While the main concerns regarding transferring money abroad are cost and reliability, an increasing number of readers have enquired about the issue of speed. Many have raised such questions as “How long will it take for my money to get from country A to country B?” or “Which is the fastest money transfer provider?” We will address these questions, but first we recommend reading our piece on How Wire Transfer Works so that the process is clear.
Speed of online money transfers
With the ever-growing number of online money transfer services and mobile apps as well as online money transfer functionality through online banks, it is safe to say that the vast majority of transactions are now done online.
Most online transfers are a “same-day” transaction as long as you complete your order and fund it before noon on the day you place your order. After that time, the transfer may not take place until the next day. This is true for money transfer companies as well as for banks. Does this mean that the money will reach its destination within 24 hours in all cases? Of course not.
Some destinations (particularly poorer and less developed countries) have cumbersome banking systems. This means that although the money has been sent, there may be a delay of a few days until it is actually seen in the recipient’s account.
Additionally, some banks or FX companies can withhold a transaction for a variety of reasons. It could be that the details are incorrect or unclear, it may look suspicious and require more documentation, or it could simply be at the end of a long queue.
The bottom line is that no company or bank is willing to guarantee the exact time at which money will be received by the recipient party. They can give you a rough estimate on how long it should take (some companies like TransferWise or Azimo are very clear when presenting this information online), but no one will be willing to pay compensation if the money is not received within a specified time.
Thus, my best tip on this topic, whether you want a quick international money transfer or need to receive money from abroad in a hurry, is to be aware that there may be a delay for a variety of reasons, so allow at least four days for the money to reach its destination. Whether you are transferring money abroad for the purpose of property acquisition, mortgage payments, buying a car, or any other reason, make sure you tell the recipient party that you will try to make the payment instantly, but based on your experience, it may take up to four days to arrive. Better safe than sorry.
Speed of remittances (immigrants sending money home)
The World Bank Remittances Data can give you a pretty good idea about the speed of several remittance services per location. The data is specifically tailored for money transfers to immigrants’ home countries, so the available locations include, for example, China, Romania, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and so on.
From our analysis of the data, we have concluded that the fastest way to send small remittances abroad is via agents of companies like Western Union, MoneyGram, and Xpress Money (cash payments). While this method is nearly always the most expensive one in terms of fees, sometimes speed is more important than price.
Therefore, my best tip is to use an expensive but ultra-quick service in urgent situations but to otherwise use an online provider.
Read our comprehensive FAQ, and get answers to such questions as:
- How do FX money transfers work?
- What types of premium features are available?
- How did money transfer services first come about?
We hope this guide has been useful for describing how long it takes for international money transfers to arrive at their destination. Please share it with others!