How Long Does a Wire Transfer Take?

When you need to send money to a friend, family member, or business contact, a wire transfer is one of the fastest and most reliable ways to do so. Here’s what goes into sending a wire transfer, as well as how long a wire transfer will take. 


What is a wire transfer? 

The term “wire transfer” refers to any type of electronic transfer of money. A bank wire is the most common, traditional bank-to-bank transfer. In these types of transfers, an amount goes from one bank account to another using the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network or FedWire network. 

A wire transfer can also refer to international wire transfers, also known as remittance transfers. Banks, credit unions, and services like Sigue can process these types of money transfers. As a result, the answer to “how long does a wire transfer take?” is not straightforward. It depends on where the account to which you are transferring is located.


How long will a wire transfer take? 

Domestic wire transfers – those between US bank accounts – typically take 24 hours to complete. International wire transfers can take between one and five business days. 


It only takes a few minutes to request and initiate a domestic wire transfer. The money thereafter moves quickly between bank accounts; there is usually no bank hold placed on money received via wire transfer. However, it may take several hours for the bank that receives the wired amount to show the proceeds in the recipient’s account. This is because there are a few administrative things an employee may need to do manually to make the funds available.  


Why might a wire transfer take longer?

There are three factors that affect the speed of a wire transfer: 

  1. The time of day when you submit the transfer request
  2. Where you’re sending the funds
  3. The method (network) your bank uses to make a wire transfer

When you initiate the transfer can impact when the wired money arrives in the recipient’s account. Banks and credit unions are permitted to set their own cut-off times – e.g., when they stop processing wire transfers each day. Some banks, for instance, set a cut-off for wire transfers at 3 PM. When you initiate a transfer at 4 PM, the funds will be recorded as “received” on Thursday – meaning the 24-hour window actually extends into Friday. Likewise, banks can’t complete transfers on weekends or federal bank holidays. 


Secondly, as previously mentioned, domestic and international transfers have varying timelines. There are some countries that are designated as “slow to pay” countries. What this means is there may be further delays. Check with your bank when making a wire transfer to a slow to pay country to learn more about what to expect. 


Finally, there are a few ways your bank might process the wire transfer. FedWire is a system designed for wire transfers with big amounts or those that are time-sensitive. It means the amount is processed immediately, but also it can only be used for domestic wire transfers. Another option is CHIPS, which stands for the Clearing House Interbank Payments System. It “batch transfers” which means that it can process multiple transactions as part of a batch process. And finally, the most commonly used wire transfer service for international exchanges SWIFT, a service that enables banks to pass money through intermediary banks until reaching its final destination. CHIPS and SWIFT wire transfers can take slightly longer than FedWire because of cut-off times and other administrative delays. 


Alternatives to wire transfer

There are a few alternatives to using a wire transfer, like Sigue Pay or a money order service like Western Union. ACH transfers are similar in that these transfers move from bank to bank, but they use the Automated Clearing House network rather than SWIFT or FedWire. ACH transfers typically take one to two days. There are also plenty of peer-to-peer services like Zelle or Paypal that allow you to send money quickly, but be aware that these services are less secure than a bank wire. Speak to a bank representative or financial advisor to learn more about ways you can send money quickly.


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