Money Transfer Speeds Uncovered
Looking to get money overseas ASAP or just want to know how long it really takes to transfer funds?
You have come to the right place.
You see, knowing how fast it will take for your money to arrive can be a big challenge.
The reason is some services proclaim “instantaneous” or perhaps “1 – 2 days” and don’t mention the time it takes for banks at either end.
But some do!
To help with this: We will uncover the real speeds and try to level the playing field (including 3rd parties) for the fastest and best services and provide a guide to fees which generally increase along with speed.
Let’s dig in.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links where you might be able to save money. For more information, see our disclosures here.
3 Top Tips
Faster speeds usually also increases expense (but not always)
Choosing the way the transfer is funded can make a big difference
There are winners based on your needs. (uncovered below)
1. What Does Transfer Speed Depend On?
Typically, the number one factor that you’d relate with faster money transfer speed is higher fees. While that’s partly true, there are many other factors that influence how fast your transfer or remittance can reach your recipient.
Understanding these will put you firmly in the drivers seat!
- Which service you choose
- Your destination country
- Transfer amount
- When you set up your transfer
- The funding method
1.1 Which service you choose
While the best transfer companies aim to keep their fees and speed competitive, there are some pretty big differences based on the service you choose.
For example, some services make it easy for you to fund transactions quickly. This in turn, speeds up the time it takes for your recipient to receive the money.
In general, it is a good idea to start by choosing the best service based on the amount you wish to send. This can help transfer speeds because services set up for either small cash transfers, small (below $7000 USD) or large (above $7000 USD) transfers are geared towards efficiently handling those amounts.
$7000 USD equals approximately £4000 GBP / $9500 AUD/ $9500 CAD / €5000 EUR
Don’t miss our Snapshot Winners – Table below
Here is a video on the basics for choosing a money transfer service.
1.2 Your destination country
Where you’re sending money can be an important factor that influences the transfer speed can be the destination country.
You’ll notice that for the same transfer, some providers may be faster than others.
There are many reasons for this like regulations, but in general services that deal more regularly between two countries are often quicker. This is often because they have better infrastructure to speed up the process like bank relationships and better payment methods.
1.3 The transfer amount
Generally relatively small cash transfers (up to a few thousand dollars) can be completed quickly (in a few minutes to within a couple of days). These transfers or remittances usually comes at a higher cost, where speed is a priority. However, there are some remittance companies that are less expensive and still fast which we discuss in moment.
Transfers that do not originate or get received in cash usually involves which banks at both ends and generally these transfers take between 1 – 5 working days but sometimes 7 working days.
The reason for the big difference often relates to the currencies being exchanged (and how common they are) but often also how the different countries regulate their banks. These regulations can require banks to
If you want your transfers (below $7000 USD) to go through faster, try a transfer provider that offers "card-to-bank" services which can save a day or two. A few standout companies also enable you to pay through fast Location-specific fast payment methods PoLi (Australia and NZ), Interac (Canada), Klarna (UK and Europe), Osko (Australia), and iDeal (Europe) which we discuss in more detail in a moment.
1.4 When you set up your transfer
While currency transfer services work 24/7 and process a transfer as soon as the money enters their bank account, a lot depends on the banking hours and holidays in both the sending and receiving countries.
For example, if you process a bank-to-bank transfer on a holiday or the weekend, you can expect your transfer to be delayed. Time of the day also matters – if you’re just starting your day, but your destination country is wrapping up for the day, chances are the banks in your receiving country will process your transfer the next day (even if your currency transfer company has already processed it).
1.5 The funding method
Your chosen funding method can greatly influences how fast your money arrives.
1.5.1 Bank transfers
When you fund an international transfer from your bank account, it may take 1-2 business days to reach your chosen currency transfer company’s bank account. They may choose to audit the transfer if it raises any red flags or process it instantly. Again, the bank in the receiving country may cross check the transfer to adhere to country-specific remittance regulations.
So while bank transfers are more affordable, the whole process can take 1-5 days to be completed on average.
1.5.2 Cash deposits
Transfers funded by cash at an agent location are usually completed in a few minutes to a few hours. But the downside is only a few providers (like WesternUnion, Money Gram, and Ria) are equipped to accept cash for domestic and international transfers. You may also pay more if you fund your transfer with cash at an agent location (agent fees + currency transfer company fees).
If you can initiate the transfer from a bank and have the recipient pick up the cash, there are some lower cost services we highlight below.
1.5.3 Card transfers
Some currency transfer providers accept Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards as a funding method. These transfers can save a day or two, depending on the amount and the receiving country. They’re also typically more expensive.
1.5.4 Location-specific fast payment methods (iDeal, PoLi, Interac, Klarna, Osko etc.)
These methods are accepted by very few currency transfer companies (currently the notable ones are Wise and WorldRemit) and are ideal for funding smaller transfers (below $7000 USD). Above approximately $7000 USD and these methods tend to have limits on the amount you can transact which varies between banks.
Start with the amount you wish to send and the way you can fund the transaction. This will help you to focus on services that are likely to be the fastest for your needs.
Many services focus on the time it takes them to transact and they will say transfer speed are “instantaneous” or perhaps “1 – 2 days” but they don’t usually don’t include the time it takes for banks at either end which can vary by country, funding method and how the money is received.
Check out our Snapshot Winners – Table below
Now with the biggest variables covered, let’s see which currency transfer company is the fastest in the different service-types like cash, card-to-bank and bank-to-bank categories.
2. Cash/Instant Transfers
2.1 Western Union
Western Union, as one of the largest and best known remittance companies in the world, offers expansive near instant transfers across the world to 200+ countries.
However with convenience brings higher fees.
For example, for sending a micro amount of $300 USD instantly in cash from the US to Bangladesh, you’ll pay between $8-$14 USD, depending on your funding method. In this case, the money is available for pick up in 15 minutes to a few short hours (2-3 hours).
Check out our review of Western Union.
In the category of established remittance services with excellent networks of agents but usually relatively high fees we also include Ria (review) and Moneygram (review).
If speed and convenience is your focus and paying a little extra is no worries you might also like to compare three of the largest services: Western Union VS Ria VS MoneyGram
To save money on transfers, we have included the next two services which are leaders in keeping costs low and providing innovative services like mobile phone top up. They both also get relatively high ratings for Trustpilot reviews in a category where many services struggle.
WorldRemit supports both instant cash payouts and bank transfers to exotic countries and only bank transfers to developed countries.
Their instant transfers are generally processed within 15 minutes to a few hours, depending on the receiving country, and their fees for cash payouts are at par with Western Union (but WorldRemit fees for bank transfers are much more affordable).
For example, a $300 USD transfer from the US to India is available to be picked up in a few hours, while the same transfer is processed within minutes when sent to Chile.
Check out our full review of WorldRemit (review) and get 3 transactions fee free in many countries.
Unlike Western Union and WorldRemit, Remitly (review) only supports personal transfers (that is, no business payments or donations to charitable institutions, etc.).
Remitly is available in 16 developed countries and has a unique mission to make currency transfer affordable and fast for immigrant workers to their families in developing countries.
Remilty’s “Express” plan is specifically for fast transfers, although they say “processed in minutes” this is probably referring to the speed which they transact. For the total time, we would suggest allowing a few hours which will depend on the country. Fortunately the do tell you up front.
For example, for sending €500 EUR from Germany to India, you can expect the transfer to be completed in 4-6 hours.
Check out our full review of Remitly.
Services like Western Union are dominant and likely to remain strong options for cash transfers because of the size of their network. This convenience does come at a cost.
If you want speed at a low cost for transfers involving cash at either end (funding or receiving) there are some great alternatives (like the 2 just mentioned).
3. Card-to-bank Transfers
If you’re looking for fast card-to-bank transfers at affordable rates, you will find it hard to beat Wise. They have a transparent fee structure so you can see the total fees you’ll pay and the payout your recipient will get up front on their homepage.
Typically, card-to-bank transfers are faster than bank-to-bank transfers, and Wise claims the remittances funded by credit or debit cards are available in seconds.
Learn more about Wise (review).
These time it takes to transact card-to-bank through services like Wise means: 1-3 days on average with up to 4-5 days for exotic currencies.
Using a card to fund your transfer can significantly increase speed at an acceptable extra cost.
Generally, credit cards will be more expensive compared with debit cards.
4. Bank-to-bank Transfers
Small amounts (below $7000 USD)
Below $7000 USD / £4000 GBP / $9500 AUD / $9500 CAD / €5000 EUR is considered a small amount.
Wise (review) processes most of their transfers on the same day, but again it depends where you’re sending money to and when you set up your transfer.
That said, Wise seems genuinely committed to making transactions fast as possible and this is why we recommend them if speed is a big priority.
CurrencyFair’s bank-to-bank transfer speed also depends on the currency corridor.
Once again, the actual time it takes to arrive depends largely on the bank at the receiving end.
If lowest cost is a priority along with fast transfers, CurrencyFair is likely a great option. CurrencyFair offers “Express Deposits” when sending in CHF, DKK, EUR, GBP, NOK, PLN, and SEK
Read our CurrencyFair review .
Larger amounts ($7000 USD and above)
Above $7000 USD / £4000 GBP / $9500 AUD / $9500 CAD / €5000 EUR is considered a large amount.
International transfers of larger amounts means more regulation for the service you are using.
This can be a good thing, meaning your money is safer but it also means more rules and hoops to jump through.
That’s why we think you should use a service designed from the ground up to handle large transfers.
For example, services designed for large transfers tend to have better phone support which can be very important when dealing with banks which all have different transfer limits. Services for large transfers also tend to get the paperwork (such as identity verifications, etc.) out of the way as soon as you sign up which can avoid frustrating account freezes.
Generally services geared for larger amounts focus on bank-to-bank transfers.
Some popular service providers we recommend for large transfers are XE, OFX and TorFX.
Here is what they say on their websites:
These time it takes to transact bank-to-bank through services like OFX, XE, TorFX and Currencies Direct are pretty close to each other simply because they use the same banks worldwide.
In general, you can expect the service will take approximately a day to transact but it could be a little longer or shorter. The rest of the transaction will be due to the banks at either end.
This means: 2-5 days on average with up to 7 days for exotic currencies. Much longer than this and reputable companies like these will advise you.
For amounts below $7000 USD, services designed for those amounts will tend to make it easier to sign up, have more competitive fees for these amounts and have a great online experience (including online customer support).
For amounts above $7000 USD, services designed for those amounts will tend to have more involved signups which helps avoid frozen accounts (due to regulations), have more competitive fees for these amounts and have a solid online experience (including telephone support).
PayPal international transfers are generally not cheap but it is fast and convenient if both you and the receiver have PayPal accounts.
PayPal supports both personal and business payments, is widely available, and makes it easy to pay friends, family, or overseas employees.
Typically, PayPal-to-PayPal transfers are instant – your recipient will see the amount sent by you reflected in their PayPal balance in a few minutes (maximum 30 minutes).
They can choose to keep that balance in their PayPal wallet to pay for goods and services online, or they can request a transfer to their bank account, which takes about 1 business day to be completed.
Overall, PayPal makes good on their transfer speed promises. However, PayPal international fees are quite complicated and are quite high (expect to pay a transfer fee + a currency conversion fee + a convenience fee for withdrawing to a bank account).
Learn more about paying your family members or overseas employees from our PayPal international page.
Mobile wallets (such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Venmo) are a super fast way to send money to your friends and family (instant transfers, very low cost).
However these wallets generally do not work internationally.
Check out our top 5 Venmo alternatives for your international transfers here.
7. Snapshot Table – Winners
|Name of Service||Service Type||What they say (speed)||What we say (estimated total speed)||Relative cost||Top Picks|
|Western Union||Instant cash transfers||15 mins||15 mins to a few hours (2-3 hours)||High||Top pick for convenience if cash is involved.|
|World Remit||Instant cash transfers||15 mins||15 minutes to a few hours (4-5 hours)||Medium||Top pick for low cost when cash needs to be received.|
|Remitly||Instant cash transfers||A few minutes||4-6 hours (average)||Medium|
|Azimo||Instant cash transfers||In minutes||4-24 hours||Medium|
|Wise||Card-to-bank||In seconds||A few minutes to 24 hours||Low||Top pick for commitment to speedy transfers and all around excellence for amounts BELOW $7000 USD.|
|Wise||Bank-to-bank||Same day||1-5 days on average with up to 7 days for exotic currencies||Low|
|CurrencyFair||Bank-to-bank||1-2 days||2-5 days on average with up to 7 days for exotic currencies||Very low|
|XE||Bank-to-bank||1-2 days||2-5 days on average with up to 7 days for exotic currencies||Medium|
|OFX||Bank-to-bank||2-3 days||2-5 days on average with up to 7 days for exotic currencies||Medium||Top pick for all around excellence for amounts ABOVE $7000 USD. (All transfers involving banks are relatively slow)|
|TorFX||Bank-to-bank||2-3 days||2-5 days on average with up to 7 days for exotic currencies||Medium|
|PayPal||Pay-to-PayPal||Instant||Instant | withdrawal to bank completed in 1 business day||High|
Bottom Line on Fast Money Transfers
When it comes to transferring your money fast: quicker speeds does not always always mean you have to pay more.
If quick speeds are your top priority:
- Start with the amount you wish to send and the way you can fund the transaction. (This will help you to quickly shortlist a handful of services best able to assist you.)
- Finally choose the service which provides the best services for your needs at low cost.
As we discussed with some examples, there are many factors: the currencies you choose, the transfer amount, funding methods, and even banking regulations of the different countries which influence the transfer speed.
This simple approach will help you to find a service best equiped to handle all aspects of your money transfer including the fastest transfers.