How Long Does a Bank Transfer Take?

Academy · 10 March 2020Revolut Contributor

A lot can ride on the time it takes a bank transfer to clear. These days, we expect cash transfers to be pretty much instant – domestic ones at least. This is not always the case, and you can expect to wait a good while longer for international transfers to come through. So, how long does a bank transfer take?

Let’s have a look at the details...

How long does a bank transfer take to Clear?

Bank transfers from one UK bank account to another are, in the majority of cases, instant. As soon as you have confirmed the details of the transaction’s payee, the sum should arrive in their account.

Normal transfers made through personal banking apps or online banking are powered by the UK service, Faster Payments. This aims to process the majority of domestic, low-value bank transfers in under two hours. Usually, however, these payments are processed instantly. But it’s worth being aware that there is no sure guarantee that they will be cleared on the same day.

Faster Payments was introduced to reduce the time it takes for transfers to clear. Previously, all transactions were processed by BACS, which reliably takes three days.

Is a bank transfer instant?

Whilst, in the majority of cases, domestic bank transfers are instant, this is not guaranteed. Faster Payments explicitly aim to process every payment within two hours, but it can take longer.

In some instances, banks can hold onto funds that have been transferred for a couple of days. This is particularly true for anomalous or large transactions. It’s to reduce the possibility of fraud and to ensure that the transaction was intended by the payer.

Consequently, you shouldn’t be alarmed if your transfer hasn’t arrived with its intended recipient within a couple of days – particularly if it is of a sum that you don’t usually transfer. However, any longer than that, and it is worth calling your bank.

How long does an International bank transfer take?

Whilst Faster Payments is responsible for bank transfers within the UK, international bank transfers are usually processed by SWIFT or SEPA. These – respectively the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication and the Single Euro Payments Area – obviously take a little longer.

SWIFT is an international initiative that aimed to speed up international transactions. You can generally expect sums to appear in a recipient’s account in 1-3 days. However, in some circumstances, it can take as long as 10 – depending on which countries the transactions involve and the type of normal activity on your account.

Meanwhile, SEPA deals only in Euros and was intended as a way to simplify transfers in Europe. These international bank transfers usually take only a day to reach the account of the recipient.

Note: For information about transfer times with your Revolut account, check out our help forum topic: When will the money reach my Revolut account?

Why does it take so long to transfer money from one bank to another?

In a world in which everything seems to be instant, it can be a little perplexing that bank transfers are not. Rather, we can end up waiting for days for an electronic transaction to be processed. Why is this?

Whilst, generally, there has once been a massive international push to speed up transfer times, that drive has been met with two obstacles.

Firstly, the need to slow down payments to track and counter possible fraudulent transactions. The faster these transactions move, the greater chance that fraudulent or other scam transactions can go unnoticed. Banks deliberately put the brakes on the speed of transactions whilst they are checked.

Secondly, further international integration is needed to smoothen delays in international transfers. Whilst relatively recent tools such as BICs provide standardised codes, different banking systems have different rules. These inevitably slow things down.

Conclusion: How long does a bank transfer take?

How long does a bank transfer take? Well, that depends on the recipient.

You can expect most domestic transfers within the UK to be processed within two hours. However, international transfers can sometimes take longer – 2-5 working days is common, but occasionally this type of payment can take up to as long as ten days.

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