How long does an international bank transfer take?

Making an international payment? Discover everything you need to know about how long an international bank transfer can take to go through with our latest guide.

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In today’s global economy, international bank transfers are essential, especially for entrepreneurs and business owners who are spearheading the growth of their companies through international partnerships. If you are a part of senior management within your company, or perhaps you’re a director or founder, there’s a high chance you’ve had to authorise international bank payments
As the world becomes increasingly more connected as a result of developments in technology, the number of cross-border transactions is rapidly growing as businesses look to meet worldwide consumer demand. It’s more important now than ever to optimise international payment speed, as customer expectations continue to increase with the times. 
Whilst domestic bank transfers process almost instantly, international bank transfers can take much longer. Why is this? In this article, we will explore how long international bank transfers can take to complete, and what factors can impact processing times the most.

So, how long do international bank transfers usually take?

Typically, international bank transfers can take up to 2 business days to complete. However, there are times where it can take much longer, up to 10 business days or more due to delays. These delays are often due to a range of factors, including regulatory requirements, currency exchange processes, and the use of intermediaries in the payment chain. Categorised alongside the industry standards, Volopa ensures same-day settlement for payments processed prior to their cut-off time, while payments processed after their respective cut-off time are settled on the following working day. Delays are minimised by capturing all the requirements for the specific payment corridor upfront when the payment is being setup. Categorised alongside the industry standards, Volopa ensures same-day settlement for payments processed before 2 pm, while payments processed after 2 pm are settled on the following working day.


There is no way to definitively determine how long an international bank transfer will take to be completed because of these factors that can influence the processing speed. The time it takes for an international payment to go through is directly impacted by the banks involved, the countries where the sender and the recipient are located, the currencies being transferred, and the payment method used.

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How are international bank payments made?

The predominant method for international bank transactions has traditionally been the SWIFT network. Renowned for its widespread use, SWIFT facilitates the seamless transfer of funds across borders. However, the landscape of international payments is evolving with the emergence of instant payment systems like the UK’s Faster Payments (FPS) and the EEA’s Sepa Instant. These modern alternatives offer a faster way to handle transactions. When conducting an international transfer, banks typically employ the SWIFT system to relay all necessary information, ensuring a smooth transaction. This process involves sharing details of both the sender and the recipient. For a more in-depth understanding of international bank transfers, including their mechanisms and nuances, consider exploring our comprehensive guide to international payments.

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SWIFT & Correspondent Banks

International payments on the SWIFT network don’t always go directly from your bank to the recipient bank. In order to facilitate certain international bank transfers, some transactions must move through correspondent banks before getting to the recipient. These “middlemen” institutions are authorised to act on behalf of banks in both countries, holding accounts in each. This means that they can easily transfer the correct funds and ensure the payments are processed successfully.

This is partly why international payments can take much longer to go through when compared to domestic payments. Sometimes, funds have to pass through multiple financial institutions before they are transferred to the end account. Correspondent banks also charge a fee to handle international transactions, which is why SWIFT fees can be quite high.

What can slow international bank payments down?

Annoyingly, international bank transfers can take longer, due to a multitude of factors. Here are some of the main reasons why international bank transfers can be slower:

Time zone differences

International banks operate in different time zones depending on their geographical location. If you initiate an international payment after business hours have finished in one country, this can result in processing delays as you have to wait for the next working day to begin before the transfer will start.

Currency conversions

When making an international bank transfer, in most cases your currency will need to be converted to the one used in the recipient country. Depending on the Foreign Exchange (FX) market conditions and currency availability, conversion time can differ from case to case. On occasions, this process can hold up an international payment.

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Security, compliance and regulatory requirements

Before approving payments, both domestic and international, banks need to ensure that all transactions pass through the necessary regulatory checks. For example, banks must screen all large transfers for suspicious activity such as money laundering. Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations also require banks to screen customer information diligently to prevent other financial crimes like identity theft and fraud. Depending on the payment destination and the payment purpose, some banks may hold a payment, because they require supporting documentation/evidence from the recipient, before releasing the funds.

Incorrect payment information

It’s important to double check that all the information for your international transfer is correct before initiating the transaction. Erroneous payment details can cause your payment to be declined and returned to your account. These include (but not limited to):


  • Name of recipient
  • Name of recipient bank
  • If using local rails: Account number and routing code (e.g. sort code)
  • If using SWIFT: IBAN (or account number) and SWIFT/BIC Code


International payments sometimes have to go through correspondent banks in order to be completed. As previously discussed, this can result in the processing of the transaction taking longer than expected – especially if multiple correspondent banks are needed.

Holidays and weekends

Delayed international payments can be caused by something as rudimentary as the banks being closed! If you are wondering why an international transfer is taking a long time to be completed, consider whether the recipient banks might be closed for something like a holiday or the weekend.

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How can you make international bank transfers easier with Volopa?

Make faster, simpler and more cost-effective international payments with Volopa’s business payment solutions. Volopa’s online platform helps you to manage all your international payments with ease. You can view FX rates in real time, make repeat and batch payments at the touch of a button and generate a full breakdown of all currency conversions, before finalising any transactions, ensuring you are keeping fees at a minimum. 

Volopa stands out as the premier choice for seamless cross-border transactions. Whether you’re handling overseas salary payments, purchasing goods and services on a global scale, or transferring funds between your accounts, Volopa streamlines the process. A standout feature of Volopa is its ability to facilitate both same day and next day payments, ensuring swift and efficient money transfers according to your needs. Additionally, you can easily fund these payments using your existing bank account, eliminating the hassle of opening or switching business bank accounts. This makes Volopa an incredibly convenient and efficient option for your international payments.

Enjoy additional benefits such as automated receipts emails, prepaid business cards, and integrations with your preferred accounting software. Get in touch with our team today for more information and a demo of our products.


How long do Volopa’s European bank transfers take?

Payments to European beneficiaries in Euros are processed via SEPA, often within the same day. UK payments in GBP use the Faster Payments system, also completing the same day. Transactions in other currencies or regions generally take between one to five business days, varying by currency and country.

Why do international bank transfers take so long?

International bank transfers can take a long time to process due to various factors. Time zone differences, currency conversions, security and compliance checks, erroneous payment details, and bank closures can cause delays. It’s important to check with your bank before making an international payment to get an accurate estimate of the processing time.

How long does a Swift bank transfer take?

The processing time for a SWIFT bank transfer can vary depending on several factors, such as the banks involved, the currency being used, and any intermediaries or correspondent banks that may be involved in the transaction. Typically, a SWIFT transfer can take up to 2  business days to complete, but it’s not unusual for it to take even longer. However some SWIFT payments made before the respective cut-off times may achieve same day settlement on your payments.

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