by the user entering a PIN code, using a password or completing other security steps - meaning there’s no need for a bank teller to be involved.

EFT vs ACH - what’s the difference?

EFT payments are an extremely broad category, which can include ACH transfers, as well as a whole load of other automatic and electronic transfer types, even ATM withdrawals.

So the basic EFT vs ACH difference is that an ACH payment is always an EFT payment - but EFT payments can also include other payment types like:

  • Debit card and credit card payments online
  • In person card payments
  • ATM withdrawals
  • Wire transfers
  • Payments authorized over the phone

Sending money overseas? Check out Wise

While international ACH payments are technically possible, they’re seldom available from regular banks. Instead, choose a Wise account for a better way to get your money overseas with the mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees⁴.

Wise uses its own payment network, which means when you send money overseas, you can use ACH to transfer the funds to Wise’s USD account with low fees⁴. Wise will then convert the funds and pay out the money in the currency you need, from their account in the destination country. That cuts the costs of getting your money where it needs to be - and makes it faster, too.

Check out Wise today, to see how much you could save on your next international payment.

Get a Wise account today

  1. Nacha - ACH network
  2. Nacha
  3. Nacha - what is ACH?
  4. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

All sources checked on 10 September 2022

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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