Thursday, 12 October 2023, 5 minute read
International bank transfers have become an essential part of today's global economy. Whether you're sending money to family overseas, paying for international business transactions or funding investments abroad, understanding how these international payments work is crucial.
In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of international bank transfers - including what they are, how to make them and how long they take. We’ll also share our tips for minimising the costs involved, so that you can make international payments easily and with confidence.
What is an international bank transfer?
An international bank transfer, also known as a wire transfer, is the process of moving money from one bank account to another located in a different country or currency zone.
International bank transfers are vital for trading internationally, making payments abroad and even handling your personal finances when dealing with foreign accounts.
How to make an international bank transfer
Here's a simplified step-by-step guide to making an international bank transfer:
Choose your bank: Start by picking your local bank or financial institution. This is where you’ll start the international transfer, which you’ll usually be able to do online.
Provide recipient information: You'll need to share some details about the person or business you’re sending money to, including their account number, their bank's name and the bank's IBAN or BIC/SWIFT code.
Determine transfer amount: Decide on the amount you want to transfer. Make sure to check the current exchange rate and any other fees with your bank.
Make the payment: Your bank will process the transfer, converting your money into the recipient's currency and forwarding the funds to their bank. At this point, you’ll also pay any international bank transfer fees. These fees can vary widely depending on your bank and where you’re sending the money.
Wait for confirmation: Generally speaking, international bank transfers will arrive within one to five working days. However, it can sometimes take longer for your money to reach the recipient's account, depending on various factors, which we’ll touch on in the next section.
Read more: Make your international payments with Crezco
How long do international bank transfers take?
Typically, an international bank transfer should arrive within 1-5 business days.
However, several factors influence the time it takes for funds to reach their destination, and can lead to unexpected delays:
The banks involved: Every bank works at its own pace. Some banks are faster than others at processing international transfers.
Correspondent banks: Often, international transfers pass through several banks in the middle (called correspondent banks) before reaching the final bank. Every bank's processing time adds to how long the transfer takes.
Currency conversion: If you need to change your money into a different currency, it can make the transfer take more time. The exchange rate can also change the final amount the person receives.
Regulatory requirements: International transfers have to follow rules to stop fraud and money laundering. These checks can sometimes slow down the transfer.
Destination country: Some countries and banks are quicker than others. In some places, the banking system is speedy, but in others, it might be slower.
Time zones: Because international transfers happen all over the world, they might get processed in different time zones. This can make the transfer take longer.
Recipient detail errors: One common reason for delays is getting the recipient's bank details wrong. When you make international bank transfers through your bank, it's crucial to provide accurate information. This includes things like the bank's name, account numbers, and the correct SWIFT/BIC codes. If there are any mistakes, the transfer can be slow or even fail.
Send money abroad faster with Crezco
Crezco makes international account-to-account payments fast, easy and secure with the most competitive exchange rate available and no hidden fees. Don't wait days for your international bank transfers to process, Crezco can typically do it within minutes.
What details do you need to send money overseas?
To make sure your international bank transfer goes smoothly, you'll need to provide specific details to your bank. While the exact requirements can vary depending on the bank or payment gateway you’re using, you’ll generally need the following information:
Recipient's full name
Recipient’s account number
Recipient’s bank name
Recipient’s bank address
Their Bank Identifier Code (BIC) or SWIFT code
Their International Bank Account Number (IBAN)Recipient's address
Your full name
Your contact information
The amount you’re transferring
Currency: Indicate the currency in which you are sending the money.
Purpose of transfer: Any other relevant information (if applicable), such as tax identification numbers, proof of address or supporting documents related to the purpose of the transfer.
It's important to double-check all of the above information before making the international payment. Any errors in the recipient's details or bank information can lead to delays or even the loss of funds.
You should also be prepared to comply with any anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, which may involve providing identification documents or additional information to verify your identity and the legitimacy of the transfer. You can find out more info at gov.uk.
Read more: How to send money abroad?
What fees are involved in an international money transfer?
Sending money internationally often means you'll have to pay different charges. These international payment costs can change depending on the banks or services you use, how you send the money, the amount, and where it's going. Here are some common fees associated with international money transfers:
Transfer fees: These are fees from your bank or transfer service for handling the international transfer. The amount of these fees can differ a lot. Some banks have a fixed fee, while others take a percentage of what you're sending.
Exchange rate markup: When converting your currency into the recipient's currency, banks or transfer services often apply an exchange rate markup. This is often a hidden charge, but it can result in a less favourable exchange rate than the mid-market rate (the real exchange rate you find on currency conversion websites).
Recipient bank fees: The recipient's bank in the destination country may charge fees for receiving an international transfer. These fees can vary widely and may be deducted from the received amount.
Intermediary bank fees: Sometimes, middleman banks (also known as correspondent banks) that help the transfer between your bank and the recipient's bank might charge fees. These fees could be taken from the transferred amount.
Payment method fees: The method you use to fund the transfer can also impact how much you pay for it. For example, using a credit card or debit card may incur additional charges compared to a bank transfer from your account.
Urgent or express transfer fees: If you need the money to reach the recipient quickly, you may have the option to pay extra for an urgent or express transfer, which usually incurs higher fees.
Foreign transaction fees: If you're using a credit card to fund the international transfer, your credit card issuer may charge foreign transaction fees. These fees are typically a percentage of the transaction amount.
Online or in-branch fees: Some banks or money transfer services charge different fees for online transactions compared to in-branch transactions. Online transfers are often more cost-effective.
Currency conversion fees: If the transfer involves multiple currencies, there may be additional fees associated with the conversion process.
Fixed fees vs. percentage fees: Some providers charge a fixed fee for international transfers, while others charge a percentage of the transfer amount. It's essential to understand the fee structure to work out the total cost.
Read more: how to pay an international invoice?
How to minimise the cost of international money transfers
The good news is that there are ways to minimise these costs.
Here are our six top tips for keeping the price of international payments down when you’re making an international bank transfer:
Compare fees and exchange rates between different banks and money transfer services.
Be aware of the total cost, including all fees charged by your bank (e.g. for currency conversion) and exchange rate markups.
Consider using online money transfer services and payment gateways, or specialised international transfer providers, as they often offer competitive rates and lower fees.
Verify the recipient's bank's fee structure and check they can receive the funds without any additional charges.
Plan your international transfers ahead of time to avoid urgent transfer fees.
Keep in mind that the specific fees and fee structures can vary widely between providers, so it's essential to review the terms and conditions of the service you choose carefully.
International bank transfers are an essential aspect of our interconnected economy, enabling individuals and businesses to work together around the world.
While it can be frustrating when international transfers take time, knowing the reasons behind these delays can help you set realistic expectations.
To speed up your international transfers, choose a trusted bank, understand your bank’s exchange rate and conversion fees, and provide accurate recipient details.
Despite the potential delays, international bank transfers remain a reliable and secure way to move money across borders. Just remember that they aren’t your only option. You can find out how to make international payments faster, safer and cheaper here in our recent blog post, where we break down the pros and cons of various international payment methods.