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How long will my money transfer take and why?

With the rise of ultra-fast payment technologies like bitcoin, timing is becoming a chief differentiator of money transfer services. Today, we know that we shouldn't have to wait much longer than 24 hours to send £10,000 from London to Cannes, or $100,000 from Boston to Lisbon. But how can we figure out how long any money transfer will take?

When you're sending money overseas, it's useful to know the principles behind the transfer time you're quoted. This gives you more control over your transactions, and helps you avoid situations where you miss out on purchases because the money didn't get there quickly enough. 

The two key factors that affect the speed of your transfer are the currencies you're trading and the provider you're using. Mainstream currencies, like sterling, US dollars and euros can all be sent within a day. Less common ones, like Thai baht and UAE dirham can take around three days to transfer. Some money transfer providers give you the option of paying more to speed things up, but the cheapest way to send money quickly will usually be through a broker. 

That's because international money transfers are the core of brokers' businesses. For banks, it's just one part of their operations, and so even major currencies can take up to five days to transfer. With specialist foreign exchange brokers transfers should never take longer than four days, no matter how niche the currency is. 

There's also a couple of practical obstacles that determine the speed of your transfer: time zones and banking hours. Say you're transferring your deposit for a villa in Madrid from England at 13:30 GMT. Because Spain's an hour ahead, and most of its banks close at 14:00 GMT+1, you'd already be half an hour late. This can work in your favour if you're transferring money west; making the transfer at the same time to Washington DC will get you five hours ahead. 

If you're looking for the fastest way to send money overseas, compare the best brokers with banks using our simple comparison tool. It'll show you how long your transfer will take, catering for 144 currencies. Knowing the reasons behind the standard timeframes will help you plan ahead, letting you tailor your transfer to your schedule, rather than having to work around it.

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Alex Larsen

I've been struggling to find a way to make regular transfers to my Norwegian account from the UK (where I work). Finally I've at least got some pointers for where to start, so I won't have to pay a fortune every time I transfer!

Martin Ham

Very useful information and fairly up to date! I would definitely recommend the site for anyone interested in exchanging currencies!
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