How long do SWIFT payments take?

Jun 19, 2024

When dealing with SWIFT payments, the completion time typically ranges from 1 to 4 business days. Several factors can influence the duration and efficiency of these transactions:

1. Initiation Time

The process starts with the sender instructing their bank to initiate a SWIFT payment. The speed at this stage can vary based on the sender’s bank's internal procedures and the availability of staff to process the request.

2. Processing Time

After initiation, the SWIFT message containing the payment instructions travels through the secure SWIFT network to reach the recipient’s bank. The overall processing time is influenced by:

Intermediary Banks: If there isn’t a direct relationship between the sender's and recipient's banks Nostro/Vostro accounts, intermediary banks are used. Each intermediary adds processing time as they handle the message.

Time Zones: Given SWIFT’s global operations, transactions can experience delays due to differing operating hours and holidays between the involved banks.

3. Settlement Time

Settlement involves the actual transfer of funds between the banks' accounts (Nostro/Vostro). The recipient’s access to funds is affected by:

Nostro/Vostro Accounts: Funds need to be available in the recipient bank’s Nostro account to complete the transaction. This can be quick if accounts are pre-funded or longer if funds need to be transferred.

Intermediary Bank Processes: More time may be needed if intermediary banks are involved in the settlement, especially if currency conversion is necessary.

Factors Affecting Speed:

Service Level: Some banks provide expedited SWIFT services for an extra fee, which can speed up processing and settlement.

Currency and Country: Specific regulations or delays related to certain currencies and regions can also affect transaction speed.

For a comprehensive overview of SWIFT and its role in international transactions, check out our detailed guide here.